Ok I know listicles are click bait-y and ~so 2014~ but they also lay out information in a clear and efficient way. And maybe it’s been long enough that we’ve become nostalgic for a format where each piece of information comes with a funny gif. And plus also you’re lucky I didn’t name this post “Doctors hate this one weird trick to lose weight FAST”.
But since I have some practical knowledge in this area (I’ve done 8 going on 9 virtual concerts in the past 2 months-woof! Plus various videos and other recording projects) I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned through trial and error.
So here’s the list. Please feel free to contact me with more ideas or to tell me my ideas are garbage. I may not like the second option but I’d rather know than to continue making a garbage mess everywhere!
1. Shift your attitude: if you haven’t done a virtual concert yet, it’s likely you’re thinking either that nobody wants to hear you or that putting videos of your playing online is a form of self-promotion you’re not ready to engage in. Maybe you’re worried that nobody would watch, or a lot of people would watch and think less of you as a player. Take on the mindset of your friends who post bread pictures: they are undaunted by the newsfeeds full of bread pics and fearlessly assert “my bread deserves your eyeballs”. If you chose performance as a career, it means that a) you have something unique to say and b) you’d like to say it. Maybe you don’t have anything “ready” to perform. Listen, you don’t have to play Paganinininini (is that enough ni’s I never know) to sound great. This is not your senior recital: play something you enjoy playing and the audience will enjoy listening. If you'd like to practice livestreaming, I recommend streaming to Twitch! It's great practice in a low-stakes arena (you will not get many views and the video doesn't save unless you save locally through OBS) that your teacher definitely won't be watching. If you'd like to see me do one in action, follow me!
2. Team up, especially with people who are smarter and better at everything than you. I’m pretty good at this one. My idea of “Yale Alumni virtual concert? Idk” became Home2Home (a concert series that has raised almost $4000 and reached a total audience of almost 800 views) because of the enthusiasm, hard work, and deep competence of Florrie, Felice and Jon. I can’t stress enough how much everything that this organization continues to grow into is a credit to each of these people’s contributions of time and energy. This is an era where people say “yes” to things they wouldn’t usually have time to do, like making sourdough bread. Take advantage of that!
3. Tap into your network. The beauty of online concerts is that people are able to watch from all over the world. Let your 1st grade teacher, 4th cousin once removed, and the neighbor who gave you a sourdough starter know that you’re putting on a concert online and it’s likely they will be super excited to watch! People are hungry, not for bread, but for concerts and “events”. If they have a personal connection to the performer, they will enjoy the concert even more!
4. Make it social! We are lonely and isolated right now. People are baking loaves of bread that increasingly resemble Wilson from “Castaway”.
We all need connection, and what better way than to share the unique and transcendent experience of a concert with others? Talk about the music you’re playing, invite audience members to a Zoom after party, encourage and respond to comments during a livestream (but try not to get distracted by constant pings), keep in touch before and after the concert! You might even get new fans to come to future in person concerts. If you’re a little nervous about the potential awkwardness of Zooming a bunch of strangers, try a Q+A format. Something I’ve found in more intimate concert settings is that people have 247948758458 questions about what I do- most people don’t get the chance to be up close and personal with a musician and they are so so curious! Open up the floor to questions and the conversation will flow.
5. Put on a great show. The downside to virtual concerts is that sounding good is not just dependent on playing well. Your equipment, internet connection, and computer settings all play a role in this. There are many workshops on how to maximize what you already have, but I’ve been using this USB microphone, which costs only $100, for all my concerts. It also helps to consider the visual component- neaten up everything in view of the camera (put your breadbaking gear just out of frame if necessary), wear something nice, and put some thought into camera placement: make sure the camera’s aligned, not crooked, and not too close or far. People want to see you, and our culture is accustomed to professional level cinematography even for everyday things like “I made bread”.
So that’s my advice, separated into 5 main ideas. I hope to see your performance, and make sure to let me know when it happens! And sorry to any bread bakers out there, I’m trying to cut down on carbs and you guys are making me miserable tbh.