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Facebook Live: Gigging in the Virtual World

I've mentioned before that a huge part of my life, pre-covid era, was my "part-time job" as a musician. It was awesome. Being able to sing, play lead guitar and work as a solo act meant that I could run the gamut of gigs. I've been in a great party band, a duo that was successful, and got plenty of solo gigs. I've never thought of my playing and singing as're probably not gonna write home to ma and pa after you see me...but I was always "good" and put the effort into getting gigs. I had a casino contract with Casino Arizona, played in front of thousands and people and opened for touring acts.

I have always stuck to the rule that I would never depend on any money I made from playing gigs, which has taken some of the sting out of this period of no longer playing out. Another very surprising positive, oddly enough (for me) is playing Facebook Live gigs. 

JT during a Facebook Live

Now, understand, playing on Facebook Live is not something I would have ever considered doing in the past. For one thing I have a uneasiness about Facebook, but have stayed on it for business reasons. Also, I just flat-out would never have time for it, considering how much I was playing out, along with running our business.

JT during a Facebook Live

We (CT runs the streaming part) started doing Facebook Live shows way back in March, and have done a couple each month since. It's been oddly liberating, because I'm only picking songs I like to do. That's one thing I don't miss about the before times, where a client "only wants 4 hours of chill music" or "you need to do at least one country line dance song" and crazy stuff like that. Family and friends seem to enjoy it quite a bit. A lot of these folks are people I would likely never get to perform for. We do birthday/anniversary shout-outs, and I react to the banter from folks in the comments. I try to make the experience as close as possible to seeing a live show, including dressing as I would for a live gig.

FB Live viewers!

Brother watches FB Live

I have an awesome Bose system, with a killer mixer that allows me to play crystal clear at low volume, so I can do it from my living room, or the back yard. Our neighbors even requested I do it in my front yard, so they can watch socially distant, which was a lot of fun (this was before it got above 100 degrees in Phoenix). I've also been switching between electric and acoustic, just using whatever I feel like. Again, no rules here, just whatever I enjoy playing.

JT does a FB Live for the culdesac

I'd encourage anyone who might like to try this out to go ahead and do it. It's a great way to stay connected to friends and family, who will enjoy watching and interacting. You don't need a big fancy PA either, your phone's microphone will get the job done. 

JT during a FB Live from the backyard

Courtney dropping in here with some tech tips!

Tip 1 - we invested in an octopus-ish flexible tripod and a phone holder that mounts to the tripod.  This makes filming these Facebook Lives so much easier.  Tip 2 - JT usually sets up an hour early and that gives me time to do a test run.  Each phone is different but going live on FB in the landscape/horizontal mode has been really challenging on JT's iPhone 11 but much easier on our iPad (however then he wanted to use the iPad for lyrics so ...)  All that to say, do the test run and google your phone type and going Live on Facebook.  There's a lot of hinky settings you may have to adjust and you won't want to be doing that as people are queuing up to watch (although I have done that too...).  Tip 3 - make sure you are near the wi-fi or plugged straight in.  The culdesac concerts that JT did in the driveway had a lot of dropped signal and lag which is hard for folks watching along.  I figured out I needed to use my phone as a hot spot and also to make sure the hot spot stays on (iPhone had a setting to auto limit hot spot use that I had to override).  Also, be sure you turn your VPN off temporarily if you use that, as it causes disruptions and lag in your feed as well.  That's it, we're on the lower tech side of it - we don't use our computer or a fancy DSLR camera for filming.  The new phones have great cameras and decent microphones so we just keep it simple.  We do have a Rode Video Micro mike that works with our phones and we use for YouTube videos but I haven't used it on FB Lives yet as I haven't had time to test it out all the way and get the settings right.  I guess that's a goal for the next virtual gig!  

JT Live!

As for now, October 2020, I have decided that I won't play live and in-person at establishments or parties until at least 2021. This means Facebook Live will be my gig going forward, and I'll continue to work on it and have fun. I'll even be teaming up with a fellow musician for some acoustic duo shows this fall and winter. I hope everyone is keeping safe out there, let's all do our part to help each other and keep the music going. Rock & Roll!