Jazz Live Streaming Explodes Amid COVID-19 Shutdown – And It Is Not Going Anywhere Soon

Listening to public health and political officials, whether it is the incessant news on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News or the daily briefings from the White House Coronovirus Task Force or Governor Andrew Cuomo, performing arts is mentioned as “phase 4.” As in the last phase to reopen in the economy post-COVID-19. Estimates on phase 4 reopening – at full capacity -range from the end of this year to as far out as 2022.

It has become a mathematical equation to reopen at less than full capacity. Once you figure out the social distancing required, performing arts venues are in a world of hurt. From large concert halls to small jazz clubs, capacity at social distancing will only get to 25% to 50% if they are lucky. Profitability will literally go out the window for many. For some, survivability now will be measured in weeks or months. In the jazz world, nothing edifies the dire straits more than the threat to the Village Vanguard. An example of a small jazz club of historic value hanging on by a thread.

Front Page | Village Vanguard

Especially in the jazz mecca of New York City, jazz musicians experienced their world transformed in a matter of just a few days. As multiple concerts, festivals, jazz clubs, and a myriad of other bookings all abruptly canceled. With future bookings postponed and new fall or winter dates guesses at best.

Jazz musicians have responded by turning to live streaming over the Internet as a way to stay visible and make up lost income with viewer donations via peer-to-peer payment apps such as PayPal or Venmo. Some having mastered the technology while others are struggling to even get started. Collaborating with other musicians to create a multi-screen ensemble perhaps the trickiest of all.

Here is an example of one multi-screen performance mastered featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. One of the few in fact:

Quarantine Blues

Today, Jazz at Lincoln Center premieres “Quarantine Blues,” a piece born out of a conversation between Wynton Marsalis and long-time Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member, Victor Goines. Early in the quarantine period, Victor suggested creating a piece with multiple arrangers similar to the JLCO’s 2015 arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Ole." That piece featured the writing skills of seven different band members. “This time,” Victor said, “we can record it from a distance because the technology is available for us to easily do it.” Hence, the “Quarantine Blues.” Undoubtedly, this is the first long-form blues ever composed and arranged by 14 different people, completed in one week of quarantine and filmed on cell phones.

Posted by Jazz at Lincoln Center on Friday, April 24, 2020

The resources JALC Orchestra has behind them sure helps when creating such multi-screen ensemble presentations. Unfortunately, many jazz musicians do not have such resources and are trying to make live streaming work with solo performances.

Since the end of March, JazzBuffalo has been building a centralized view of jazz live streams happening around the globe. As best it can. What started out with about ten per week we knew of has now grown to sometimes over 70 per week. You can take a look by visiting JazzBuffalo Live Stream Events.

There are a few fantastic live streams happening weekly and serve as a means for jazz artists to stay connected and engaged with audiences. And, for some musicians, it is proving to build up more of a fan base than they had when performing at jazz clubs. For example, the rising star jazz pianist Emmet Cohen and his trio with bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole are sheltering in place together. Enabling them to present the trio to over a thousand viewers at a time. With more live stream requests coming in.

EmmetCohen Instagram posts - Gramho.com
Emmet Cohen Trio

Other examples abound where viewers have a chance to catch somebody new and be surprised. Such as Champian Fulton and her engaging weekly show. Or, to be entertained in conversation and song with the likes of Carol Welsman. And, to see well-known jazz musicians in a home setting such as the daily fifteen minutes with jazz pianist Fred Hersch. On one such occasion, even the legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis came out of retirement for a one-time live stream.

Celebrating Billie Holiday LIVE from Lockdown with Champian Fulton ...
Champian Fulton

Jazz Clubs, festivals, and performing arts venues are finding ways to do live streaming. A few with paywalls. The Jazz Gallery Lockdown Series, for instance, shows multiple artists and is $15. Others, like Dizzy’s Club, is scheduling and supporting jazz artists through their Facebook page. The artists broadcast from their home and it is free.

Various surveys and articles have pointed to a significant uptick in live streaming across the globe. As much as 30% to 35%. Video conferencing and live streams skyrocketing with many sheltering in homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The next hurdles for jazz musicians to consider are improving the quality of their live streaming, engaging audiences, and building up new loyalty. A lot easier said than done many are finding out.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is how to survive and exist over the long haul. It appears that live concerts at performing art venues, jazz festivals, and jazz clubs are going to be a ways off. The greatest challenge may be in discovering something that we cannot see right now amidst the chaos. That something representing a reimagining and a reinvention of how to present jazz using new digital technology.

At least for now, it sure looks like jazz live streaming is not going anywhere soon.

(Jazz musicians, jazz venues, and jazz live stream hosts let us know about your live stream event. You can submit your event here: Submit An Event. Or you can use the contact form to let us know here: Contact Form.) Audiences/viewers, please share JazzBuffalo.org so people can find out where to view jazz live streams and support keeping jazz alive!)

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