Arts & Culture

A Musical Movement: How to Help Charlotte Musicians

As we continue to practice social distancing, music venues and artists in the community are losing their livelihood. Here’s how you can support them while at home, from livestreams to social media to purchasing merchandise.

Charlotte’s musicians are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Shows are canceled. Venues are closed. And it’s difficult to promote your product when it’s tied to concert attendance.

But local musicians are making it work, and you can help, too.

Catch a Concert From Home

“Live musicians are struggling to make ends meet right now, as their livelihood depends on performing at events,” said Mikayla Mendels, director of events and talent buyer at Key Signature Entertainment. “With government-ordered gathering restrictions being less than 10 people in North Carolina, musicians cannot perform as they usually would. This is forcing many artists to find different avenues to spread the joy and togetherness that music creates.”

To rally the community, Key Signature Entertainment created a virtual concert series every weekday throughout April to give musicians a platform where they can play their own music or music by other artists, talk about the effect of the pandemic on their day-to-day lives and display virtual tip jars. Each virtual concert will take place at 4 p.m. for 20 - 50 minutes, and is free to watch. You’ll hear from a new musician from the Carolinas each weekday on Facebook (@livemusiccharlotte), with genres ranging from pop to rock to R&B.

Photo courtesy of Brandon Crumpton, President of Key Signature Entertainment

Key Signature Entertainment started with a mission to bridge the communication gap between musicians and event professionals, so the team is experienced in helping musicians find a place to showcase their craft.

“The goal is to give musicians an outlet to spread their love of music, and give them a larger audience to do that for,” said Mendels. “It is also to create a platform where the public can listen to and support live musicians, and keep a sense of regularity during these times.”

You can also catch livestream concerts via the Music Anywhere CLT initiative, which provides a one-stop shop for audiences looking for livestreams by local bands.

“It’s a place online for fans and artists to come together and experience the richness and diversity of the Charlotte music scene,” said Richard Thurmond, senior vice president of community and economic development for Charlotte Center City Partners.

“Every working musician in Charlotte saw their income drop to zero overnight. That is devastating financially as well as psychologically,” said Thurmond. “Livestreaming with virtual tip jars is a way to connect with friends and fans.”

Music Everywhere CLT’s mission is to support and advance the Charlotte music scene and economy. As of April 10, the initiative has promoted more than 100 local livestreams, with dozens more ahead. Check out upcoming shows on the website or the Music Everywhere CLT Facebook page. If you’re an artist planning a livestream, you can make a Facebook event for it and add Music Everywhere CLT as a co-host so they can help spread the word.

Ideas from Charlotte Artists

The most important thing you can do during the crisis is to remember to show your support in any way you’re able.

“Don’t forget about us,” said Dane Page, a local singer/songwriter. “Tune in to your favorite artist’s livestreams and tip. Buy that record or T-shirt you’ve been eyeing. That being said, everyone I know in the music community understands that many people are out of work, and money is tight too, so sharing videos, liking, commenting — anything helps!”

Dane Page. Photo courtesy of Enowen Photography

“I think the entire music community is being extraordinarily creative. Most of us never messed with livestreams, and we’re all working together to figure it out,” he said.

Page has seen a lot of local artists raising money for different causes. He’s organized a livestream to raise money for The Evening Muse.

Similarly, local singer/songwriters Brit Drodzaand Taylor Winchester started the #CharlotteMusicChallenge to raise money for Queen City venues.

“I recently put out an online concert on IGTV, YouTubeand Facebook to raise money for five of my favorite live music venues that I would normally be playing,” said Drodza.

Brit Drodza. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Austin

Winchester held back on livestreaming until recently, as he wanted to work through the technical aspects to ensure a certain quality. Throughout the month on April 16, 23, and 30, he will be performing a “home tour,” where he’ll play three live sets in different areas of his home. Expect renditions of a few of his favorite Bob Dylan tunes. The shows will raise awareness for the #CharlotteMusicChallenge.

“We can’t have a vibrant music scene if we don’t have local venues to showcase it,” said Winchester.

Taylor Winchester. Photo courtesy of Amelia Winchester Photography

Like Page, Drodza and Winchester believe the best way to help local musicians is to follow them online and find easy ways to financially support, like purchasing merchandise or tipping through Venmo.

“Of course, financial support is super helpful, but realizing most everyone has been impacted financially, simply engaging with the artists you enjoy and want to support can be helpful as well,” said Winchester.

To further rally the community during a difficult time, DJ Fannie Mae is throwing a weekly Gospel Brunch on Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

“That’s been a pick up, but despite that, I am still on a quest to find out what’s the best way to promote my music during this time,” she said. “I have been more focused on making sure I keep other things intact and figuring out how to compensate for such a huge loss of income.”

DJ Fannie Mae. Photo courtesy of Elliot Ashby

“I feel like we should find a way to come together and band as one,” said DJ Fannie Mae. “This is a hard hit on an already pretty fragile, yet optimistic, Charlotte music community, so I think it’s best for the entire city — not only musicians — to find a way to support the musicians that call Charlotte home.”

Supporting Through Social Media

Musicians — whether full time or hobbyists — are using social media as a primary platform for sharing their art during the crisis.

Local DJ Tyler Gold (DJ AU) uses social media to maintain his presence and following.

“I currently livestream online, performing hour-long sets about once or twice per week,” Gold said. “I have been working from home for a month now with my day job and working on music at night, releasing mix and livestreaming as often as possible.”

Photo courtesy of Tyler Gold/DJ AU

Colby Dobbs, a lead vocalist at the Colby Dobbs Band, is finding video content increasingly important in today’s unique landscape.

“Obviously video content now, even more so than ever, is what’s being consumed as lots of people are at home sort of bored and scrolling through their various social media feeds,” said Dobbs. “Creating content, particularly visual content, during this time more-so than than usual is proving to be advantageous. I think a lot of us moving forward are going to be better off for having focused on that aspect of our business.”

Colby Dobbs. Photo courtesy of Colby Dobbs

Dobbs also thinks the online support goes a long way.

“If you’re like a lot of people in our world currently financially compromised due to the current state of our country, just listening to an artist’s music, or dropping an encouraging line on their page or inbox — I think that’s great as well,” he said. “Career musicians are really struggling at the moment, so any encouragement and support is appreciated.

Local singer/songwriter Mike Ramseyis learning to navigate social media’s increasingly important presence in the local music scene.

“I don’t do well with social media, but I have taken it up for the time being because I’m trying to follow the social distancing as strictly as possible,” said Ramsey. “I think any artist would tell you they want their music or art of whatever medium to have a lasting impression, and now we’re forced to compete in the land of memes and selfies.”

Mike Ramsey. Photo courtesy of Taylor Gill

Ramsey’s wife is a nurse in an ICU unit in Uptown, so he has taken up social media to follow social distancing as strictly as possible.

“I have done livestreamsand recorded new songs in quarantine with my band from our own houses,” said Ramsey.

He also debuted a collection of videos of #ForFriendsByFriends, where he covers his friends’ songs both here in Charlotte and beyond.

“It’s been good to learn their music and use it as a way to say ‘hello’ and ‘I miss you’ during these times,” said Ramsey. “It’s really hard to tell how effective these are, but I try to be as artistic and thoughtful with the music as I can.”

Like other artists, Ramsey mentions the importance of financial support, but has not tried the virtual tip jar. “I believe everybody is hurting, so I don’t like to ask,” he said.

But you can still use social media to support.

“If you like an artist, the best thing you can do is follow their social media sites, as some venues use followers to book,” said Ramsey.

If you do have the financial means, however, it goes a long way.

“The live record I put out cost close to $4,000 to make when it’s all said and done. With CDs at $10 and vinyl at $25, the chances of recouping money is next to impossible,” he said. “With art, there are so many ways to get things for free and then take for granted the money that was spent to make them. I think if someone likes art or a certain artist, don’t leave it up to other people to support them — support them.”

As we continue to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, we can use the extra time to support those in need. Plan a date night around a livestream show. Watch your favorite artist on a weekend afternoon. Buy a T-shirt. Or just drop a kind note on social media. Every bit of support helps.

“Music brings people together, and with social distancing being the new norm, we all need that sense of togetherness in our lives right now,” Mendels said.