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Monday, April 20, 2020

Finally, Living with Live Streaming

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Local musicians utilize new performance outlet

Clint McCommon is tall. He has a measured pace and a well-trimmed black beard. Along with his managed beard, he has a big heart, musicians will attest.


Out-of-work and no-income performers surround him. As proprietor of Fairfield Studios, a compact video production center in a historic building near Fairfield Avenue and Jordan Street, McCommon has a facility that can answer players’ needs. So he is producing complimentary online concerts several nights a week.

“These players have lost their income for two or three months – or more,” says McCommon.

Working with protean tech John Chambers and a volunteer crew of one or two and, of course, no audience, McCommon is producing virtual concerts with an uptown look and sound. “We have a stage and a professional array of lights,” he says, “and that gives everything a concert-hall look.”

The cost to idled musicians? No cost. In addition, the broadcast features the addresses – Paypal, Venmo, Cashapp, etc. – to which fans can forward tips.

“The donations have been decent, considering the new surge of live stream fundraisers. Some have raised enough to pay the rent, while others at least got enough for groceries,” said McCommon.

“As far as money raised, it has been a range of $100 to over $700 per stream. We are on stream 20 tonight. So, we have raised thousands of dollars overall. It is a small amount per musician, but like I said before, they are appreciative of the whole experience.”

McCommon continues, “We at Fairfield Studios have received a lot of good will from this. We did not anticipate the amount of attention it would get to us. That was not our intention. But we, too, lost the majority of our business. We do these live streams for free, but it is possible that our name recognition from this may get us some work in the future.

“As far as distance, we have reached over 45,000 viewers with our live streams. Many of those are repeats, but we have reached many, many new people. This is good for the artists and for us. We gained 1,000 new followers over one week.”

Contributions to the series of digital shows brought together a number of contributors. Young Professionals, led by Brent Latin, loaned the sessions the gear, including computer and interface, that enabled live streaming. “Young Pros is known around town for their streaming capability,” says McCommon. Videographer Scott Floyd Crain, a veteran producer, loaned them the switcher needed for smoothly transitioning from camera to camera. Additional contributors include Great Raft Beer, Michael Gatch and others.

“I’ve offered the complimentary sessions to all musicians and performers. We are simply trying to do something positive in this crisis,” added McCommon.

“When I had the idea to stream a comedy show,” said comedian Molly Hiers, “and the response from Fairfield Studios was actually very enthusiastic, it scared me to death. So I wrote new material, pulled out some old favorites and put together the longest set I’ve successfully performed, ever.” Hiers was unusually successful with her solo appearance. “I raised over $500, thanks to people’s generosity and the audience that it reached, which was thanks to Fairfield Studios and my support system helping spread the word.”

The David Deaton Band, featuring drummer John Hoffman, bassist Rick Willis, keyboard player Hassell Teekell and, on lead guitar and vocals, David Deaton, also performed to a large audience. Deaton has a range of fans based on his studio work and from performing across Texas. About the excitement engendered in a live show, he says, “There is no telling what will happen! No two shows are the same.”

When performers use Facebook Live, the performances are recorded. If readers want to see the recent spate of performances at Fairfield Studios, they simply go to that site and pick the shows they’d like to see. Drummer and clinician John Hoffman recorded a solo, explanatory drum session. Also available are sessions by Good Spirits, who purvey original rock; Hwy Lions, a rocking Americana quartet; the Treefiddy Trio; and Ole Whiskey Revival. The two-part harmonies of Magnolia Mae, a folksy Americana duo, were convincing.

Fairfield Studios has helped the musicians spread the message of social distancing by their placement on stage. In the first week, some bands seemed to be little aware of the concept of isolation.

On-site performances streamed on social media offer listeners a wide variety beyond the ones streamed by McCommon. The improv rockers called Fluff, players who grew up in Shreveport, recently presented a session from their current home base in Denver. The sound was mixed from Shreveport by the guitarists’ dad, Mike Semon, a wellknown sound technician.

On an expansive lawn outside his house on Cottage Ridge Drive, worship singer Johnathan Jewett and his band, including Trevious Mack, Marshall James, Raven Jackson- Jewett and Koka Light, recently produced a jazzy gospel show on FB live streaming. With six feet of space between the musicians and a breeze giving all a healthy vibe, Jewett occasionally took breaks from singing to check his digital device and find out how many people were listening.

Forsaking the acoustic warmth of the church or the club (Jewett is also a member of the active band Muzikology), Jewett got an effective mix by the expertise of his sidemen and a multispeaker sound system, he said.

Musician Jimmy Wooten performed a solo acoustic show from his home studio.

Wooten, a student of the media as well as a top musician (singer-songwriter, guitarist, drummer, bassist, producer), says that “I’m absolutely blown away, y’all! 3,400 views already, 243 likes, 1,000 comments and 194 shares!” Wooten’s name has been spread in his role as touring bassist for singer Neal McCoy, a performer with 10 albums and decades of recognition. “I’ve met a ton of people traveling with Neal,” Wooten says. “Plus, he lets each member of the band sing one of their own tunes sometime during the show; that’s been helpful.”

The sense of communication freedom engendered by offering performances on the world wide web must be intoxicating to performers who ordinarily play to a few dozen or a few hundred listeners. Yet the fantasy of vast realms of listeners hits a brick wall quickly. Most listeners are safe in their silos.

Performers come to realize that no one is listening outside their fan base. But fans have an important role to play in the digital universe. If they share a performance with far-flung friends, the skies may open. David Deaton, a traveler and big-picture fellow says, “Please share our performance with friends who might like our style.” Wooten says, “Please share what I’m playing.” McCommon also has that as a mantra: “Share your friends’ performances. Share. Share and watch the audience grow.”

Adds Deaton: “I can tell you now that I will most likely continue to do the live streams even after this is under control. Turns out, it reaches a whole different audience of people who don’t go out. And it’s also spreadable globally. It is not one show at a time for that one audience.”


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