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Musicians Turn To Performing Online

Greg Nagy photo
Courtesy photo
Lansing blues musician Greg Nagy performing for fans online

At many stations across the U.S., today is Public Radio Music Day. WKAR is joining in, and Scott Pohl has this report on how COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are affecting local musicians.

In Michigan, all sorts of musicians have taken to performing live on the internet these days.

Greg Nagy is a Lansing-based singer, songwriter and guitarist who says he’s lost thousands of dollars due to canceled performances. His household has dealt with COVID-19 directly, including a 21-day quarantine, but he says they’re all fine now. "The ultimate health test for me," Nagy says, "would be to sing for an hour and a half, and play guitar, and when I get done, I feel great for the rest of the day!”

Nagy is doing internet shows on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m.

Many of these shows, like Nagy’s, have online tip jars where people can send money.

James Gardin photo
Credit Courtesy photo
James Gardin performs in his Lansing home.

James Gardin is a hip-hop artist in Lansing. Last week, he skipped the tip jar idea while interacting with friends and fans online, but he did give them a taste of a song he released the next day called “Lovely.” He explains that "it was definitely, because I know everyone’s at home, because we’re not anywhere else, so I knew it would be an opportunity to also share that as well and get the word out on that.”

Jen Sygit photo
Credit Courtesy photo
Jen Sygit, performing for an MLive.com audience.

Lansing folk musician Jen Sygit says she lost most of her income in three days of the shutdown. On March 26th, she did a show with her partner Geoff Ian Lewis that was sponsored by MLive.com. To date, it has about 50,000 views. The performance included links to her online payment accounts, and she says it did very well financially. “I was very surprised and pleased," Sygit states, "and felt like I had a safety net that I didn’t have even a few days prior. It was super helpful, really life-saving for me.”

Sygit plans to do an internet show roughly once a month.

Jim Alfredson photo
Credit Courtesy photo
Lansing keyboardist Jim Alfredson's internet performances are called 'Live From Jimmy's Basement.'

Lansing keyboardist Jim Alfredson is doing online shows he calls “Live From Jimmy’s Basement.” At first, he planned to invite friends over to play with him, an idea he’s had to give up for solo shows.

Alfredson has lost income from canceled gigs in places like Jacksonville, Florida, and even France. His other source of income, piano tuning, has also dried up. His online shows are produced with video and audio equipment not everyone has. “I’m thankful that I have some equipment that’s allowed me to do that, that was gifted to me from a very good friend, including a really nice video switcher that allows me to do overlays and graphics and all that kind of stuff," says Alfredson. "I taught my wife how to run it, so she’s switching the cameras and putting up the graphics and making sure the audio is good, all that kind of stuff. It’s kind of cool to get her onboard.”

Joshua Davis photo
Credit Courtesy photo
Joshua Davis calls his internet performances 'The Imminent Doom Living Room Show.' The image was reversed online; he plays guitar left-handed.

Joshua Davis has started performing on an online stream he calls “The Imminent Doom Living Room Show.” Now living in Traverse City, he has a big following, not just locally from his days fronting the Lansing band Steppin’ In It, but from being a finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” five years ago. On one recent “Living Room” show, he told stories about “The Voice” and sang songs he did on the show.

Davis thinks it will be a while before things return to normal. “It’s probably going to be a slow let-go of the distancing thing, and big group meet-ups are going to be the last to be reinstated," Davis states. "I think it’s going to be a long time before actual physical concerts are taking place again.”

These shows can remain on the internet for a long time, so you don’t have to watch live, and you can still throw a few bucks in the hat for them or pay for their music elsewhere.

Once we’re past stay-at-home orders, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that musicians keep doing internet performances. They can play on an off night, or promote new music, and perhaps most importantly, stay in touch with their fans and reach new ones.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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