Madison musicians turn to livestreaming

MAMA and Broadjam support local scene after widespread cancellations
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Madison band Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets is, left to right, Beth Kille, Jen Farley and Shawndell Marks.

The shutdown of the Madison arts and entertainment scene to limit the spread of COVID-19 has forced local musicians to be creative. With scores of gigs either cancelled or postponed at venues throughout the city, the livestreaming of concerts with appeals for donations have started popping up.

A house concert by Madison trio Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets takes place at 7 p.m. tonight, March 20, on the band’s Facebook page. The band — consisting of Beth Kille, Shawndell Marks and Jen Farley — will take cover song requests from viewers in real time.

To see Madison rapper Tyler Durdin and his band, Wolves and Sheep, “open” for GC&BR, tune in to the livestream on their Facebook page at 6:30 p.m.

GC&BR are asking viewers to donate to the band either through PayPal or Venmo.

“I worry for many of my musician friends who rely on their gig income to make ends meet,” says Kille. It’s “too depressing to count” the number of gigs cancelled just for the multiple bands she is in.

“On a personal level, the loss of the community-building aspect of music has been the toughest for me to swallow. Music is made for us to connect with each other and when we can’t share space, that is a big loss,” she says.

“On the flip side, I have seen the community rise to help musicians in several ways: buying digital music, watching online concerts and donating through PayPal and Venmo accounts. That is really heartening in the midst of the disruption,” Kille says.

At 8 p.m. Saturday night, Kelsey Miles will livestream on Facebook a show by the Madison rock band bearing her name. (While you wait for the Miles show, you can see her YouTube play a song she wrote today. The video is titled “Quarantined Original Song ‘Feels Like Home.’”)

Broadjam Pledges Help to Musicians

“I am really enjoying all of the livestreaming shows,” says Madison-based Roy Elkins, CEO of Broadjam, a company that provides independent musicians the means to promote their music online. “Maybe there is a silver lining and streaming shows will become a regular money-making event for musicians in addition to live gigs.”

Among the many events postponed was the fourth-annual Between the Waves Madison Music Conference in Festival, which Elkins helps organize. He says the event will likely be moved from June to sometime this fall.

On Friday, Elkins announced three initiatives to help Broadjam-supported musicians.

First, he says, “any musician who sells a download on Broadjam will get 100% of the proceeds until we get through this crisis.” Second, Broadjam will provide “a virtual tip jar for all members” with donations going directly to individual artists and bands from their fans. Third, Elkins says, “we will be curating and recommending playlists for music fans who typically don’t listen to independent music.”

For more information, go to the Broadjam website.

MAMA to Provide Support

“I’m aware of the livestreaming, which I think is absolutely courageous and totally generous on the part of the musicians,” says Rick Tvedt, co-founder and treasurer of the Madison Area Music Association, or MAMA.

Tvedt says MAMA — an organization that provides financial support to local musicians and music education programs — is considering how to respond to the affects of the COVID-19

“I’m talking with community leaders about how our organization can assist in any effort that’s out there,” he says. “We’ve pretty much decided that the MAMA Cares funds we have will be held for people who may actually fall ill [with COVID-19] and need that financial help. But we’re totally committed to helping out however we can.”

Among local musicians “the anxiety is palpable,” Tvedt says. “For many, this is their livelihood, and so I personally feel a need to step up and do whatever I and the organization can. The whole service industry is, of course, devastated, but hopefully something will arise that can target artists specifically. I’m confident that will happen. As I’ve said many times, ‘This is Madison; we take care of each other.’”

MAMA Award Show Rescheduling

The organization cancelled its March 16 MAMA Awards Finalist Party at The Brink Lounge and is looking to reschedule the March 31 MAMA Awards Show at the Overture Center for the Arts. Tvedt says the cancellations affected the voting process that will determine the winners in dozens of categories.

“The timing is tough because every other event is looking at the fall for reschedules, competing with whatever else is scheduled then,” Tvedt says.

Kille, who serves as the executive producer of the MAMA Awards Show, said rescheduling the event will be tricky, especially not knowing how long the standstill over the COVID-19 pandemic will last.

“Cancelling and rescheduling a bar gig for my band is one thing,” she says, “but with over a hundred people involved with the production of the awards show (performers, award recipients, presenters, sponsors, volunteers, crew etc.), the coordination that that requires creates an entirely different level of stress.”

The MAMA Board of Directors will likely make an announcement early next week, Kille says.

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.