Live From the Mermaid's Tavern Houseconcert FAQ

One of the objectives of The Mermaid's Tavern is to support my community of folk and heritage musicians facing the losses of income, audience, and a touring lifestyle disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another objective is to encourage and inspire musicians to make the pivot to digital business by supporting you through this digital transformation. 

What do you mean by digital business and digital transformation?

There is opportunity online that has not been available to folk musicians in my lifetime. Anyone with a computer and internet can use free/affordable hardware and platforms to reach a global network of community audiences in participatory live performance. 

Live music after the pandemic will not look like it did in the Before Times. That's a good thing. Digital transformation in the music industry has disrupted independent artists from the death of coffeehouses to streaming services for pennies a play. Livestreaming can help you build an audience that will buy your products directly online, contribute to your tip jar, become supporting patrons, and show up as loyal friends when we start doing live shows again. It's all about building your community online.

How do I get booked at the Mermaid's Tavern?

Live From the Mermaid's Tavern is a new series and does not yet have a program calendar,  booking policies, application processes, pay scales, or anything you'd expect from a real-world venue. We are not a venue in the traditional sense of the word. The Mermaid's Tavern is a home studio with no ambitions to become a production studio beyond Crosscurrents Music. We're exploring what it might look like to be an online folk club.

I choose to work with artists who are committed to building your own online skills AND who need a boost to get over the initial learning curve. What I love best to do is teach you how to learn. 

Digital houseconcerts are not about the tech. Digital houseconcerts, which are both digital workplaces and digital business, are about creating an excellent online experience for the audience, and an excellent studio experience for the artist. Success means that the audience happily pays the artist for live performance, just like in the real world.

What gear do I need for livestreaming my own houseconcert?

  1.  Fast internet. Do your own speed check from Is It the App, or My Internet?
  2. A laptop or desktop computer. If all you have is a smartphone, we can talk about it, but you really do need a computer. 
  3. You will get the best results with an external webcam and external microphone. A USB microphone is a great investment. If you already have stage mics, you will need an audio interface, also known as an analog-to-digital (A2D) converter. 
  4. Basic three-point lighting. 
  5. See "What Gear Do I Need?" in Live from the Mermaid's Tavern Part III: Going Live on Facebook.
Studio tech is just an instrument to build and play. Building an instrument you don't know how to play is hard--ask any luthier. I know, playing an instrument that isn't built yet is harder, but you can let your studio grow with you. As you're building your livestream rig, here are some points to ponder.
  • Buying a Stradivarius won't make you a violinist.
  • Folk musicians make amazing music on cigar box guitars, carrot flutes, and the naked voice. I've been blown away this month by rural singers in Ireland peering through ancient webcams, and kids on jittery handheld phones. Both can still move me to tears. 
  • Livestream audiences are listening on AirPods, smartphones, tinny laptop speakers, and with lots of background noise. 
  • Audiophiles can pour a lot of money into one end that doesn't make it out the other.
Speaking as an a cappella singer, it's not about the gear. Speaking as an IT geek, it's about making the tech transparent to connect artist to audience. 

What do we do for advance prep?

  1. If I invite you to be a feature artist or a masterclass panelist, I'll check with you to confirm a date for the event so I can set up the calendar listing. 
  2. We'll set up a preliminary Zoom call where I'll walk you through logistics including:
    • introduction to Zoom if it's your first time on the platform
    • community vision and mission of the Mermaid's Tavern: how you can use the livestream event to engage with our community and your own audience
    • participatory practices in the Tavern (open mic, chat, Facebook comments, shoutouts): see Live From the Mermaid's Tavern Participant FAQ
    • asking for your speedtest specs if you've been having internet challenges
    • reviewing your gear setup and making any recommendations
    • giving you links to the Facebook and Google calendar listings
    • approving or revising the image and description in the listing
    • ensuring you have the links you need to send out your own publicity
    • making you an admin of the Facebook event so you can invite people
    • discussing why we don't stream to YouTube at this time (you can download the Facebook Live video and post your own performance to your own YouTube channel as you choose)
    • answering any other questions about how this all works
  3. You send out your own publicity including Mermaid's Tavern contact information/mailing list signup for open mic participants and a link to the Digital Heritage Consulting livestream page.
  4. We schedule a technical livestream test if we think you need help to troubleshoot your rig.
  5. I'm available to answer any questions as you set up and test your studio tech.
  6. My blog is a good resource for getting started. 

What happens on the day of the event?

  1. You prepare as you would for any other live performance, including stage setup, sound system, lighting, tuning up, bathroom/water break, &c. 
  2. You are ready! Once you sit down, plan to stay there as long as you're on camera.
    • 30 minutes before go-live, you join the Zoom call and we test your lighting, camera, mic, and stream quality
    • 20 minutes before go-live, I connect and test the Zoom-to-Facebook livestream
    • 10 minutes before go-live, we open the waiting room and start the open mic queue
    • 3 minutes before go-live, Facebook starts the countdown timer
    • We're live and on the air! 

What happens once we go live?

  1. We Unmute All for 5 minutes at the start and 5 minutes at the end for greetings and thanks. For muting etiquette, see Live From the Mermaid's Tavern Participant FAQ.
  2. Please stay present and be visibly attentive during the open mic. Modeling good listening skills is really important to community leadership. Participants can see if you are checking your phone, getting a beverage, looking away from the camera, &c. 
  3. The attention you get during the feature depends in large measure on the attention you give during the open mic. This is especially important as the Compere and Scribe are fully occupied being an octopus for the first 15 minutes (see below).
  4. During the open mic, we use Gallery View to see all participants. Once the feature starts, we set your panel to Spotlight so participants see only the feature.
  5. Sing! Play! Perform! It's your moment in the Spotlight. 
  6. It's just like radio, only they can see your face. There is an audience out there, I promise.
  7. As Compere, I monitor Zoom Chat for open mic singers and commentary. After every few songs, you can ask me if I have any shoutouts, or ask the audience if they have requests for you. I will pass the hat 2-3 times during the concert. 
  8. A Scribe (usually my husband Phillip, or another volunteer) monitors Facebook comments and
    • manages real-time requests to join the Zoom meeting from Facebook, email, and PM (these come hot and heavy in the first 10-20 minutes)
    • collects names and locations for shoutouts
    • collects requests and passes them to the Compere
    • answers audience questions or passes them to the Compere
    • blocks trolls and deletes their comments 
    • posts artist website and tip jar links when we pass the hat
  9. Great job! You've just done a successful livestream. If you want to call for a debrief, please give us 15 minutes to close out all sessions and take a quick break. 

How do I get paid?

Online tip jars, digital product sales, and patron memberships let your audience pay you directly with minimal fees. See "Find or Become a Fiscal Receiver" in Live From the Mermaid's Tavern Part I: Digital Houseconcerts in the Age of #COVID-19.

What's coming up next for houseconcerts?

I offer my first masterclass on May 7, and will schedule further masterclasses according to demand. I haven't booked houseconcerts into June as there is still a slim possibility that my knee replacement might go forward on June 4. 

I've had the luxury of focusing on my own work for six months, including building the studio and launching the Mermaid's Tavern during the first six weeks of the pandemic. I start a new contract job in mid-May, so I want to make sure I balance the work-to-fun ratio so I continue to enjoy my side hustle. Houseconcerts may not resume for a few months until I get settled into my new job and see where the masterclasses lead. 

My true ambition is for you, as feature artists and solopreneurs, to build your own digital studios and become your own venues: to grow your digital business as part of a community grassroots network for the future of folk music online. That's the vision of DIY Digital, and I'm your coach. 

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