Zoom out: Live performers prepare for a return to in-person shows

· The Pulse
By Fawnda Mithrush
in the Arts Roundup

When musician Dave Von Bieker started the YEGStreams website last spring, it was a temporary measure. The site was meant to provide a platform for artists to list their online performances, with hopes that it would be a one-stop shop for audiences seeking local live entertainment as the pandemic ramped up in its early months.

"I had planned to keep the site up for a month or two. I saw a need and tried to meet it quickly. Then six months passed. Then more," says the site landing page, which now informs visitors that the site is shutting down.

"The part I loved about working on YEGStreams was getting to point the spotlight at other artists doing great things, rather than hustling what I'm doing, which is how I spend a lot of my time as an artist," Von Beiker told Taproot. "There is just so much noise in the digital world – we can never assume someone knows what we're up to even if we feel like we've been shouting about it for weeks."

Now, with vaccines flowing and tentative plans to re-open the province by early July, Von Bieker acknowledged it might be time to move on. His own work aside, he discovered that getting user submissions for events was one of the biggest challenges of keeping the site going.

"I understand why," he said. "YEGStreams was not yet a leader in the local event listings space and as an artist, you want to put your limited time and effort where you feel it will have the biggest impact. It wasn't a lot of work to submit an event to YEGStreams – maybe five minutes – but when most artists are having to totally rearrange their lives to make a living during a pandemic, every minute counts."

For now, artists might be using up those minutes to compile their applications for the new Stabilize Live Music Grant program for musicians and industry professionals. Individuals can apply for a one-time micro-grant of $1,500, while for-profit music venues and businesses are eligible to apply for a Music Business Innovation grant up to $25,000.

The audience applauds as Dave Von Bieker signs off from one of his live Zoom concerts.

The audience applauds as Dave Von Bieker (top centre) signs off from one of his live Zoom concerts. (Supplied)

Taking up Von Bieker's own time these days are plans for a summer house-concert tour to promote his upcoming album, Long For This World (the tour is titled Long for This Yard, naturally).

While the era of Zoom may be winding down, the advantages of online performance have not been lost on many artists, who saw opportunity and accessibility increase in numerous ways throughout the pandemic months.

"Many of us are going to keep streaming in some form once things open up," he said. "While YEGStreams has ended, YEG's streams certainly have not. Streaming is not a replacement for in-person events, but it's not necessarily a lesser option either. It serves different goals. I've been able to play for audiences around the world this year – with private shows for groups in Berlin and a few spots in the US. Streaming audiences can be global, which is really exciting and I think a lot of artists have discovered that during the pandemic."

Von Bieker continues to stream every Tuesday at 12:30pm on Facebook, adding that "it's a great way to keep connected and practiced for a return to in-person gigs."