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Rapport in Streaming Concerts

Here are some observations on creating rapport between audience and artist, given the widespread expansion of live-streaming concerts. 

Streaming live music is a still-developing and emerging art form. Where it was formerly a sideshow, an adjunct, an interesting supplement, it is, for now, the Whole Enchilada. We have in front of us the task learning to navigate its demands and opportunities, to raise this art form. 

These are not rules, they are "more like guidelines".

A streaming concert is absent all the usual cues and reinforcers that create an intimate audience experience...applause, sitting altogether, laughing together at humor and silent together through songs (or singing and dancing along). Mingling on a break and eating cookies (or a drink at bigger venues!), and then more music.

Often in entertainment, you do NOT want the audience thinking about the physical surroundings and setup… the lights, the performer looking at their watch, the annoying person singing out of tune next to them. Peeking behind the curtain. Those things break frame, dispel the magic being created.

With live-streaming concerts, you cant help but be “behind the curtain”. The performer may be in headphones, a big mic in front of them, glancing periodically at computer screen, mundane lighting (washed in a deathly pallor from their computer screen)… the customary magic of a theatre hasn’t much chance here.

Clearly we are in a new performing paradigm; how to create magic and emotional connection without the usual elements that support that.

Over a number of concerts, we have seen:

• That Artists who took a soft, casual, “we are here in my living room” approach generated connection better than using a “stare into the camera and play” method.

• Particularly, when artists solicited, accepted, and appreciated chat repartee with the audience, you as a viewer you could feel your connection developing, not just with performer, but with the rest of the invisible audience.

• These kind of interactions wove the distant, distributed audience into a body, in that time and those places (maybe in no-place is a better word!)

• The best streaming concerts happened with a degree of crowd dialog that would have been disruptive, and unmanageable in a live setting. If you’ve attended shows where 10 people shouted out a comment at once, you get the picture. At in-person shows, shouting out is not connective, it is an intrusion on what the artist is creating, its really about the shouter.

• Streaming on the other hand, the artist can invite participation, without that participation disrupting the experience of other concert watchers. In fact it enhances the experience of the whole separated crowd if done with a light, easy touch.

• This works well when the artist simply reviews a few chat posts in between songs, and responds to some. The Artist saying things like “Hey Betty’s here” or “Can’t do (requested song) now, but will bring it out at the next concert” or “I am so blown away that you are all here listening”. Asking for feedback on sound, balance of voice and instrument. That kind of conversation bonds people to the performer and unexpectedly, also bonds the audience with each other. It enhanced the experience of participating in the creation of the magic.

• It is up to each performer to choose the degree of contact and connection they have with their audience. Streaming concerts call for a different style of audience connection than live ones. Some artists prefer and even require the “invisible wall” that protects them from the audience. With streaming, it works better for artists to reach out, be natural, and be vulnerable, in a way that is not as sustainable with a live audience.

• It was very clear that this kind of two way engagement provided a vehicle that knit the group together with the artist, in a new kind of concert experience that is emerging.

Shakespeare at times asks his audiences to create the setting…the horses, the tumult of battle, the sweep of a castle. And they do).

It is ironic that when artists are more separated from their audience than ever before, there is an opportunity to intentionally transcend the technology of delivery (just like Shakespeare did) and reach out for human to human connection. In nowhere, but very real. Because of the special circumstances pressed upon us, audiences are wanting connection as much as being diverted, entertained or transported. There lies the opportunity.

Summary list of elements for intimate online concerts:

• Compared to live shows, manner is more casual and informal.

• The performer is open, vulnerable, and appreciative.

• High in-between song interaction with viewers.

• Performer really appreciating the audience’s messages of appreciation.

• The creation of a partnership between audience and performer to create a special space in Nowhere, for a time.

• A yellow warming gel over the computer screen wouldn’t hurt either, if screen is shining on artist’s face

The graphic setup of the chat could be a factor for all this.The harder for both artist and viewer to scan the messages, the harder it is to use them to create connection. Chat lists with bigger type (to avoid excessive leaning over to read); maybe artist using a second monitor dedicated to chat, even an off-camera assistant to filter and present comments to artist are all things to think about..