Musicians and venues faced with uncertain times amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Amid cancelled gigs, venue closures and calls for people to stay home, musicians are being forced to find new ways to connect with fans. Live streaming is quickly becoming the new normal for artists amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Local and touring artists have been relying on social media to connect with fans in a time when face-to-face contact is discouraged.  

“It’s really nice at the end of the day to sit down and watch someone play music, someone you really admire — whether that be locally or on a bigger scale. It just kind of gets you out of your own head about this situation and you’re able to just kind of sink into the music… [and] forget about the scary time we are in,” said Taran Duncan, guitarist for local rock band, Biloxi Parish.

His band had to cancel shows in the coming months because the Owl Acoustic Lounge, where they regularly perform, closed indefinitely. The venue made the choice to close last week — deciding not to run at half capacity, as per government regulations. 

“It is a little bit of a shell-shock. Initially, for me this whole thing [has been] a lot to process… I’m going to rebound and kind of recalibrate and come at it with a clear head,” said Steven Foord, co-owner of the Owl Acoustic Lounge.

It is unclear when the Owl will be able to open again. Foord said he is hopeful to be running in the summer, but is worried about how long the business’ savings will last. Rent deferrals can help, but can become a problem if they accumulate. As a business owner, he does not qualify for unemployment insurance.

“I don’t know where my rent is coming from, on top of my business,” said Foord.

After taking the week to assess the situation, The Owl is considering setting up streaming shows with local musicians. Duncan said he and his bandmates would like to set up full-band live stream shows where fans can donate money, much like a regular live show at the Owl.

“I would be willing to donate [proceeds] to the Owl if it meant keeping those doors open,” said Duncan.

For now, Biloxi Parish front man, Zach Passy, is considering doing live shows solo until the band feels safe to get together. The band is still set to record their sophomore album in May and Passey is using this time to write new music.

“That’s the strangely — if you want to call it beautiful — thing about this. It’s something that literally everyone in the world is having to face, so what do you do? Do you lay down and die or do you try to find solutions and ways to make things work?”  said Foord.

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