Thrive with Online Concerts

I show up for virtual live concerts every day. Here’s what I am learning so far.

Nicole Stella
Mar 21 · 6 min read

Understandably, there are now more and more musicians choosing to perform in live streaming events. In a previous article, I already listed this tool as one of the opportunities we have to keep going despite these uncertain times.

As far as my personal experience goes, I started doing live streaming concerts from my Facebook page at the end of 2019. In truth, I first wanted to try this new tool way back in 2018, but I was too shy, too scared or too busy with “real” gigs to give it a go.

Last year, however, something drastically changed in me. While I was still proud of what I had managed to achieve with so little resources, I had started to seriously doubt myself.

There were times I couldn’t look back at my previous work without feeling uncomfortable. It sounded like a product of rush. I was in a rush to prove the world that a young working-class woman from a relatively small country (Italy) could “make it” in the music industry as an independent artist. To prove this, I had to hustle, produce music as often as I could, play live as much as possible, travel the world with my songs, and raise my middle finger to whoever said something like: “Why don’t you find yourself a real job?”.

It was not just my ambition, though. It was my hunger, my need to say what I judged as meaningful, my strain to show whoever was around me that I had control over the situation.

But nothing much happened in 2019. Of course, I’m glad I managed to get by and make some very good plans for a new album, but there was no progress.

The pandemic we are going through is now wrecking my plans, but even before the virus showed up, to be honest, a failed attempt at forming a band and various rejections I had to face had already beaten up my hopes.

That’s when my chaotic brain, backed by my very supportive partner, suddenly reminded me of that opportunity to go live online.

This idea struck me when I first read the story of Dawn Beyer, a country artist who managed to transform this platform into the opportunity she needed to gather a strong and loyal fan base.

Following her footsteps, I started doing streaming concerts around October 2019, but I was still uncomfortable about it. As Dawn puts it, these virtual concerts are unforgiving, because you can’t hide your flaws as a performer when you hit that “go live” button (more about this later).

So I didn’t stick to a schedule. I just showed up when I felt courageous enough to give it a go. In the meantime, I also started doing some more busking, an activity I undertake every summer in a beautiful place on Lake Como.

The results were not consistent, mostly because I was not consistent, but I held on until February when I had to face a small surgery that didn’t allow me to sing for about a month.

Now, all the self-doubting, the big number of rejections occurring at once, my failed attempt at keeping a band together, the forced hiatus from singing, and the outbreak of a freaking pandemic, led me to the only possible solution (apart from giving up): becoming more serious about live streaming concerts.

This month, I am showing up on my Facebook page every day, bringing my original songs to whoever wants to tune in and give me a chance to be heard.

Here’s what I am learning so far.

Camera and microphone on a tripod
Camera and microphone on a tripod
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

I am improving my stage skills

When you play real venues as an unknown independent act, you sometimes end up singing to empty rooms. This is discouraging, but the tips or the fee you get for that performance make you think: “Well, at least I’m earning something to get by”.

If you settle for that, however, you will never improve as an artist.
Empty bar after empty bar, or uninterested crowd after uninterested crowd, you forget how crucial it is to improve your stage presence.

On the other hand, when you go live from an online platform, you have to work very hard on your performance.

People can leave at any time. Seriously, they don’t even have to drink up their beer to run out! If you suck, they’ll keep scrolling through their feed and ignore you. God, they’ll keep scrolling even if you’re doing OK so you have to be great.

This is the most valuable lesson I’m learning. I need to grow as a performer and focus on practicing rather than hustling.

I should focus on my own music

Some listeners tune in every day to listen to my music. Honestly, I didn’t expect that.

While doing my best to level up in my career, I always had that little voice on the back of my mind saying: “Do a cover, come on. They want to listen to some Joni Mitchell, not your damn song.”

Turns out, people like my songs. They want to hear them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t show up every day.

Suddenly I know that venue owners booking only cover bands are wrong. They assume people want to hear just well-known songs, maybe the ones they grew up with, the ones bringing in good memories.
Of course, they might want that, but they can also appreciate new tunes. After all, it is pretty exciting to be among the first ones to hear a song, way before it gets popular.
I love playing covers, mostly because I have fun reinterpreting the songs I dig, but my experience with live streaming concerts is teaching me I should focus more on my own music…and without feeling guilty about that!

Connection is key

At some point, I became so focused on pursuing my goals that I forgot the most important one: to establish a connection with my audience. As a result, I didn’t achieve many of the other goals I had in mind, but now I can see why.
This might be counter-intuitive, yet live streaming concerts are way more effective than in-person shows when it comes to building a relationship with your audience. When you’re up on stage, you are somewhat distant. When you’re live on Facebook, you can keep the chat at hand and promptly respond to what your listeners have to say. They can somehow become part of the show, addressing their ideas or expressing the vibes they feel.
These virtual concerts are becoming a great way to keep in touch with my small yet loyal core of listeners. They are also teaching me how important it is to offer a service to them, more than anything else.

I should always aim at simplicity

If I look back at my homemade videos, I feel a bit uncomfortable, especially in a time when artists invest a lot of money for their videomaking necessities.
By looking at this from another point of view, however, I realize I don’t feel uncomfortable about their homemade quality. After all, I am a proud DIY artist.
I feel uncomfortable about the ones clearly showing how I wanted to “do more” without putting in the money, the time, the know-how. They don’t look like proudly- made no-budget DIY music videos. They just look cheap. This happened because I forgot the number one rule I had set for myself: keep it simple.
Knowing I couldn’t afford to spend thousands to reach that pro quality that would make me look like a successful artist (despite the real results), I had decided to be raw and authentic instead.
But that freaking rush to show the world I was coping got in the middle.
Virtual concerts are reminding me of how effective a stripped-down acoustic performance can be. They are also making me realize that I should get back to my simple approach to music and the music business, focusing on the substance rather than on the appearance.

Thanks a lot for reading! To find out more about my music and my work, have a look at my website. Rock on!

Nicole Stella

Written by

Independent singer and songwriter, movie and TV series addicted, chai tea lover. Listen to my music here:

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