Mood Bling
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Mood Bling

Shelter in Place DJ Mixes

Shifts in the social fabric uncovered new ways to share music in 2020

Physically Distanced Victory Party 11/7/20

Social norms changed drastically and quickly in 2020 as we realized our civic duty to protect the greater good. In some unexpected ways, physical distancing actually brought us closer together and pushed us to weave a new social fabric as life became a blur of homeschooling, video meetings, and livestreaming events.

In March I had a bunch of DJ gigs canceled one after another as the reality of the pandemic set in. I began to ponder alternate ways to connect with people through music from home.

Music Sharing in the Time of COVID

First I made “Shelter in Place” Spotify playlists; one for dancing around the house and another that’s more contemplative. Then I began experimenting with presenting DJ sets on Facebook and Instagram Live.

On March 28th I did a test run; set up the cameras, plugged in the audio, and was off with no advance promotion. I went live while my wife texted some friends and before we knew it we were dancing around our Chicago home as friends around the world danced in theirs. We had hundreds of views with representation from Bangkok, Berlin, Boston, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Portland, Santiago, Seattle, and Tel Aviv.

Shelter In Place House Party 4/4/20

The following Friday I livestreamed a DJ set for my kids’ school fundraiser. That stream reached over 1,000 people and the school’s first-ever online gala raised nearly $100k toward scholarships for families in need.

Having received some encouragement to keep the sets coming, I continued livestreaming “Shelter in Place Mixes” and “Physically Distanced House Parties” nearly every Saturday evening for the rest of the year. Each weekend my wife, 2 boys and I had super-fun dance parties while videoconferencing with friends. I even went on a tour of sorts over the summer when folks began asking me to livestream from their physically distanced backyard parties.

One highlight came as I worked with the City of Chicago to showcase 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music, and with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago on the ChiMusic35 Challenge to determine 35 great moments in Chicago music history. On May 30th I livestreamed a set of Chicago music spanning the city’s Black music history, winding from some of the earliest-ever jazz recordings through blues, gospel, R&B, soul, house, footwork, and current hip-hop/R&B. I performed the set from a pandemically-empty Navy Pier on an outdoor stage with a big sound-system and nobody but 3 helpful Pier staff and a Facebook Live audience of nearly 10k. All the while helicopters circled overhead documenting the first night of Chicago protests after the murder of George Floyd. It was an eerily fitting backdrop given the legacy of white supremacy’s subjugation of the Black people who had, against the odds, made the music that so often represents this city and country on the global stage.

Technical Issues

The Facebook/Instagram algorithms do a nice job of distributing livestreams to friends and famly. In fact, they are clearly biased to push livestreams much harder than other types of posts. But because they don’t have their ©hit together, streams are routinely shut down due to rights infringement. In frustration, I moved over to YouTube where the algorithm is designed pay rights-holders so streams aren’t disrupted. Unfortunately though, YouTube isn’t a place where my social media friends hang out which makes engagement more difficult.

Tech frustration aside, I spent 9 months livestraming and recording DJ sets nearly every saturday. I haven’t uploaded all of the recordings yet, but here’s a Mixcloud playlist featuring the ones that I have:

Music in the ‘20s

In 2021 I’ve taken a step back to reflect on where music will take me next. As the economic, social, political, and cultural upheaval continues to unfold, nearly every aspect of our lives has been affected. Many of the impacts are negative. Music and other creative industries have been gutted and we’ll be feeling the ramifications for a long time to come. But there are glimmers of light shining through the constraints as we’re forced to learn, communicate, and engage in new ways. Here’s to hoping that this hardship is also forging long-lasting changes for the better.

This piece features remixed excerpts from articles I wrote in April for Greenhouse Innovation’s “Life in the Time of COVID” and in August for MoodBling.



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