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Online engagement during COVID-19

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At Jazz Connector on 2nd July 2020, members of Ireland’s jazz and improvised music scene gathered to identify and discuss current issues affecting the scene.

Guest speakers included Nick Roth on IMC's Piece by Piece series and streaming, Bex Burch on collaborative improvising via Zoom, and Emilie Conway on re-imagining a Cruinniú na nÓg project for the digital landscape.

The conversation followed on from Jazz Connector on 26th February and the Jazz Connective Public Discussion in December 2019. Below is an outline of some of the points which emerged over the course of the discussion.

Purpose of Jazz Connector

  • Space for artists, organizations, venues, festivals, audiences to come together and talk about the community and the future.
  • IMC aims to facilitate this once every 2 weeks going forward, with space to talk, ask questions, discuss ideas etc.
  • Anyone can suggest topics, opinions.


  • Problems of monetisation
  • Some very good examples out there - Mick Flannery (paid, private Bandcamp concert platform), Sam Leak.
  • Solidarity money - while people have been willing to pay for some content the start this is dropping off and income from streaming is becoming less and less.
  • Problem with the audience starting to expect things for free.
  • Subscription models are interesting
    • Patreon/Bandcamp/Bandheart
    • One model mentioned in Corey Mwamba
    • People are finding a community on the internet which wasn’t there before.
  • Saturation of the market
    • Everyone in the world is doing a video, you don’t necessarily want to be a part of that
    • A lot of great content hasn’t been engaged with.
    • You don’t want to sit at your computer for even longer at the end of the day.
  • As an artist your level of saturation can be your own choice
    • Your audiences should know that if you do less, what you do is more meaningful.
  • Streaming offers connection to people further away, connections with audiences you couldn’t make in real life
  • Streaming offers possibilities for artist as activist
    • e.g. The Scratch, fundraising stream for MASI, raised €5000.
  • Experiential nature of concerts is key
    • Timing of concerts, e.g. in IMC’s Piece by Piece series, you could chat through Youtube to artists and audience
    • Different experiences - e.g. binaural recording for Hotter than July.
    • An alternative needs to be as good as going out.

Software mentioned

Advantages of playing from home

  • Different energy, safety of playing from your own space.
  • No need to please other people
  • Able to use all of the instruments and equipment you have which you couldn’t take to a normal gig

IMC’s Piece by Piece series, reflections from Nick Roth (See the Piece by Piece series)

  • Very well timed, creative, offered incredible freedom to the artists.
  • Nick & Olesya were very privileged with their equipment, quite a full recording studio, Olesya being a film-maker.
  • Offered an opportunity to use all of the instruments and equipment which you wouldn’t normally take to a gig.
  • In the midst of cancellations, Piece by Piece gave them a focus
  • Also, responding to Shane’s video gave a reason to explore their new area, having just moved.
  • Sense of community in the project
    • talking to other musicians
    • Everyone coming together for the release at that Friday 8pm, talking via the Youtube chat etc.
  • Difficulties
    • Self-production skills - it’s tempting to forever do one more take.
    • Not every musician has the equipment/experience
      • Reaper, Filmova, DaVinci free version are all useful tools.
    • Challenging to make a piece that will exist forever, not just in one performance.
  • What are the possibilities for hybrid digital/real experiences after COVID-19?
    • What does this hybrid look like?
    • Is there any audience interest?
    • How could it be monetised - could everyone set a baseline on monetisation?
  • Remote collaborations are becoming more interesting
    • working with artists/graphic designers, video game designers
    • visuals to accompany improvised music.

Bex Burch - Improvising on Zoom

  • Bex has been creating improvised duos with a number of different musicians on Zoom, read a full interview with her on this HERE.
  • Collaborating in real time stretches musicianship and capacity
    • very different from playing on someone else’s pre-recorded track and deciding what to add
  • It might not work in groups, easier with a duo.
  • This may lead to real-life collaborations.
  • Currently working on mixing recorded material towards release for duos with Tamar Osborne and Leafcutter John
  • Recommends Reaper for software.
  • Zoom updates have made things slightly harder than they were, more difficult to hear two people at once.
    • Jacktrip is an alternative which is now slightly better than Zoom.
  • A proper lag is useful
  • Any improvisation has its own challenges, if the sound is bad on a gig, you just have to push through, can inform some of your best performances.

Emilie Conway on Cruinniú na nÓg project with St. Columba’s NS

  • See 'It All Works Out' here.
  • Starting point was a song that Emily brought to the school about who she is and what she does.
  • Project was originally meant to be weekly working with children in school towards a performance at Cruinniú na nÓg
  • Intended to introduce children to jazz, improvising on melodies etc., in a practical way through working with the choir
  • Then asked to reimagine it as an online event
  • There is a challenge in a video because of the permanence of it
  • Project had to be developed within constantly changing restrictions
    • Eventually the band was able to record their sections ins studio
    • Children recorded their parts and sent them back in to be mixed
    • Child Protection Policies also unclear throughout - because videos might not have been allowed for Child Protection reasons, students sent in artwork around themes sent by Emily

Working with venues/getting back to live music

  • Allen Smith currently applying for future festival for June 2021
    • Arts Centres offering dates from September on.
  • Pubs are opening very early, with less concern for safety than money
    • Government are transferring liability back to venue owner
    • Lack of tourism is also a difficulty

- IMC are surveying audience RE: their levels of comfort in coming back to live gigs.

  • Red Keane developing proposals for venues which could work
    • e.g. Arthur’s, ideal for a one way system, two doors
    • Could work for a shorter set repeated twice, to bring in more audience
    • Project Arts Centre as a bigger space for more substantial projects.
  • Europe
  • Musicians need to declare our value to audiences
    • Can we connect better with RTÉ, our national broadcaster representing artists.
    • Some of the recently created content could definitely be on radio.
    • RTÉ are supposed to be working on ways to use their studios for live performances at the moment.
    • Use of radio would also prevent people who are not internet-literate from being excluded.

Alternate venues for live performance

  • Bandstands? - Phoenix Park, Stephen’s Green, Raheny, Bushy Park
    • Record labels have done things on bandstands in the past, good potential for distancing, engagement with the community.
    • Could be very good during the length of days in summer and good weather
  • Dublin City Council are reluctant to do anything that will encourage gathering at the moment.
  • Dublin City Council and OPW own a lot of these spaces in Dublin, and can have a lot of hoops to jump through for use.

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