Social distancing and stay-at-home orders throughout the pandemic have made it difficult for some bands to reach their audiences or maintain income. Others, like local artists Cole Hill, The DLX, and The Holly Rogers, have found ways to maintain their reach amidst today’s challenges.
Each of the creators said when the pandemic hit, they were nervous about what to do.
Hill recalled that he “had so many gigs scheduled for the rest of March and April, and then three got cancelled, then five got cancelled, then ten. It kept going and I just thought[,] ‘What am I going to do? That’s a really big part of my income’.”
The Holly Rogers echoed that fear, worried about their live concert revenue as well. Jackson Bounds, the band’s drummer, said that, “It’s hard to run the business side of it when it’s half-capacity and limited hours, but you never want to feel like the bad guy.”
“[C]oncerts have pretty much come to a halt for me,” agreed Shawn Chambliss, creator of The DLX. “I’m not looking for any shows because they don’t exist. I know that the live industry from any sustainable business past the restaurant level is shut down right now in this area of the country. So, my efforts and energy are best focused elsewhere.”
The pressure of the pandemic pushed each of these artists back into their natural element: getting creative.
“I think I was at a crossroads where I could just sit and use this as an excuse to lay back and not do anything or find new ways to make some income and connect with my audience,” Hill said.
Both Hill and Chambliss chose the latter, turning towards social media as an outlet to stay relevant. At-home concerts became their normal.
“As soon as lockdown started, I started doing some online things like Instagram concerts,” said Chambliss. “It’s interesting and different because you don’t get immediate feedback, and even if you do[,] it’s delayed.”
Chambliss streamed concerts from his living room, happy to produce a show he claims is a “light lift” on production value.
“It’s an easy setup,” Chambliss said, “just my phone, laptop, ring light, and trying to set up an interesting backdrop.”
Hill mostly streamed on Facebook because it allowed for longer streaming times, but he did switch to Instagram for “solo sessions”. For these livestreams, he would pick a genre or band and play the entire virtual set under that theme. He said one Friday night he played an hour long set of only Eagles songs.
“We did two or three livestreams a week,” Hill says. “It was very different, but it was honestly a lot of fun. We would ask for virtual tips on Venmo, PayPal and Cashapp.”
Chambliss explained that online audiences for these shows started off with high attendance. As more people got used to staying at home, the attendance dropped.
Even with the changes and inconsistency in audience members, Hill and Chambliss both agree that they have reached a more widespread audience because of the online shows.
“It got a really good response,” Chambliss said. “Lots of people were saying ‘I look forward to this every Friday’.”
Hill says the livestreams have “allowed us to connect with more people from different places, that we wouldn’t have, had this not happened.” The shows even brought Hill a new fan from Hawaii that he says he’s been grateful to connect with.
While The Holly Rogers also performed online gigs, such as T-Bones Records and Café’s “Live, From a Safe Distance” concerts, they did continue to perform live, in-person concerts. Each band member expressed how much they appreciate their fans for still coming to shows, but need them to be safe and respectful during this time.
“Not everyone follows the guidelines,” Jake Noble, The Holly Rogers’s bassist, noted.
Bounds laughed at that and added, “I stay behind the drums, so I don’t get too close to anybody. […] It’s kind of in the front of our heads the whole time, it’s a weird time we’re in and it’s not really something live music has seen before.”
Once Hattiesburg venues started to reopen, Hill started performing live again. “As soon as things started opening up, I started playing at some places in Hattiesburg, a lot of them outside on patios, with open air,” Hill said. “I’m very thankful to be playing. I missed it a lot.”
“If you guys are going to come out to the show, do whatever the bar says,” Carson Mars, The Holly Rogers’s guitarist, advised fans. “If you do come out, we would love to give you a hug, but drunk hugs are no longer an option, so we will love you from afar.”
All three of these artists have been using this time as an opportunity to write more music and prepare for new releases. The DLX is releasing their newest single on Sep. 4, and Cole Hill will be releasing more singles in the fall. The Holly Rogers debuted their first original single this summer and their debut album, ‘If You Get the Chance’, will be released in September.