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Cynthia Wisehart on Music and the Arts

Many of us are here in AV because of music and the arts. Right now live sound feels like longed-for past.

I’m encouraged to see artists finding new voices and venues finding ways to support that through streaming. It’s so important that music and artists bridge this time for now—and for always, even after audiences return. Streaming will make everything more inclusive. The potential is actually enormous. Much as we all despise our Zoom meetings, we are not artists. So I have faith in what artists can bring.

Streaming in fact opens doors and revenue streams to culture, education, and collaboration. So don’t diss it—build it. Already I can see with my nephew’s elementary school that the remote learning plan for fall is a big improvement over the spring chaos.\

Having said that—in the meantime there is a ton of pain. I’m watching artists fiind their way. But the same is not true for people whose livelihoods have been crushed by the closing of live sound, bars, and nightclubs. My brother in law included, He’s a Live Nation lighting designer. The company talks about mounting shows in empty theaters with real production values to make for better streaming. That could be great, but even if a new aesthetic can be birthed, the math is hard without a full house of full-paying patrons.

The math isn’t easy for small venues either but in this issue we have two that are trying and succeeding to make the first steps and to explore. Grammy-winning producer Manny Marooquin has been in the biz 30 years and received his latest nominations this year for work with Lizzo and Post Malone. He has been imagining new options for live music and streaming in LA for five years and now he’s getting more of a chance than he bargained for. Likewise the venerable Crystal Ballroom in Portland is keepin’ on from their many rooms. In both cases, they’ve virtualized their food service too—sending guests food and drink to go with their streaming from the couch.

It’s not nothing, and it’s important, but it’s not enough. The worst math in all of this is for the techs and roadies. Even as artists find ways to reach audiences, they don’t need as much tech support, or they need a different kind of tech support. Streaming concerts can and do have staff. But it’s nothing like what we’re used it’s not a living for most. I don’t have any answers but I do know everyone I meet is trying harder than I ever thought possible. And many are swiftly finding their way. Maybe not to something perfect, and not without pain and uncertainty, but I am reminding again that in AV adapting is what we do.

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