Musicians are still torn: Do they play live and risk spreading COVID, or do they starve? It’s not an easy choice, and there’s no right or wrong answer, though the question would be moot if strong, science-driven leadership at the top were around at the beginning of the outbreak. Narrator: It was not. The guy who was supposed to be in charge said the novel coronavirus was going to one day disappear “like a miracle.” Now we are stuck. Workaday musicians and bar owners/employees are still struggling, despite the loosening of restrictions to allow for at least 50% occupancy. And keep your eye on that because if COVID infection rates continue skyrocketing, another lockdown looms, putting us right back where we were in the spring. And no one can afford that.

As the Biden administration will tackle the virus head-on in January, assuming most of us are still breathing clearly at that point, Bandcamp is doing what it can to serve up another money-making avenue for artists.  will allow them to create ticketed livestream shows. A virtual merch table, real-time chat, and the ability to promote the show to preexisting Bandcamp users will comprise the “Bandcamp ecosystem,” where the ticketed livestream show will take place. At least 80% of ticket sales will go directly to the artist as part of the platform’s established Fair Trade Music Policy. Until March 31, 2021, Bandcamp will waive its fees on tickets, meaning 100% of ticket sales will go directly to artists until then. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pedro the Lion, Madison McFerrin, and Cloud Nothings are just a few artists already slated to perform.

Local artists are no longer streaming like they were around the thick of the lockdown, which is a shame — I loved the streaming shows. The Unlikely Candidates and Brandin Lea at MASS and Big Mike at home were big events around the Mariani household, with my wife, young son, and I gathered around the laptop with the beverages of our choice and with our feet up. If there’s a better way for a sad old fart who’s afraid to drive at night and his family to take in a local rock show, I can’t think of it.

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One of the best parts was how the concerts destroyed geographical boundaries. I invited friends and family members from back home up north and beyond to watch Big Mike, Brandin, and TUC, and many of them did, and most left tips. As enthused as I am about the return of live music, I also think livestreaming can play a role, as it has been — many bars are livestreaming their in-person concerts, too, which makes perfect, logistical, philosophical sense. With the addition of Bandcamp Live, a logical competitor to Facebook Live, local artists have another outlet, and it’s one that’s not as grimy and disgusting as Facebook.

I understand the potential roadblocks. Some artists may play out too much, diluting their turnout from show to show. This is not a problem endemic to streaming but could be more pronounced with yet another concert outlet on the market. And I know that Bandcamp’s new platform is geared more toward national artists than ones with smaller fan bases like most of the local acts we love so much. I also know that of all the various music streaming/downloading platforms out there, Bandcamp seems to understand its users and fans. The company appears to be responsible. Setting aside days to allow Bandcamp artists to earn 100% of sales is one way the platform “gets” what it’s like to be talented yet unheralded. And hungry — for a big break, some airplay, a good review, or, considering life these days, lunch. —  Anthony Mariani


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