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NEW SYSTEMS: How live-streaming has reshaped how we dance and connect

We explore new ways artists and musicians are connecting with one-another, and their fans in a new phase of our digital era.

As part of our NEW SYSTEMS initiative to support creators during the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been speaking to artists, DJs, broadcasters and platforms about how the music industry can cope and evolve. We don’t have all the answers but we firmly believe that it’s through talking and collaborating that we can build new ways of working that are both fairer and more sustainable for audio culture as a whole – not just during lockdown, but beyond.

Last month we continued to explore how an ever-changing world has impacted musicians and artists, and how in the absence of gigs, club nights and festivals the boom of live streaming has completely shaken up the status quo to become an essential part of what it means to make music. We’ve been challenged in so many ways to stay connected with one another, and with the music that keeps our industry alive – physically, emotionally and financially. 

For many DJs, live streaming is already second nature; for others the transition hasn’t been as smooth-running. Some people thrive off the liberation the club provides, and so without them how can we recreate the cerebral energy that dance, movement and connection in a physical space delivers, but through the digital lens? 

Kieran Yates, freelance journalist, broadcaster and documentary maker, talks to Jessy Lanza, Kindness and Sherelle – three artists, producers and DJs who are giving us opportunities to lose ourselves as we dance alone, together – to find out more.

First up, Canadian electronic songwriter, producer, and vocalist Jessy Lanza explores her own live streaming set-up, transforming her bedroom to a 90s-inspired space and laying vocals over tracks she loves in an attempt to bring a new level of engagement and capture a similar energy to the IRL experience. Speaking about dance, she explains “I just want people to do whatever they need to do in that moment”. “I feel inhibited easily so I just want people to feel free to do what they want to do”, and so perhaps live streams give those watching a new found freedom to express themselves entirely. Our digital world grants access to everyone and anyone – those in isolated places or communities, physical introverts – to experience and enjoy music.

Next up, she speaks to Kindness – the solo project of English singer Adam Bainbridge – on the transition from a summer of live shows lined up, to a slashed schedule and his first live stream experiences. He touches on the intensity and exhaustion of tour life that he doesn’t miss during lockdown, yet he yearns for that element of life on the road where you’re constantly moving from place to place, that is all of sudden absent. 

“It’s quite like radio, whether you’re doing an NTS show or the RBMA shows I used to do, it’s like you have to imagine an audience, in some ways there is a bizarre analogy with touring in that stage lights often mean you don’t see the audience very well, you’re just aware of their presence, you know they’re out there… but it’s hard to see anyone.” For those who came up in the industry through radio perhaps live streaming comes more naturally, but for those who didn’t, it is about overcoming that disconnect you have in a physical space to find new ways to connect with your audience – whether through conversation, or adapting how you deliver your music entirely.

Again, the digital world provides a certain freedom for the creator to create something so personal and individual without the usual constraints of a live venue or club, and to perform on their own schedule whether a lunchtime spot or all night long. Kindness started his live stream series during “the time of day when the light comes through my house, trying to do something more akin to David Mancuso’s loft parties”. He says “I felt really like it had been the catharsis I’d been looking for since the beginning of lockdown… it had this amazing sense of release and joyfulness”.

Lastly, Kieran caught up with London-based DJ and producer Sherelle who specialises in high-speed rhythms and heavy low-end frequencies. She breaks down her new working-from-home set-up, recording her BBC Radio 1 Residency, “I didn’t anticipate for us to be in quarantine for so long and fortunately I was able to get some Pioneer DJ XDJ-1000MK2s”.

She’s been running her own live streams to keep the vibe and energy of those transcendental club moments alive, and when asked as a prolific DJ and club-goer what it feels to transit a version of the club to people, she explains how her usual go-to high energy sound has morphed and changed with the ebbs and flows of lockdown. Where usually she would’ve been completely throwing it down playing high octane jungle and footwork, she found herself listening to more obscure, devotional music reflecting a more introspective mood.

Rounding off the conversation, there’s a clear sense that club spaces will always remain vital sites of radical warfare that both liberate and connect music lovers on a physical level. But, this new era of live streaming beckons new ways to engage with both the artists we love, and the fans who build us up as creators.

As live streaming evolves, a quick recovery of the music industry as we know is not guaranteed, but what must become a priority is how we can better understand and support the economics for artists in sustaining themselves moving forward, and focus on what vital role we all have to play in getting there. 

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Photo credit: Nat Wood