A Return to the Roots: How can artists rebuild a community for themselves and with fans amid COVID-19?
With Songathon Co-Founder Noah Hyams
by Isabella Grella
What originally felt like a pause in song recording and performing only exacerbated the unfamiliar music industry landscape. While artists have taken unique approaches digitally to create, record and perform, I spoke with Songathon co-founder Noah Hyams on how artists and fans can support the music community in durable ways.
Back at the beginning of the social-distancing orders, Noah wrote a blog-post for Songathon titled, “How to Co-Write Songs Over the Internet.” His suggestions include (1) using a video conferencing app and (2) a shared document such as Google Docs, (3) utilizing tools like Voice Memos to create reference tracks and (4) discussing co-writing ownership rights as you would at an in-person songwriting session. Although seemingly unnatural, Noah thinks there are opportunities to be made from digital-collaboration.
“I also think it opens up this idea of collaborating globally, which is really cool,” he explains from his desk in Switzerland, where he moved back after staying in New York City the majority of the pandemic. “And also, now that people are going to save a lot of money on plane tickets and travel, sessions are maybe going to be happening more over the internet.”
As we see more artists releasing albums while in isolation, the creative process is only half of it. And with live stream fatigue — as Noah calls it — affecting even the most loyal fans, musicians are forced to express themselves in innovative ways, without emphasizing the pandemic and stay-at-home orders too frequently.
“I think people look at music as a way to escape, so maybe getting away from what the news is talking about all the time could be an advantage,” Noah explains. “Also, I think a lot of artists and songwriters have people they follow and they like and I think you can always learn a thing or two watching those people and what they’re doing.”
So what have some artists been doing? Indie artist Luna Li has always posted covers and instrumentals via her Twitter, but gave fans even more insight into her creative process during the quarantine. The Toronto native frequently shares collaborations, instrumental performances and even production teasers on her platform. “So you know, maybe you live-streaming writing a song, instead of just performing it. That can be really exciting,” says Noah.
Despite there being almost “no end in sight,” Noah’s time in New York has been highlighted by continuous support for the music community as artists go grassroots and take to the streets to perform. “I think artists can really take advantage of things that don’t scale; Give us sidewalk performances, get to know your neighbors, your neighborhood, maybe you perform outside your building on a stoop,” Noah says.
And while outdoor dining is thriving during the final weeks of warm weather, artists can partner with business owners to gain traction at their establishments. While social distancing continues in the coming months, entrepreneurs and artists alike are becoming more creative in the tech space in various ways.
Soon-to-be launched is LiveRoom Media, an interactive platform allowing artists to create their own world in virtual spaces. William Deresiewicz writes of a time in the digital “creative economy,” when it is “easier than ever to share your creativity with the world, and harder than ever to make a living doing so.” LiveRoom Media aims to give artists their autonomy back, not just creatively but financially, with monetized live streams and networking opportunities.
In terms of songwriting and collaboration, Noah hopes tools become more interactive to aid in the creative processes. “I think online experiences should be more like video-games. Like more interactive and in-person.”
While Songathon usually comes together for 24-hours for in-person songwriting sessions, Noah and his co-founder Amber Ward pivoted to an online writing competition with a prompt to spread awareness of social-distancing and express experiences in isolation, proving the opportunities in the creative-writing process even at home.
“I’m curious to see what VR and AR do in the future in terms of an opportunity to collaborate,” Noah says. “Yeah, I’ll leave it up to the artists and songwriters, I’m not going to judge which way [they] want to go.”
A list of fundraisers and resources for COVID-19 relief within the music industry can be found here.
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