By Cameron Lee
April 19, 2020
Many in North Carolina may know Josh Daniel from the Americana rock band The New Familiars or his bluegrass/soul collaboration project with mandolinist Mark Schimick (Larry Keel, Natural Bridge). A veteran musician who regularly plays Charlotte area venues and has performed at festivals like MerleFest, FloydFest, and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Daniel, like many musicians, found himself in a unique quandary when the stay-at-home order came in late March.
“Majority of my money comes from playing gigs, but the day this started I said to my wife ‘alright, I’m pretty sure I can keep us afloat if I do this every day’,” said Daniel.
Live streaming performances isn’t a new venture for Daniel, who has been performing live through Facebook for about two years, honing his sound and production over time. “It just gets better and better, I kinda tweaked it and got it sounding really good…so it took me a solid year to get it totally dialed-in like I wanted,” he said.
Utilizing a looper pedal, Daniel adds layers and depth to his songs that sound livelier than a normal acoustic solo performance, and he often plays right in front of his own house in Charlotte.
Performing live every weekday at 5 p.m. since March 20, Daniel saw a sharp spike in his viewership when social distancing practices started and many of his current fans treated the livestreams as a music forum.
“We’re forming like a bond here. It’s crazy, it’s like happy hour, they’re chatting with each other, they see my kids walk by…it’s a totally interactive thing,” said Daniel.
He’s accumulated thousands of new fans as well, racking up hundreds of thousands of impressions over the last month. The daily performances have kept Daniel busier than ever; he enlisted helpers like his friend “Lefty,” who interacts with fans while he performs, and an assistant, Hannah Norwood, who helps with publicity.
While many musicians are now experimenting with paywalls for virtual concerts, Daniel’s simple tip jar links earn him a steady income while his merch sales have jumped significantly. He’s even designed new products for the “Quarantine Sessions” and archived his sets, creating live albums for independent distribution.
Even though it may be uncertain for many, just how long this wave of livestream entertainment will prosper, Daniel is also looking to work with local venues like Thomas Street Tavern, Smokey Joe’s and Visulite who have been devastated by the effects of COVID-19. He’s even looking to start a masterclass to teach musicians on livestreaming and stepping up production with a possible series at an actual venue with bandmates and multiple cameras, with proper distance of course.
As many of us are trying to figure out how to survive in these dire times and how to sustain even after the pandemic passes, Daniel has shown many in the music industry that a virtual model is not only practical, but can be very fruitful. With many experts projecting large events not being safe until 2021, virtual reality may be more of a reality than we think for the future of the entertainment business.