MUSIC

What are you doing Saturday night? Try out this living room gig

It wasn't the day the music died, but for many working musicians it might as well have been.

As the shutdown of live music venues continues to wreak havoc on the livelihoods of performers in cities and towns across Australia, some are finding alternative ways to stay in touch with their audiences.

In Newcastle, a city renowned for its live music culture, local artists are reaching out from their physical isolation via the recently created Novo Lounge Facebook page.

The project was originally intended to livestream a weekly performance by a local musician from the living room of well-known musicians David Javier and Steve Dunkley.

"The idea was to allow the artist to accept donations, much like an online busking situation," Dunkley said.

The first show on March 26 by singer-guitarist Ian Papworth proved they were onto something. In addition to a strong local virtual crowd, the performance also attracted interest from viewers in Belgium.

But within days, tougher social distancing rules meant artists had to perform from their own homes.

Undeterred, The Novo Lounge has facilitated three performances a week in the past fortnight with audiences ranging from 600 to 3000.

Javier said based on interest from musicians and audiences, it was likely the lounge would soon open daily.

"I've been talking to musicians who want to be involved. Some of them already have a great wi-fi signal and equipment and some need some help to make the most of what they have. We want it to work for everyone." he said.

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Importantly, the virtual audiences have also recognised the importance of supporting their artists through direct donations.

"These are people who have been working musicians all their lives and suddenly they don't have any work and they still have to pay $500 a week in rent," Javier said.

"I normally do between three to six gigs on a weekend. There are a lot of artists who do exactly the same as me."

Dunkley said the contribution of musicians to the wider community was often taken for granted.

"Every aspect of the COVID-19 shutdown has impacted the music industry immediately causing hardship to musicians who rarely get the financial, healthcare and monetary fallbacks of traditional businesses," he said.

"We are a marginalised segment of the workforce, often ignored and left out of helpful services. But musicians are almost universally the first who are called upon to donate time to help others in times of need."

But equally, the project is about celebrating the city's musical talent in an innovative way.

"Both of us are great believers that Newcastle has produced an amazing collective of fine, world-class musical artists," Dunkley said.

"We hope that this page and others like it can make even just a little difference in this fast-changing professional landscape."

Support Act, which provides a helping hand to artists, crew, and other music workers in need, has launched a national COVID-19 Emergency Appeal.

The appeal aims to raise $20million to assist music industry workers affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.

"The vast majority of these workers are independent contractors who do not have the luxury of sick leave or annual leave. Most live from tour to tour, or gig to gig and they have lost their ability to earn an income through no fault of their own," the charity said.

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This story What are you doing Saturday night? Try out this living room gig first appeared on The Canberra Times.