Every entertainment niche, and every individual performer is different. Not only are they driven by different goals, but they have different visions for the reputations they will build and for the specific type of joy they will bring to those who experience their performances. Every pro and con listed here will not apply to every performer. Our hope, however, is that this list will give artists bounding-off points, from which to form their own opinions and strategies for moving forward in the age of COVID-19...
Most artists need an outlet for expressing their creativity, and sharing their craft online gives them the chance to do that. For many, it could mean the difference between staying healthy and slipping into depression. Some artists have close, personal relationships with their audiences. Virtual stages can give those artists a platform from which to maintain those relationships. They can let their fans know they’ve been thinking about them, that they’ve missed them, and that they’re looking forward to getting back out there again. Online performances can expand an artist’s reach and provide exposure in markets that would have otherwise gone untouched. This could mean more bookings after the pandemic is over. If an artist has props, sound equipment, visuals, a recording device, lighting (or whatever they might need), an online performance can be relatively easy to set up. No travel necessary. For many performers, the halt of the entertainment industry has meant no income. Online performances can be a way to earn some extra money. An online platform can promote support and sharing within the entertainment industry. Any artist can share what other artists are working on, which may spark reciprocal sharing and inspiration for future shows.
Online performances can bastardize the performing arts industry by cheapening what it really means to experience a live, in-person show. It might be “good enough for now,” but artists might fear their audiences forgetting what a live show is really like. Some artists are not accustomed to performing for a screen. They have built their skills upon reading a live audience, and their craft relies on those human connections. Online performance can place unnecessary pressure on artists who are still coming to terms with what is happening. Some are traumatized after losing their jobs, and that’s no mindset for creating. It’s OK if artists want to simply stop and take stock instead of feeling panicked or pressured into keeping up with their ever-changing industry. Some performers don’t possess the technical skills, resources, energy or financial means to put together professional online content. There can be angst felt among artists who choose not to publish online performances. They could fear that they will become irrelevant, or that they’ll be pushed out of a fast-moving train that’s headed to a new industry landscape. The negative psychological effects can be devastating.
RESILIENCY IN THE HARD TIMES
The current pandemic situation, as well as the recession that will follow, will have profound effects on every type of live entertainer. We are living through unprecedented times. But as dark as some days can seem, we know one thing for sure: It is not only heartbreaking, but fascinating to watch how the entertainment industry is riding out the storm and planning for the future. As we look forward to the hard road ahead, let’s remember that in slow economic times, the best of the best don’t give up. They innovate. They evolve. And they reinvent. Just look at all the virtual events popping up on the scene now! We value our artists and the wealth of talent they bring to the stage, virtual and otherwise! Let’s all support one another. Let’s be as flexible as contortionists, as good-humored as clowns, as brave as sword swallowers and fire breathers, and as responsive as improv comics. We’ve got this! When this has passed (and it will), we will all perform and laugh together once again.