Among those affected by the spread of COVID-19 are our beloved friends and neighbors in the local Hattiesburg music scene.
Musicians who have filled our busy streets and local happenings are now at a loss, trying to find financial stability with minimal direction and scarce resources.
Many of these displaced artists have turned to online donation platforms such as Venmo, the Cash app, PayPal and Facebook Pay in an effort to ask the music lovers of the community to come to their aid.
The response the Hattiesburg community has exhibited has been substantial.
Many have found an outlet to continue to spread the joy of music in livestreaming services, such as Facebook Live, Instagram TV, Vimeo and YouTube.
Online services such as Bandcamp have even eliminated its fees, giving all proceeds on music sales to artists.
It was at the peak of this livestreaming uprising that Signature Magazine and The PineBelt NEWS editor and publisher David Gustafson and local songwriter-guitarist Stephen Wade Scott formed the idea of an organized platform to assist in these endeavors; thus, LIVE: From a Safe Distance was born.
"To me, it started as just a thing to do,” explained Scott. “I lost my whole calendar and livelihood, and I'm not alone. I floated the idea of doing my own livestream on Facebook, and I got some really good responses. David had recently purchased the camera we're using, and it all kind of just worked..
“We did our first full-band show earlier this week and it went pretty well. David handled the video, I ran sound while Holley handled the social media stuff. It's good to know we can get this done with three people and keep the numbers low and responsible," he said.
Beginning Friday, March 20 around 7 p.m., the first of hopefully many LIVE: From a Safe Distance livestream concerts featured a positive opening statement from Mayor Toby Barker and a slew of original songs by Scott.
Theclosed performance took advantage of Tayler Hensley and Becca Huddleston's well-loved Equinox Coffee once their doors had closed to the public that evening.
Using the latest streaming video technology, Gustafson livestreamed high-quality content to the newly created Facebook page as well as the Signature Magazine Facebook page.
Businesses hosting these closed events as well as individual artists are encouraged to share these streams on their platforms as well.
Since the original opening of LIVE: From a Safe Distance, the production has featured Josh Holt and Jaime Jimenez of BrothaJosh & the Quickness in an impromptu backyard setting; Shaq Robinson and David Pellow’s Sunday Jazz Brunch Duo on Harry Crumpler’s stage in T-Bones Records; as well as the local downtown sweethearts of Burns and Jane featuring Jack Marshall, Jamie Jordan, Lou Thomas and Sam Adcock.
With little likelihood of the health crisis slowing down soon, neither are the minds behind the LIVE: From a Safe Distance project. Many local businesses have joined in these efforts. C&M Music has provided musical equipment, and local businesses such as T-Bones, Equinox Coffee and Hub City Beers, to name a few, have offered up their closed spaces for venues.
In return, LIVE: From a Safe Distance founders and musicians discuss the many ways in which audiences can continue to support local businesses through curbside pickup and online orders and how they can support these displaced musicians with donations to their virtual tip jars.
To both the creators of this project and the musicians and businesses involved, it is of the utmost importance that top safety precautions are observed.
In these closed performances, participants are strongly encouraged to maintain the recommended distance from each other, no bystanders are allowed to directly witness these performances and proper sanitation methods are being practiced at all times.
So how can we, the community, viewing from afar, become a part of this new and essential service? Tune into the LIVE: From a Safe Distance and Signature Magazine Facebook pages nightly for new sessions.
Like, share and comment on these livestreams. Show us that you’re here and watching somewhere safe with your “quaranteam!”
Start watch parties and tell your friends in other cities and states to tune in to join our community in support of our beloved musical industry in Hattiesburg!
Use the provided money apps to tip these performers during and after these sets are published. All sets will be recorded and posted to the LIVE: From a Safe Distance Facebook page for your viewing. Purchase CDs, vinyls, T-shirts, stickers and various other forms of merchandise online from your favorite local artists.
Most importantly, take the proper steps to protect yourself and those around you to assure that once this situation has calmed down, we can continue to enjoy live music performances for a lifetime to come.
Scott and Gustafson hope to continue these livestreaming efforts long into the future and appreciate the immense amount of support that has been given to the endeavor thus far.
Tune in nightly for the newest LIVE: From a Safe Distance virtual concert, and let the music play you through the tough times.
By day, Holley Rumbarger is an advertising sales representative at Signature Magazine and The PineBelt NEWS. By night, she performs her original music at a number of area venues.