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Virtual concerts raise money, spirits amid Covid-19 crisis

From isolation orchestras to living room concerts, the live events industry is keeping the music – and some cash – flowing despite the coronavirus pandemic

By Anna Grace on 31 Mar 2020

Virtual concerts raise money, spirits amid Covid-19 crisis

Australia's "isolation orchestra"

image © John Foreman's Aussie Pops Orchestra/YouTube

A whole host of virtual benefit concerts has seen significant amounts of money and awareness raised for charities and funds tackling the coronavirus crisis.

Perhaps the most prominent of fundraising events, the recent Elton John-hosted iHeart Living Room Concert for America saw acts including Billie Eilish, Dave Grohl, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and Backstreet Boys perform from their homes.

Attracting more than 8.7 million viewers, the event has so far raised over $8 million for US charities Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation.

British comedian James Corden last night (30 March) broadcast a similar event – dubbed HomeFest – from his garage with performances from BTS, Andrea Bocelli, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and John Legend.

Corden stated the aim of HomeFest was “to bring some joy and some music into your home at what is without a question one of the strangest and scariest moments in all our lives.”

Over the weekend, gaming-focused streaming platform Twitch hosted the Stream Aid 2020 charity event, including short performances from artists including Biffy Clyro, Rita Ora, OneRepublic, Sigrid, Diplo, Die Antwoord, Joe Jonas, the Lumineers, Lauv, Ellie Goulding and John Legend.

The event, which also saw celebrities compete against fans in a number of videogames, has so far raised over $2.7m for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 solidarity response fund.

“The generosity of our entire community resulted in a large donation to two non-profits that can ensure the stability of our world and our industry”

Twitch also partnered with electronic music platform Beatport for 34-hour live stream marathon ReConnect, which raised more than $180,000 for the WHO’s Covid-19 fund and the Association for Electronic Music’s (Afem) Covid-19 hardship fund.

DJs including Carl Cox, Bonobo, Pete Tong, Nina Kraviz, Griz, Rüfüs Du Sol, A-Trak, Nicole Moudaber and Chris Liebing performed live as part of ReConnect.

More than 8.5 million viewers tuned in across 150 countries, with 6,500 individual donors.

“We are deeply grateful for all the talented artists and their teams that made the ReConnect event possible, and equally impressed with the dedication and passion shown by the global electronic music community that tuned in for over 34 hours this past weekend to reconnect with their favourite DJs,” comments Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels.

“The generosity of our entire community, including so many great industry partners that donated products to give away, is what resulted in a large donation to two non-profits that can ensure the health and stability of our world and our industry in the months to come.”

Event discovery platform Bandsintown also joined forces with Twitch to host a live music marathon, with all proceeds going to the MusiCares Covid-19 relief fund. The Bandsintown Live channel is today hosting live sets from Imogen Heap and Flux Pavilion, among others.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the La Liga Santander Fest, organised by Spanish football division La Liga, Universal Music and technical services company GTS, has raised over €800,000.

“Together we can convince people of the importance of staying at home and achieve our aim of providing funding for essential hospital materials”

Hosted by Spanish actress Eva González and radio DJ Tony Aguilar, the virtual festival saw performances from Alejandro Sanz, Juanes, Luis Fonsi, Morat and Manuel Carrasco, among others, as well as appearances from Spanish footballers and tennis player Rafael Nadal.

The Santander Bank Foundation will dedicate the funds for medical equipment and supplies in conjunction with the health authorities and national sports council.

“This initiative has turned into something huge,” says La Liga president Javier Tebas. “We have the best artists, the best clubs, the best players and the best fans. Together we can convince people of the importance of staying at home and achieve our aim of providing funding for essential hospital materials.”

‘Secret gig’ platform Sofar Sounds is also doing its bit, launching a ‘Listening Room’ where artists can perform live and announcing all artists who had shows cancelled will be paid as normal. All upcoming Sofar shows were cancelled on 13 March, affecting 2,000 artists.

Sofar has also launched a Global Artist Fund, aiming to raise $250,000 for artists, which will be distributed in grants of $250 each.

In January, the platform paid out over $460,000 among people who worked its concerts for free between 2016 and 2019, after agreeing a settlement with New York state’s Department of Labor.

In Australia, acts including Casey Donovan, Dami Im, Courtney Act and Patti Newton have joined forces with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, or John Foreman’s Aussie Pops Orchestra, performing a rendition of ‘What a Wonderful World’ from their respective homes and encouraging donations to music industry charity Support Act.

The orchaestra urges the public to “stay home, stay safe and when the time is right, please support live performance.”

Support Act’s Covid-19 emergency appeal has so far raised almost AU$240,000 (€133,819) to help the music industry through the coronavirus pandemic. Read how Australia’s Michael Chugg (Chugg Entertainment/Frontier Touring) is coping with the challenges thrown up by the coronvairus pandemic here.

Tales from Covid: Michael Chugg Q&A


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