Tips for artists streaming Coronavirus Cabaret

Ok, so the apocalypse is upon us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be entertained, right? And there’s only so many box sets on Netflix and iPlayer you can sit through before you realise how much you appreciate a night out in a live performance space. Step up those artists on the sharp end of a cancelled diary who are taking to Facebook Live, Instagram and any one of the other platforms that allow punters to tune into your talent. We, the audience, are crying out for it and many are happy to support you financially to get us all through this cultural drought. But let me share a few observations that may help you make the most of the opportunity.

Your audience will be forgiving, but only to a point.

A Brave New Frontier

Your audience are going to be unused to this, so the theatrical performance paradigm which allows you to charge for tickets upfront probably won’t work as well as an open-access broadcast where you have a tip jar for those that feel they’ve been entertained. Think about it. Charge an upfront fee and your audience come with an expectation; probably an expectation that your at-home production values will never achieve. Offer it for free and they’ll be more inclined to dip in if they’re happy. If they find themselves laughing, singing along or typing ‘bravo’ into the comment feed, reminding them that a modest tip is like buying them a drink will be more likely to make your broadcast worth your while.

Production Values

First impressions count, right? Yes, we know we’re (probably) not going to get a Radio City Music Hall stage and The Rockettes as a backup, but if you’re streaming from your lounge at least get the basics right. Sound and lighting is vitally important (bet you wish you were nice to the techs now, don’tcha). Hearing you and seeing you is pretty much fundamental – so you’ll need a decent mic, mixer and either some studio lighting or clever lamps, reflectors and diffusers. Also make sure the background of your set isn’t busy with unnecessary clutter and yesterday’s pizza box. Film yourself before going live and be ultra-critical of your setup. Your audience will be forgiving, but only to a point. Tips will increase exponentially with effort.

Tip Technology

An early trailblazer of Coronavirus Cabaret was The Phoenix Arts Club. They got many if not most things right about the show. A great sound system, decent lighting and hosts that could play along with the situation we’re all in to make you feel like this was a shared experience. The audience threw cash at the tip jar, but the website checkout struggled with any more than a modest number of people at one time trying to send their cash. Here’s an important tip; unless you’re an experienced e-commerce web developer with knowledge of content delivery and scaling, don’t attempt this on your personal website. It’ll crash. You’ll lose tips from people that want an easy method of flipping you a quid or two. Platforms like PayPal already have this sorted, and with their ‘PayPal.me’ feature it allows you to set up a very simple link where anyone can send you a dollar. Bottom line; unless you’re a tech expert, don’t try this at home. Leave it to the platforms that already have the ability to cope. Your audience will thank you for an easy way to reward.

Manage The Feed

A crucial part of this is that the audience need acknowledgement. If you’re going completely solo on your broadcast you’re really not going to have time to manage the comment feed. Get a friend who can encourage tips and thank those who have donated to sit in on the show and type. You should also have a way of getting shout-outs and messages back to you as this really works best when it’s two-way entertainment. Otherwise we’d go back to Netflix, right? If your friend is remote to the filming (and why not?), they can always filter the comments and send you a text with the things that are important for you to say on camera.

You Don’t Need To Go It Alone

Unless you’re an A-lister (and if you are, we’d assume the squillions you earned on your last Hollywood flick will see you through), you’re probably not going to attract the numbers regularly to see you through on your own. Equally, most of the stuff above will have already been addressed if you get yourself onto one of the rapidly establishing shows that are popping up to fill the cultural void we find ourselves in. Maries Group in New York and aforementioned Phoenix in London are already finding a regular audience which could be a brand new audience for you, rather than just preaching to your Facebook friends list. Do the research and find out what’s out there. Make sure you have a video showreel to share with the producers who can book you. The exciting part of this is suddenly you’re not just entertaining regular punters in the local pub, you’ve got a worldwide fan base. Think about it when this hell is over.

If you’re streaming during the COVID-19 outbreak, we’d love to hear from you. We’ve set up a new category for listings especially for Online performances. Add your details to Broadway Baby and we’ll help publicise your show – plus we can’t wait to see what you’re up to!

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now