Artists who rely on live performance for the bulk of their income have been faced with the possibility that they will be unable to generate income for the foreseeable future. As I write on June 4, 2020, no one can predict when venues will open again and how many people will be allowed to attend events. In the meantime, we are seeing a proliferation of events which are being streamed on the internet – on a ticket basis.  A booking is made and upon payment, a link is sent which provides access to the show.

I have watched many shows and enjoyed all of them – even if there have been technical issues. We will get to that. It may be an issue with the stream. It may be the internet in general. It may be the user’s internet.

Still the Soul Soars – excellent live stream concert

The stand-out live stream lockdown small concert, for me, so far:  Still the Soul Soars – featuring Lynelle Kenned, accompanied on piano, by Stefan Lombard. Link: Impressive lighting and camera work (shifting between both artists), lighting and design. I liked the arrangement of the songs (Lombard), the playlist and anecdotes shared by Kenned during the show. Her tender and poignant comments resonated with me: The isolation of lockdown and the hope that we will get through it. She spoke about missing her late mother. It felt like a very intimate gathering. The show was professionally staged from Penny Lane Studios in Wynberg. Not everyone has access to a recording studio but with some easing of lockdown regulations, it is now possible to film in studio. Aki Kahn of Penny Lane Studios is a highly regarded name in the music business and he is bringing his considerable experience in staging live performance to the realm of streaming shows, live, in real time.

Streaming – it is complicated

On the note of the actual streaming, the Still the Soul Soars stream went out seamlessly – on time – no buffering or freezing. It is complex as to how a stream plays out in real time.

On one weekend, there was reportedly an internet crash. I was in an internet meeting which froze. The response indicated that “everyone” had had issues on various platforms, that weekend. I have been unable to verify this. We do know that there is tremendous traffic on the internet globally and this is bound to cause glitches. An issue for people who have purchased tickets is that many tickets are non-refundable.  However, if there is a technical issue, most ticket platforms/artists seem to be offering a link so that a recording of the show may be viewed within a time frame.

Customer service helpline

Feedback from readers to TheCapeRobyn is that ticket holders are understanding. We are living in times of congested internet traffic in the midst of a pandemic. They get that but they want to be able to communicate with the ticket platform provider and/or the production house of the show. I like the fact that Penny Lane Studios does provide a what’s app customer service number. It is good to be able to find out if it your problem or a general internet issue.

In terms of internet usage, mention must be made that users should check bandwidth. If necessary, use a mobile phone as a hot spot. We were watching a live stream on the last day of May. It was buffering. I realised that this was probably because of what is often referred to as “internet throttling.” Internet packages may be tagged as uncapped and unlimited but towards the end of the month, some providers “throttle” or slow down downloads which causes the dreaded buffering. For this particular show, I switched to my phone and used mobile data. It worked fine. The bottom line: The digital space has its issues. Ticket sellers/platforms need to be cognisant of the fact that things can go wrong and that a customer service number needs to be supplied so that the consumer may be kept in the loop.

Fave live stream comedy

My favourite comedy show so far: Stuarts Taylor’s Money’s 2 Tight 2 Mention: The Corona Edition which went out on May 15, via Quicket. The stream started on time. There were no freezing, buffering or sound issues. The comments bar provided a zone of activity with Taylor chirping back. It is not easy to perform comedy without a live audience; get through the planned material and interact with the virtual audience – through the comments bar. Taylor triumphed. The comment zone was on the boil with Southfield trending (if you don’t  know where it is, sorry. Google maps will help). As with the Lynelle Kenned/Stefan Lombard show, I felt that there was a connection between Taylor and the audience. The Taylor show was filmed from his home but came across professionally – nicely lit and filmed.  Tickets to the Taylor and the Kenned/Lombard gigs were sold on the Quicket ticketing platform. All up, smooth navigation – with reminders and countdown to the live stream.

Top tip- customer service

If you have bought a ticket to watch something online, check that there is a customer service contact. Check if there is an option to get a link, if your internet crashes. For instance, Greg Gelb is doing magic show on Monday night – June 8, 2020. Here is the link: Gelb says that if there is an internet issue – mail a screenshot of the issue – together with the receipt of the ticket– and a link will be sent for you to watch. That is fair play.

Internet advisory – know how each stream operates

There are multiple live streaming options which may be confusing for the ticket buyer. Some shows go out live. They are streamed in real time and may not be paused or rewound. Some live streams remain accessible for watching again, in a specified time frame, off one ticket purchase  Others shows are pre-recorded and go out live; may be paused and re-wound – all on the same ticket. For other streams, if you navigate away from the browser or close it, you need to purchase another ticket.

On this website, TheCapeRobyn, detailed information is provided as to how each stream works- what is on offer and other details – such as how many tickets are available. Some platforms crash as there is too much traffic and the link is not enabled to handle a high volume of viewers. Know what is on offer and avoid internet streaming frustration. Sign up for newsletter on TheCapeRobyn

Artists are mindful of keeping their fans happy and it seems that are more than happy to assist if a download fails. Here is to live streaming and here is to the rebirth of live gigs – when it is safe to resume.

Image credit: Still the Soul Soars- screenshot TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.