Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency in DC due to Coronavirus last Wednesday. By the next day, local musician Justin Trawick had two shows canceled. For Trawick, who makes his living touring with his band, Justin Trawick and The Common Good, the last-minute change took not only a financial toll, but a personal one. “It’s my chosen thing in life,” says Trawick. “It’s what I like to do, and to not play is sad.”
So, that night, the singer-songwriter and his girlfriend, Lauren LeMunyan, decided to put on their own concert via Facebook Live. Once they settled on a time, he promoted the show on social media and they set up a makeshift performance space in their Arlington living room. “It’s not like we had some awesome production value,” Trawick says, laughing. “You’re seeing Lauren sitting in the chair going, ‘Am I in? Am I in?'”
Despite the last-minute nature, the broadcast racked up more than 2,000 views and hundreds of comments. Trawick sang and played guitar, and LeMunyan added background vocals, played the shaker and tambourine, and rapped over the course of the hour-long show. The couple bantered between songs and let viewers know they could donate to a Virtual Tip Jar through Venmo or PayPal. “It was a very kind amount of money,” says Trawick, though he declined to give a specific number. “And it actually did what I was hoping…[It’s] covering the loss of several gigs.”
Musicians have been able to livestream their shows since the 2000s, but with the Coronavirus crisis forcing music venues to close across the world, it may prove an increasingly popular alternative for professional artists. Following a series of cancellations, British rocker Yungblud announced he would livestream a performance on Monday, and independent artists across the US are taking similar steps on platforms like Facebook Live and Stageit.
It doesn’t seem like anyone is going to be playing live shows anytime soon. On Sunday, the CDC issued guidelines recommending that gatherings with more than 50 people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. Trawick is continuing to livestream performances, but he normally plays live shows between 12 and 18 times a month. If performances keep getting canceled, the situation could get dire, he says.
“I’m fortunate to not have to live paycheck to paycheck because I’ve always saved well,” says Trawick. “But this will cause me to temporarily be digging into my savings, and know that I can’t do that forever.”