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With Clubs Gone Dark and Festivals Postponed, the Musical Action Migrates to the Livestream

Trevor Smith
Jazz Night in America

Musicians mobilizing from their living rooms. Clubs broadcasting to a virtual audience. What began as a stopgap measure may be our new normal, at least for a while. Consult our guide.

Last Friday night, Sun of Goldfinger played a pair of blistering sets at Firehouse 12.

That fact alone is notable, given the widespread closures and cancelations in the northeast due to coronavirus concerns. (The previous night, the group had been compelled to cancel a show in Philadelphia.)

But Friday’s performance was even more striking for the fact that Sun of Goldfinger was playing to an empty room, and well over a hundred fans online. The band had long been scheduled as a season opener for Firehouse 12, an avant-garde hub in New Haven, Conn. Sometime last week, in the face of an obvious public health crisis, the club converted its entire spring season to a series of livestreams, refunding ticketholders and shifting emphasis to an online broadcast; the series continues this Friday with the Joe Fonda Quartet. 

Musicians and venues are reeling from the sudden impact of COVID-19 restrictions, and it will be some time before the ecosystem regains some form of equilibrium. In the meantime, the livestream has quickly emerged as a stopgap solution: not a perfect substitute, to be sure, but a means of bringing artists and audiences together without running afoul of social-distancing decrees. 

Credit Nate Chinen
Cecile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner at the 2019 So What's Next? Festival in The Netherlands.

Grammy-winning jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant, to cite another prominent example, has announced her intention to livestream a series of performances on a pay-what-you-wish basis, accepting payment through Venmo. “Donations will be used to help people in need,” she says in the posts announcing the first concert, a duo recital with pianist Sullivan Fortner. It will happen in her living room this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, and streamed on both Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

More examples of this trend are sure to emerge in the coming days and weeks, and WBGO wants to help connect those artists with their audiences. So we created a Livestream Listings section of our Community Calendar, as a way of keeping track. 

If you want to submit a stream for inclusion, complete this form online, and be sure to select the category marked “WBGO Digital Music Calendar.” Your submission will be reviewed and published in a timely fashion. (This calendar is separate from NPR Music’s running tally of virtual concerts, spanning all genres.)

WBGO is here for you during this uncertain time — not only through our 24/7 broadcast and digital content, but also as a conduit between musicians and listeners. We hope this service can help, in some small way.


A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.