Kelly Breaks with vocalist partner Juanita, of Blue Frog Studios, are keeping their musical skills honed with their daily 7 p.m. serenades from the rooftop of their Johnston Road studio/home. (Contributed photo)

White Rock studio floats plan to create free, live-stream-only concerts

Musicians, technicians can maintain safe distance while entertaining crowds at home

At this point of the evolving COVID-19 crisis, everyone has seen more than a few live-streamed concerts on social media, performed by pandemic-stranded musicians.

Usually, they’re pretty low-tech Facebook Live iPhone streams, making up in rough-and-ready charm what they lack in technical sophistication.

But Kelly Breaks of White Rock’s Blue Frog Studios has another idea. With a sophisticated, multi-camera concert, recording and live-streaming facility standing idle at present – and no end to isolation and social distancing in sight – why not turn the studio into a resource that could keep cash-strapped live musicians working and present fresh and free content for home-bound viewers?

Breaks said that while the studio already has its Blue Frog TV paywall service for streaming its library of already-recorded concerts – and that end of the business has already been experiencing a healthy upturn in traffic thanks to ‘quarantine’ viewers – he’s proposing that a new set of streaming-only concerts be produced by the studio for free platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.

What that would take is sponsorship, he said – enough to pay musicians and production crew and cover expenses to keep the studio functioning.

“The money has to make sense,” he said.

But with different levels of government expressing interest in helping performers through the crisis, and the possibility that some corporate and individual sponsors who have had to cancel public events this year might want to allocate some funding to this project, Breaks is hopeful that some sponsorship could be found.

“All the TV and movie production has stopped, there’s nothing new – but this would all be new content,” he noted.

“There’s a real captive audience out there.”

Breaks has been busy pitching the idea to various government levels, he said.

“We’ve had interest from MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay’s office, and I’ve just had a really good call with the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture – they’re very interested; they’re looking for ideas to help musicians. Hopefully, this interest will float up to the right level.

“I also talked with (former MP) Gordie Hogg, who thought it was a great idea and put me in touch with Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage (Steven Guilbeault) in Ottawa, so we’re trying to go in all directions.”

Ironically, he acknowledged, sponsorship was pretty much the business model for live radio music broadcasts in their earliest days. If his plan works, it would mean the music business has come almost full-circle, but with the addition of video.

“A hundred years later, and where are we?” he said. “We have people sitting by their laptops instead of their old radio sets.”

Breaks has no question that Blue Frog is ready and able to go there, he said, particularly with a lot of previously-planned concerts on hold and uncertainty over current measures to flatten the COVID curve.

“Where I got going with this, is that we have (blues artist) Jim Byrnes coming up on our schedule next month, he said.

“Jim said, ‘Why don’t we just live-stream it?’ Like most musicians, he and his guys really want to play. But as long as we can keep the right social distancing between the guys playing on stage and between them and the crew, why not? Half of the crew is behind glass in the control room anyway.”

The studio can also provide the resources and infrastructure that bands and musicians lack on their own, he added.

“Live-streaming is something we do very well – it’s not a big stretch for us.

“Bands could also make contact with their fans while the concert is streaming, and say, ‘We have albums for sale,’” he said.

“Or we could branch out on social media and host and moderate for them – fans could be asking for the story behind a tune, or requesting a song. It could be a very interactive experience, and there’s also the possibility bands could be recording and producing a new live album at the same time.”

For more information on Blue Frog’s currently suspended schedule and the Blue Frog TV service, visit bluefrogstudios.ca

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