As we hit the one-year mark of the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard to believe, and saddening to realize, that things have been a new ‘new’ for a whole year now. Aside from the many changes and constant feelings of disappointment, there are certainly some positives to take away from these continuously dark times and as vaccines proceed to roll out, it seems we are finally reaching the light at the end of the tunnel!
The loss of live performances over the past 12 months has significantly affected the music industry from every aspect – whether it be through the loss of employment for the hundreds of people it takes to put on a live show, or the small businesses that support local talent that depend on live shows to attract or promote their business. That being said, country music artists and their fans have become very creative in their efforts to stay in touch and in some cases, have used these unusual times to grow even closer.
In this article, we’re highlighting the many and different ways the country music community has adapted over the past year. While having to go the longest many artists have ever gone without performing live, it was crucial that they come up with new ways to keep their fan bases engaged and along for the crazy and unpredictable 2020 ride. Props to these extraordinary entertainers and their teams who went to great lengths and efforts to stay as connected as possible for the sake of all of us, the fans.
Take a look below at some of our favorite ways that the country music industry has pivoted and adapted in 2020…
1. A New ‘Live’ –
The meaning of ‘live show’ has changed drastically over the last year. What used to mean live, physically in concert or in-person, has been transformed to the virtual and livestream world – quite literally ‘Facebook Live’, ‘Instagram Live’, etc. Artists have taken performances, full concerts, and even single and album release parties to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and TikTok. On one hand, you could argue that these streamed events can’t compare to the real thing. However, on the other, these livestreams have made it possible for fans all over the country and the world to share intimate performances and moments with artists that they may otherwise have never had the opportunity to, whether it be a result of geographical or financial restrictions. This new way of sharing performances and new music to fans across the globe all at the same time has created a completely new and special way of connection.
Platforms such as NoonChorus and Yoop have allowed artists to not only extend their reach to fans through these virtual performances, but they’ve also made it possible for artists to continue collecting income throughout the pandemic. Several Nashville venues, specifically those that have proved vital to the function of Music City, such as the Grand Ole Opry, the Bluebird Cafe, and The Listening Room Cafe, have made virtual shows possible for fans everywhere, some even more recently allowing for limited in-person seating.
The historic Opry has ensured that the circle is kept unbroken by welcoming several artists back home including Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, and many more. The Bluebird Cafe hosted Ingrid Andress for an intimate, singer-songwriter show prior to her Lady Like (Deluxe Edition) release, as well as Alex Hall for his Six Strings EP release party. Singer-songwriters like Nick Wayne, Hannah Grey Ellis, Jake Scott, Josh Kerr, Emily Weisband, and many more put on reoccurring performances at The Listening Room for fans around the world.
Prior to these venues and outlets providing the opportunity for so many of these artists to perform in a more professional setting, several artists were using their personal platforms as a way to reach their fans and followers. Artists like Thomas Rhett, Riley Green, and Old Dominion took to social media spontaneously to tease unreleased music, while others like Niko Moon, Luke Combs, and Drake White, have been known to host weekly home concerts and livestreams. While it’s not quite the same, to be completely honest, these were truly great ‘events’ to look forward to!
We hope and believe that at least some of these traditions will remain once we are beyond the times that we are in now. While they may grow to be less consistent than a weekly show as more touring is involved, it is fair to say that these performances have been mutually beneficial for artists and fans, in that they have provided experiences that have been both uniquely personal, as well as a major source of happiness on all ends.
2. Playing for a Greater Cause –
Even better than the fact that these shows have allowed us to access performances from the comfort of our homes is that many of them have also doubled as unique ways to raise funds for charitable organizations. While providing us with much-needed live music to the best of their ability, the following artists are just some of the many who have also taken it a step further by using their platforms to make a difference in the world and help out greater causes. Here are some examples:
- In May, Luke Combs performed a virtual livestream where he partnered with Miller Lite’s #VirtualTipJar campaign to support bartenders and restaurant workers nationwide that were out of work as a result of the pandemic.
- Mitchell Tenpenny played a virtual concert and two live shows at The Listening Room Cafe in October that raised over $20,000 for his own 10penny Fund, an organization that supports people battling cancer.
- Maren Morris did a virtual tour in October with #VerizonUp which included facetime Meet & Greet packages. The ticket sales of these shows helped her band and crew get back on their feet after the touring business had been crushed. In an effort to make these shows as intimate as possible for those attending, she even shared her margarita recipe, which she called the ‘Marenita’, so that her fans could share a drink together during the show.
- Logan Mize sold tickets to two virtual shows to celebrate the release of his album, Still That Kid. Mize performed live from The McPherson Opera House in his home state of Kansas, and donated a portion of the proceeds to local music businesses in his hometown.
- Kip Moore performed a concert at The Ryman that was both a socially-distanced show and a global livestream to celebrate the release of his Wild World (Deluxe Album), and donated a portion of the proceeds to ACM Lifting Lives. The album included the song “Don’t Go Changing”, whose music video was dedicated to local music venues across Nashville and helped raise awareness for Music Venue Alliance Nashville.
- Florida Georgia Line performed songs from their new album Life Rolls On through a virtual show live from their own FGL House in Nashville. FGL partnered with Amazon Music and CMT to raise funds for the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Nashville Neighbors Fund to help those affected by the Nashville Christmas bombing.
Although we know that there are many more artists who are supporting great causes at this time, we hope that by making you aware of at least some, you will share in the light that is being shined on the world as we face these dark times, through great music and kind artists.
3. The Music that Illuminated a World in Dark –
There are quite a few songs that were produced as positive by-products of the 2020 year. For many people, these songs were powerful enough to awaken the realization of just how significant this year has been, and will forever be remembered as, in our history. Through the messages found within the lyrics and the powerful deliverance provided by the music itself, these songs will always be tied to the struggles that we faced together, the memories made, and the emotions we felt, as a result of these trying social, political, and economic times in our country.
Some of these songs are: “Six Feet Apart” (Luke Combs), “Be A Light” (Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, and Keith Urban), “Better Than We Found It” (Maren Morris), “Worldwide Beautiful” (Kane Brown), “Rage & Sorrow” (BRELAND), “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” & “Black Like Me” (Mickey Guyton), “Undivided” (Tyler Hubbard & Tim McGraw), U.S. Stronger (Florida Georgia Line), “The Great Divide” (Luke Combs & Billy Strings), “Say Something” (Keith Urban), “Hard Days” (Brantley Gilbert), “Wait For The Light” (Jillian Jackqueline), and “No I in Beer” (Brad Paisley).
4. Face-to-Face –
In an effort to grow close to fans in ways they never have before, several artists have created community phone numbers, offering facetime and zoom opportunities through both their social media stories and these special phone numbers. Whether it was in an attempt to escape boredom and fill a newfound abundance of free time, or to celebrate music releases, artists created opportunities to pursue relationships with their fans. More specifically, Brad Paisley and Kelsea Ballerini both hopped from zoom call to zoom call on multiple occasions, Noah Schnacky facetimed with fans to celebrate his single release, and Cole Swindell offered virtual event invitations through his community number.
This is an approach that is likely much more common than you may have thought. We suggest you check the bios and story highlights of your favorite artists to see if they have a number to contact. If a community number has been created, it is likely that it will continue to allow for more opportunities like these. If you were unaware of this, or missed out on some of these opportunities in the past, there is a good chance that interactions like these will continue at least until artists are able to return to the stage.
5. Directly from the Fans –
We asked our followers how they have stayed connected to country music over the past year. Many of their answers were included above, as they were similar to what we have been doing as fans ourselves, or in that they informed us of outlets and artists we were previously unaware of. However, some noteworthy responses were shared as personal ways in which fans found themselves staying connected to music over the last year.
Many shared that they have either spent time making music themselves, listening to their friends play, creating their own YouTube videos and TikToks, or following artists as they do the same. Some also pointed out that they have been watching artist documentaries or old episodes of CMT Crossroads.
Perhaps our favorite way that fans have been staying connected (mainly due to the irony) is by watching old concert videos, you know the ones you used to get judged for taking! We all know that person, have seen that person, or maybe we are that person, that takes way too many pictures and videos at a concert and has someone telling them to put the phone down and just enjoy the show. Welp, the joke’s on them because even though we haven’t gone to a concert in over a year, we still have years worth of endless concerts on our phones and computers. So if you haven’t taken a trip down memory lane lately, we suggest you start scrolling and go through your old videos. It’ll be the next best thing until you’re actually back at a concert!
6. NYCountry Swag –
In the many ways that artists and fans have stayed connected to each other and to country music over the last year, we here at NYCountry Swag have done much of the same. When quarantine first started and we thought we’d only be away from being in-person shows for a short period of time, we pivoted and took our usual live country brunch events based in New York City and turned them into virtual country brunches on Instagram Live where artists like Walker Hayes, Filmore, Kylie Morgan, Adam Doleac, and more joined us to catch-up, sing songs, and of course, drink mimosas! Additionally, we turned our usual in-person artist interviews into an ‘Up Close & Virtual’ series, where we caught up with artists like Morgan Wallen, Gabby Barrett, Devin Dawson, and more over zoom and shared with fans.
Aside from the livestreams, our team also partnered with Walker Hayes and New York’s Country 94.7 for our Kindness Isn’t Canceled campaign to feed the frontlines in NYC and later with Teddy Robb and New York’s Country 94.7 to outfit the homeless in our ‘Be Kind’ campaign.
Being a small business that ultimately relies on the live music industry, we also increased our merchandise sector including our newest product: our ‘mentally, i’m at a concert’ mugs.
*Written by Caleigh Decaprio with Erin Crosby and Rebekah Milsted for NYCountry Swag.