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Local musicians turn to virtual live shows ‘to keep people’s spirits up’

Jess Novak on Facebook Live.

Besides workers being laid off in the restaurant and bar industry, musicians that play at those venues are also dealing with a huge loss of revenue. But some local musicians, like others across the country, are getting creative with keeping the music going.  

Jess Novak, who plays acoustic guitar, piano, electric violin and sings vocals in Syracuse, has a few different projects. She plays solo, with her boyfriend and the Jess Novak Band. Last weekend alone, she had six shows lined up.

“As soon as my shows started dropping off last Friday, by Sunday I had a virtual show, and it did great,” Novak said.

Novak played a virtual show on Facebook Live and it got close to 3,000 views. She had links to her PayPal and website where viewers could tip or buy merchandise.

“It wasn’t just that people donated, it was that people participated and were interactive and shared it and shared news," Novak said. "I had a friend who got engaged during the show. When somebody comes to your show, you’re never going to forget that moment. The whole bar stops and everybody celebrates. And now that’s all different.”

Credit Day of Hope: Live Music is Still Alive Facebook Page
Day of Hope: Live Music is Still Alive Facebook Page

Novak and several other local bands are hosting a virtual music festival on Saturday called, “A Day of Hope,” which will be live streamed on their Facebook pages.

“As much as this whole thing is physical, it’s also mental," Novak said. "People need to maintain that social interaction and live music. There is something about that live aspect that is really important to keep people’s spirits up.”

She said there is a real fear, not just of losing gigs in the short-term, but of losing private parties, weddings, bars that might not reopen, and sponsors that won’t want to be attached to events and festivals with large gatherings in the future.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.