Entertainers find themselves with no audience, limited revenue
With the closing of venues, it isn’t just the staff that is out of work. It’s also the people that play there.
Parkersburg resident Todd Burge has been playing shows in the area for the last two decades. Now he has to find a new way to reach his fans.
“Speaking for myself, everything I do depends on people gathering together,” he said.
He said he had his last show at the Parkersburg Art Center in February, as he’s gotten himself out of the bar scene. He has been renting out places like the art center or playing at the Peoples Bank Theatre.
“The key thing for me was to play less and have more people there, and make it an event,” Burge explained.
He said he’s been enjoying his shows, but he was concerned about how COVID-19 would impact entertainment. All of his upcoming concerts have been either canceled or postponed.
“That was the harsh reality of it,” he said. “You realize this thing you’ve worked on…to build an audience to see your show…threatened and you don’t know how long it’ll last.”
He said some of his friends are touring constantly all over the world, but that’s all gone now.
“Last week seems like five months ago because it seems like every hour, the story changes,” he added.
He was scheduled to play in Wheeling, but instead, live streamed it from his home onto his website, facebook.com/toddburge. There is also a link called Todd’s Tip Jar, where people can leave tips while he plays online.
“I played this live show (online) and had a good audience,” Burge said. “It was amazing. I made about what I was going to make in Wheeling. The next day, tips were still coming in.”
His next streaming show will be Saturday at 8 p.m. Any tips he receives will be split with the staff of 123 Pleasant Street, which is where he would have played in-person in Morgantown.
He said streaming the shows live is a way to pull himself out of a dark place, and hopefully help others pull themselves out as well.
The BASH is a familiar name to anyone who visited the Marietta Riverfront Roar last year. They are based in Marietta and play party rock around the area.
“I see where a lot of bands are trying to do stuff online,” said guitarist Randy Bauman. “It seems to be more originals.”
He said they’ve had to re-schedule shows, but they are hoping for the best. He hopes when they are finally re-scheduled, everything is back to semi-normal. They were to play at the Adelphia Music Hall last week, and the upcoming Furball fundraiser,which was postponed.
The band, which consists of vocalist John Frye, guitarist Dave George, bassist Dave Tenney and drummer Cody Bauman, all have regular jobs, so they aren’t as affected as many bands.
“For the most part, collectively, our jobs haven’t been affected by this. For a lot of people, they rely on this solely for their income and now, there’s nothing,” Bauman said.
While everything for The BASH is on hold, he’s been working with his son, who also plays guitar. George, the band’s other guitarist, has been writing music in his home studio, Bauman added.
“We’re all playing, just not in front of anybody,” he noted. “There’s stuff scheduled for June, but we’ll see.”
Burge said venues like the Adelphia or the Peoples Bank Theatre are cornerstones of the community. Some 300 people can pack into the Adelphia, and the Galley has food sales, but “it spreads out through the whole area.”
“It affects music and how that spreads into all kinds of other things in town,” he explained of the benefits of the venues. “I don’t know what it looks like in a couple of months, but there’s still a hole where nothing’s happening.”
Still, Burge is cautiously optimistic.
“The real challenges in life lead to opportunity, but you may not know what the opportunity is yet,” he said.
Michele Newbanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.