Charleston music community gets creative to drum up business while social distancing

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It really wasn’t that long ago that COVID-19 was a distant threat to the Lowcountry, something that we could write-off and push to the back of our minds. But, this week’s string of canceled shows, postponed album releases, and closed venues forced the music community to wake up.

COVID-19 is here for the time being and social distancing is the most effective way to stop it. Luckily, the music community is full of creative and determined individuals. Some are using their ingenuity to practice social distancing while still providing a much needed outlet during this time.

Forte Jazz Lounge, King Street’s primary jazz music venue, began live-streaming all of their shows roughly two weeks ago.

“It just seemed like a good way to keep the musicians I already booked employed. I didn’t want to cancel anyone,” says Forte co-owner Joe Clarke.

According to the club operator and jazz bandleader, many of Forte’s regular customers are well into their 60s and beyond.

“Now that everybody is shut inside for a while, I thought we could do our part to entertain people and keep their spirits up,” he says. “We are selling virtual tickets in hopes of easing the strain of zero income until this hopefully blows over soon.”
[content-1] Indie rock band Whitehall is also hopping online for a livestreamed concert on March 26, the date of a canceled Tin Roof show. "Our lives don't stop because of this," says vocalist/guitarist Paddy McKiernan. "We still need to play music for people, people still need to hear and see music. That's the biggest and most important thing: We can't not play these shows."

The group is still ironing out the details of the livestream, but they hope it will be on Twitch and will feature originally planned supporting acts Newgrounds Death Rugby and Kid Lake.

White Key Studios, a West Ashley music school and recording studio, will offer virtual lessons to all of its enrolled students and a weekly livestreamed lesson to all Charleston County School District students during the outbreak.

“Ryan [White, co-owner] and I were talking about what home school plans we had for our own kids,” says co-owner Kristan White. “One of the saddest things, at least to me, was that they’re going to send all this work home with kids, but phys. ed. and the arts and music is going to get lost to the wayside.”

The first weekly lesson was on March 18 at 3 p.m. and the team at White Key hopes that giving music lessons to kids will ease some concern over the uncertainty of the current situation. “It is a little bit of comfort and a little bit of normalcy,” says White. “Music is comfort, at least it is for me. You get lost in it and I’d like to focus on songs that lyrically have really positive messages. Even if it’s for a 30-minute lesson, your mind’s off everything going on in the world.”

Several local artists, such as Daddy’s Beemer and Contour, have had to cancel tours and even more have been forced to cancel Lowcountry shows. Many local musicians are encouraging fans to help by purchasing merchandise and streaming their music.
[content-2] West Ashley record store Monster Music and Movies is providing free shipping on all online orders while social distancing is recommended. “We’re willing to take a hit on shipping if it means making up for lost in-store sales,” says owner Galen Hudson. “We’re trying to do everything we can think of to preserve our business.”

Hudson believes many stores are not going to survive being closed for a prolonged period of time. “In-store traffic has really dropped, not surprisingly,” he adds. “The more biz I can make up for online, the less I have to cut payroll hours. The staff has to eat and we don’t want to send them home.”

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