Recreating the music venue experience with social media

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Check out Best Friends Club at Facebook.com/Groups/BFCGTG

In a pandemic that seems to worsen every week, musicians have had the foundation of their professional and social lives ripped out from under them. In an effort to help out independent artists and their fans, DIY musicians Tommy McCord, Raymond Strife, Jim Graz and Tim Hoh have created a Facebook group to act as a virtual venue. It’s called Best Friends Club: A No Show Space, and it holds weekly livestream concerts where viewers can enjoy live music and chat with each other. Kind of like the good old, pre-pandemic days. Get it?

“The idea came about this spring when everybody started livestreaming all sorts of things. It was utter chaos. We wanted to put everything into an organized space on the web for people to tune into at a specific time,” McCord said.

McCord said the mission is to help simulate the basic idea of a concert hall in a virtual setting, using the most basic resources available. Shows hosted by Best Friends Club can be as simple as a cell phone recording of a solo artist with an acoustic guitar, or an entire band being fed through an elaborate live recording feed. Anybody can join the Facebook group and show schedules are announced ahead of time, so members can easily tune-in together.

McCord said enough people have become familiar with livestreaming since the format's springtime explosion that online shows hosted by Best Friends Club are able to go off without a hitch.

“Sometimes the stream is a person on a couch with a guitar, other times it’s people using multi-track audio with a full band. The beauty is that it can be both,” McCord. “I like that you don’t have to be a tech genius to go live and have anybody in the world watch it.”

With no real end to the moratorium on live music in sight, Best Friends Club has larger ambitions to expand to its own website and no longer rely on the social media giant Facebook. The goal is to roll it out by early 2021. “We have a developer on our team working to create our own livestreaming service independent of Facebook, Instagram or any of those things,” McCord said. “I’m an independent musician, so I would like to work separately from this big evil corporation.”

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the live music industry into a very dire situation, and McCord said he is grateful that 2020 was not a year in which his income would relying on touring.

“Live music has been the center of my entire social since I was a young teenager. It’s been a struggle,” McCord said. “It’s stressful and anxiety-inducing in many ways. But what’s made it kind of OK is people doing things like livestream shows.”

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