Coronavirus

Trial & Error: Lessons Learned Creating an International Livestream Festival

Cuarentena Fest
Courtesy Photo

Cuarentena Fest

Cuarentena Fest raised only modest donations but helped showcase indie artists in Spain and Latin America.

As Spain entered a coronavirus lockdown in mid-March, members of Spain’s music industry attempted something new: a festival livestreamed from artists’ homes on social media platforms.

The idea for the event, called Cuarentena Fest (Quarantine Fest), was to raise money and spotlight artists who had major plans that were interrupted by COVID-19, including scheduled gigs at Coachella, or who were dropping an album and would struggle financially post-pandemic after losing sources of revenue.

Within weeks of the first edition in Spain, Cuarentena Fest shifted its focus to Latin America, where several countries were entering lockdown. Soon, organizers had set up livestream events in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Colombia.

After wrapping all six Cuarentena Fest editions, the Spanish organizers collected a little over $3,000 from the original fest in Spain. Between Argentina and Mexico the events only generated $100 in total. Although the revenue was negligible, the organizers say they learned valuable lessons and provided a foundation for showcasing indie artists.

With musicians stuck in their homes, at-home online performances around the world have thus far mostly been an exercise in giving away free performance to maintain a connection to fans and to raise money for COVID-19-related relief. But without a clear timetable for when live shows will resume, understanding how to make money out of live streams will be critical for indie artists and labels.

“Music is not a hobby and it’s not free,” says Meri Lane, one of the six Cuarentena Fest organizers and co-founder of Luup Records “This will give our artists exposure and maybe gain new fans, but at the end of the day, they have to make money somehow in order to survive.”

Cuarentena Fest became an educational tool for the organizers and artists who had never streamed on YouTube before.

“None of our artists had ever done a live show on YouTube so we had to deal with issues like artists getting interrupted mid-show because of copyright issues,” says Lane.

“It’s not just about putting your phone somewhere and [doing a] live stream, there are specific software programs that one has to install,” says Sandra Blaya, the co-founder of Futuras Licenciadas label and an ICU nurse. “Our artists had to navigate all of that in real time and hope for the best.”

The original Cuarentena Fest in Spain was organized by Lane, Blaya, Dani Cantó (co-founder of label Snap! Clap! Club), Manuel Romero (booking and management at Calima Comunicación), Rocío Saiz and Joan Vich (management at Ground Control).

Fabricio Pérez, who manages Argentine electro-pop singer Lucia Tacchetti, organized Argentina and Mexico while Etzequiel Urman, a cultural affairs director, took the lead to book Uruguay’s version of Cuarentena Fest. Colombia’s edition was organized by Nicolás Romero from Discos De La Piña label and record store Disco Intrépido was behind the Cuarentena Fest in Chile.

“I wanted to do this because quarantine took away key opportunities for my artist Lucia like Lollapalooza Argentina,” says Pérez. “We pushed back her new album because streaming was down. This fest became an outlet for her and I, and it was something I could put my energy toward.”

Tacchetti, who was supposed to perform for her first time at this year’s Lollapalooza Argentina in late March (which has been rescheduled for late November), says she took her live stream performance as seriously as a regular live concert. “I wanted to make sure I had good sound quality and I spent a lot of time watching tutorials on YouTube about different programs to get great audio quality,” she says.

But even for the technically savvy, the festivals proved challenging at times. Spanish DJ Megansito el Guapo, who before lockdowns had already been streaming performances online and was known for his DIY concerts, says he experienced a few hiccups. “I had my settings all set but then all of a sudden my camera stopped working and so I had to restart my computer and lost most of the settings,” he says. “But then I just figured it out along the way.”

For Mexican-American singer-songwriter Leti, singing to an online audience was more nerve-wracking than performing live. “I couldn't hear or see people’s reactions,” she says. “I like to see eyes and expressions when I’m performing, so it was super strange for me, but I’m very grateful regardless.”

One of those watching was her aunt who had never seen her perform. “My tía Mari’s reaction was very sweet, she had never seen me perform and she called me crying about it after the livestream,” Leti says.

In the end, despite the technical challenges and disappointing financial take, Cuarentena Fest proved an invaluable experience for the organizers in Spain and South America, who gained a vast transcontinental network of music professionals and friends they have yet to meet in person.

“The network that we have created is irreplaceable and for me the most important takeaway,” Pérez says. “If I want to take an artist to Spain I know who to contact, and if any of them want to bring artists to Argentina or Mexico they now have contacts.”

As Lane reflects, “we started this just because we didn’t want music to stop during all of this. But in the process, I discovered a whole new world of live streaming and have met incredible people across the world who share the same passion. Actually, when quarantine is over, we should all meet and go get a beer.”

Editors Note: Cuarentena translates to quarantine, which is the term used in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries which restricts movement of healthy people who may have been exposed to an infection to see if they become ill.

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