Musicians adapt with 'virtual busking' during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 6:28 AM EDT
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COVID-19 is forcing many local artists to cancel in-person performances and many are turning to "virtual busking" online and asking for voluntary donations for the mini-concerts.

Troy Millette was supposed to be headlining a tour with his band, Troy Millette and the Fire Below, right now. But since mid-March, the Vermont-born artist has had to cancel more than 40 gigs.

"We were supposed to do eight shows in seven days across New England and that totally got scrapped. I was super excited to play in New York City for the first time," said Millette.

He has been performing in Vermont venues since 2010 and has toured with acts like Grace Potter and Counting Crows and his music was recently gaining momentum. The band released an EP in 2019 and headlined a show at Burlington's Higher Ground for the second time in January.

With plans to perform in front of crowds put on pause indefinitely, Millette says he shifted focus.

"How do we monetize and use the internet to kind of keep our face and our sounds in front of people," he said.

Millette turned to "virtual busking" on his Facebook page and asking for voluntary donations.

"It definitely doesn't replicate a live show. Half our show is just the crowd interactions, it's the back and forth, throwing in the weird covers, and you kind of miss that when you're staring at a screen," said Millette.

It's through the screen in Facebook comments that Millette interacts with his loyal fans, who tune in to hear him play and throw a couple of bucks his way.

"People have been super generous and super compassionate and willing to help out. There are people who are way worse off than I am, but it's also nice to know that security blanket and that support is there," he said.

The Flynn Center, Higher Ground and other Vermont venues are also hosting live streaming sessions on their Facebook pages. Like Millette, many musicians hope they can get back on stage by the end of summer, but right now, they're just playing it by ear.

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