Melissa Hyman is a cellist and Ryan Furstenberg a guitarist, who write and record music as The Moon and You from their home in West Asheville. For the married couple and countless musicians here and everywhere, March 13 was their Black Friday.
“I was realizing we were gonna need to cancel everything,” Hyman said.
Clubs and hotels, bands and promoters, technical crews, restaurant and bar staffs—all of them watched performances crash like the stock market. Hyman took to Facebook see how seriously everyone was taking this, and for the warmth and solace of community.
“I was kind of musing about it publicly because I was hoping it would cause more people to think about it,” she said. “Tons of people commented on that post and said ‘Do livestreams—please do concerts online.’”
After a little promotion during the day, Hyman and Furstenberg set up a couple chairs, propped up their phones as cameras and, at about 7:40 pm Saturday, began performing in their living room. Their audience watched over Facebook, first by the handful and then by the dozens. At one point, 66 people watched at the same time.
The sound quality wasn’t the best—crude phone microphones aren’t optimal—and the phone presented a backward image that made the musicians appear to perform left-handed. Viewers didn’t seem to care.
“We had a laptop off to the side, so we could see the comments that were coming up as people were watching,” Hyman said. “And at the end of each song, there was a little explosion of heart reactions.”
Friends requested songs in the comment thread. More telling, viewers donated money and bought merchandise through the links beneath the videostream.
“We probably would have modestly predicted this could bring in $150, maybe $200, if we’re lucky,” Hyman said.
Between the livestream and the recorded version that lives on their Facebook page, more than 2,000 people watched at least some of the performance, and their donations and purchases amounted to more than $900. That’s the most The Moon and You have ever netted for a local performance, Hyman said.
“Overwhelmingly, the feedback we were getting is it cheered them up and felt, as we did, uplifted by the experience,” she said. “I was surprised and delighted by how fun it was and how much I truly felt surrounded by friends.”
Now, dozens of musicians and presenters in this region are producing or planning to videostream concerts. So are The Moon and You, who now see this as a Saturday night ritual for as long as the Coronavirus quarantines continue.
Whether these performances prove to be sustaining financial lifelines beyond their novelty awaits to be seen. But for performers experiencing deflated spirits as well as bank accounts, income is just one of the motivations behind these shows.
“It’s partly that everybody is so anxious right now and things are so uncertain that any reprieve from that is welcome,” Hyman said. “And we’re pretty good at just being very silly, being in the moment, take an hour-and-a-half and try to have a good time with it no matter what else is going on outside.”