2018 Tour Goals: Fly Passport-Free to Play These Two Island Cities with Incredible DIY Scenes

[Editors Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and San Juan, Puerto Rico-based music venue owner.]


If you think living on a island is a tropical, sunny breeze, please exit the #islandvibes hashtag on Instagram immediately. All those beautiful beachside backdrops will leave you tripping over tropes; yes, the scenery can be jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but you’re not getting the whole picture.

The reality of #islandlife is less picturesque: Islands are more likely to be impoverished, experience drastic income inequality, struggle with food security, and in some cases, they also endure the worst of natural disasters—complicating existing conditions and disrupting the tourism industry on which so many island economies rely, albeit to varying degrees.

These oppressions extend to U.S. islands, too. Statehood or territory status by no means makes the potential for these problems obsolete, but in fact can exacerbate them—like in the cases of Hawai’i and Puerto Rico.

Factoring in the effects of colonialism is inherent to understand the issues both archipelagos face. The displacement, depletion, or near destruction of indigenous cultures is a violent tragedy all its own, but with U.S. takeover also comes the privatization of lands, military occupation, tax breaks for wealthy individuals and multinational corporations, a drop in sustainable agriculture in favor of imports—all at the expense of the people. (There are grassroots movements to decolonize both islands.)

Understanding all this, it’s not a stretch to view DIY music scenes in Puerto Rico and Hawai’i as acts of resistance.

When you’re living in the most expensive U.S. city—Honolulu, where four rolls of toilet paper will cost you more than anywhere else in the world—buying a guitar may be a feat of finance. If you’ve recently survived a devastating category five hurricane, are enduring the aftermath without electricity, and haven’t been able to work for months, putting a show together might rightfully be the last thing on your to-do list. Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans were grappling with an 11.5 percent sales tax and an unemployment rate higher than 10 percent (officially 10.8 in November; for comparison, the U.S. stands at 4.1 percent).

These are just a few of the realities of actually living on island, of course, and they’re specific to Hawai’i and Puerto Rico. There are other influences involved with each, and you can’t sum up a culture or a society with stats alone; life is more complex than that. But context is consequential to learning about a music scene, understanding how it runs and why—and that will give you a clearer idea of where you, as a visiting band or artist, might fit in.

If you’re plotting a tour in 2018, consider venturing out to these islands. It’ll cost more than taking the van a few cities west, sure, but the trip can be more than a typical tour date. You won’t need a passport for either, at least.

Small and tight-knit, but not insular or uninviting, the independent scenes in Puerto Rico and Hawai’i run on DIY community ethos, encouraging solidarity and mutual aid. If your band is fueled by the same ideals, you can expect a warm welcome at both—and to make new connections with listeners and fellow musicians in a more personal, enlightening way than you would playing a big U.S. city.

Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawai’i

In small scenes, working together is especially crucial, and solidarity is a key force in Hawai’i DIY. Transience and a high cost of living combined limit its population and means: It’s not easy to sustain a band while holding multiple jobs, and imported instruments and gear are pricey. Rather than struggle solo or compete for audiences in an individualist way, independent bands, organizers, and venues support each other so that everyone thrives.

Rachel Heller’s story for Rookie last year detailed growing up on O’ahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian islands, and beamed a shining light on a thriving DIY culture, particularly of the punk, emo, pop-punk, and lo-fi indie variety. In the Chinatown area of Honolulu especially, the underground is elevated through Failed Orbit Records, once the label of local band Beaman and now an umbrella collective organizing hometown shows and bringing in outside acts. Transportation and other costs are offset by fundraisers, making it possible to fly in names like Peach Kelli Pop and Audacity from California and New Jersey’s Screaming Females—a scene-generated process that further cultivates a sense of community. (And while Failed Orbit announced a hiatus in November, we have no doubt the scene will be maintained, and continue growing, too.)

And the DIY realm extends to other genres, too. Ska, reggae, hardcore, metal, hip-hop, and electronic (see Audiophile Entertainment, Rave Rock, and Rise Up Electric) are all sturdily planted in and around the same network, sometimes even sharing lineups. They’re seemingly disparate sounds, but operating with the same DIY gusto in pushing the independent music forward, and that common effort can be unifying.

Best indie venues: Hawaiian Brian’sThe Manifest, Downbeat Diner and Lounge

Read more: Rachel Heller’s Rookie story, Mariana Timony’s report on Bandcamp

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Before the fawning, a disclaimer: I live in San Juan, and I opened a venue here (Club 77) several years ago. I’m no longer a co-owner, though I remain very much a supporter of that spot and the rest of the local DIY scene, too.

The underground of San Juan is perpetually pulsing, and feels more critical than ever now in post-Hurricane Maria conditions. Immediately following the storm, a mainstay DIY venue, El Local, reopened with a 12-hour daily community kitchen that was a boon to scene bonds—it solidified established connections, and created new ones, too. Venues like Club 77 and La Respuesta have reopened in the past month or so, and they’re thriving—in the wake of it all, the trauma and the hardship and total disruption of the quotidian day-to-day, bands have emerged eager to play, and crowds are anxious for the catharsis of stellar live shows.

It’s important to note that the storm’s repercussions aggravated pre-existing difficulties; the island’s unemployment rate was already high, so economic strife was amplified by the island-wide power outage that left virtually every Puerto Rican worker without income. A mass exodus is already in full swing—and it’s forced out some of the scene’s key players.

But there’s a long history of independent music in Puerto Rico; it’s a scene that’s overcome countless hurdles. This category five storm was inarguably its most difficult blow, but communities are working in solidarity to bounce back. The recovery is still in progress across the island—and that includes the music scene.

Built in bulk by a steady boom of hardcore punk in the late ’80s through the ’90s, the punk scene is sustained today by the some of the same folks, plus bands of the later 2000s wave (Los Vigilantes, Ardillas) and a generous crop of emerging acts (Desahuciados, Sikotropicas). Dating back about as far, the hardcore and metal factions regularly converge these days, operating together on the same bills and through the same organizers, but they’re individually robust enough to stand alone, too.
Hip-hop, too, has continued to evolve from its strong start around the same era. La Respuesta’s Lunes Clasico, a longstanding weekly hip-hop, soul, and R&B party, is the heart to the genre’s sprawling veins that, like every other genre, showcases regularly in all DIY and indie friendly spaces. Reggae, dub, and ska acts are tried-and-true Puerto Rican indie players as well—and folk, alt-pop, experimental electronic, and heaps more styles.

It’s a unique landscape; the intertwining of seasoned acts with up-and-comers in a condensed environment makes for a fixed sense of burgeoning. There’s always something new and fresh to be found, but consistently great stalwarts are intrinsic to the whole.
Visits from outside acts aren’t uncommon, albeit not with the same regularity of a continental U.S. city. These shows are a mix of booking and venue-funded appearances and bands that make the trip on their own dime; the latter, no doubt, the scene could especially benefit from right now, as organizers and musicians are still steadying their footing post-storm.

Best indie venues: El Local, Club 77, La Respuesta

Read more: Check out Puerto Rico Indie, the island’s premiere blog for independent and DIY sounds. (It’s exceptionally comprehensive, but in Spanish; use Google translate if necessary!)

College Gigs and How To Market Them

[Editors Note: The following is the first in a monthly series of a partnership between TuneCore and students at Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business at Belmont University. In an attempt to offer new insight and educational content for independent artists, we’re excited to give these music industry professionals of the future a journalistic platform.]


Have you ever wondered what’s the best way to book a gig in a ‘college town’? Or how to connect with students to build a fanbase who buys, shares and streams your music? Well, if you have, we have some answers for you!

Because of the fact the music business is a non-business, there’s no one way to do things. Here’s some ideas, tips, and tricks for show promotion we have compiled that are tried and tested by us, music loving college students.

Advertising On Campus

Once you’ve booked a gig at the perfect venue, you have to decide how you want to promote. If the venue is near a college campus, or if you are a college student yourself, the campus probably offers tons of avenues for you to advertise.

Many people don’t realize the various opportunities student campuses provide for the promotion of music. Some examples include campus-wide emails, university event calendars, campus radio stations and newspapers, and possibly more depending on what your university has to offer.

Firstly, email blasts are an awesome way to deliver promotional information to large amounts of people all at once. If student artists on campus want to advertise their upcoming shows, album releases, or already-released music on streaming sites, campus-wide emails can be a very effective way to do so. If they are formatted correctly, they can contain visual graphics that draw the reader’s attention, and they can even contain links to ticket sales or music downloads.

Additionally, college radio stations – often run by students – provide a broad selection of music to the public and give independent artists the opportunity to receive radio airplay. In fact, if a radio station is considered a “college market” station, it is possible to get on the national Top 200 College Radio Chart, which is reported weekly. College radio promotion is a great marketing strategy for anyone trying to break into the music business and can give you a taste of what radio is really like.

Newspapers are also available on most campuses whether electronic or physical, and they can be great tools for staying up to speed with local activities. Since most are student-run, it can be an easy avenue for any musician to promote upcoming gigs or releases. School newspapers offer another very effective tool to advertise talent. A study by 3D Issue showed that 72-80% of students read their campus newspaper. This news outlet is a reliable way to spread information about an artist and is trusted amongst the university population.

Furthermore, many campuses offer some sort of event calendar to students. The event calendar provides information (time and location) regarding upcoming events – such as sporting events, lectures, special guest forums, writer rounds, etc. As mentioned previously, much of what is posted on these event calendars is student-curated.

Printed Flyers

Another promotional tool for shows is traditional flyers. Flyers are an awesome way to promote shows and point people towards your band’s social media outlets. They can be super creative and showcase your music style through design. But, as we all know, a flyer that is just thrown together won’t fly these days. People like to see aesthetically pleasing graphics that grab their attention. Follow these simple rules to help you create the perfect flyer:

  1. If you’re serious about designing a great flyer, consider using a grid system. A grid consists, of course, of intersecting vertical & horizontal lines (i.e. rows and columns), often based on optimal proportions for the document’s size.
  2. Try aligning your text in the center of the flyer for a pleasing symmetrical look. Or, align text to the right or left side, with a margin that works well with other graphical elements.  Want more clicks on your social media promo flyers?  Text should be no more than 20% of the promo flyer!
  3. Three! Always three! The rule of thirds is when you break down an image or document as a whole into thirds, either vertically or horizontally. Placing the most important information on one of the intersecting areas can help with structuring the layout of text & graphics.
  4. Color can visually enhance a message and help to highlight particular points. Colors also evoke emotions that can support your tone or theme. Try using similar or complementary colors throughout the flyer to provide a consistent visual experience for the viewer.
  5. Stop uploading screenshot photos from online!  If you upload low-res image files, you’ll likely have issues when it comes time to print. Your best bet is to use photos that have been saved at 300 ppi (pixels per inch). For displaying your flyer on the web, 150 ppi is usually sufficient – just find the original photo.

Free Merch

Once you have promoted your show, and you’ve got a good audience, you might consider giving out free merchandise to drive people to your social media channels or to strengthen your brand identity. This can be a great tool to advertise, but can have some negative setbacks. Read more below about the pros and cons of free merch.


Many artists and record labels give away merchandise for publicity and promotion purposes. Items such as stickers, pens, buttons, and bracelets are commonly given away for free by artists. They are usually sold in high quantities for low prices by distributors, and are easily customizable. Artists may make them available on their merch table or personally give them out at shows, or even bundle with other merchandise as an added incentive.

Social media contests for free merch are common for artist promotion. Fans enter by sharing information or media from the artist, or by signing up for the artist’s email list. Giving listeners a tangible item is a simple yet effective way for artists to establish visibility and promote new music.

Less developed artists should be conservative when considering giving merchandise away for free; a band is a business, businesses have budgets, and merchandise sales may make up a decent portion of an artist’s income.


While it is tempting to simply give away free merchandise to an artist’s loyal fans when first starting out, it is beneficial to consider there are more people willing to pay for brand items than an artist might think. If the artist is especially talented, people will want to get their products while the artist is still a new act so the consumer can later say they supported them first.

In addition, continued distribution of free merchandise cheapens the artist’s brand. Free shirts, other swag, and even CDs can make the customer question the value of what they’re getting and the brand it represents. It’s OK for a new artist to ask people to spend money on merch if it contributes to a tangible return for the patron.

We hope these tips and tricks help you learn a little more about how to book college town gigs and how to promote your music to students!

Opening Band Etiquette

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]


I’m currently reading Meet Me In The Bathroom; an excellent oral history of the rock and roll resurgence in NYC at the turn of the century, written by Lizzy Goodman. Aside from the havoc that existed then, as the swan song of the “glory days of the music industry” were playing out and my own nostalgia for the culture of New York City at that time, one thing has really stuck out to me in the book thus far; The Moldy Peaches.

The Moldy Peaches were an outlandish, anti-folk outfit that came up in New York City during the 1990s. They also happened to be good friends with The Strokes. As the Strokes were on their way to becoming the biggest band in the world, they invited The Moldy Peaches to open several of their big hometown shows as well as on a few tours. The Strokes even went as far as to persuade Rough Trade Records to sign their friends.

While Kimya Dawson + Adam Green (the two artists behind The Moldy Peaches) now have sustainable careers based on their own talent, they owe a lot of their success to that early help from The Strokes. Which is why we are talking about “Opening Band Etiquette” in this post. If you’re one of the fortunate few acts that is given the opportunity to open for a more established band, it’s important to make the most of the situation. If you known how to finagle one turn of good fortune into another, you can find yourself building a career and headlining bigger rooms a lot quicker.  

Here are some tips on how to do so:

Headliner is King (or Queen)

Whether you’re the local opener for a touring band or actually on the road with someone, the headliner will set the tone. There will be certain things that they require pre-show and you should make sure to adhere to their wishes. The less their pre-show routine is interrupted by your own, the more likely they’ll be to invite you back, especially if your performance is awesome.

If you only have a few guest list spots, make do with that. Worried about getting an extra case of water? Forget it for now. When you’re drawing enough on your own to be the headliner than you can look for more guest list spots and extra water in your green room. For now enhance the headliner’s experience, it’ll pay off in the long run!

Stick to The Schedule; You’re Part of the Team

This point ties closely into the “Headliner is King or Queen” subject. However, it is the single most important thing you can prioritize in order to successfully stick to that rule and thus deserves it’s own separate mention. The headliner will create a schedule that works best for them. You will work your schedule around theirs. Most importantly, it’s imperative that you are on time for everything.

If you are running 15 minutes late to Soundcheck, that could push their own allotted time. Even a slight delay there could end up putting a rush on any press interviews they need to take care of before the show, potentially rob them of the chance to get away from the venue for dinner or disrupt another important aspect of their pre-show routine.

Do Your Own Promoting for the Show

The more tickets sold you are responsible for, the more value you will have to the headliner. Make sure you’re looking for your own press ahead of the show, promoting on social media and getting out on the street to flyer if it’s a local show. If you bring enough people, it’ll get you noticed. Not just by the headliner, but by the promoter as well.

Support the Headliner

Even though they’re probably further along in their career than the bands that are opening for them, a headliner is still out there touring to make new fans and create opportunities for themselves. Don’t forget to bring as much attention to them as possible. Whether it’s tagging them in your social media promotion ahead of the show or thanking them from stage and asking fans to visit their merch table, shoutouts will always be appreciated and often reciprocated.

Network! Network! Network!

One common thread you will see in every post about optimizing a situation is networking. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, networking is key. Whether it’s introducing yourself to the headliner, getting to know the promoter for the event or hanging out at your merch table interacting with fans, the relationships you take away from any opportunity is what’s going to be your biggest asset moving forward.

The music industry is built largely on word-of-mouth. Do everything you can to build a network that wants to help spread the word about your band and you’re increasing your chances to succeed infinitely.


5 Questions Musicians Should Ask When Choosing a Venue

[Editors Note: This article was written by Adam Young.]

There are myriad factors that go into choosing exactly the right place for your band’s next performance. Music venues come with many nuances that affect the overall quality of a show, from sound and layout to physical location and audience demographics. Before booking a primetime slot at a spot that looks great on paper, ask yourself these questions. They may just save you from a less-than-stellar experience.

1. Is the venue in the right part of town?

You don’t want to perform just anywhere. Your style of music and the size of your fanbase will help determine where you should play.

It goes without saying that a location in a major city center is going to bring in a bigger crowd. And the closer your venue is to any big transportation hubs, the better the accessibility for potential attendees. When the venue is highly accessible, more people who rely on different means of transport can attend your show.

Pay attention to the fact that outside noise could infiltrate your space. Check out the venue during its quietest time, and listen to what you can hear. Does the proximity to the airport mean airplane engines overhead? Maybe a city park’s amphitheater offers a better opportunity than that downtown lounge with too much street noise. These are crucial factors to consider when considering the location of a venue.

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2. What type of audience does it draw?

Reaching the right audience is crucial, and booking at the right venue can get you there. If you’re a toe-tapping jazz duo, the local EDM club isn’t going to be right for you. Do your research, and see the other musicians that have played at the spot before. Are any of them like you? The best venue for your audience is a familiar one, where they’ll be comfortable attending, and happy to see you perform.

3. Does size matter?

Yes, capacity is important. (You want there to be plenty of space for your fans to be able to come to the show, but also consider if you qualify to play larger spaces to begin with.) But the reason to consider size is less for attendance, and more for sound quality. For example, if a room is very large, the sound could be dissipated, and therefore hard to hear. But if the shape of a space reflects that potentially lost sound back to the audience, then no harm done. The size isn’t as important as the acoustics within the space you’re playing.

4. So the layout is really what matters?

Architecture has the power to make or break a performance. Inside arenas and stadiums, for instance, sound waves can bounce off various surfaces or become absorbed before reaching the ears of fans on the floor. In order to know how exactly this is going to impact your performance, the best thing to do is to go listen to a performance in that space. How does the band sound? Does the space match your style of music? Maybe where the local philharmonic performs isn’t best for your indie rock or punk band, but they’d sure have a tough time fitting into the small, underground space best for headbanging and guitar solos.

5. What about technology?

The technological power of the venue is almost more important than its acoustic capabilities. A good sound setup can minimize, if not eliminate, any flaws within the venue’s size and structure. (You should make time to find out if the venue has monitors or other equipment useful for determining your noise-exposure levels.)

And, if you’re the hottest DJ on the rise, it’d be wise to find a venue that comes with all the lighting necessary to host a stellar rave. Knowing the lighting capabilities of the venue can be vital to the performance you want to give.

Next time you’re trying to decide which music venue is right for you, remember to ask yourself the right questions. In summary: know your audience and know your sound, and choose a venue that’s suitable.

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Adam Young is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He loves taking in live music at venues ranging from underground clubs to massive arenas.

Road Hazards: 5 Challenges Of Touring and How To Avoid Them

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]


For young, ambitious bands, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting the road for a national tour. There’s something timelessly exciting and relatable about a band traveling from city to city in hopes of getting the world to care about its music. But while tour is capable of bringing huge benefits for artists as far as opportunities and industry credibility goes, touring can be tedious, thankless and even downright dangerous for some bands. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the road’s more serious challenges and show you how to cope with them.

1. Physical Inactivity

If you’re someone used to exercising regularly, touring for long periods of time can be especially brutal. Unless your band is raking in the dough and traveling in a big tour bus, you’ll most likely spend the majority of your days on tour crammed in a car or van. Long-term physical inactivity is hell on your body, and the longer you stay sedentary, the more your risk for things like depression and heart disease increases. One two-week tour isn’t a big deal, but if you’re a serious musician intent on touring over the course of your career, inactivity can lead to massive problems.

The only solution here is movement. Make every effort you can to move as much as possible throughout the day. Encourage your bandmates to get a gym membership at a national club and to reserve an hour or two each day for exercise. Easier said than done, of course, but if you don’t take care of yourself on the road you simply won’t be able to do it for very long.

2. Excessive Drinking and Drug Abuse

Partying is simply the funnest part of tour for some musicians, and while it’s not our place to judge here at the TuneCore Blog, booze and drugs have caused musicians more than their fair share of problems over the years, so we think it’s worth mentioning. Whether it’s a tedious eight-hour drive through the midwest or the lengthy period between loading in and performing, there’s a ton of time to kill on the road, so it’s no wonder musicians drink and use drugs to pass the time. But while casual drinking or drug use is completely harmless for some people, it can be hugely damaging for others.

Moderation is the key here for some musicians, but if you find yourself getting out of control when you drink or use drugs, it’s time to stop and even consider getting off the road altogether. Assuming that you tour because you’re a serious musician, the main goal of touring is playing well on stage and making connections on the road, and this is going to be much harder if you’re drunk and high constantly. If drinking and drugs are keeping you from being your best on the road, consider cutting down, taking a break or stopping completely.

3. Strained Relationships

Maintaining relationships out on the road can be a huge challenge whether you’re touring for the first time as a young band or are a seasoned touring veteran. Relationships are essential to the happiness of most people, and this is one of the main reasons why so many serious musicians become depressed and eventually burn out. If you plan on being a serious musician for the rest of your life, you’ll have to learn how to make relationships work on the road.

Nothing can replace the time spent away from a loved one, but there are things you can do maintain relationships while you tour. Scheduling and sticking to daily calls, FaceTime and Skype chats is one obvious option. Bringing your loved ones with you on the road for certain legs of your tours is another, though that’s not always an option for some musicians. No matter what you decide to do, just remember how vital your relationships back at home are and proceed accordingly.

4. Financial Hardship

Touring is a huge financial investment that never quite pays off for some bands. This means weeks or months at a time away from jobs and a steady source of income. There’s no way to tell for sure, but money problems have probably caused the untimely demise of many bands, and it’s not difficult to see why. Musicians are accustomed to making all sorts of sacrifices for their craft, but there’s a point where lack of money makes it impossible to keep going.

To avoid burnout over money issues, conversations need to happen long before you hit the road about your resources and limitations. Lots of bands set out with lofty goals for tour without having this conversation break up when they realize they can’t be on the road for months and pay their bills at the same time. Communication, realistic expectations and planning will help you be able to tour and keep your personal bottom line intact.

5. Lack of Sleep

Everything from the bad food to excessive drinking on tour can be hell on your body, but the lack of sleep can be especially pernicious. Not getting eight hours of sleep a night while you’re on tour might not seem like a huge deal for some bands, but sleep loss can cause everything from obesity to depression. Again, on a short tour this isn’t a problem, but it’s something that serious career musicians should address.

A major factor in sleeping issues on tour has to do with the fact that most bands can’t afford hotel rooms every night on the road. What can you do if the house you’re sleeping at has a party raging till four or five AM? Doing your best to find accommodations before you embark on a tour is essential if you hope to get good sleep on the road. Stay with friends and family when you can, and communicate your needs, even if it’s awkward to do so.

As Recording Technology Advances, How Does the “Live Experience” Change?

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Sabrina Bucknole. Sabrina has been singing in musical theater for over eight years, and wrote this as a deep dive into how the meaning of “live” performance has changed over time.]


Seeing a “live” performance has changed in meaning throughout recent years. With the introduction of new technology to the stage and online spaces such as YouTube and Facebook, the meaning of “live” has evolved and become something everybody with a smartphone or tablet can experience.

Bringing the Studio to the Stage

Technology once only found in the recording studio has recently been adapted and used for on-stage performances. According to vocalist, electronic music composer and lecturer Donna Hewitt, “Recording and performance practices are trending towards each other and this is being propelled by a combination of technological shifts, a broad change in the level of production literacy of musicians, and an increasing shift towards more technologically intensive performance, either on stage (in terms of the musician’s own performance tools) or off stage.”

In other words, the use of technology on stage has greatly increased, with artists becoming more experimental with the use of technology in their live performances.

The introduction of recording equipment and new pieces of tech to the stage has evolved and shaped the term “live performance”. For instance, loop pedals record vocals and instruments in real time, then loop the sound back to the artist. These nifty pieces of tech allow you to create layers of sound and add textures to live performance.

There are plenty of new and up-and-coming artists who use loop pedals for live performances, including Grace McClean who creates what can only be described as a witty form of jazz using clever yet comic lyrics and snappy vocals. A great example of this is in her live performance of “Natural Disaster”. Hite (aka Julia Eastern) is another example of a growing artist who uses the loop pedal in an innovative and experimental way during live performances. She uses the pedal to add smooth textures through holding long notes, creating an enchanting sound which is evident in her performance of “Eyes on the Prize”.

But it’s not only smaller artists who use these nifty pieces of tech during live sets. Pedals are becoming increasingly popular mostly due to the likes of famous artists including Imogen Heap, Radiohead, and of course, Ed Sheeran. With only an acoustic guitar and loop pedal by his side, Ed Sheeran became the first-ever artist to play Wembley stadium solo over three consecutive nights in 2015.

There were concerns that Sheeran wouldn’t be able to pull it off because usually audience members in an arena as immense as this require a grand spectacle. Plus, being able to fill a stadium with sound generated by only a guitar and pedal seemed impractical, but as history shows, the performance was a complete success. The pedal was able to create a richer and fuller sound, contributing towards Sheeran’s impressive achievement.


Livestreaming music festivals and concerts are also becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 81% of internet and mobile audiences watched more live video in 2016 than in 2015. YouTube for instance, livestreams large events including Coachella and Ultra, giving new meaning to the concept of seeing a performance “live”. The BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury is another good example of this because even though the viewers are not physically there, they are seeing the action in real time.

As well as growing in popularity, live streaming is becoming increasingly normal thanks to Facebook’s new tool which allows users to go “live” and watch videos as they are happening. Facebook’s “live” feature can also be a great benefit to up-and-coming artists when they’re trying to promote themselves through their pages, from live covers to never-heard-before originals. What makes the “live” tool different and possibly more effective than uploading a music video is that artists can interact with their viewers in real time as well as reach new audiences.

As the concept of watching things “live” becomes more of a normality, how does this affect the way audiences view an artist’s performance?

Of course, seeing your favorite artist perform through a screen is not the same as seeing them in the flesh, but if more and more people are watching performances live, would this not decrease the number of people attending live shows?

Actually, 67% of live video viewers are more likely to buy a ticket to a concert or event after watching a live video of that event or a similar one. The use of technology here then acts as great advertising for artists by increasing attendees and therefore ticket sales. It’s also clear that people value the experience of being physically “there” at a concert more because they are part of an exclusive group experiencing a special moment in time.


Holograms have also been used in recent years as an experimental piece of tech in live performance. In 2012, a hologram of world-famous rapper Tupac was resurrected on stage alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Stunning more than 80,000 audience members at Coachella, they performed popular hits including “Hail Mary” and “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted”.

The illusion created, was not technically a hologram because a hologram by definition is a “3-D image produced by the interference of light beams that reflect off a physical object and can be seen with the naked eye”. Instead, the illusion was created by adapting a nineteenth century theatrical trick known as “Pepper’s Ghost” which used a sheet of glass and a light to project the actor’s reflection onto the stage. This technique was used in supernatural plays around this period to create an image of a ghost-like, ethereal being.

Still, this nineteenth century technique adapted and enhanced with the use of current technology offers audience members a seemingly impossible opportunity to witness deceased artists perform live.

Holograms and technology which produce holographic effects are also being used by living artists to add to the dynamics of the performance. For instance, in 2017’s Grammy Awards, Beyoncé used Holo-Gauze to deliver 3D visual special effects in her spell-binding performance. The hologram features Beyoncé, her daughter Blue Ivy, and her mother Tina Knowles.

Holotronica CEO Stuart Warren-Hill, who supplied the Holo-Gauze screen, said, “Holo-Gauze is ideal for live events such as this, allowing live performers to be situated behind our near-invisible gauze while visually stunning holographic effects appear to float in front of them. Holo-Gauze makes the seemingly impossible possible.”

Rather than using holographic effects to replace the live experience, they enhance the performance and add extra dimensions. It’s clear that artists are embracing the idea of using holographic effects in their live performances, manipulating the term “live” even further.

Whether it’s livestreaming performances for the benefit of the audience, using loop pedals to add textures and dimensions to the music itself, or introducing holograms to enhance the on-stage performance, the meaning of “live” is changing due to advances in technology. But this does not mean, seeing artists live, in the flesh is no longer of value.

While technology can enhance performance, audiences still appreciate and value the authenticity of live performance, especially when artists with “real” voices perform without technology like auto-tune to aid them. Modern technology found in studios allows artists to refine and perfect their sound including autotuned vocals, automatically mapped virtual instruments, and sound proofing foam to manipulate the acoustics.

While using high-tech recording equipment such as this can create a “perfect” final product, this can also raise the audience’s expectations when seeing an artist perform live. Audiences can sometimes feel let down when they see an artist performing live because the reality does not always live up to the expectation set by studio recordings.

This is why even though technology can enhance a performance, most people appreciate and value hearing “real vocals” and watching artists perform live, in the flesh, rather than through a screen.