The Sultans of Stream soldier on

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Nick Cave performs alone at London’s Alexandra Palace… all seemed well until many viewers started experiencing what has befallen us all at some point. Photo: Joel Ryan

Coronavirus can’t stop the music or the ingenuity, writes streaming columnist  NICK OVERALL 

IN a world where we’re dearly missing much of our arts and entertainment, streaming is attempting to save the day, even when it comes to music.

Nick Overall.

Music-streaming subscription services such as “Spotify”, which allows users to listen to almost any song in the world for a monthly fee, are soaring in popularity. Some reports suggest they’ve seen an increase in new users by up to 35 per cent.

In one more leap though, if you thought theatre productions and art gallery tours coming to the world of streaming seemed strange, now even concerts and festivals are turning to the technology in an attempt to get us as close to a live gig as possible.

“Virtual concerts” are being held for people to pay, log in, and watch through their digital portals.

Of course, a virtual concert can’t quite replicate the magic of seeing our favourite artists belting out live on stage, but from some of the conversations I’ve had it seems people are still excited about this, especially if it means they can support the industry that’s experiencing some Dire Straits (pun certainly intended).

Getting together with a few friends (socially distanced, of course), cracking some drinks and watching gigs on a large-screen TV with a good speaker set up would actually seem quite the popular idea given the circumstances.

Three-piece rock band DMA’s, from Sydney, played one of the most recent of these streamed concerts with an acoustic set of their songs in the empty parklands of Byron Bay at sunset. 

A bittersweet performance in lieu of the fact that this time of year would normally see thousands there to support their favourite acts at the annual Splendour in the Grass festival.

Though, of course, despite the wonders of the modern world making these things possible, there’s always the risk of a stuff up.

Take Australian musician Nick Cave who hosted one of these virtual gigs for fans to live stream using a platform called Dice, which specialises in bringing music directly to viewers through the internet.

Cave, who was supposed to be on a world tour, instead set himself up alone at a grand piano and played an evocative set at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Fans were hyped, paid $29 for their “ticket” and were ready for the show. All seemed well until a few minutes in many started experiencing what has befallen us all at some point… that ever frustrating, rotating ring in the middle of the screen that freezes everything around it.

The stream stuttering meant that for many they felt the concert had been ruined. The event, which was supposed to be a one off, was made accessible to watch on demand for a few days after to make up for the issues and since has been widely praised.

In a segue back to our world of television streaming, Nick Cave’s talent extends past his musical prowess. He wrote the screenplay for the brutal 2005 Australian Western film “The Proposition”. The story, set in the sunburnt outback of the 1880s, centres on the middle son of three outlaw brothers, who’s given nine days by the police to hunt down and kill the eldest or else the youngest and more innocent will be executed.

If interested, you can now stream it on SBS On Demand.

More Aussie talent is also being showcased over on Stan with the new homegrown production “Relic” currently in the service’s trending charts. This one is a uniquely unnerving horror film about three generations of a family dealing with the strange and sinister behaviour of the matriarch, locked away in her isolated country home. 

All of this speaks to the brilliant talent of the Australian arts and entertainment industries, and in the face of the challenges present, the importance of continuing to support such artists, or as we might currently call them, our Sultans of Stream.


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