Nebraska music festival launches streaming initiative Lincoln Calling TV

Lincoln Calling — a long-running music and arts festival in Nebraska’s capital city — is launching a new subscription-based livestreaming initiative that aims to recreate the live music experience on screen. The project, Lincoln Calling TV, is the product of a partnership between the festival and Basement Creators Network (BCN), a Lincoln production company that…

Photo courtesy Lincoln Calling
Photo courtesy Lincoln Calling

Lincoln Calling — a long-running music and arts festival in Nebraska’s capital city — is launching a new subscription-based livestreaming initiative that aims to recreate the live music experience on screen.

The project, Lincoln Calling TV, is the product of a partnership between the festival and Basement Creators Network (BCN), a Lincoln production company that specializes in livestreaming. Now, as they finalize some last details, organizers say they plan to start streaming in February.   

“We’ve been putting all these pieces together these last few months, and we’re really excited to launch,” said Spencer Munson, executive director of Lincoln Calling. “We have thousands of people on our email list and social media list. We’ve seen some of our peers take off with media membership and subscription services, and we feel that we’ve got the ticket buyers and clientele and fans that we’ll be successful on this platform.”

The idea for the project was born out of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally a multi-day series of concerts and other events in the streets of downtown Lincoln, the festival was forced to go strictly digital in October 2020.

To do so, festival organizers enlisted the help of BCN, which livestreamed performances from Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre. After the festival, with the pandemic still raging, the two organizations began talking about what they could do to host digital content year-round. The idea, Munson said, was to not only provide content to a hungry audience, but also to train up-and-coming local artists on how to play and market for a digital platform.

When he and his co-founders launched BCN in February of 2019, the idea was to use the digital tools popular with video game streamers and apply them to live music performances, said Vince Ruhl, founder of Basement Creators. It’s the same strategy they plan to bring to Lincoln Calling TV — with the band and hosts engaging with the viewing audience through chat features and shoutouts.

 “We wanted to get the audience’s engagement,” Ruhl said. “The main thing to address is your audience … I would say that making sure your audience realizes that you’re live and you’re there with them is the most important thing.” 

Lincoln Calling TV will operate on a tiered membership system. Organizers are hoping to feature live performances from artists including Andrea Von Kampen, J. Crum, Mesonjixx, Black Magik and more.

Weekly concerts will stream through Maestro, an interactive livestreaming platform. Though some content will be available for free, members can sign up for bonus material through Patreon, a web-based subscription service for content creators.

Subscribers will have access to a catalog of performances, bloopers, interviews and encores, as well as other content, such as videos promoting civic engagement, wellness and sustainability. Other benefits include access to “behind-the-scenes” audience Q and As, discounts, free merchandise and tickets to future festivals.

Ruhl said he also hopes to eventually develop a setup where the audience — as a group — can interact with the band, simulating the crowd at a live show.

“It’s one thing to have people in a chat … it’s another to actually see that person in front of you, and see the people watching you,” Ruhl said.

The biggest hurdle to this — and in fact the biggest challenge in producing a live music show for a stream — is reproducing high-quality sound over the stream, Ruhl said. Throughout the pandemic, much has been said about “stream fatigue.” The way Ruhl sees it, people aren’t weary of streams themselves, they’re bored with low-quality streams.

Part of the mission of Lincoln Calling TV, he said, is to teach younger, local bands who are used to playing in live venues how to play for a digital audience, giving them skills that will eventually benefit them long-term.

“If you’re (a band) streaming on your cell phone, sitting on a couch in a dimly-lit room, unless you have a really strong natural following, people aren’t going to be interested in that kind of content,” Ruhl said. “I’m hoping Lincoln Calling TV will be able to provide a high-quality streaming experience for every band, especially those that can’t afford to do it themselves.”

 

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