The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented opportunities to view concerts from the comfort of our own homes – as venues supplemented their limited-attendance live shows with online streams.
While some have sadly let those offerings slide, others, such as the Rogue Folk Club, continue to offer them alongside the in-person events.
And now, at least one venue is building a business around those virtual shows. The cozy Heartwood Concert Hall in Owen Sound has launched Heartwood TV, a place to rent gloriously-shot streaming videos of Heartwood’s live shows, featuring Sultans of String, Jack de Keyzer, Madison Violet and other A-list acts – and lots of up-and-comers too.
“There were a number of other venues during the pandemic around the province that were doing live streaming, but it doesn’t seem like any of them have kept the content online in any way,” said David Chevalier of Wiretone Records, an Owen Sound-based record label and partner in Heartwood TV.
“Once the show happened, you know, within a week or so of the show, it was gone.”
The Heartwood videos are shot using a multi-camera set-up and recorded on multi-track recording gear.
There are 26 of them so far. You can watch them for a suggested rental fee of $10 (the minimum donation is typically $5), and half of the proceeds go to the artists – assuring that their gig at the Heartwood may continue to pay dividends long after their performance.
In fact, Greg Botrell, a veteran of venues such as the Rivoli and the Supermarket who opened the Heartwood in 2015, said he hopes that will help lure more big-city artists out to Owen Sound for a gig.
The venue, which is licensed for 186, doesn’t typically pay guarantees, Greg said, though he tries to do deals that ensure artists can justify the trip. Being able to offer them high quality video of their performances – something he said many emerging and mid-tier artists seem to lack – might help attract more performers, he said.
Heartwood TV began the way most virtual performance initiatives began during the pandemic – out of necessity.
“We were trying to, you know, pivot because a lot of our work was related to live events,” David said.
“That really dried up.… So we started looking at live streaming, so we approached Greg, and we started building.”
Greg was able to access funding from the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, which allowed him to launch some concert series once venues were allowed to welcome customers again. He then began streaming those shows.
“Once we had all these assets, we said, ‘Well, how can we give these some legs?’” David said.
And thus was born Heartwood TV.
“Whether or not it will be a financially viable kind of thing on its own, I don’t necessarily think it would be,” Greg said. But it really adds to our portfolio of what … we’re able to do, and hopefully it will help us, you know, secure artists that might not normally be able to come to small places like this.”