Chattanooga area musicians turn to Internet for ways to perform, make money during COVID-19 outbreak

Photo contributed by Nathan Gayle / A small crew of lighting, sound and video engineers helped local band Strung Like a Horse present a livestreaming concert Saturday night from Songbirds South. The event raised money for the band and crew and for ArtsBuild Artist Emergency Fund.
Photo contributed by Nathan Gayle / A small crew of lighting, sound and video engineers helped local band Strung Like a Horse present a livestreaming concert Saturday night from Songbirds South. The event raised money for the band and crew and for ArtsBuild Artist Emergency Fund.

Musicians want to play music and to have been heard, hopefully by people who appreciate what they are playing, and if they can do both and get paid, all the better.

Chattanooga musicians, like others across the United States, are turning to the internet for ways to find an audience and perhaps make a little money as bars, restaurants and venues across the country are closed in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Some are posting videos on their own social media pages hoping to get donations via Venmo or PayPal, and others are live streaming as part of a larger fundraiser for several people. Strung Like a Horse played a full, two-hour set at Songbirds South Saturday night with only a skeleton crew of sound and video staff there to hear.

No audience members were allowed in, but more than 300 people tuned in live and about 150 made donations. The video has since been seen by nearly 1,000 people.

It was a fundraiser for the band and crew and the Artists Emergency Fund created by ArtsBuild. Frontman Clay Maselle said before the show that he conceived the idea to find work for his band, but realized he could help others if the fundraising went well.

Rodney Van Valkenberg, director of arts education with ArtsBuild, said the more than $1,250 that was raised above what the band and crew earned will be added to the nearly $33,000 the organization has earmarked for local musicians who have had jobs canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, not everyone can stage such an event, he said.

"It was extremely well produced and well executed, but not everybody has the resources to hire professionals," he said.

"Will people watch someone who only has an iPhone, and how do you set yourself apart?"

It's a sentiment echoed by Nick Lutsko, a local musician who has had success posting well-produced videos, first on Super Delux and now Netflix, where his work has been seen by millions. He is one of several musicians that the Chattanooga Tourism Company is looking to feature on its Visit Chattanooga Facebook page.

"The trick is to figure out what makes you stand out," he said.

Lutsko is donating any money he raises to JJ's Bohemia, the popular club where a great many local acts play, when it's open.

"I haven't really been gigging, so it's not how I make my income, and I don't want to come off as opportunistic, but I do want to help," he said.

Nathan Bell is a local musician who spends several weeks in Europe a couple of times a year. He recently posted two videos of performances from his living room and sent the money donated by viewers to the support staff that makes those events happen.

"I raised $400 in two shows, which I sent directly to the people who help me: the promoter and the agencies," he said.

Lutsko is scheduled to perform on the page live Wednesday from 2-3 p.m. Local jazz artist Swayyvo performed Tuesday, and Frank Bumpass is scheduled to perform Friday. Bumpass, along with Stringer's Ridge and Jennifer Daniels, performed last week when the idea was hatched.

"We are still figuring some things out," said marketing manager Sean Phipps. "They hosted the shows on their page, for example, so we can't boost it."

He said the goal is to both help local musicians and crew find a source of income during the shutdown, but also to showcase the artists to people inside and outside of Chattanooga. The Chattanooga Tourism Company is talking with other organizations such as RISE and Soundcorps about ways to partner and include more artists.

Two weeks ago, Matt Downer had to postpone the Great Southern Old Time Fiddler's Convention he co-founded, but he wanted to find a way to connect the many people who have come to see it the way he does, so he's hosting a virtual convention on the event's Facebook page, Chattanooga Old Fiddlers' Association.

"This has always been a family reunion sort of thing, and I felt like I had to find a way to still make it happen, even if it was virtual," he said.

Others clearly felt the same way, as he had more than 100 people from around the world, including from Japan and Spain, submit videos of their performances. Downer even had viewers vote on their favorites, just like they will on Oct. 11 when the "real" event takes place here.

"I even had one lady in California figure out how to record live with her playing partner in Oregon somewhere. That was pretty cool," he said.

What happens next is anybody's guess, but artists have always found ways to get their work, and their message, out.

"I'm optimistic," Lutsko said, "but we will keep finding ways to play."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.


Among those live streaming music and concerts:

- Visit Chattanooga, the Convention Tourism Company's Facebook Page - featuring:

* Swayyvo March 24

* Nick Lutsko live on March 25 from 2-3 p.m.

* Frank Bumpass live on March 27 from 2-3 p.m.

* Kimmy J. Jenkins live on March 27 from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

* Rick Rushing live on March 30 from 2-3 p.m.

- Chattanooga Old Fiddlers' Association -

- Nathan Bell -

- Brandon Maddox on March 20 -

- Strung Like A Horse at Songbirds to benefit ArtsBuilds' Artists Emergency Fund -

- LVNDR & No Pressure at Stone Cup Cafe March 22 -

- Jason Lyles Live March 24 -

- Play along with Tom Morley -

Upcoming Events