As live music venues continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, Saratoga Springs’ Caffe Lena is moving its live streams off Facebook and YouTube to a new donate-to-watch platform called CaffeLena.TV.
“Streaming is here to stay. It has become an essential tool in keeping artists and venues afloat and audiences engaged. We need to make it a great experience for the viewer, and economically viable for the producers,” said Executive Director Sarah Craig.
Heading into a fall when the music industry was hoping to return to normal, the COVID delta variant is once again causing tour cancellations and venue restrictions, Craig said.
“While our first choice is to have everyone here in person, it’s exciting to be connecting this legendary venue with a worldwide audience,” said Craig. “It feels like the right moment to move our streams off the free platforms. If streaming is going to be a core part of the performing arts, we can’t treat it like a give-away.”
The service launched Sept. 1 with the opening of the Caffe Lena vault containing past shows. The first live show was Sept. 7 with the Chuck Lamb jazz trio performing with special guest saxophonist Luca Pino.
Revenue collected from viewer donations is split between the performer and venue.
“Through a virtual tip jar, viewers supported our live-streaming performers to the tune of $100,000 during the shutdown. But since we reopened for in-person audiences in April, donations and viewership have dropped significantly. Now the job is to figure out how to make this delivery system something people will want to pay for, and to drive home the message that live music will only survive if people support it,” said Craig
Caffe Lena recently removed past shows from its YouTube channel out of concern for licensing restrictions.
“This new donate-to-watch platform enables us to make our archive of past shows available, as well as the nightly live show,” said marketing manager Carolyn Shapiro. For a monthly donation of $15 or more, viewers will have unlimited access to the nightly shows as well as a large vault of past shows.
During the last year, the online marketplace has filled with new streaming platforms serving concerts, yoga lessons, cooking classes and religious services. Caffe Lena picked UScreen.TV because it allows the venue to offer content on a flexible pay-per-view basis.
“We’re setting a minimum donation rather than charging a flat fee. You can watch a single show for a donation of $5 or more. We hope people who can will chip in more because they know the money is keeping the music alive,” said Sharpiro.
Concerts will be streamed through Caffe Lena’s high-definition broadcasting system.
“While live streaming has become commonplace, the quality of Caffe Lena’s streams sets us apart,” Shapiro said. “We have an unfair advantage. Our streams are produced by seven-time Grammy-winner Joel Moss. His sound mix is amazing.”
Moss captures Caffe Lena’s performances with three robotic cameras and a state-of-the- art sound system.
Founded in 1960, Caffè Lena is a premiere concert venue located in Saratoga Springs, known around the world for fostering the preservation and growth of independent music rooted in tradition.