I’ve been a concert fanatic since I was five years old. My first show, Ronnie Milsap, was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, not only because of the concert. I met the guitarist before the show and still have a few of his picks to this day. I saw Ronnie again a year later, and that time met the man himself. The highlight to me, even when I was that young, was Ronnie’s version of America the Beautiful. It stood out so much to me that when I met Mr. Milsap, I asked him if he would send me a live concert recording where he played it. Astonishingly, one arrived at my house several weeks later.
Live music has been my passion ever since. I’ve seen hundreds of shows, from Broadway to power metal, and I studied every single one. I’d pick up little details about how bands were booked based on casual comments from agents at the venue. I learned how theaters were managed by security and box office people who didn’t mind having a quick conversation. I learned that you could wait outside the loading doors of small venues after shows to meet bands for free, but you might catch them at the bar or the merch table before they even leave. All of this casual observing and networking built the knowledge base I carried into this project, putting on Supersense Presents Live.
A community concert had actually been in the back of my mind since I started work at Mediate. I mentioned it at various meetings throughout my first year at the company, but we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the right time… until April of 2021. Plans for our epic summer sale were underway, we had just reached a user base of more than 60000, and it was time to see what we could put together.
The second step I took was to pick a date. Nothing was set in stone yet, but when you pitch a concert idea to musicians with hundreds of thousands of collective fans, you need to have a plan! I chose the date Thursday, July 15, 2021, almost arbitrarily based on my own summer schedule. With a purpose and a pseudo date, the next step was finding a headline act.
The headliner was crucial because they would bring in a new audience. The first person I had in mind for the job was Mr. Andy Timmons. Andy is a world-renowned guitarist with a pedigree longer than this post. More importantly, Andy is a genuine, down-to-earth individual who will really connect with our audience and inspire his own to tune in.
Fortunately for me, I was able to connect with Andy on StageIt, a virtual concert platform where he performed frequently. I sent him a text about the Supersense gig, and after a couple of logistical phone calls, we were locked in.
We now had a purpose, a date, and some serious backing. Everything started happening very quickly from this point, and if the following sequence of events seems like a jumble in writing, I promise it was a lot worse in my mind!
During the weeks when Andy and I were in conversation, I needed to put together some ideas about how we would stream the show, so Andy would know what to expect. I had a lot of experience working with virtual audio, but I was looking for a simple solution to handle the video. As a result, my first preference for a streaming platform was the Zoom conferencing client since it simplified the interface for multiple performers with live video. Many of our audience would be blind, so I also had to verify that Zoom could stream in high-quality audio, and after figuring out the array of original sound options to enhance the concert quality, we were golden! However, we couldn’t have our audience joining us in the Zoom meeting. I’ve seen that go wrong too many times to try it myself. I did a good bit of research and found some excellent Zoom support articles that described how to stream the Zoom meeting out to a Youtube event.
All of this research and testing took around three weeks. Simultaneously, I was connecting with friends and influential musicians I had networked with to put together an amazing series of opening acts.
My fiancé, Precious Perez, was already doing so much to help me grasp the full capabilities of Zoom, and she was an obvious choice for a quality opener. She’s a fantastic vocalist and Ukulele player, with several powerful releases on all streaming platforms. Precious was also working with me to put together a list of the best audiences we were connected to that we could market this concert toward because that was also happening around this time.
One of our best resources is the VENOM streaming network that Precious helped me found in late 2019. VENOM has an incredible audience that would enjoy the concert, but we also have some seriously talented musicians on staff. Our programming director, Question, is a rapper and producer featured on the Supersense blog twice. He was an obvious choice to do a set for the concert. Brian Ford, VENOM’s other programming specialist, is also a killer live DJ, and I had the idea for Brian to co-host an after-party for the concert with Question on VENOM.
Now, we have Andy Timmons, Precious Perez, and Question as performers for the show, plus an after-party. That wasn’t enough for me. I called up John Dowling, a good friend who also works on VENOM. He’s a classic country virtuoso at 20 years old, and no one does what he does better. He was gracious enough to make time in his schedule, and we were up to five performers. Next, I reached out to Jenni Rudolph, a singer/songwriter I met at Berklee. I love what she stands for, and she weaves words into so many valuable stories in her music. She accepted, and we were up to six.
In the midst of these calls and countless text messages, I regularly reminded Precious to reach out to a guy named Noé Socha. Noé attended Berklee at the same time as her, and I first heard him play on another virtual concert in support of the National Braille Press. Noé is an instrumental legend. Playing guitar, harmonica, and percussion simultaneously, his performance was so captivating that I knew we had to get him to perform on the Supersense gig. Thankfully, he was interested, and we were up to seven!
Around this time, I was putting together a performance schedule. I decided on twenty-minute slots for each opening act, with the concert starting at 7:00 PM Eastern. The plan was for Question to open the show at 7, with Precious playing at 7:20, Jenni at 7:40, John at 8:00, and Noé at 8:20. With Andy starting at 9:00 and the after-party at 10:30, we had one final slot, and I needed one hell of a performer to fill it.
Coincidentally, a recent VENOM listener was making waves as a serious vocalist and guitar player. He was working on his fourth album, and after a few conversations, I knew he was the guy we needed for the final slot before Andy Timmons. I gave him a call, and Tony Gebhard became our eighth performer.
It was at this time when I realized I couldn’t host this show by myself. We were advertising it to a hundred thousand people, juggling three streaming platforms, and had eight unbelievable acts lined up. So, I did what I always do when these many complex pieces are in motion; I called up Emily Pennington! Emily is another of the amazing people who founded VENOM with me, and I knew she’d be the perfect co-host for Supersense Presents Live.
We started soundchecks around two weeks before the show, testing audio and confirming details with each artist. The rest of the time was filled by interfacing Zoom with Youtube, securing reliable closed captioning, promoting the concert to every connection I could think of, and probably several other components I can’t remember.
Finally, Supersense Presents Live aired on Thursday, July 15, 2021, I was telling you about that arbitrary date. All of the performers were playing live on Zoom, 1500 people were tuned in on Youtube, and thanks to my man Jimmy Steel who helped with promotion, we had simultaneous streams airing on VENOM and a gaming platform called Cosmic Rage. The audience was blowing up Twitter and Facebook with comments and reactions to the show.
There was such a sense of community. Some of our close friends were tweeting live commentary during the entire four-hour event. People I knew from the Andy Timmons fan community were commenting on performances by Precious and Question, and I saw Twitter conversations cropping up between people who had never met while talking about our performers. The energy didn’t flag for the entire evening, and as I recount it, I realize that there is honestly no better way to experience the concert than by watching it yourself. I’ll include the link below, as well as some of the articles that were invaluable during the creation of Supersense Presents Live. I promise you, it isn’t a night any of us will forget. Join the club!
You can watch the show by clicking the link below:
The guide I first read, recommended to me by Precious, with tips for putting on a live-streamed concert: https://howlround.com/participate#livestream-an-event
When we decided to stream directly from Zoom to Youtube, here’s how we did it: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360028478292-Streaming-a-Meeting-or-Webinar-on-YouTube-Live
We’d love to have a conversation. If you are a part of the blind and visually impaired community, you’d like to be part of our mission, or share your ideas and collaborate with us, get in touch with us.
We are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Fill out the form below to reach us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org