In a normal year, the members of the band Scythian would play about 90 shows, which means spending anywhere from 160 to 200 days on the road.
That stopped when the COVID-19 pandemic made it to the United States in March 2020.
All of the band’s shows were canceled on March 14, but Dan Fedoryka, who founded Scythian with his brother Alexander, came up with an idea: They should host a livestream on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I ordered the gear, and luckily I got some before everything sold out,” Fedoryka said.
At the same time, the band was also crowdfunding for its album and needed to raise $7,000 in three days to meet its goal. The results were encouraging. The band’s stream amassed more than 50,000 views, and their fans provided a total of $14,000.
Scythian decided to start “quaranstreams” every two weeks to connect directly with their fans and offer some comfort to people during the outbreak. They also asked festivals and music venues around the country to cross-post their shows on their social media platforms.
The members of Scythian are among a host of musicians across the United States who turned to alternative outlets to connect with audiences and survive the pandemic.
The band will perform a show at the Down Home on Saturday, July 10, as part of the release of its new CD, Roots & Stones. The show will have a limited capacity, and if it sells out, a second show will be added.
Scythian has frequently performed at Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots and has played the Blue Plum Festival twice.
For the first three months of their quaranstreams, the band averaged about 40,000 views per stream, and across more than 30 streams, Scythian accumulated more than 600,000 views. During that time, it survived off Venmo tips and merchandise orders.
“We would take my living room apart, we would move everything out of my living room and we would do a seven-camera shoot with lights, fog, a fog machine and full sound,” Fedoryka said.
The band would also make its own satirical commercials, turning the streams into a variety show.
“We produced a show basically every two weeks,” he said.
Like many other industries, COVID-19 ravaged the music world. Venues permanently closed, and bands hung up their instruments.
Tyrique Shahmir, a Johnson City hip hop artist, was gearing up for a tour before the pandemic and said he was in the middle of signing with a record label.
“Due to COVID and the lack of touring and the lack of traveling I strayed away from that and decided to continue the independent path,” Shahmir said.
Shahmir said he averages 25 to 30 shows a year, but COVID-19 slowed that down.
Shahmir also turned to livestreams during the pandemic.
He performed three streams to maintain contact with his fanbase, employing social media platforms like Facebook, Twitch, YouTube and Instagram.
“It definitely opened my eyes up to how there’s so many different ways and so many different outlets to get your music in front of people,” he said.
During the pandemic, Shahmir was also working on an album, “Eastside Misfit,” that will come out on Aug. 20. He’s releasing an EP, “In Between a Grey Area,” on July 20.
Fedoryka added that it’s still unknown whether many music venues will survive the pandemic. After so many months of isolation and quarantine, he’s hopeful that people will want to find an outlet.
“The margin of error is not very large for these independent music venues and independent musicians,” he said.
The Down Home, he said, is taking lingering fears about COVID-19 seriously and is hosting Scythian’s show at half capacity.
The community that sprung out of the band’s quaranstreams, Fedoryka said, has endured. Now, when the band does its CD release shows, people already know the words to the songs. Attendees know each other from the livestreams and are seeing each other in person for the first time.
“It’s really something unprecedented,” Fedoryka said.