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The world wide web's a stage

by Emma Tracey

Transport issues, inaccessible venues and stamina problems, are just some of the many reasons why it can be difficult for disabled performers to take part in live gigs. But in today’s world of video streaming and podcasting over the net, is performing in front of a live audience absolutely necessary?

Three disabled musicians share their stories, proving that there are an increasing number of alternative ways to get your music 'out there'.
Andre Louis
Social networks and assistive technology have allowed blind jazz keyboardist / pianist Andre Louis to perform, even though getting to gigs is a real challenge.

"None of the gigs I’d like to do are near where I live in west London. If I were to take public transport, it would be me, a laptop, a keyboard stand and a cane, trying to navigate the underground. Taxis would be around £35 so costs would get high quickly."

Instead, using screen-reading software, he promotes his compositions on the web.

"What I tend to do is write music at home, publish it to twitter for listener pleasure, and then hope that people wish to buy the album I have available online."

He also proves that, being unable to get to where the live jamming sessions take place, need not prevent you from collabourating.

"I use something called Ninjam. It’s a technology which allows you to jam with other musicians in realtime from anywhere in the world . I get some very positive feedback for tracks which have been created in this way."

Andre Louis is not the only disabled musician making and broadcasting music from his own home.
Jade from The Wasted Day Collection.
The Wasted Day Collection are from Hull. Both members of the acoustic duo have acquired disabilities. Jade experiences mobility problems and chronic pain due to prolapsed disks and Tim has a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The two used to gig regularly in pubs and clubs. But now, no-longer well enough to continue, they’ve had to be innovative in finding new ways of getting their music heard.

On a recent edition of the Ouch! Talk Show, Jade spoke about doing live performances from her home for an online US radio station.

"I feel quite safe in my living room, so we tended to make it into a gig space. It was a lot easier than getting out and about and falling off a stage. If I was ill, I could just come downstairs.

"Unfortunately, we used to have to start our gigs at about three in the morning and finish them about 8 because [the fans] are over in America. We were making ourselves ill trying to keep that audience."

Finding themselves unable to continue gigging through the night, Jade and Tim are now focusing on writing and recording new material, selling music and merchandise online and producing a podcast, where they invite other musicians to collaborate with them live.

Podcasting is a cheap and straight-forward way of broadcasting yourself to anyone who wants to listen. If you know where to promote your show, it’s also a remarkably useful way of targeting a specific group.
Ryan O'Donovan performing on stage.
Shut Up and Listen is a monthly community radio show and podcast produced and presented by people with learning disabilities. As well as chat, interviews and news of interest to the local LD community in Brighton, the presenters play only music which has been created by learning disabled performers.

Ryan O’Donovan is one of the show’s co-hosts. With some support from Shut Up and Listen coordinator Sam Eden-Green, He enthusiastically explains why the podcast exists.

"It’s vital for learning disabled artists who can’t find any place to promote their music. The podcast shows people with a learning disability that their music is worth something and gives other people education and entertainment."

When Ryan isn’t introducing LD artists,, he’s playing in two separate bands, Beat Express and Zombie Crash. Shut Up And Listen, plus both Ryan’s groups, are managed by Carousel, a Brighton-based arts organisation for people with a learning disability.

"Being in a band supported by Carousel it isn’t hard because they’ve been going for almost 30 years so they know what gigs to put us at and how to promote our albums. If I lost that support my disorder would start attacking my confidence, as it has many times before."

Are you a disabled musician? Do you make music but find gigging difficult? Have you discovered a work around? Tell us your story in the comments below.

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