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Coronavirus: How clubs and DJs are moving to live streaming

Lizzie Curious at Deep House Brunch in LA Image copyright Sara Fleenor Photography
Image caption Lizzie Curious is among the DJs streaming live sets to virtual festivals and nightclubs

With nightclubs closed, DJ sets have moved online while revellers party at home and interact in web chat rooms. But what do they get out of it?

We might be in lockdown, but festivals, clubs and DJs are still luring audiences in search of a shared clubbing experience.

Club owner Deltic said up to 350,000 people streamed sets on its Facebook pages and Hacienda's Easter fundraiser attracted an estimated 1.5 million views.

Other events have been low-key, such as Bestival's Rob da Bank's Instagram set from his kitchen on the Isle of Wight.

The festival founder and ex-Radio 1 DJ, whose career began in the drum and bass scene, had just emerged from a two-day broadcast of music and entertainment by Camp Bestival when he promised fans an informal DJ set on Instagram Live.

Image copyright Rob da Bank
Image caption Rob da Bank promised drum and bass fans an informal live DJ set from his kitchen table

"People want the community vibe," he said. "They can get dressed up and dance around with their self-isolating friends. It's just a chance to forget about this weird virus for now.

"I feel more comfortable in front of a camera in some ways than with a live audience and, doing a DJ set on Instagram Live, you get a constant feed of people sending emojis or saying 'love this tune'.

"Playing live is a great experience so I wouldn't want to be DJing to a camera for the rest of my life - but you can be a bit experimental."

Lizzie Curious - a resident DJ on the Groove Cruise festivals in the US - would normally jet off to Miami or LA for the three-day cruise ship parties but, with both sides of the Atlantic in lockdown, organisers instead beamed her set of uplifting house tunes live from her living room in Worthing, West Sussex.

Image copyright Lizzie Curious / Groove Cruise
Image caption Groove Cruise broadcast images of people dancing at home on its Twitch stream

"It was something that was so nice for me," she said.

"Part of the excitement is the planning and in the run-up I would have had other shows in the US but, as with everyone else, that all got ripped away so quickly. It's such a difficult time for so many people. Having the live stream is so good to make you feel connected.

"I've just tried to pick house music that has a really positive message to help people forget about everything for a little while."

Sunday's event, which also raised money for Groove Cruise's own Covid-19 relief charity, was broadcast on the Twitch streaming platform where it was overlayed with video effects, a message board and images of people partying on the Zoom video conference platform.

Events forced to cancel or reschedule include Hospitality Returns to the Docks in London on Good Friday, which instead broadcast 12 hours of music by DJs in their kitchens and home studios on YouTube and Facebook Live.

Image copyright DJ Dilemma
Image caption Dilemma performed for Hospitality's live stream from a cabin in her mum's garden

DJ Dilemma, real name Piper Hewitt-Dudding, who is from Brighton, performed her set in front of her mum in her back garden cabin, which she described as a "little strange".

However, thousands logged on to the Hospitality live streams, which have since been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times.

She said: "In the club you get a loud, immediate reaction from the crowd when you drop a great tune. But being able to see so many positive comments from individual people come flooding in all at once was just as exhilarating as hearing it collectively from a crowd."

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Media captionLeeds DJ Dale Castell is live streaming weekend sets during lockdown

The Defected record label has been teaming up with London's Ministry of Sound to broadcast three virtual festivals to raise money for the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund - and there are more events in the pipeline.

Defected owner Simon Dunmore said: "Music and clubbing are an escape for many and, with social gatherings being rightfully restricted, we wanted to connect people online in the hope that they appreciate they are not alone."

Manchester's Hacienda also has a second House Party planned on 9 May. The first all-day rave on 11 April, featuring the likes of Roger Sanchez and David Morales, was held for charity and to support Manchester's night-time economy.

Image copyright Ryan Arnold
Image caption Ryan Arnold says live streaming is helping him reach new audiences

Nightclub chain operator Deltic has been streaming sets from its Atik and Pryzm clubs on Facebook where clubbers can interact with people from their nearest venue or create listening parties with friends.

The streams are being beamed three times a week across Pryzm's Facebook pages for Birmingham, Brighton, Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Kingston Upon Thames, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth and Watford, along with Atik's nightclubs in Aberdeen, Dartford, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Hull, Uxbridge, Wrexham, Tamworth, Romford, Colchester, Halifax, Oxford and Windsor.

For one of the DJs, Ryan Arnold, live streaming has been a new experience - especially after spending summer 2019 supporting acts such as Little Mix and Jess Glynn.

But he says it's helping him to reach new audiences while in lockdown in Dartford, Kent, and might mean more people get to hear his newly-released single - Imagine.

He said: "I like the idea of dropping a track and Sandy or whoever could be in her kitchen in her pyjamas dancing without worrying about who can see her.

"But it's very strange [playing to a camera]. I find myself hyping myself up in front of the crowd but then you say, 'hands up and... oh, it's just me'.

"Something else I've realised is I sing to the songs that I'm DJing but normally the music is so loud I don't notice. Luckily, no one else can hear it though."

Image copyright Nathan Dawe / Reece Evans EV Pro
Image caption Nathan Dawe plays in Ibiza (pictured right) and Zante

Nathan Dawe, whose track Flowers is climbing the UK singles charts, would normally expect to be playing major festivals as well as venues in Ibiza and Zante but is instead beaming sets from his lockdown location in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire.

He said: "I've never done a live stream before. I was more nervous about that first stream than I am with 10,000 people in front of me."

He describes the success of his single as "bitter sweet", adding: "I'm just gagging to get back on the stage and hear people singing it back.

"My whole life I've dreamed about having a record that's played on the top 40. The tune was doing well before lockdown came but then it started to spike.

"A lot of people having to stay indoors are playing it on their music apps but, being a performer, I'm itching to get on stage and hear the roar when you play it."

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