American singer finds his social distance - in online performances

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[March 19, 2020]  By Kevin Fogarty

ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - Singer and songwriter Justin Trawick's livelihood as a stage performer who did more than a dozen shows a month ground to a halt recently as the coronavirus pandemic shut down his concert venues.

His solution - to record shows on his iPhone and stream them live instead - has helped the 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, to recover his income stream and bring joy to an audience he is no longer able to see.

"As a musician, 100% of my income comes from not only being a musician and playing guitar, but playing guitar live in front of people," Trawick said from his apartment.

Now, the lead singer of "Justin Trawick and The Common Good" performs a mix of bluegrass melodies and sentimental ballads live on Facebook, and collects tips via Venmo and Paypal.

In two sessions, he said he has raked in enough money to cover the losses from five canceled shows on stage. And what started as an economic necessity has morphed into a source of comfort for audience and artist alike.

His concert on Sunday has notched nearly 4,000 views, with one admirer writing on his Facebook page: "Thank you. We needed this."

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Many bigger name acts, from Stephen Colbert to the Metropolitan Opera, are also livestreaming, as venues are closed to contain the pandemic and audiences stay at home.

"I think that we're bringing something to people that is creating a little bit of levity in their lives where they might all be a little stressed otherwise," said Trawick.

Although Trawick is pleased with his online following, he admits that not having an audience in the same room has taken some getting used to.

"You have to perform in a different way and you have to assume that people... are enjoying themselves," said Trawick. "The comments scrolling down the screen is like the new applause."

(Reporting by Kevin Fogarty; Writing by Bernadette Baum; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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