SHREVEPORT, La -- The music industry went from rocking to non-existent on March 16.
Jimmy Wooten is a local musician who tours nationally with Neal McCoy and fronts his own band, Lions May Cry.
“I’ve got a wife and two boys. Just music full-time, and that’s how I support my family,” said Wooten. “And all of that got completely halted in one swipe.”
When COVID-19 shut down all entertainment venues, Wooten and other musicians like David Deaton had to find a new way to work.
“Complete 180. Survive and adapt,” said Deaton.
“We have to be inventive and creative and find new ways to reach people,” said Wooten.
So, they did. Musicians and entertainers found a way to share their work by streaming concerts live online, using their PayPal or Venmo accounts for virtual tips from viewers, which has proved to be a positive thing.
“I’m actually putting videos out of me playing on YouTube and my Facebook page that I said I was going to do for years… I’m doing it now,” said Wooten.
“Another interesting thing, now we’re not limited to our local crowd,” said Deaton. “We can reach out to people who would have never gone out to a bar.”
Colton Johnson owns Bear’s bar on Fairfield in Shreveport. His business revolves around entertainment. Prior to the shutdown, he had live music onstage two to three times per week.
“Everything is centered around bringing people together and having a good time,” said Johnson.
He has many good friends who are musicians.
“They’re struggling just as much as the businesses are,” said Johnson.
Deaton has a special struggle of his own. Along with relying on music to pay his bills, he is also the caregiver to his bedridden father. With his father in the high risk category, Deaton says he fears the virus because unlike the flu, you cannot always tell when someone has it, because they could be asymptomatic.
“Part of my job is to shake hands, hug people, be sociable and try to connect with people,” said Deaton.
Regardless of the fear and struggles, one thing apparent in this group is a strong sense of community and family. They remain positive, even through the challenges.
“I’m really proud of everybody, too,” Deaton said. “Musicians have really come together on this thing and are supporting each other.
“Just love your neighbor through all this. Try to make the most out of this. It really is bad for some people, some worse than me,” said Wooten. “But if we stick together, do the right things and not fight it so much and spread positivity, we’ll be way better off.”
“Stay safe, stay positive and we’ll get through it,” said Johnson.
Bars began opening at 25% occupancy June 5. While local musicians are looking forward to getting back onstage, Wooten and Deaton both said their need to quickly perfect their live-stream capabilities during the shutdown proved to be a positive outcome. They said they'll continue to promote their music online, even after they start playing on stage again.