- Associated Press - Saturday, November 28, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Lincoln Calling TV is coming soon to a computer, tablet, phone or smart TV near you.

The new multichannel online streaming service will be brought to subscribers by Basement Creators Network, the local live music streaming group, in collaboration with the long-running festival that was forced out of the downtown clubs and onto the web last fall.

“With little to be excited about in music right now, this is it,” said Lincoln Calling Executive Director Spencer Munson. “We’re a little lost as to what 2021 is going to be like for live music. But we know we can bring music and all kinds of other stuff, like education for bands, like how to use in-ear monitors, how to do a mix, how mastering a recording works. I think we can deliver a really cool product.”

Lincoln Calling TV will be using a new platform that allows multiple channels, presents its video and audio, whether livestreamed or recorded, at the highest possible quality, archives material and can be coordinated with Facebook and YouTube, where the vast majority of livestreams are presented.

“The only festival that has done it on the same platform has been Coachella,” Basement Creators’ Vince Ruhl told the Lincoln Journal Star. “We’re in good company. Billie Eilish just used it. Melissa Etheridge has a monthly program on it.”

The collaboration, which will take place under the auspices of Lincoln Calling, grew out of a yearlong relationship between the festival and the Basement Creators Network, which had livestreamed some festival shows into bars in 2019, then did the local livestreaming for this year’s festival.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, Basement Creators Network has been Lincoln’s go-to streaming service. Events it has streamed in addition to Lincoln Calling include the Mayor’s Arts Awards, the Governor’s Arts Awards, a Launch Leadership telethon and a Kiechel Fine Arts virtual opening for Wendy Jane Bantam’s painting show.

None of those had anything to do with live music. But Basement Creators Network was perfectly positioned to do them because of its years of experience streaming from Ruhl’s basement (hence the group’s name), Christopher Steffen’s recording studio and remotely.

“We did the Storm Cellar for a year leading up to (the pandemic),” Steffen said. “We had a lot of things figured out technically by the time this all started. If you had to be in a good place at a bad time, this was it. We were able to work with limited budgets and come up with a lot of solutions to do it with a small crew, because of COVID.”

Because they were so experienced - they’d done the equivalent of 55 albums and more than 400 music videos in 2019 - the Basement Creators Network team didn’t have to learn on the fly about production and streaming while doing the pandemic events.

But Steffen did discover that high-quality work can run afoul of Facebook and YouTube.

“If your mix is good enough, you can get the algorithms to kick you off for copyright infringement,” Steffen said with a laugh. “This new platform isn’t subject to the rules and manipulations of Facebook and YouTube.”

Basement Creators Network invested much of the money made from its expanded streaming during the pandemic into new equipment, including a 4K multicamera video system.

“Once we get back working with the bands, the quality will be significantly better,” Ruhl said.

To do Lincoln Calling TV, Steffen is revamping his studio, using one of the Pershing Auditorium audio boards he purchased a few years back, doing some rewiring and bringing in some new video production equipment.

Depending on how construction goes, and to some measure the spread of COVID-19, bands could return to livestreaming as early as late December.

Those shows would, simultaneously, serve as test runs for the new setup and promotion for Lincoln Calling TV.

“We’re going to spend this next month customizing the platform, coming up with levels, figuring out the memberships and how it’s going to work, then pitching memberships as Christmas gifts,” Munson said. “We’re going to be ready to go right after the first of the year.”

Membership prices - there will be multiple levels - haven’t yet been determined. But, Munson said, they’ll be in the same range as those for music streaming services, like Spotify and Apple Music.

“Ten, 20 bucks a month; we were dropping that in a week for shows before the pandemic,” he said. “We’ll have content that will be well worth that.”

Initially, the vast majority of the Lincoln Calling TV programming will originate from Steffen’s northwest Lincoln studio.

”The bands will be done out of here,” Steffen said. “Clearly, there will be other events that will happen. If we can all get back out into the world again, I think we can assume we’ll assemble a crew and get out and do streaming at shows.”

Some of those shows will likely be by bands and solo artists from outside Nebraska, booked at local venues in conjunction with Lincoln Calling or during the festival itself next fall.

“Lincoln Calling is one of those things that, every single year, is hyperlocal,” Ruhl said. “That excludes a lot of the audience that the bands would bring to Lincoln. What this will allow us to do is stream their shows and bring in their fans from across the country.”

That alone would boost the visibility of Lincoln Calling. And, as word spreads about Lincoln Calling TV, it should enhance the reputation of Lincoln’s thriving music scene that is largely unknown nationally.

“Lincoln has always been on the edge of being Athens, Georgia, in the ’80s,” said Steffen, referring to the Deep South’s thriving music scene nearly 40 years ago. “I really hope this helps push it there. You take it online, convey what’s going on here, and people start to recognize it all over.”

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