Calgary’s Revv52 ensemble evolving throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Ensemble Revv 52 performing a live show before the pandemic. Photo provided by John Morgan.

Pop and rock ensemble group Revv52 is exploring uncharted waters later this May.

The Calgary-based group is experimenting with livestreaming their performances for the first time.

This switch in mediums brought unique challenges that wouldn’t be thought about in normal live shows. However, it also brought new opportunities for collaboration, formed new partnerships, and gives Revv52 the potential to reach new audiences.

In April of last year, Revv52 and many other performance groups and artists were left reeling. Restrictions on live shows left them without a steady income.

John Morgan, artistic director for Revv52, recounts the feelings of the group when the new reality set in.

“In March 2020, we started to meet on Zoom. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We’re a tight, close-knit family, and they rely on these rehearsals and being together for their own wellbeing. At first, it was a challenge, asking ourselves, ‘what are we going to do?’ That’s why we decided to make some virtual videos. There are some members of the group that haven’t met the older members because we’ve had to operate in such small groups.”

This shake-up, while seemingly catastrophic, presented the group with new opportunities.

John Morgan, artistic director for Revv52. CONTRIBUTED

New partnerships

In December of last year, Revv52 teamed up with Ryan Northcott, co-founder of the production company Mediapop. The actor and producer helped Revv52 produce several Christmas music videos. This team-up was unlikely, Northcott said. But it led to a fruitful partnership that continued into the new year.

“We’ve lost a lot of business throughout the pandemic, no doubt. But at the same time, this situation has allowed us to create things we may not have been able to create before. Even working with Revv, I don’t know if we would’ve necessarily worked with Revv if it wasn’t for the pandemic,” Northcott said.

The pandemic is forcing groups like Revv52 to adapt and so they decided to start production on something they had never tried before: Livestreaming. This has become a popular medium for artists in the pandemic world, but for Revv52, this was a first-time event.

Even video production was something that Morgan and the rest of the team had never worked on before. It was born out of necessity. It started as a foreign concept, but now the performance skills in the group have increased dramatically, as they begin to feel more comfortable with filming.

Music video production

Now that these methods have been tested, it’s making Revv52 question why they never worked with people like Northcott or companies like Mediapop. This shift has expanded its audience base considerably. Morgan notes it would take “thousands of concert performances to get the kind of eyes on our content that we’ve been generating through these videos.”

To prepare for the livestream, Revv52 and Northcott continued to work together. A series of nine music videos were shot over two days. Northcott said it provided a chance for some evolutionary steps in production.

“Usually with a live show, you’re all together. In these circumstances, the 52 members are split into separate groups, practicing outdoors, over Zoom. In some ways, it’s an opportunity. If it had been nine songs in one show, the whole ensemble would’ve been together. Now because there are nine separate videos, those groups of 10 get to create something unique for each video. It was a hidden opportunity to flex some creative chops.”

Actor and producer Ryan Northcott, co-founder of Mediapop. CONTRIBUTED

Livestreaming

So, the livestreaming experiment has begun. Last fall Revv52 did some virtual video releases, which garnered more than 500,000 views. Morgan is hoping that momentum will carry over to the livestream performances.

With this new format comes new challenges. The timelines are much different compared to normal shows, with pre-production beginning much earlier.

Technological challenges are a hurdle as well, as Morgan notes.

“With the stream, we want to make sure we are going to a service that is going to have the right amount of bandwidth. We want the quality on the user end to be high. Regardless of where they are streaming it.”

The quality of a show is always something to worry about. Now even if the quality of the show itself is high, there is a chance the user experience will be subpar for unrelated reasons.

A positive benefit is the possibility of Revv 52 acquiring a livestream audience outside of Calgary.

Over the past year, Revv52 has been featured on some international television outlets. Entertainment Tonight in the States, even in unexpected places like Finnish national television. Morgan hopes this means viewership will rise.

“We are wondering if we will see more ticket sales from across the country, even in other countries because of that exposure. It also gives a chance for our performer’s families to see the show, which normally wouldn’t be an option for them.”

Moving forward

Although the benefits of livestreaming at this time are evident, both Northcott and Morgan don’t foresee it becoming a trend in the future.

“I don’t think livestreaming will ever replace live concerts. But I can imagine a hybrid of live shows and streaming being expected by audiences. Those who want to stay home or those who are not in Calgary will want the option of a livestream,” said Morgan.

The livestreams being put on by Revv52 start on May 14 and are going to feature locations from across the city. Each video will have 10 of the 52 members performing, allowing for creative mix-ups of different members.

Tickets can be found on their website.

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