When the live music industry ground to a halt in early 2020, legendary rockers Styx quickly pivoted away from their planned tour to focus on direct engagement with their more than one million fans who are members of the online Styx Lounge.
As the band increasingly made remote collaboration and fan outreach a daily practice, bassist and self-described gearhead Ricky Phillips noticed that one component in his Austin, Texas home studio was limiting the experience: a barebones webcam.
“Music is my life, and video communication has brought artists and fans closer together than ever before,” said Phillips.
“From websites where we can share or post videos, music ‘magazines’ that host performances, online video fan clubs, the ability to record Master Classes and more, video has become a crucial tool for musicians to connect with fans and create new opportunities,” he said.
Phillips’ $100 store-bought webcam “seemed good enough when we first began working from home,” he said, “but when I recognized that video would be my main mode of visibility for the foreseeable future, I knew a more professional solution would make the experience far better.”
ClearOne Helps Styx Bassist Connect
After speaking with fellow gearheads and industry partners, Phillips discovered the ClearOne family of Aura videoconferencing cameras and microphones.
Now, using a UNITE 200 PTZ that features programmable movement presets for automated filming, a UNITE 50 4K ePTZ camera that provides full room coverage and a CHAT 150 speakerphone, Phillips has a professional-grade, multi-angle home office videoconferencing solution.
“Not only does the true HD image blow away my past cameras, but it’s a huge advantage to have point-tilt-zoom (PTZ) models that can be adjusted on-the-fly with a remote, or even be programmed to automatically move as video records,” he said.
“I’ve used this to film short clips where I’m talking or playing, but the camera can move or refocus to highlight records on my wall, the neck of my guitar, or anything else I want to focus on,” said Phillips.
With two cameras, Phillips can instantly switch which camera view is presented, and can direct each camera to focus on whatever he wants using the remote control.
Zooming in on something specific is smooth and easy, and introduces new creative opportunities for recording, collaborating and creating content—and that’s something the band and their management can appreciate.
Staying active and visible during 2020 was vital for the band, as was taking effort to support crew members who were out also of work. To that end, the band held a live Q&A Masterclass in December, with proceeds benefiting the crew.
Other support for crew included proceeds from additional merchandise such as a cookbook and T-shirts.
“When we do something like a Q&A Masterclass, it’s all about the fans,” said Phillips. “Especially now, when the funds are going to support our crew, our family, making sure that we put on the best show we can is priority number one.
“The video has to be crystal-clear, the audio has to be excellent, and any steps I can take to make the experience better for fans is worth it. I no longer wonder if the experience is the best it can be. I know it is,” he said.
The CHAT 150 speakerphone delivers audio capture for both conversation and recording, thanks to its built-in HDConference audio technology. What’s more, the plug-and-play simplicity of the entire system means that Phillips can and does take this superior video and audio solution on the road when necessary.
“Now whether I’m staying in a hotel on tour, working in a studio or otherwise away from home, I can bring the professional-level experience with me and provide partners and fans with reliably excellent quality for all types of remote collaboration and communication,” Phillips said.
In the future, Phillips hopes to expand digital interactions even further and has considered the potential for new revenue streams possible through recordings, lessons, more involved fan offerings and more.
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