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Intimate sets on Instagram

It’s an extraordinarily difficult time for working musicians. With so many festivals and shows cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including Splendour in the Grass and Bluesfest, it’s also a difficult time for lovers of live music.

In late March, 146 musical artists took part in an extraordinary live-streaming festival. Isol-Aid was staged over two weekends on Instagram, and featured Stella Donnelly, Julia Jacklin, Angie McMahon, Chitra, Clews, Spacey Jane, Hayley Mary, Middle Kids, Alex Lahey, Courtney Barnett, Alexander Gow (Oh Mercy), Sarah Blasko and Gena Rose Bruce.

From noon to midnight on March 21-22 and again on March 28-29 artists played 20-minute sets on their Instagram accounts, from wherever they were practising self-isolation – bedrooms, bathrooms, lounge rooms, studios. Viewers were encouraged to donate to Support Act, which provides relief services for music industry workers facing mental health issues or financial hardship.

The festival was well presented with clever graphics, clearly listed set times and a link to the fundraising page.

More than 3,000 people tuned in to watch Courtney Barnett, Sarah Blasko, Stella Donnelly and Julia Jacklin. Jacklin’s “Head Alone” seemed especially apt at a time of physical distancing: “So I’ll say it ’til he understands/ You can love somebody without using your hands.”

Melbourne-based soulful rocker Chitra (@chitramusic) and the mesmerising Gena Rose Bruce (@genarosebruce) performed impressive solo sets. Their respective debuts, Chitra (2020) and Can’t Make You Love Me (2019), are highly recommended.

Gena Rose Bruce said: “It was wonderful, a really different experience than being live, but it still felt really intimate with audiences. It was a great distraction from everything that’s been going on. I loved watching other artists, it felt so personal and I loved seeing a different side to them. I’m keen to do more of it – it pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to perform my songs in a new way. And obviously, it’s an amazing way to raise money for Support Act!”

Organised by Rhiannon Atkinson-Howard (aka Merpire), alongside industry figures Emily Ulman and Shannon Egan, Isol-Aid raised more than $44,000 for Support Act. Artists saw a boost in upwards of 400 new followers to their socials.

An Isol-Aid statement reads: “If they are in the financial position to do so, viewers are encouraged to buy music and merch from the artists’ Bandcamp and Patreon pages, and their websites.”

Isol-Aid keeps happening!

See @isolaid for details.

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