Gage House Show
by Susan Marquez
Ben Gage has always loved music. The Akron, Ohio native even played in a bluegrass band with his brother for a while. When the band broke up, as bands often do, Ben decided he wanted to get into songwriting. “I was leaning on the community heavily for feedback,” he says. “I went to a lot of open mic nights and I met people of like mind. Many of those people have become some of my best friends.”
As a songwriter, Ben says he prefers to share his music in a more intimate setting. His house is not very big, but it is large enough to have a few folks over to listen to his songs and the songs of his friends. He began recording the performances, then editing them and putting them online for the musicians to use as they wished. “The videos were a blast to make, and it helped me to get to know the musicians better.” Once the Covid pandemic hit, the video recordings morphed into a repeating livestream.
“Before Covid, the house concerts were held roughly every fourth Thursday. We would normally have about twenty people in attendance, and we have had up to thirty. When Covid came along, that was shut down. It was devastating to the musicians.”
Ben says that while it is not uncommon for a musician to retreat to recharge, they get meaning from social interaction.
“I wanted to think of something to keep us all connected.” Looking to the work of streaming tech events, the wheels in Ben’s brain began to turn. “I watched people who streamed video games. I discovered that there were some wonderful ‘how-to’ videos and I realized I could adapt that to music.”
First Ben took an assessment of his camera equipment. “It was my phone and a webcam,” he laughs. He borrowed a friend’s camera, and he got a switcher where he could switch between four different camera angles. Then he got a dedicated mixing board. “It started as a hodge-podge little show, but now it looks very professional.”
The show is called “Live With” and is streamed on a newly formed website: www.gagehousesessions.com. The shows are livestreamed weekly at no charge to anyone who wishes to watch.
Each live-stream concert features three to five musicians. A “Behind the Sessions” section is included on the website with a question/answer segment with a featured musician. The concerts are broadcast primarily from Ben’s home studio as well as a twice-monthly bluegrass Gospel show streamed live from the historic Bronson Church in Peninsula, Ohio. The shows are co-produced by fellow musician Daniel Rylander.
It has never been about money for Ben, who does what he does for the love of music.
However, understanding that artists have been challenged during the pandemic, he has set up a membership program through the patreon.com platform. “I don’t like asking for money, but this is a way for people who enjoy watching the show to help support the artists.” Levels include “Music Lovers” for $3 monthly, which includes streaming the joy of knowing you are supporting live music. The “Music Stream Enthusiast” level is $10 monthly and includes work-in-progress updates, general support, a gear list of equipment Ben uses, and live question and answer sessions. For those who really want to help things happen, the “Patron of the Streams!” membership level is available for $20 monthly and includes everything in the previous levels as well as having your name added to the wall of supporters in the studio, visual credits in certain streams and videos, as well as reduced and early tickets to private livestreams.
“We look at it as a sort of virtual tip jar,” says Ben. “It’s also a way to connect with our viewers. I’ll do Zoom calls with the members, which is a lot of fun.”
Ben says he has been fortunate to have a job with a tech company doing audio/visual work. “I used to travel to do events, but that has stopped for now.
”With only five states to go before he can say he has been to all fifty states in the United States, Ben says he misses traveling. “I also go to Barcelona every year, which is something I really enjoy.”
While he doesn’t mean to be selfish, Ben says that the show has helped with his music. “It’s also given me a stronger-than-ever passion for music, and it encourages me as a musician.” Ben looks forward to hosting house concerts again and believes it will be a flawless transition to livestreaming his in-home concerts. “I never dreamed we’d get the kind of support we have enjoyed. We have had receptive audiences from the northeast Ohio area and beyond.”