March 2020 -- The Laugh Beyond Anxiety
We are watching Every. Single. Carefully booked. Gig, camp, and public appearance in our 2020 projected earnings budget disappear. It is shocking, so shocking that when I talk with a colleague about it and they ask “Are you stressed, How are you holding up?”
“This, this is just so much, and so ridiculous all I can do is laugh.” I tell him. “If we had one cancelled booking or a poorly attended show I would have stayed up nights worrying about how to make up that missed income, but this is laughable.”
At the end of February we had a neat spreadsheet of tidy numbers and plans of expansion to new cities and venues. We’d even started building up a little savings for the kids!! This would be the...
...Year that we open our email each day and watch thousands of dollars in cancellations roll in. And then we say but by July… but by August… but by…
Eventually the formal cancellations stop coming. They don’t even warrant an email,
we all know,
without being told,
that nothing is happening.
March 2021 -- The Curiosity
We have booked two live events and a couple more are brewing! For perspective’s sake we normally book 40 + events in January and February. Winter is the months of renewing contracts, booking venues, negotiating prices, and planning our budgets.
Now the feeling of confirming these two events is exciting and alien. Will they really happen? What price should we quote now? Pre-pandemic prices, or is there some new kind of code that we need to follow?
The way our business structure has worked for a decade is that we offer many “free to the public” events. And because of this thousands of people come and see us over the course of a year. It’s a low bar for entry, free and easy to access. Which is great! We love this! We feel so blessed. We have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of public and private institutions who pay us to perform so you can come and enjoy the show for free. Yay, win-win.
After you attend a free event we convert (by convincing your perfect little children that we are soooo much fun) a small number of you to become paying customers: you buy our merchandise, attend our Jeff and Paige Summer Camp, go home with an album and sing “The Opera of Giardia” incessantly for weeks and then come back and see us again. But in the past year without this level of scale and the ability to connect in person and make eye contact it has been difficult to keep ourselves afloat.
March 2020 -- The Adrenaline Rush
We are running around in our pajamas between seas of toys and screaming children as we smile pretty for the camera. Or in more formal terms: We are launching the Jeff and Paige On-Demand Science and Nature Curriculum.
From our basement
with an Iphone
a small tripod,
and one intrepid support staff, (shoutout to Meav)!
As with most things during the lockdown the initial excitement wanes as we all realize this is our new normal. It’s both a synchronous (***new pandemic buzzword alert!*** ) and asynchronous offering.
Our life goes from:
- Packing props, costumes, sets, and sound gear
- Rehearsing skits and live music
- Traveling to different schools and venues
- Setting up
- Smiling at and singing with live human faces
- Video production schedules, editing and shot lists
- Buying HD cameras and 100 foot ethernet cables
- Light set ups for camera shoots and live streaming events
- Creating a tech support system for online members
- Lesson planning for our virtual classroom
- Marketing and promoting this platform and retaining members.
All of this not with some well thought out strategic plan but with our pants on fire! Just GO! Okay now try this!
Never mind, what about this?!We’re about to go live, just push the button and now... sing! Dance! Try to keep the kids attention!! While you perform, look not at the smiling and receptive faces of children, look at your own self dancing.
your bra strap is showing,
you forgot to put your rainbow socks on
is there a booger in your nose?
There are not enough hours in the day as we juggle the kids, onboard new members, shoot videos, cry when members leave, and stick a tripod in our (and our children’s) faces on a daily basis. The first time we have a babysitter come to watch the kids, sometime in May, we perform a show in the backyard and go for a walk by ourselves on a nearby trail.
It is cool and rainy,
the green leaves were beginning to unfurl.
Maybe we can breathe easy again someday.
March 2021 -- WHAT NOW?!
We’ve come a long way since March 2020. Our live, virtual shows now have graphics, different camera angles, special guests, customized backgrounds, interactive crafts, audience polls, and more. There are elements of our online offering that I am certain we will keep in the long term. When I look at the list of skills and knowledge we have acquired in the last year, it’s rather impressive. And now we’re at this other new and uncharted place in the “live performance artists meet pandemic that prevents live gatherings” story.
Friends and fans have started writing and asking if we are going to be hosting our Jeff and Paige Camp or offering live events outdoors as the weather gets warm. And the answer is tricky.
No camp is not happening, though we hope to return to it in 2022.
Yes, some live events will happen, but most of the city and community organizations we are working with are doing a scaled back version of what they would in a normal summer, or they are calling 2021 a wash as they wait for a more certain return in 2022.
We will be slowly planning our year in a way we never have before, catching the events that we can and working out what events we can do in conjunction with our partners and sponsors. We will also offer some paid options as we did last summer with our Camp Granite Lake Concert Series: You buy a spot, we divy the spots out in a field and we cross our fingers that the weather holds.
A Shifting Business Model --Community Supported Music
Most of us have heard of Community Supported Agriculture: “a system in which a farm operation is supported by shareholders within the community who share both the benefits and risks of food production.” ~Google Dictionary.
And some of us have heard of Community Supported Restaurants, same idea except it’s a restaurant. I am proposing for our new and ongoing business model that Jeff and Paige need to become, through just a small further (**pandemic buzzword alert**) pivot, a Community Supported Music Group. (CSM).
So in a CSA model you get your veggies every week, but if the frost comes early and all the crops die, you don’t get anything. You assume the risk along with the farmer by investing in their infrastructure and helping them make ends meet despite the uncontrollable nature of the weather and the effects that has on crop production. In a CSR model you pay up front for some meals that you will enjoy later in the year, or a special drink that you get when you come into dine.
In the Jeff and Paige CSM Model we ask you to invest a monthly amount (or pay annually and receive a 10% discount) to allow us to provide you with live fun free events that will happen at some undetermined date in the future. In the meantime you get access to the online offerings we have available (depending on your level of financial commitment you get more or less of it).
Now, I know that the 2-8 year old audience can be finicky. I have watched our son, Wolf, binge watch (with parental controls of course) one show for three months and then suddenly decide that Paw Patrol is not for him anymore, (oh thank goodness). But Jeff and Paige, we are NOT Paw Patrol, yet :). So just like the farmers down the road, we are asking for a commitment despite your child’s craving of the moment, an assumption of a tiny amount of risk.
We hope you open up your Jeff and Paige Members Only email and think “Yum! sun-ripened tomatoes,” not “Oh no it’s parsnip season.” We hope your kids are enjoying our virtual offerings.
We are working our tails off to make content that is innovative, interesting, and true to the heart and soul of our nature-inspired music.
I don’t know when our “regularly scheduled programming” will resume. What I do know is that your investment will make that regularly scheduled programming possible when it does become a reality again. In the meantime we can offer you clever and inspiring music, funny antics, nature activities that you can do at home, hands on science experiments, live science and nature lessons, and a great desire and enthusiasm for teaching your kids about the natural world using costumes, theater, and occasional laughing attacks during video shoots (all me).
Community Supported Music feels like a good fit for Jeff and Paige. In the words of one of my idols, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Sign up here to start your membership and invest in joyous fields of dancing children.
I would be remiss in writing this article if I didn’t mention the grants from Boulder county, Boulder Library Foundation, The City of Boulder Parks and Recreation, our continued contract with Open Space and Mountain Parks, personal offers of donations, love notes of support, some accompanied by checks, ALL of our current members (some who've been with us through every step) and organizations like Thorne Nature Experience who have helped us through this last 12 months. Without you I don’t know where we would be or if Jeff and Paige would be. From the bottom of our hearts, Thank You.
And for those of you who’ve had an even harder time financially then we have and / or who’ve been hit by the loss of loved ones because of the pandemic, which has claimed so many thousands of lives, our hearts go out to you. And for any families affected by the recent tragedy in our beloved hometown. Contact us. Let us know what we can do to support you.####