In-person performances have come to a halt because of social distancing procedures.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

In-person performances have come to a halt because of social distancing procedures.

March 30, 2020

Cornell’s Online Content Creators Innovate in Quarantine

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Like all members of the Cornell community, circumstances have changed for its online content creators. But orders to stay at home and a shift to online learning have given Cornell’s artists and entrepreneurs more time for their non-academic work.

With society social distancing, performers have to maneuver the absence of live audiences. While some, musical, theatrical, or otherwise, have difficulty replicating their work online, others are seizing this moment as an opportunity to make isolation-based content or rekindle past projects.

Some artists, like Skyler Holzman ’22, are choosing to center their work around this unique time in history.

Holzman used some of his time off to launch a podcast: Isolation! A Collegiate Coronavirus Conversation. He has released 17 episodes since March 17, hosting one-on-one conversations with students from various universities including Cornell, Fordham and Emory. Episodes are typically 20 to 45 minutes long.

Holzman said each conversation centers around the guest’s thoughts and feelings during isolation.

“No one’s really doing anything,” Holzman said. “Everyone just has their own thoughts going on. Everyone’s in their head.”

Holzman uses the podcast to reach out to old friends, as well as to connect with strangers in similarly isolated circumstances, who he said have been more eager to talk than usual.

“I think people are definitely more introspective and more insightful,” Holzman said, “and definitely more willing to open up, since we’re all closed off from our friends, at least in person.”

Holzman said he plans to take advantage of rising traffic on social media sites and all realms of the internet, which are seeing increased profits and traffic recognition.

He said podcasting, as an “alternative form of content,” has much to gain from the growing demand for online content and engagement. Unlike more popular forms of media, such as YouTube videos, he said that podcasts want for a larger audience.

Nicholas Robinson ’21, a rapper and music producer, agreed that widespread boredom will give new audiences to online creators. They said people have become “really innovative” with how they’re trying to push their content.

Robinson produces and promotes music under the stage name Overflow. They released their first album, Failed Yuppie Lifestyle, in October 2019 and plan to release their second, Mainline Revelations, on April 3 — moving the release up from its previously late-summer scheduled date due to show and school cancellations. They continue to promote their music online through their Instagram.

However, Robinson expressed their concern over changes in the music industry. Musicians and performers may gain a larger online audience from homebound users, but restrictions on public gatherings due to coronavirus shutdowns could seriously jeopardize certain artists and aspects of the entertainment industry.

They said all of their live shows were canceled, removing a major source of their income. Robinson said merchandise and music streams — on venues such as Spotify — are far less lucrative.

A likely recession, Robinson estimated, will do nothing to help the music industry.

“People don’t want to buy things,” they said. “Music is seen as a luxury, and people aren’t going to spend money on concerts if they can’t buy food.”

Similar to her peers, Valerie Hu ’23 plans to use her time in quarantine to pursue passion projects on the internet. She has worked to revive her YouTube channel while stuck at home, using her free time to edit and upload videos.

On March 19, she posted an acoustic cover of Modern Loneliness by Lauv. Hu plans to release more music-related content, especially covers, taking advantage of access to her guitar and a lack of roommates to bother.

Coronavirus shutdowns have caused political, economic and personal tumult, but many creators refuse to let this demoralize them. Some even innovate on the shifting terrain of today’s internet climate.

“My mindset is no matter what happens, keep on going,” Robinson said. “Because it’s really easy to stop.”