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SoundCheck: Social Media Keeps Musician Brian Bulger In Business During The Pandemic

Courtesy of Brian Bulger

In 2019, singer/songwriter Brian Bulger released a full album that led to success, both playing shows and in his online presence with Spotify. He felt like he was doing well with his new music career until 2020 hit.

“Find a new way to do music,” he said. “I feel like one thing that was good, though, that I’ve seen more success with the online part of it than I had with playing shows, so, I was kind of already used to relying on that. So, when 2020 hit, I was like, well I guess I can just do what I’m doing now, but I just don’t play shows.

“You know, it has been a crazy experience, but – and it has been better than I expected it would be – but, there’s kind of like this loneliness in the music industry now, longing to just be with people and share songs and there’s that community aspect that’s kind of lacking. So, that’s probably the hardest part.”

Bulger points out that image has played a big part in music over the years.

“I really don’t really like that about it as much, but you know, a lot of the famous musicians of the past are famous because they were kind of pushing their image and also pushing their personality. It wasn’t just the music, it was the culture thing that they were changing. They were changing the culture. So, I’ve noticed that social media with music is, you know, you don’t just go on there and say, ‘Hey, I released this song, will you guys listen to it?’ It’s like, you have to build a fanbase around the vibe you’re putting off, if that makes sense,” Bulger said.

“And I think it does pull people to listen to the music on Spotify. It encourages them because they’re like, ‘Oh, well, you know, I think this guy’s a nice guy, so I feel comfortable listening to his music,’ or, ‘I feel motivated to listen to his music,’ because I think if they didn’t quite know who I was, if they didn’t have an idea of what I was like, I don’t know if there’d be as much of a pull to actually experience the music.”

For 2020, Bulger was looking to do a smaller project than he had tackled the year before, so he decided to record an EP. It was before the coronavirus pandemic when he started work on the recording. He finished a song and produced a video for it, just in time for the pandemic to hit.  

“I released this music video and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is going to be great. This is a big push for me. I’m going to really try to get a lot of press with this,’ things like that,” he said. “But, in literally the week leading up to releasing the music video, everyone on social media was just concerned about coronavirus. And so there was just not a lot of room to talk about music. It kind of felt awkward to be like, ‘Yeah, I know the world’s freaking out, but will you guys listen to my song?’

Later in June, Bulger decided to make a video for his song “Don’t Go Gently” during the pandemic with some help from his friends and fans. He asked people on social media to send video clips of anything that made them feel fully alive.

“Which is a very vague or broad thing, but I got a lot of really, really, really cool submissions for that and I was really inspired by that. So we just pieced them all together and we also did some recording of me and Ellie Schmidly, the artist that was singing with me on the song. But the point was to just make something that made people feel together even if they weren’t together. And also made us kind of feel like we were all sharing in something together, even though I couldn’t even play a show.”

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.