Calgary-based Curbside Concerts is spreading across the country
How a business borne out of the pandemic has turned into a national success
Calgary-based company Curbside Concerts was an idea that started from "panic mode" at the start of the pandemic, says president and co-founder Amanda Burgener.
Gigs dried up almost overnight, making it difficult for musicians to pay the bills.
"We just had the rug pulled out from under us. All of our income was gone and we had to think quick," Burgener told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.
Burgener, a flautist with the Calgary Wind Symphony, and her husband, country singer Matt Masters, came up with a plan: Bring the music to the audience and perform on their front lawn or sidewalk.
Over a year later, the idea has taken off. From one stage built on the top of a minivan, Curbside Concerts has grown almost nationwide, with plans to keep playing even when remaining health restrictions lift.
When the couple started playing gigs and word got out, they were inundated with requests, said Burgener.
"We quickly realized that we need to delegate some of this out," she said. "So we started passing along the gigs to our community, our friends, fellow musicians, anyone that was in the area."
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Concerts are booked through their website. People can choose a specific artist or genre, as well as the time for their curbside concert.
The company takes an admin fee to run the website and pay for insurance, but artists keep the rest of the money, as well as gratuities.
Burgener said they see people bringing out their family, friends and neighbours to watch the shows and support local artists.
"It really brought up people's hopes and spirits. It brought the community together and we just ran with it."
Burgener said they realized the model could work in any city where there's a musician who wants to play for an audience. Outside of southern Alberta, they now organize concerts in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, London and Hamilton.
And they're making a push to go further east to make the company truly nationwide.
Not just a pandemic company
Although Alberta has dropped almost all of its public health restrictions, Curbside Concerts will continue to bring gigs to people's yards and sidewalks.
"We had to ask ourselves, 'Are we just a pandemic company kind of filling in the gap until the venues reopen?'" said Burgener.
This past year, they played at a lot of celebrations of modified events: wedding anniversaries, weddings, birthdays and graduation parties. She said there's still a need for this model of music.
"We are definitely sticking around," said Burgener. "We found a new demographic of music lovers that hadn't ordinarily gone to a late night show at a bar or a club."
She said that bringing music to people's yards takes away many of the challenges of going out — like getting a babysitter, finding a parking spot downtown and waiting in lines. Instead, families with kids or elderly relatives can all enjoy music together, in a different environment.
"People wanted something a little bit more intimate, something a little bit more comfortable."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.