WHEN heavy restrictions were put in place effectively closing down the Port Macquarie-Hastings hospitality industry, a community of creatives banded together to offer pub-style entertainment and gigs online.
Under the Original Sound Lounge banner, the online initiative was created by artists for artists to support locally-owned venues with music and art in 2017.
"We transitioned our already established showcases and festivals online literally overnight and have been running concerts in a virtual pub-style since March 2020," spokesperson Pam Hata said.
"We showcase every Friday from 6pm and Sunday from 5pm with the addition of a dedicated locals night kicking off this month (May) to meet growing demand.
"You can find us live on our Facebook page or find us on Instagram and YouTube."
The May virtual pub line-up offers up an outstanding list of local performers who will perform live online between 5pm and 8pm on Friday and Sunday.
So what is a virtual pub?
The virtual pub feels just like a live gig at your local, only in your loungeroom and the reviews are great, Pam says.
It's a place to meet up with friends have a socially distanced beverage. It's a place where you can listen to and interact with great local live talent. It's a place to stay socially connected.
"We saw our audiences grow by one thousand members in the first week," Pam said.
"Our movement inspired many more similar groups to pop up nationally and we are now working closely with them to improve their own practices according to our professional standards with protecting our artists' interests and market worth front of mind.
"As a result, we saw artists interest skyrocket in April as we offered career musicians a real solution, a small glimmer of hope for those faced with complete loss of livelihood.
"No one could have known what a success our innovation would prove for artists in need. It's nothing short of a miracle what these guys have pulled off."
Armed only with PayPal links and hopes and dreams, the group proceeded to curate, promote and execute showcases.
"We are now fully booked for the year with talks of this platform being a permanent feature for our artists in future to supplement their live gigs and tours when restrictions are lifted," Pam explained.
"It became clear at the start that to assist our community further with lockdown restrictions now projected to remain in place until September, we needed to roll up our sleeves innovate and go the extra mile by offering a series of workshops including an easy 10 step online process on how to go live for everyone from a beginner who has never touched a computer in their life, to an established artist with a solid online presence.
"We did an eight week pilot and saw fantastic results with artists earning between $100-$600 for an hour long set and no previous go live experience.
"We now run workshops teaching our processes every Tuesday at 2pm via Zoom and special on demand session with our industry professionals in audio and video media who have a wealth of knowledge to offer to help see players put their best foot forward online with us."
The Original Sound Lounge is now looking to pair up with local businesses who want to match their takeaway food specials with their favourite acts as a pub show deal for listeners.
The initiative has also opened nominations for the 2020 Battle of the Bands.