Josh Daniel is on a hot streak. The singer-songwriter and guitarist has surpassed 160 consecutive performances on Facebook Live. In the process, he’s attracted a vast audience and has generated enough revenue to feed his family and pay the mortgage during the pandemic.
Daniel usually plays in the late afternoon Mondays through Saturdays and completes the week with a Sunday brunch set.
The performances are driving merchandise sales, he said. Before the pandemic, Daniel had one T-shirt design and some CDs for sale. He has since expanded the retail line to include more shirts plus hats, pins, patches, posters and face masks.
“Every single day, more and more people have been watching it and tipping me (virtually) and we’re rocking the merch,” Daniel said. “It’s taken on a life of its own. I’ve hired two people to work with me. At the beginning, it was driven by having a job. Now, it’s like a movement. It’s crazy, beyond my expectations.”
Along the way, Daniel has raised $10,000 through online auctions to benefit the Charlotte-based Craniofacial Children Foundation. His young son, Sonny, went through facial surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, a procedure similar to what the foundation provides to kids internationally.
It’s a way to give back. “My son had major surgery and was in the hospital for seven days when I was three weeks into this whole thing,” Daniel said.
Pre-pandemic, Daniel made a career playing multiple Charlotte venues and festivals, both as a solo performer and, for the past 18 months, as a member of Big Daddy Love, a Winston-Salem, N.C., band. The group was booked for Floydfest, Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, among a dozen festivals in 2020, before the national shutdown of venues and events.
All those events were canceled, leaving Daniel to figure out how to provide for his wife, Kellie, a yoga instructor; Sonny; and daughter Maddie. Before the coronavirus, Daniel performed occasionally on Facebook Live, building a small fan base. The virtual tips were a nice bonus but nothing to live off of, he said.
After discussing the situation with his family, Daniel committed to Facebook Live. He first thought about performing inside his home, but Kellie suggested doing it outdoors. He set up a speaker and iPhone 11 on his front doorstep and went at it. For improved sound, Daniel plugs a mobile audio interface directly into his cell phone.
Daniel says his neighbors are OK with the acoustic sets because the music isn’t too loud. Friends come over to sit in the yard and listen. Gradually, his online audience grew to several thousand viewers on Facebook. Daniel plays 740 songs, including 25 to 30 original tunes in heavy rotation along with covers. He’s equally adept at performing Grateful Dead favorites and Madonna standards.
This summer, Daniel expanded his performance venue to the Carolina beaches, where he rents a house from friends. Viewers love those backdrops he said. A double rainbow during one beach show added a nice touch.
“I get notes every single day from people that say they look forward to this,” Daniel said. “Life sucks (during COVID-19) but they appreciate it. It gives them an escape, and it gives me an escape too. It’s something that I have to do every day. Having something ‘on the docket’ is a good thing.”
Daniel may feel tired some days, but once he gets going on Facebook Live, the adrenaline flows. The audience is “throwing requests at me and feeding off each other,” he said. “It’s similar to playing an actual show. Those people are keeping me going and relying on me.”
As fall approaches, Daniel is building an indoor performance studio in his backyard for the cold weather months. It’s similar to the tiny homes featured on TV but with a small stage. It should be complete by October.
Long term, Daniel remains committed to broadcasting from his home along with performing live after a vaccine hits the market and venues reopen for live music.
“It’s tough to know what the future holds,” he said. “I’m in a good spot playing by myself and not exposing anybody else to the virus.”