With venues closed all over the globe, it can be daunting for struggling musicians to get their music back out into the world. Everybody is taking to posting live-streams on the web, but it can be difficult to get noticed in a sea of web pages and social media apps.


Fortunately, for artists who want to perform live again, and for those that want to hear live music, there is Social Distance Fest, a Facebook group dedicated to offering a one-stop platform for musicians, performing artists, visual artists, and fans.


"I'm Cool" by Basik Lee

Socially Distant Fest was founded by Georgian and ex-Constellations band member Jake Allen. The Facebook group launched on March 16 and rapidly accrued 18,500 members in just 48 hours. Since then it has grown to over 160,000 members.


Performers can take advantage of an “open mic” format where they can connect with viewers around the world and earn tips in the process. There are an average of 250 performances a day and artists have earned as much as $500 and 24,000 views from a single set. For artists who want to decline tips, they can solicit donations for the 501(c)3 non-profit MusiCares, through which a generous donor has offered to match donations up to $1,000 on the Socially Distant Facebook page.


With massive submission rates, the SDF administrators have been organizing huge, all day virtual showcases every Sunday. To participate, submissions can be made at howdy@sociallydistantfest.com.


No festival is complete without vendors, so SDF also offers the Socially Distant Fest Shakedown Street & Art Fest subgroup where people can sell and purchase band merchandise, art, and hand made goods.


Savannah music veteran Stephen Baumgardner, AKA Basik Lee, has been taking advantage of Socially Distant Fest’s ease of use and broad reach.


“I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback and a lot of love reaching out,” said Baumgardner. “And shoot, it’s a world audience. When I do it on my [Facebook page] it’s just with my audience that I already have, but this opens up a whole new world of a completely different platform to just have fun with.”


Although he has been a central figure in the local hip hop scene for 16 years — as part of Dope Sandwich and Ambrose, hosting regular hip hop nights at The Jinx, and doing DJ sets — Baumgardner is also a singer-songwriter and has been using SDF to stretch out on guitar.


“I’ve seen a couple of rappers on Social Distancing Fest and I want to be doing that,” said Baumgardner. “It’s just one of those things where I’m really into my guitar lately, the singer-songwriter stuff. I recorded a couple of new tracks that I put out, hip-hop wise, but I felt more comfortable on that platform doing it that way.”


“This is one of those platforms I actually like playing guitar and showing off what I’ve been working on on that end.”


So far, Baumgardner has done a few impromptu sets on SDF, and appreciates how it can be as casual and stress free as you want it to be.


“I’m probably going to jump on today,” said Baumgardner at the time of this interview. “Really, even though it’s not probably good practice, I just catch a feeling sometimes like, ‘I just wanna play right now,’ and jump on. It gives me a nice outlet to play, and some people tip, which is greatly appreciated, especially now because I don’t know when I’ll have work again.”


“I’m just trying to be safe. I’d love to get back to work right now, but this has been a great outlet. Especially, connecting with some new people from around the world. You never know what’s going to happen every time you step in there. It’s great environment of artists and musicians, and even people who just appreciate it.”