Pandemic Entertainment Network

Musician Shelby Ballenger performed to benefit Tipsy Chicken in Sachse // courtesy Pandemic Entertainment Network
Musician Shelby Ballenger performed to benefit Tipsy Chicken in Sachse // courtesy Pandemic Entertainment Network

DFW Musicians Take Performances Online to Benefit Service Industry

Plano resident Steve Auburn first performed music for an audience when he was four years old. His first stage? A depository box at a library.

“In my neighborhood growing up, there was a bookmobile from the library that would go around the neighborhood. We’d pick out books, and then drop them in the depository box when we were done,” Steve shared. At the time, he was always singing Doobie Brothers and Stevie Wonder songs. “Some of the older kids in my neighborhood picked me up and put me on top of that depository box to sing for them,” Steve said. And the rest is history.

From there, he learned to play several instruments before the age of nine, and went on to tour with musicians for a combined 15 years. After plenty of touring and a continual love for music that lives on, Steve settled in Plano, Texas and began performing at the Cowboys Red River venue in Dallas four nights a week – where he still plays.

In mid-March when the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic began setting in, many places started shutting their doors in order to practice and encourage social distancing. “I had just performed at Red River…for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and that was my last gig in a building filled with people for a while. I just didn’t know it at the time, and the bartenders and staff didn’t know it either,” Steve said.

Plano residents Clayton Farhat and Steve Auburn perform // photos courtesy Pandemic Entertainment Network Facebook
Plano residents Clayton Farhat and Steve Auburn perform // photos courtesy Pandemic Entertainment Network Facebook

Realizing that not only his fellow musicians would be without work, but also that all the bartenders, waiters, floor staff and valet would be, too, Steve immediately began thinking on a way to help. As a result, Pandemic Entertainment Network (PEN) was born shortly before midnight on March 17.

Steve describes Pandemic Entertainment Network as “a novel concept for a novel virus.” How it works: A musician goes “live” on the PEN Facebook page, either from home or from a stage in an empty venue. That musician chooses a service worker – it could be a bartender or waiter they know – and the two split the tips that are received throughout the live show. Tips are received through apps such as Venmo, and viewers get to enjoy some live music from the comfort of their home while supporting two individuals whose incomes are deeply affected by social distancing requirements.

On March 19, Steve and another Plano musician, Clayton Farhat, played one of PEN’s first online concerts to benefit the staff at W.W. Fairfield’s Bar and Grill in Plano. On March 25 at 8 p.m., Zech Lumpkin went live to benefit Nicole Worthy – a nursing student who bartends at Brick Tavern in Sachse, Texas. Due to the fact that Zech has a day job, he was able to give all the proceeds to Nicole.

“These are two people who have never met, and would never have otherwise met, but they’re being connected in a meaningful way through this time,” Steve said. “Zech heard of us somehow, and just knew he wanted to help.” 

Zech Lumpkin performed on March 25

How to Get Involved

If you’re a musician and you’d like to get involved, pick someone in the service industry you’d like to pledge, choose the day and time you’d like to perform, then send the PEN Facebook page a message with your info including tip app links, the name of your pledge, where they work and what their role is. From there, PEN will add you and all of your info to the event calendar. Ensure that your pledge, fans, friends, and family share your event, and then when the time comes – entertain the people, knowing you’re helping yourself and a fellow worker.

If you’re a service worker, pick an entertainer you’d like to have sponsor you. Share with them the process of getting in touch with PEN, and support your sponsoring musician by sharing the event on your social media platforms and tuning into the show so you can like, comment, and share it with others.

If you’re not a musician or service worker, but want to be a part of a positive, impactful response to the COVID-19 pandemic, be sure to go like the Pandemic Entertainment Network Facebook page, and stay tuned for the next show.

Pandemic Entertainment Network >
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