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What happens to the live music capital of the world when there’s no live music?

'You're not allowed to stop': How the universe aligned for Austin livestreaming company Safehouse

Sean Green and Eric Heiert pose in Safehouse's Austin studio.
Michael Minasi
Sean Green and Eric Heiert founded the livestreaming production company Safehouse in 2016.

The livestreaming production company Safehouse has showcased some of Austin’s best live bands since 2016. It’s known for doing shoots with multiple cameras and good audio quality, streamed in real time.

But over the years, the founders’ understanding of their livestreams has evolved.

“We would describe Safehouse before as a digital concert,” cofounder Sean Green says. “When the reality is, actually, it's more of an interactive music film.”

The company has worked with Austin artists Trail of Dead, J Soulja, David Shabani and the Dead Coats. This year, Safehouse was nominated for the “Best Online Series” award in the Austin Chronicle’s annual Austin Music Awards.

Livestreaming has not always been so popular, though, and Green and his partner, Eric Heiret, considered putting their business on hold right before the pandemic hit.

“Then the entire world shut down and SXSW got canceled,” Green says. “And then there was this sort of almost universal message of like, ‘Oh, you think you can stop? You're not allowed to stop.’ Like the universe is going to align when it has to, and you have to be the ones to really keep this going and to teach people and to just provide an opportunity for as many people in the space as possible.”

Livestreaming became a necessity for musicians who were looking for a place to express their creativity and fans who were longing for live shows. Local artist Jackie Venson livestreamed for at least an hour a day for 50 days after SXSW was canceled in 2020.

If she hadn’t, she says, the “shock of how drastic everything was” would have overwhelmed her.

“I think it was like a defense mechanism to put myself to work,” she says. “So the first 50 days were just a blur.”

While most artists were trying to find their way livestreaming on social media, other artists reached out to companies like Safehouse to help them put on larger productions. The adjustment from performing in front of a live audience to performing in front of a phone, camera or computer wasn’t easy for everyone; there was a lot of learning involved.

That was the case for Heiert and Green, too, when they were first navigating this space.

“Some of the shows didn't end up going live because of internet issues, blowing power, you know, just maxing out our spaces as much as we could,” Heiert says.

Eventually, he says, they found ways to get beautiful images and great audio together in real time.

“It has been just like a juggling act that you only get good at by doing 200 shows,” Heiert says.

Safehouse is taking a break from doing new shows, but you can check out five years of content it produced at its website or YouTube channel.

You can hear Safehouse’s story, along with other stories about livestreaming, by hitting the listen button above or tuning in Wednesday at 10 p.m. when the Pause/Play episode “The Art of Livestreaming” airs on KUT.

Miles Bloxson is a producer and host for KUT 90.5 and KUTX 98.9.
Elizabeth McQueen is an audio producer and podcast host at KUTX 98.9, Austin’s NPR music station.
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