When the live music industry ground to a halt in early 2020, legendary rockers Styx quickly pivoted away from their planned tour to focus on direct engagement with their more than one million fans who are members of the online Styx Lounge. As the band increasingly made remote collaboration and fan outreach a daily practice, bassist and self-described gearhead Ricky Phillips noticed that one component in his Austin, Texas home studio was limiting the experience: a barebones webcam.
“Music is my life, and video communication has brought artists and fans closer together than ever before” Phillips said.
“From websites where we can share or post videos, music ‘magazines’ that host performances, online video fan clubs, the ability to record Master Classes and more, video has become a crucial tool for musicians to connect with fans and create new opportunities. My $100 store-bought webcam seemed good enough when we first began working from home, but when I recognized that video would be my main mode of visibility for the foreseeable future, I knew a more professional solution would make the experience far better.”
After speaking with fellow gearheads and industry partners, Phillips discovered the industry-leading ClearOne family of Aura videoconferencing cameras and microphones for a monumental upgrade in quality, functionality and ease of use. Now, using a UNITE® 200 PTZ that features programmable movement presets for automated filming, a UNITE 50 4K ePTZ camera that provides full room coverage, and a CHAT® 150 speakerphone, Phillips has a truly professional-grade, multi-angle home office videoconferencing solution with endless possibilities.
ClearOne Aura offers a comprehensive range of Good, Better, Best packages of enterprise quality audio, video, audio-video home office solutions options and a free COLLABORATE® Space lifetime subscription, the award-winning video collaboration app.
“Once I saw the quality and special features ClearOne’s Aura cameras and microphones offer, my decision was basically made,” Phillips said. “Not only does the true HD image blow away my past cameras, but it’s a huge advantage to have point-tilt-zoom (PTZ) models that can be adjusted on-the-fly with a remote, or even be programmed to automatically move as video records. I’ve used this to film short clips where I’m talking or playing, but the camera can move or refocus to highlight records on my wall, the neck of my guitar, or anything else I want to focus on.”
With two cameras, Phillips can instantly switch which camera view is presented, and can direct each camera to focus on whatever he wants using the remote control. Zooming in on something specific is smooth and easy, and introduces new creative opportunities for recording, collaborating and creating content - and that’s something the band and their management can appreciate.
Staying active and visible during 2020 was vital for the band, as was taking effort to support crew members who were out also of work. To that end, the band held a live Q&A Masterclass in December, with proceeds benefiting the crew. Other support for crew included proceeds from additional merchandise such as a cookbook and T-shirts.
“When we do something like a Q&A Masterclass, it’s all about the fans,” Phillips said. “Especially now, when the funds are going to support our crew, our family, making sure that we put on the best show we can is priority number one. The video has to be crystal- clear, the audio has to be excellent, and any steps I can take to make the experience better for fans is worth it. With the Aura cameras and microphone that I’m using, I no longer wonder if the experience is the best it can be. I know it is.”
The 1080p UNITE 200 and UNITE 50 4K ePTZ cameras aren’t the only showstoppers here, however. The CHAT 150 speakerphone delivers superior audio capture for both conversation and recording, thanks to its built-in HDConference™ audio technology. What’s more, the plug-and-play simplicity of the entire system means that Phillips can and does take this superior video and audio solution on the road when necessary.
“Now whether I’m staying in a hotel on tour, working in a studio or otherwise away from home, I can bring the professional-level experience with me and provide partners and fans with reliably excellent quality for all types of remote collaboration and communication,” Phillips said.
In the future, Phillips hopes to expand digital interactions even further and has considered the potential for new revenue streams possible through recordings, lessons, more involved fan offerings and more.