Creating digital artist “green rooms” & hosting live performances with DigitalOcean Droplets

Inspired by COVID-19 and with the support of Hub for Good, a group of creatives with no former dev experience taught themselves how to architect a platform for streaming live performances in support of artists – and to inspire audiences –  in difficult times.

Customer StoriesGarden Collective

Garden Collective – creating digital artist “green rooms” & hosting live performances with DigitalOcean Droplets

Inspired by COVID-19 and with the support of Hub for Good, a group of creatives with no former dev experience taught themselves how to architect a platform for streaming live performances in support of artists – and to inspire audiences – in difficult times. Here's how they did it.

A History of Hub for Good

Since we launched our Hub for Good in April 2020, we’ve been in awe of our community’s impact-driven responses to some very pressing global issues. From a global pandemic to racial injustice to climate change, we’ve watched as individual developers, nonprofits, universities, and companies have brought forth ideas for technologies that have endless impact potential. Using curiosity, community, and technology, the innovations – across countless initiatives – have been incredibly inspiring. It’s an honor to watch the brilliant minds that make up our customer base and community effect change, all over the world. 

As folks applied for infrastructure credits through our Hub for Good grant program, we read every application in detail, giving us a deep insight into the causes our community cares about. One of the causes that came to our attention is the effect of COVID-19 on artists, performers, creatives, and the music industry at large. As venues, festivals, and entire cities closed, performing artists and other creatives who rely on event venues and a gig economy were left with no way to engage in group settings – for rehearsals, performances, or income – the trifecta of an artist’s livelihood. With in-person rehearsals, collaborations, and live shows canceled for an undetermined amount of time, artists and artist allies have spent months coming up with creative, well-architected solutions that support creators from all corners of the globe.

We’re eager to introduce one of these artist allies (aptly made up of both artists and technologists) who has leveraged DigitalOcean technologies as part of their tech stack to provide evolving resources that help artists thrive in uncertain, physically distant times.

About Garden Collective  

Garden Collective is a group of technologically bootstrapped creatives leading initiatives to support artists through the challenges of COVID-19. It’s a (physical and, now, digital) space where ideas are brought to life – where creators ranging from poets and jugglers to multi-genre musicians and painters join lineups that surprise and wow audiences from all over the world. 

Meet the Garden Collective team 

Comprising four multidisciplinary folks with almost no prior background in technology, Garden Collective is an artists’ organization turned digital performance platform based between Lisbon, Portugal and Cork, Ireland.

Eden Flaherty: Writer, Editor

Emmet Coleman: Videographer, DJ

Eddie Ivers: Graphic Designer, Sound 

Niall Hearne: The “everything guy,” including Graphic Designer, Videographer, DJ

Garden Collective’s key mission: 

With a community of multidisciplinary performers coming from all corners of the world, Garden Collective brings artists, performers, and creators of all kinds together, while introducing audiences to new genres and diverse experiences.  

They help artists gain exposure, while also ensuring they are paid for their art. Before COVID-19, their mission was carried out via in-person events. But once the pandemic swept westward and led to the cancelation of their first festival, their focus shifted to creating a collective digital space that could maintain artist support, host uninterrupted, quality live performances, and continue to create diverse experiences for both artists and audiences. 

Garden Collective sought to:

  • Preserve the talent who was scheduled for their festival, which was canceled due to COVID-19
  • Continue to provide a space for artists of all kinds to perform, while ensuring they are paid for their art
  • Provide audiences with diverse lineups in a digital space, allowing them to organically discover new artists
  • Keep the Garden Collective ethos alive during lockdown, while maintaining a sense of inspiration and collectivity through uncertain times

Garden Collective Gaff Parties: lessons in imagining, learning, & launching a live performance platform

The first Gaff Party was launched as a way to support the artists who were part of Garden Collective’s Lisbon-based festival which was canceled due to the pandemic. But with little technical background, the team found a steep learning curve – and that recreating a physical event in a digital setting was much harder than originally thought. 

After trying a few prebuilt options with other providers and finding those options both expensive and overly complex, Eden decided to dive in headfirst and teach himself how to create what they envisioned. 

Eden spun up two Droplets – both of which were running Ubuntu and Nginx with a modified RTMP module. One of these became the primary Droplet, serving as an artist ingress channel. Garden Collective used this to pull artists from around the world into their streaming software, with the artist’s name as a streaming key to add a touch of personalization. This enabled them to carry out soundchecks, check video streams, and then combine multiple artist streams into a single Garden stream. The outgoing stream was split between two CDNs, YouTube and Twitch, with the latter acting as a backup should they need it (though they didn’t). The second Droplet served solely as a place for testing and backups.  

All in all, the team began architecting this setup with no prior development experience, teaching themselves through community tutorials and trial and error. And their self-taught and designed architecture worked really well, with this technology and event framework becoming a blueprint for ongoing digital events hosted by Garden Collective.

Garden Collective architecture

From analog days to cross-geography performance: looking to the future

Garden Collective has found that they’ve been able to preserve authenticity and artist/audience connection, which they think is key to recreating a sense of community within digital performances. In one live performance, an artist broke a string. But it wasn’t a fiasco. In fact, it was quite the opposite. 

open quoteIt kept the feeling of being at a gig. He broke his string mid-set, which created this ‘oh no’ moment. But he stringed up the guitar and talked about his music. And this is exactly what we want. When things go wrong, people react. Having the imperfections is beautiful because it’s authentic.close quote

Niall Hearne

Graphic Designer, Videographer, DJ

Technology has continued to provide hope to both artists and artist supporters. Niall elaborates, “It’s beautiful that technology allows us to do this — bringing this new discipline that we’ve never done before because of these restrictions, which has bred creativity.” 

DigitalOcean Hub for Good: connecting innovators with resources to inspire the greater good

If you’re building a nonprofit project or startup that needs resources or visibility, we encourage you to reach out to apply for grant support through our Hub for Good, designed to help elevate mission-centered initiatives and bring impactful ideas to life.

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