Twitch isn’t just for gamers anymore. In 2016, Eric Heiert, Sean Green, and Joe Gerhard launched Safehouse, a music livestreaming show that introduces Austin bands to fans all over the world. They’ve showcased over 400 artists over the years, and at 8 pm on Wednesday, they’re shooting their 100th episode.
In the early days, the team had little more than a spare room and a couple of webcams. The first episode was a rollicking eight-hour party flowing with free beer and reverberating bass. Music lovers tuned in to Twitch and let loose at the show but, like the first episode of Austin City Limits, that piece of history was never fully recorded. You just had to be there.
Eventually, with the help from Twitch employee Sean Green, the team got a sponsorship from the livestreaming platform. They upgraded their equipment, found a new studio, and started recording shows every Wednesday. Today, all of the magic happens at Spokesman, a coffee shop and craft beer bar off St. Elmo Road. Fans can watch the show over a local lager in South Austin or in their living room on the other side of the planet.
Safehouse artists don’t just benefit from the extensive exposure. They also receive audio files and high-quality videos from their performances. For any DIY band, that’s a pretty appealing incentive. But even though Safehouse produces glistening social media content, co-founder Eric Heiert said that’s not their first priority.
“There’s nothing wrong with [producing content], but I don’t think it’s necessarily anything new.” Heiert said. “And I think a lot of times it’s just adding to a lot of noise that’s already out there.”
Instead of focusing on collecting likes, Safehouse wants to cultivate an authentic community that grooves with audience interaction.
“With livestreaming, you’re getting to know these artists on a whole other level.” Heiert said. “[Bands] can, without the support of a label, reach an audience in Australia or France and talk to them right away. We’ve had bands play our show and then get booked in Florida.”
The music industry, Heiert said, is due for an upgrade. Safehouse wants to dust off the traditional models for success and do away with the gatekeepers.
“When you take out a lot of the meddling in the middle, it allows whoever’s watching to decide what your art is worth,” Heiert said. “I think that is what we’re offering that the traditional route doesn’t.”
Safehouse isn’t exclusive when it comes to genres and styles. Viewers can experience everything from shimmering chamber orchestras to cathartic garage rock. Their 100th episode features the dreamy shoegaze stylings of Blushing, Semihelix, and Dottie. And, if you haven’t noticed, they’re all full of talented female musicians. But this isn’t the equivalent of the persistent “Women in Rock” issue. Safehouse is anything but a boy’s club. This is where you go to sink into some mesmerizing music and come out a fan.