After postponing his Australian and New Zealand tour dates due to COVID-19, musician Marc Rebillet turned to what he knows best – livestreams.
To make up for the shows he was missing, Marc put on four free live stream concerts at the same time they would have been locally in Australia and New Zealand. But he wasn’t stopping there. He took things one step further and launched a t-shirt fundraiser, donating all proceeds to the GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund. The end result was over 3,000 shirts sold and $34,859 raised.
We caught up with Marc to learn more about his craft, what inspired him to do these shows, and of course…to talk robes.
A Quick Note
This interview contains the use of explicit language. If you’re not into that kind of thing, we recommend checking out another one of our community interviews.
You have a very distinctive style when you perform both in person and when you stream. Can you describe your visions for them and talk about what makes them unique?
Marc: You know, I get this question quite a bit and my answer is always pretty disappointing because my thought process is very much reflective of the show itself in that there’s very little thought behind it. You know? I’m very much an instinct-based person and I always have been and the show has sort of evolved that way.
I never had a plan for what the show is going to look like or be, all I knew was that I was going to make songs up on the fly, and the rest just sort of became a product of that. I’ve been doing streams this way for the last year and a half or two years, and the Quaranstreams that you’ve seen are exactly the same as the ones I’ve been doing for a long time now. But, you know, just sort of framed in a different context.
But I feel like it’s really given it new life just by virtue of us being where we are right now. Everyone is at home right now looking for something to do, looking for answers, or inspiration, or boredom cures, or whatever that might be. So I guess I’ve been very lucky in that this model that I’ve been doing now for quite a while is very much suited to our current situation.
But that’s pretty much it. The way I present myself is the result of just years of honing whatever the hell it is I am and whatever my musical tastes are, and my comedy instincts, and all of that. But it’s all just off the cuff like you see in the streams. I’m just making it all up as it goes along, and so my thinking with all of this is very much in line with that.
If someone asks you what you are, do you say that you’re a musician? Do you say that you’re a comedian? Like what, what are you defining yourself as?
Marc: I generally say I’m a musician because, I mean, all of this is very much couched in music at its foundation. My priority is on the music sounding good, and if I am successful in that, then I’m allowed to act like an idiot over it, you know, because there’s like this legitimising music that gives credence to the absurdity.
How has COVID-19 affected you?
Marc: It’s affected me the same way it really affected everyone, especially financially. What I’m doing now with these live streams is half a product of me wanting to play to the Australian public when I couldn’t make it over there, and the other half being a mad dash for me to figure out how I’m going to make money during this time.
The vast majority of my income comes from live shows, and I rely on that income, pretty heavily. So when I had to postpone the tour dates in Australia and New Zealand that me and my agents planned over the last six, seven, eight months, I really had to scramble to find a way to maintain my quality of life. All of these Quaranstreams are very much just a haphazard manifestation of that.
Why did you choose to go the route of free streaming performances when so many other artists were charging fans to watch their streams?
Marc: Oh, that’s interesting! I didn’t know that. I know there are platforms that do that and I considered it very, very briefly, but I’m doing it for free because that’s the way I’ve done it, and it would feel weird to me to all of sudden hide behind a paywall. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not the way I internet – it never has been. Plus, if I put it behind a paywall, I wouldn’t be able to reach the 20,000 people that I reach when I do these live streams. And, those are just excellent numbers that I really wouldn’t be able to get if I said, “hey, go to this weird fucking website and pay like 10 bucks and then you’ll be able to watch me.” It’s just not the way I do things.
So instead what I’ve been doing instead is looking for brand partnerships and sponsorships. I found a sponsor for my second Quaranstream and they cut me a pretty lovely check to have their brand represented on the screen for the length of the stream and to talk about them in between songs. It worked out really nicely.
What inspired you to pair your free streams with new merch to raise money for the GlobalGiving Coronavirus Relief Fund?
Marc: Originally, I had Ryan Boch make me that design and I was just going to sell it and keep the money. But I was talking with a few people that were like, you know, you should donate to a cause. And so I went on Charity Navigator and just did a sort of cursory look around at what there was and I found GlobalGiving who has a specific fundraising initiative for Coronavirus. And I was like, well, this is kind of perfect. So I decided to attach it to that.
After your first concert stream you had raised over $10,000 and it’s continued to go up. How did you feel when you saw that?
Marc: Fucking insane. You know, I did merch with you guys a while back when my audience was much smaller and I was thrilled with the numbers then. But this is on a whole other level. So I was thrilled when I saw those numbers, and hopefully we can keep that going. It’d be great to raise $30,000 or $40,000 by the end of this.
You’ve been gaining a lot of social shout outs from musicians like Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg. Was that surprising to you?
Marc: The Wiz shoutout wasn’t as surprising because he’s followed me for a while and he’s posted my stuff before. But Snoop, yeah, that was fucking insane.
It’s just really cool because it’s really just me running things. I don’t have a social media manager or a PR or a manager at all. I just have agents. So part of what I do is obsessively make sure that I’m on top of my social and checking my DMs. Like, the sponsor for the second Quaranstream would never have happened if I hadn’t checked my Instagram DMs.
So, for Snoop, someone deep in my DMs tagged me saying Snoop just shouted me out. So I go over to Snoop’s page and I comment so that people can see who it is in the video and then followers come to me. It’s all very shocking and bizarre. The whole thing.
What made you choose Bonfire to host these merch campaigns?
Marc: Because you guys are so quick. That’s your ACE in the pocket. I mean, I upload a design, I set a date, I press the launch button and then I have a campaign. And I can just do it all myself without anyone’s input or contracts or deposits or any of that bullshit. It’s the fastest way to get merch up that I have seen, and that paired with the way your site looks, which is very clean and well presented. That’s why I chose you in the beginning and that’s why I chose you in a pinch.
Now I’m working with some other people to make like a family of merch products that’s a little more robust and higher end. But if you need a shirt and you need it now, there’s no better way. It’s just the shit.
You have a few different designs available by a few designers. Are they fans? Do they submit this stuff? Do you go find them? What does that process look like for you?
Marc: They’re all fans, each and everyone. Except for Ryan Buck, who designed the Quaranstream shirt and is a friend of mine. But all of the other designs that are in my merch store were done by fans. They either tagged me in a post that they drew or they submitted it to my subreddit. So I messaged them and I say, this is fucking dope and I ask them if I can pay them for the design. You know, because I want to make it into an asset that I can use, and they are always more than happy to do that.
John Rubio, who I think is a professional designer, gave me his design for free! He was just like, yeah, man, you know, I’m just happy to make this for you. I’m just extremely lucky to have the fans that I do because they’re talented and they’re enthusiastic and they’re very nice people.
What are your plans beyond the Quaranstreams for performances and shows to continue making a living in this time?
Marc: Brand partnerships, sponsorships, and production, that’s big for me right now. I’m working with some rappers to produce beats for them and that’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time so this is the perfect excuse to do that. I’m trying to expand my reach and venture into a part of hip hop that I’ve never been able to penetrate until recently because I’m getting some shine from some of these rappers.
So production, brand partnerships, and just continue trying to innovate but hopefully I won’t have to do that for too much longer. We’ll all be good citizens staying inside and this virus will die.
What’s the most creative or inspiring thing you’ve seen people do during the quarantine so far?
Marc: I live at the South street Seaport, which is right at the Southern tip of Manhattan by Pier 17 and right on the East River. Beautiful. It’s just right on the East river. And this morning I went on a run down the pier and I was listening to this piano concerto and there were just a few people out. It was like a ghost town, which you never see here. It was surreal. And there was a woman sitting at the edge of the pier reading a book and there was a gentleman sitting on a bench with his child, and as I passed these people, we all shot each other glances like, it’s understood how fucking weird all of this is. But we’re all still here and we’re all together and I feel like we’re more connected in this insanity than we ever have been. It’s just a really beautiful thing to see.
I can’t really think of one particular project that someone’s done, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of easy answers for that. Like there’s a lot of celebrities that have been doing cool shit, but more just the general vibe of all of this. That is the most inspiring thing to me. Like, God damn, we are all just, we’re in this together, whether we like it or not. And it’s, it’s kind of beautiful. It’s morbid and beautiful.
Obviously we love apparel at Bonfire, so we have to ask, do you have any robe brand recommendations?
Marc: Yes! Kim & Ono! It’s a family owned and operated company based out of San Francisco, and they make hand painted silk kimonos that are absolutely beautiful and not crazy expensive. They’re like a couple hundred bucks, but they are extraordinary quality and really beautiful. I have four of them and I wear them on the streams. They’re just amazing.
If you want to learn more about Marc, we recommend checking out his merch store on Bonfire, or following him and his musical adventures on any of his social profiles listed below.