General Guidelines: PMN Online Song and Poetry Swaps

PMN members may register to perform in any number of upcoming weekly song swaps.  Those who register are given a private link to a Zoom Video Conference, which is normally provided 2 days before the event.

Technical Requirements: To participate, your computer must have:

  1. a functional camera.
  2. a functional microphone.
  3. a high speed internet connection.  

Improving the Audio Quality of your Performance

  • Learn the Basics of Music on Zoom.  Watch a 10 minute webinar on "Improving Audio Quality for Live Musical Performances on Zoom".  This video distills the basic tips and tricks that first timers need to know.  The key elements are microphone quality, internet connectivity, Zoom advanced audio settings, and microphone placement. 
  • Explore more about improving the audio quality for your performance.  Using your computer's built in mic with Zoom's default audio settings is sufficient to participate and be heard, especially if your performance involves just the human voice.  The sound of a person singing or talking normally comes across on Zoom somewhat better than a telephone.  Zoom applies audio compression filters to the sound of meetings by default.  These filters are effective at reducing background noise, but they also recognize the frequencies of instruments and backing tracks as background noise, causing the frequencies they use to sound distorted.  It is possible to significantly improve the audio quality of both voice and instruments by using an external USB mic or a USB audio interface device.  (See PMN member discussion forum on, "What kind of External USB mic are you using to play music live online?").   Once you have the hardware in place, there is a setting in Zoom called "enable original sound", which removes Zoom's default audio compression.  Learning these tools helps improve the sound of your performance.  Please see here for a useful and simple tutorial about how to enable original sound in Zoom.       
  • Compare your sound with other set ups.  You can create a free account on Zoom that allows you to record videos and hear how your sound comes across to others when using different settings and equipment.  I recorded a video that shows how audio quality improves by enabling "original sound" and using an external USB microphone, starting with the worst set up and moving steadily to the best set up. (Enter this password to unlock it: P9.0v1!B).

Tech Run Through for Performers:  Registrants receive an invitation to participate in a tech run through, which normally runs from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EST) on the night before each swap. We discuss how to get the best sound when sharing music on Zoom.  Each person will have a chance to sing a verse of their song and receive feedback on ways to improve audio quality.  While perfection is not expected, artists who are new to zoom are strongly encouraged to attend this, because it can be a big confidence builder to learn how to use these tools.  Our goal is to put on a good show for the other performers and the broader audience tuning in.

Facebook Live Broadcast:  To enable a larger audience to hear these swaps, we export the video feed from Zoom to a Facebook livestream.  With or without a Facebook account, anyone can tune in to the livestream by going to PMN's Facebook page.  

Registration Deadline: Registration normally shuts down at 8:00 PM two nights before the swap takes place.  (For example, the deadline to register for a Friday swap would be Wednesday at 8:00 PM).  Be sure to register by then!

The Performer Line Up: Based on who registers, a final line up of performers will be released by the morning before each swap takes place.  (For example, the line-up for a Friday night swap will come out Thursday morning.)

Prioritizing First Timers:  Priority will be given to PMN members who have not yet performed in one of PMN’s online swaps or who have not done so recently.  Additional considerations for selection include racial, gender, and age diversity. 

Time Limit:  Each person gets 5 minutes max.  Extra kudos to those whose performances come in under time!  Keep intros brief, but tell us your name and where you live.  The majority of songs by singer songwriters are in the range of 3-5 minutes, and we can accept up to one song in this range.  In some poetic and musical genres, it is common that artists will perform shorter pieces of 1 or 2 minutes.  For the PMN Online Song and Poetry Swap, in order to respect everyone's time and keep the audience engaged throughout, the important thing is that the performance as a whole including introduction not exceed 5 minutes.

Wait Lists:  Every registrant not selected to perform will be added to a waitlist, which we will begin to go through, if time is available.  Each swap is limited to 2 hours.   Waitlists don't automatically carry over from one swap to the next; you must register for each individual event that you wish to participate in.

Regular Sign Ups:  PMN members are encouraged to sign up for as many songs swaps as they wish to participate in.  If you wish to participate every single week, that is great!  Please indicate this by registering for every song swap we are holding.  Since newcomers are given priority, please don’t worry that your registration will take a space away from someone else who wants to perform.

If we start getting many more registrants than we have spaces for, we’ll consider adding additional weekly swap dates.  PMN plans to continue hosting these swaps for the foreseeable future, as long as doing so continues to sustain and grow our diverse political and artistic community. 

Our goal is to maintain these regular online swaps as a vital and exciting space, especially during this pandemic when almost everyone is struggling with the effects of imposed social isolation.  To reach this goal, we need "regulars", because they help define this online music sharing space as uniquely characteristic of the values of People's Music Network.   We also need new people to join this space, because they represent the dynamism of an evolving network and they are, potentially, the new "regulars". 

Topics and Themes:  For some swaps, the theme is intentionally quite broad.  For others it is more specific.  Please consider the theme when choosing which song or poem.  The goal is to create a sense of shared meaning.

Sharing Lyrics:  The registration form gives you an opportunity to upload the lyrics of the song or poem you are sharing.  If at the time when you register, you’re unsure what piece you plan to perform, you can leave it blank.  You may send an e-mail to <> with the lyrics you'll use up until noon on the day of the swap.  All lyrics will be added to a google drive folder, which will be made available in the chat box during the swap.  The goal of sharing lyrics is to encourage sing along during the swap and also to make it easier for others to sing and refer back to the songs that were shared.

Upcoming events

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