The CoronaVirus is affecting people in all industries all over the world. For independent musicians, watching your livelihood dwindle with the cancellation of shows and tours can be an incredibly scary reality. We asked our friends in the industry what advice they have for independent musicians looking to keep up the momentum of their careers amidst all of the cancellations.
Get Help & Give Help
Ariel Hyatt | Founder of Cyber PR
Sweet Relief (full disclosure, I sit on their advisory board) has started an amazing fund aimed at helping musicians that are being affected by the CoronaVirus. They also have an application for assisting musicians. This is not only an opportunity to do something good – it is a chance to help other musicians, grow your community, make real connections. You can donate or apply here.
Engage With A Supportive Community
Suz Paulinski | CEO of The Rock/Star Advocate
ENGAGE WITH YOUR FANS! Work on your Facebook/IG lives, start working on your craft at home and documenting it, brush up on that video course you purchased and fell behind on (like Cyber PR LABS), get in conversations with fellow musicians in Facebook groups, basically use your time wisely at home to focus on the business and/or craft (depending on which is in most need of some TLC). Determine, aside from playing shows, what areas of your career need the most work and use this time to put your focus into that area(s).
Use this time as a gift. There’s nowhere else for you to be, so start working on the things you’ve been putting off. If you depend on that money from those shows that aren’t happening, start live streaming with a tip jar, start getting your merch store in order (don’t have a store – create an account on MerchCat!) and promote your merch, start building a Patreon community and map out content for your patrons, get your metadata in order and begin preparing to pitch to licensing libraries – the options are endless!
Still dragging your feet? Reach out to a fellow musician and create an accountability buddy, or join a program like Rock/Star Slackers to stay on track. Have the pity party, shake it off, and get to work!
STREAM IT: Bring The Shows To Your Fans
Karen Allen | Founder of TWITCH for Musicians
I’ve thought that livestreaming was a game changing way for artists to build a fan base and make money directly from that fanbase way before the current mass tour date cancellations made going online a necessity. There are a few platforms to choose from, but for a dedicated, monetized livestream community to call home, Twitch is hard to beat.
First, there is already a vibrant community of artists and viewers showing up in the music category every day. It’s all genres and age groups, though the sweet spot is 18-35. It’s also international.
Second, it’s free to stream, free to watch, and all software and services you need to produce a channel are free. The monetization is optional but FUN for viewers. They can subscribe to your channel which gets them custom emoji (“emotes”) that you design that they can use in the chat. They can buy virtual currency and spend it on making fun animations appear on screen. And, they can attach a donation to song requests. Why would they do any of this? Because it’s FUN.
If you have an audience and just want to do some online concerts with an online ticket requirement, StageIt is a great platform for that. They’ve been doing monetized livestreaming for years and they have all the chat and donation features that Twitch does. It’s not an always-on community of streamers, though. You have to schedule a show and if you don’t draw your own audience, no one will show up.
What’s never going away is how awesome it is to hang out with a great musician and other music lovers. We are so lucky that the internet has matured to the point that anyone can do this with a laptop and a wifi connection.
Kayla Coughlan | Director of Social Media & Design, Cyber PR
During this time we’ve seen a movement going around socials called #LivefromHome. This is a series of live concerts/covers in place of cancelled gigs and tours. You can use this not only as an opportunity to connect further with your fans, but to help spread love and light during this time. Music brings us all together, especially during hard times. You can learn more about #LivefromHome here.
Step Into Your Roll As An Influencer
Bruce Houghton | Hypebot, Bandsintown, Skyline Artist Agency, BerkleeOnline
Now is a time when community building is more important than ever. Whether or not your tribe is large or small, your fans look to you and your music for guidance, comfort and sometimes just for distraction. You are an influencer. Use your influence to help others in these difficult times.
Get In Tune (In More Ways Than One)
Andrea Young | DPG Worldwide
Here are a few things artists might consider while trying to keep up momentum in their careers right now. Every artist’s path will be different!
- Take stock, fine tune. You might have time now to review your and your team’s focus. Make adjustments as needed, for example, possibly spend some of your touring dollars working on your branding and further market outreach to help keep the momentum going. Put some attention on metadata and distribution to make sure all potential revenues are coming your way. Educate yourself and your team further on best practices, which continue to evolve, and which may even be introduced at a faster pace than previously, and find ways to implement them.
- Write, record, and collaborate to create music and content online. The time you might have without so many outside distractions and travel could be used to focus on producing new content in the form of new tunes, videos and collaborations, along with inventive online ways of creating these things. If you’re a DIY artist, take advantage of some of the openings that might become available with the major players in the industry possibly pulling back a bit.
- Produce and share content, and consider innovative ways to broaden your reach. For example, if you’ve been wanting to try a Twitch account, or have been wanting to reach out online to that electronic dance community in Berlin, you can possibly invest some of your team and resources now toward these new markets or new platforms, or by amplifying your existing presence on the online platforms.
- Stay connected. Share how world events are affecting your process. Connect with other artists, support everyone else in our music community as much as possible. Music helps boost people’s immune systems, and can lessen anxiety and depression. You never know how much your music might help someone make it through this time. Make it available everywhere and anywhere so it can be found!
Keep Your Audience Engaged
Jay Gilbert | Founder and Writer of Your Morning Coffee
– Post multiple videos for each song online, on a regular schedule, like every Thursday. For example, atart with a pseudo-video (the track or album artwork with the song as the audio bed). The next week post a lyric video, then an acoustic or reimagined version, tell the story behind the track. A concept video ~ it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you can’t afford to hire professionals yet, shoot it on your iPhone. A live video… you get it. The key is to create videos that are compelling and release the over time, on a regular schedule.
– Create compelling cover videos in your voice, your style
– Live streaming performances (with an audience or not)
– Create a Patreon or Bandzoogle subscription to YOU
– Do you have a compelling narrative? Reach out to your favorite podcasts or create your own
– DO NOT post “Buy my album / see my show / buy my album / see my show” ad nauseam on Social Media. ENGAGE your audience. Create a conversation, build a relationship
– This new music business is ‘always on!’ You can’t afford to have long gaps without engagement and new music, so write some more
– It’s a meritocracy, and it’s all about the song. Keep writing, every day
– “The harder I work, the luckier I get” – Jay’s Grandfather
Use What You Already Have
Emily White | Collective Entertainment, Author of How to Build a Sustainable Music Career and Collect All Revenue Streams
Artists cancelling shows should do a large blowout webcast show with online ticketing and merch discounts. This is also a good time in general to remind folks about your online merch store, instead of letting it just sit there, as that is a great way for your audience to support you when we all can’t come together for an in-person show.
You can also set up an online workshop or Q&A talk with your fans that they can purchase tickets for. It’s not the same as meeting you, but will be a cool fan experience that also generates income for you while you’re at home.
And finally, take the time to get quiet, reflect, and maybe write or record music while we’re all indoors. You can even release it if you want to! As the rest of us fans are just sitting at home too and would love to hear new music from you.
Take A Deep Breath & Get Creative
Ari Herstand | Ari’s Take
Deep breath. Shit’s scary right now.
1. Live Stream Concerts
2. Start a Patronage Hub
3. Fan Offerings
4. Teach Lessons Online
5. Continue Your Education
6. Home Studio Work
7. Get Yourself Registered (finally)
8. Write, Record, Plan!
9. Set a New Routine
Go more in depth with Ari and why he suggests the above actions on his blog.
Give Yourself Extra TLC
Jamie Alberici | Vice President, Cyber PR
During this pandemic, it is extremely important for musicians to take care of their mental health in a time when they might feel as though their careers and future have been put on hold. With festival cancellations, music venue closings, and countrywide advisories to stay home in quarantine, musicians are prone to falling into a state of hopelessness and fear. So, do what you need to give your mental health some TLC, meditate, binge your favorite series, or take a walk. Check out Billboard’s State by state resource list for industry members, click here to read more.
Be Honest With Your Fans
Melissa Garcia | Collective Entertainment
First off, make sure to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. It’s easy at a time like this to feel downtrodden, discouraged, and stressed out because of finances. The only thing any of us can do is keep pushing forward, and most importantly, create. Now that we’re spending more time at home, use your time wisely and create something, whether on your own or with other artists (we have tools at our disposal to collaborate remotely).
Secondly, and most importantly, stay in touch with your fans. I have one client who has recently discovered the benefits of using Discord and Twitch to engage his fanbase and grow his following.
Thirdly, don’t be afraid to be honest with your fanbase. Share your Patreon, PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, etc. Encourage them to buy your music directly (i.e. from BandCamp or your merch store). And speaking of merch, you can do a special sale or release a limited run of a new design.
Last, but certainly not least, get creative. You have the time and ability to get creative with your content. Use this time to think outside the box. Do you like to cook? If so, why not livestream you cooking? Are you a gamer? Twitch is perfect for that. This is the time to not only directly connect with your fans, but engage them in ways that will help us all get through these crazy times together.
- Offer private online music lessons
- Set up a Patreon if you haven’t already
- Livestream a performance on StageIt (who has just increased their payout split to 80% due to show cancellations!)
- Put out cover songs
- Set up a “watch party” where you pick a movie or TV show to watch with your fans
Create & Collaborate
Marni Wandner | VP of Digital Marketing, The Syndicate
With shows and tours being cancelled and restrictions being put on gatherings, it’s certainly a difficult time for musicians right now, especially as there are so many question marks around what will happen in the coming weeks and months. To shine a light on an upside of this shift, focus on using the time to create, whether it’s writing or producing new songs, finishing older ones, or perhaps testing out new material with your social media and newsletter followers.
Explore digital shows as well. Look into virtual concert platforms like StageIt or create your own by going live on Instagram, Facebook and/or YouTube, and even setting up a way for fans to donate to your work so that you can do more.
It’s also a good time to collaborate with partners and create new partnerships online (ie, other musicians or perhaps visual artists) – there are so many other artists in the same position and this might be a good time to make some really cool stuff with them to be released on each other’s socials to reach new audiences.
Rick Barker | Music Industry Blueprint
Take this time to do some fan bonding online. IG Live, FB Live – people are not going to be at shows, they will be even more glued to their devices. Use this time to entertain and build those relationships.
Plan For Productivity
Cheryl B. Engelhardt | In The Key of Success
- Clear off your desk
- Clean out Your email inbox. Take time for overdue replies.
- Clear off your to-do list.
- Clean your house and your studio
- Take photos of things you want to sell on Ebay or Facebook Market
- Write anew song
- Finish editing or producing old tunes
- Create a document of awesome articles and content to post on social.
- Create videos
- Performing. Talking about your songs. Messages for your email list.
- Schedule to post on FB, YouTube, IGTV, etc.
- Collect research: make a list of contacts for new venues, music supervisors, blogs and playlists to pitch. (Also, learn to pitch well.)
- Collect knowledge: start a new online course to boost your skills.
- Finish any programs you’ve already purchased. (Find some here.)
- Send your pitched to the contacts you researched yesterday!
- Create advertising campaigns to send people to your music.
- Write your RISE email series (Don’t know what that means? Watch this free training on monetizing your email list)
- Reach out to past clients, customers and check in
- Call at least two friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
- Email your fan list.
- Schedule social media posts for the weekend and next week.
REPEAT NEXT WEEK *WEEKENDS ARE FOR REST*
Jenn O’Hagan | PR Manager, Cyber PR
These days we are all wandering through uncharted territory, and it’s no doubt that it can be very scary as new developments occur each minute. During these challenging times, I think it is important, now more than ever, to lean into gratitude. I encourage you to feel and process your fears, through whatever means is most helpful for you (journaling is one great option).
But putting on paper one thing you have done or will do for your self-care that day in addition to sharing one thing you are grateful for can help keep you in a positive mindset. You can share this with your fans and challenge them to do it also or just share it with a community of close friends. Making it a group effort will help keep you accountable to the practice and reading what other people are grateful for can help you during moments when you’re struggling. Remember, nothing is too small to be grateful for.