At the time of writing this, the world is experiencing a situation that has never occurred in the history of humanity. It’s affecting the majority of countries of the world, some very directly and others less directly because of what’s happening in the broader economy. The movement of people all across the world has slowed right down to almost zero, and international travel exists only for essential goods and services.
The world is a different place.
For musicians who have been evolving in the rapidly changing music industry, the decline of physical record sales and the rise of streaming services, live music has become the dominant source of an artists income in recent years. The pandemic has overnight put a hold on social gatherings and has thus directly impacted this major source of income for musicians.
While we all bunker down and wait for this to pass, which it will, what productive actions can musicians take under the current restrictions to come out with a more versatile version of themselves?
1. Learn more about the industry
Some say ‘knowledge is power’ and they’re right. The more you understand about the music industry the better position you put yourself in to succeed in this crazy business, so why not use this time to fill your brain with some music industry knowledge. Here are a few resources that I’ve found useful:
“Your band is Virus” by James Moore is one of the greatest books I’ve read on the subject of DIY musicianship. It’s an inspiring book and also speaks the truth about what it takes to make it as an indie musician. There are fantastic resources in the book that paint a beautiful picture of what is available in the market to aspiring musicians.
“Music Business” by Shane Simpson and Jules Munro is, in my opinion, one of those books that must be on your bookshelf. You could read it cover-to-cover, but I found it’s rather a resource to look up very specific questions you have regarding the music industry. It is specific to the Australian music industry so do keep that in mind.
Cyber PR is a company who offer resources, services to musicians and they also have a great podcast. Arial Hyatt who owns the company has been involved in the industry for many years and is very well connected with industry experts thus much of her experience is shared in her articles, resources and podcast. She shares a lot of information for free that I have found extremely valuable.
Music Business Facts is a podcast hosted by Rodney Holder. Rodney has extensive experience in the industry from being the drummer of the psychedelic metal band Alchemist to teaching music business at TAFE. He’s done it all and brings this knowledge into his podcast where he interviews some of the biggest names in the music industry. His interviews seek to extract tips and advise for aspiring musicians and people interested in the business of music. In my opinion, go to episode one and listen to them all, it’s a treasure chest of valuable information.
2. Map out your plan
When things open up and they will, society will go back to some version of its former self and musicians will need to plan as to how they’ll make the most of this. Having a plan will be critical for success. There are different ways to do this and many resources out there to help you put together a solid plan. Choose a method that works for you, but get something down on paper.
The way I like to do it is by having one massive goal, then some long term goals which lead up to the massive goal, short-term goals that make up the long-term goal which is further broken down into daily tasks.
Let me give you an example of what this looks like in a summarised format:
- Massive goal -> Sell out Wembley Stadium
- Long-term goal -> US tour
- Short-term goal -> Release a studio album
- Short-term goal -> Australian tour
- Short-term goal -> Open up for well known Australian band
- Daily Tasks -> Write new music 45 min, Practice with band 2 hours, Make a social media post, send an email about a gig opportunity, Set-up computer for OBS Studio.
Your daily tasks obviously will change as you progress, but they are the actions you take daily to get to your short-term goals. I learned this from Andy Frisella and you can listen to his podcast explaining this in detail here. He calls it ’The Power List’. It works for me and is my go-to method of moving forward with purpose. I encourage you to check out the podcast and then give it a try.
3. Work on your craft
At the core of every successful artist is the work. Although marketing, presentation and a well-rounded campaign are essential for success as an artist, it needs to be backed by a solid product; the music. No matter what level we are at, there is always that next level to be reached.
This then is a perfect time to round any rough edges you have in your performance, skills and repertoire. If you’re a musician at a level where you’re performing and writing music, I’m sure you are already aware of how to work on perfecting your craft, but there are a few little tips I will throw out here as someone is who is growing and learning as I go myself. I’m only at the beginning of my journey and offer these tips very humbly as there are much more qualified to do so.
- Review your performances – Either past performances or record yourself specifically for this activity. This is so that you can identify small imperfections that you can work on to get just that little bit better. Was there a chord that had a note muted? Was I unengaged from the audience? Could my vocals have been more dynamic?
- Watch the pros – Watching your favourite artists doing it big can reveal little tricks they do in their performances. Listen to documentaries and interviews to learn from the masters. How do they communicate on stage and queue songs? How do they transition between songs? How do they engage with the audience?
- Get feedback from a master – It’s harder when starting as you likely don’t yet have many connections in the industry, but if you have access to someone who is well experienced in the industry, reach out for some feedback and be prepared to take the feedback on-board. There is so much value that can be gained by being humble and extracting the truth from a well-intentioned critique.
4. Go live online
Although the options have existed for many years, I’ve seen a massive shift during the pandemic for musicians to use social media live platforms more and it’s fantastic to see. Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Twitch are now buzzing with music. It’s a very different experience to being at a live gig but in a positive light.
The comment functions within the platforms open up a new level of engagement with the audience. Your audience can watch from almost anywhere in the world. You are in full control of when you do your gig and you can do this from the comfort of your setting.
I believe we’re seeing a new dimension shift to the way people watch live music. It’s early days of the shift, but I believe we’ll see the technology get better and also new technology breakthrough making the experience for the artist and fan only better.
I would encourage you to explore the various platforms and find one of the ones that work for you. You could set out your schedule and go live regularly when it suits you. You can set up and an awesome backdrop and invest in good equipment to make the experience aesthetically and audibly pleasing to your audience.
Even after the pandemic has passed, this will still be a great way to engage with fans all across the world and will open up a new world of performance to you.
5. Support other musicians
Musicians are feeling the pinch of losing probably their primary source of income; Live music, due to the current restrictions and could use all the support they could get during this time.
If you’re in a position to buy some merch or music I’m sure it will be very much appreciated, but as many people are being impacted financially during this time, financially supporting someone else may not be an option. There are however many other ways to support a musician.
- Share a post
- Watch an online live gig
- Stream their music
- Share their music
- Follow them on their social media
- Watch, share and like YouTube videos.
It all helps, goes a long way and best of all, it’s mostly all free.
Thanks for reading. If you found any value in this post, please share with someone else who may find value in this. If you have any questions, please hit us up where we’re most active; Instagram @builtinfiremusic