During this unprecedented time, it’s understandable to feel powerless. With gigs being cancelled and social distancing eliminating key sources of income, you may feel like your career is paralyzed. But there are plenty of things you can be doing right now to be productive and take actions that will fortify your career against the inevitable financial downturn ahead.
I’ve heard it said that in a crisis, out of every 12 people, five will retreat and bury their head in the sand, five will freeze like a deer in the headlights, and two will pivot and start taking steps forward. Those two will be the ones who emerge with a solid career and a stable income after the dust settles. Here are some ways you can start moving forward and be one of those two who recession-proof their career and thrive in the “new norma.”
Diversify Your Income
I’ve spoken with several musicians over the last month who are still bringing in a stable income despite the effects of the pandemic. The common thread between them is that they have cultivated multiple sources of income. In fact, the average number of income sources is 4, and some reported as many as 8.
It’s common for musicians to have jobs outside of music. That is one way to diversify, but what about within music? And what new sources should you consider during this “shelter at home” period?
Some income sources you may not have considered include online teaching, creating a mini course, livestream concerts, pre-recorded concerts for fans, paid Fan Club, online merch sales and bundles, home studio work, blog writing (for pay), voiceover work, custom songs for fans and many more.
The musicians who have already done this have not experienced a dip in income over the past few months. If you teach music, get comfortable teaching on platforms like Zoom or Skype. Develop an onboarding system to help your students learn the technology and feel at ease with the new format. Create a “virtual toolbox” with materials like exercises, lesson plans and accompaniment tracks so your students feel completely supported. Taking these steps now will not only ensure that you make a smooth transition from in-person lessons to virtual without losing any income, but it will prepare you for the new economy following this crisis where virtual teaching will undoubtedly be an important piece.
Build Relationships With Fans
If you’ve lost gigs and income sources during this shutdown, one thing you’ve probably gained is time. The best way to spend that time is building relationships.
This is the perfect time to invest in building strong relationships with your fans. Encourage fans to reach out through DM or to comment on social posts. Be diligent to reply to everyone. Make yourself available to them by going live more often. Ask engaging questions. Ask for their requests and suggestions for upcoming offerings like livestream concerts or behind-the-scenes footage.
The time you devote now to building authentic relationships with your fans may increase income in the short term through donations and special fan offerings, and it will surely impact your future income from sources like crowdfunding, streaming, ticket and merch sales and fan club subscriptions.
Build Relationships with Fellow Musicians
I encourage you not to think of other musicians as competitors but as potential partners. This is a great time to reach out to local musicians and non-locals who share a similar style and vibe with yours. Be a cheerleader. Show up on their livestreams and support them. Ask them to collaborate in some way like doing a private online concert together for your combined fans or setting up a cross-promotional giveaway.
The relationships you forge now may blossom into future partnerships for co-writing, gig swaps and collaborative tours.
Build Relationships with Venues
Venues are hurting just as much as artists right now, if not more. They’ve got rent, employees and bills to pay even though they can’t sell tickets. And because their venue is dark, they may be spending more time on email and social media which makes this a perfect time for you to forge a relationship.
First off, reach out to them in the spirit of encouragement and gratitude. Thank them for all they’ve done for the artist community over the years and encourage them that when this is over, people will be more excited than ever to attend live shows.
Then offer to help. Think about how you can serve them right now. Could you do a livestream from their page and invite your fans? Could you organize a roster of artists for a virtual concert for their audience? The acts of kindness you offer now will not go unnoticed when it’s time for those venues to open up their calendar and start booking again.
Expand Your Skill Set
Remember that course you bought a while back that you were super excited about but didn’t have time to focus on yet? Time is the one gift we’ve all received during this crisis. Make the most of it.
Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn that will enhance what you already do musically like play a new instrument or sing in a new style? Or maybe you’d like to improve a skill you already have. Do a songwriting challenge. Take an advanced guitar workshop. Do a music theory deep-dive. Learn how to mix and master in your home studio.
And then there are skills you can learn that may lead to new sources of income in the future. Have you thought about pursuing music licensing? This is a great time to learn from someone who’s had success in that area about how to write for licensing, find opportunities, pitch and master metadata.
If you have a home studio, take some courses on your specific software, mixing, mastering or other studio techniques. Invest in your skills now and you can pursue new income streams later like demo work, voiceover gigs, or recording and mixing for other artists.
The artists who thrive in the post-pandemic economy will be the ones who don’t retreat or freeze during this shutdown. It is crucial right now to be proactive, not reactive. This season offers unique opportunities, and the artists who aren’t afraid to pivot and move forward, taking even one step each day, will build a solid career and stable income on the other side.
BREE NOBLE is a music marketing & business coach, best-selling author of The Musician's Profit Path, recognized speaker, and award-winning podcaster. As founder of both Women of Substance Radio and The Female Entrepreneur Musician, Bree is a champion and go-to resource for Indie artists in all genres. Her most popular offerings are her Female Musician Academy and her Rock Your Next Release program.