As the effects of the COVID-19 virus reverberate around the country and the globe, we are all facing the task of redefining what “business-as-usual” means — at least in the near-term. For the musicians and artists who were the originators of the “gig” economy, music gigs, music lessons, merch sales, busking, and live public performances are not the income drivers they were just weeks ago. For musicians, in particular, there are ways to leverage technology to try to drive revenue, and there are a host of other activities we can focus on to better position ourselves and build our artist brands for when things do return to a state of normalcy. Here’s a list of ideas and resources to help you focus on building your brand, honing your chops, and maybe even making a little money in the absence of the standard income streams.
1) Stream and broadcast performances and videos
Dozens of A-list performers and musicians around the world are taking their shows to the bedroom via streaming services, YouTube, and other social media outlets. The Guardian has a “Livestreaming schedule” posted of music, theater, literature, and other happenings going on around the web, and Rolling Stone also profiled the surge in streaming concerts taking place. There are numerous options available, and monetizing these performances through subscriptions, online donations, ad revenue, etc. is one way to try to earn some money for your efforts.
We’ve featured some case studies on Facebook Live, and while the model profiled in “Live streaming your show: A Facebook Live case study” and “Facebook Live broadcast: Our case study show and its aftermath” had a crowded live venue in mind, there are plenty of ideas you can apply to a streaming show featuring your cats as your in-house audience.
“Broadcasting live gigs – platforms for music broadcasts reviewed” provides a list of options to use to stream and broadcast performances, and “Getting started with Instagram Live” is a place to start if you’re new to Instagram. TikTok is another avenue to explore for live streams as well. Twitch and StageIt are both profiled in the “Broadcasting live gigs” post and are emerging as popular options for music artists.
On your website
This might be an opportunity to explore video production using creative tools and royalty-free assets. “How to find pre-cleared and royalty-free video assets for your music videos” and “Creative advice for your next music videos” can get you started, and “Vlogging For Musicians: The equipment you’ll need” and “Vlogging For Musicians: Setup and staging” offers tips if you’re thinking of starting a vlog. Of course, posting your videos on YouTube and linking to your channel from your website is a standard part of a video promotion plan.
Services like PayPal and Venmo can provide ways for fans to transfer money online, and providing links where you host your content — as well as having product and merch for sale — and having a clear call to action can result in fans supporting your creative endeavors. Virtual tip jar apps like AddThis are also handy ways to provide a portal for fanes to contribute online.
2) Give music lessons via Facetime/Skype
For anyone already earning money through private music lessons, taking the process online via FaceTime, Skype, or other apps is a logical and practical step and can help preserve income. If you’ve built up a client base, you might even be able to attract new students looking to put their time to better use. Staring from scratch in a time like this is difficult, but this could be an opportunity to craft some video lessons, build up a library of tutorials, and offer lessons to your fans.
3) Take online lessons
As you are no doubt aware, there is no shortage of options to learn songs and take lessons online. Maybe bartering with another teacher or musical contact can be a way limiting your cash outlay in the process. We’ve got a ton of great songwriting and music theory posts to broaden your repertoire of chords and theory; I recently profiled an online singing course if you’re curious about what online lessons might look and feel like; our friends at GigFaster just posted a free Musician’s Survival Kit; and there is no limit to how you can woodshed, rehearse, and hunker down on your instrument. While you’re at it, trying new styles of music and learning a new instrument could be other ways to push yourself and explore new musical avenues.
4) Update/post to SoundCloud
Take some time to create, update, and grow your SoundCloud profile. We have a couple of posts that can help you get off the ground: “How to grow a SoundCloud fan base: Tips for emerging artists” and “How to get the most out of SoundCloud.”
5) Write songs
Write songs by yourself, collaborate online with co-writers via FaceTime and Skype, and channel your time and energy into creative productivity. One piece of advice to consider comes from our friends at the CLIMB podcast, highlighted in “Songwriting advice: Cry when you write, dance when you produce,” is very relevant at this time. With the anxiety, isolation, and depression that can come with the social disconnect we’re all experiencing, it might be hard not to turn what you’re feeling into songs that dwell on the bleak side of the human condition. Write what you’re going to write, but making an attempt to produce something other than down-tempo tracks that plumb the depths of isolation and despair is worth considering.
While you’re at it, record your work for demos, to share with bandmates, or to post online. Or… try a recording project where you record your parts, share them with the members of your band/project, and have them put their parts on and pass it along. I’m always fascinated by stories like Kate Bush collaborating with Prince on “Why Should I Love You” — she sent him basic tracks and he went to town in Paisley Park adding parts to the song. Apparently, he ignored the suggestions made by Bush, and she and her production team spent months combing through and mixing the trove of tracks he provided. Your own results may vary. “Are you ready for a remote musical collaboration?” and “Remote music collaboration: How I got a live cello on my recording” might also you inspire you to find alternative ways to collaborate on a recording project.
7) Sell product and merch
Any time you promote live streams, your vlog, and other ways to support your musical endeavors, promote and offer means of purchasing your physical product and merch. Many out-of-the-box website platforms offer some kind of storefront, and there are others you can find online. Setting up a shop page on your Facebook Artist profile is an easy way to start. If you have the means to fulfill orders yourself… have at it. It’s in your best interest come up with new bundles and ways to incentivize people to support you.
We’ve published a number of posts that give advice regarding good practice habits and ways to push your personal rehearsal routines. “Deliberate practice helps you become a better musician,” “Challenge yourself when music practice gets stale,” and “Musicians and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) — How to Practice Hard and Stay Healthy” are among the posts on the Disc Makers Blog that might help you come up with a plan to rehearse smarter and more efficiently.
9) Prep your tracks for licensing
Licensing is one way to make the most of your recorded music when it comes to boosting your revenue. We’ve just released a new guide, How To Make More Money With Music: Generating Revenue By Licensing Your Music, that includes this advice when it comes to prepping your tracks for potential licensing opportunities:
Have mastered tracks of WAVs, stems, and instrumental mixes for all of your music. Depending on the needs of the scene or video, the person or production company licensing your music may need to use an alternative mix or just one of your sound recording’s stems. Depending on how focused you are on licensing, you may want to create alternative mixes while you’re in the studio. For example, you may want to create:
- an instrumental mix
- a vocals-up mix (+1 or 2dB than normal)
- a vocals-down mix (-1 or 2dB)
- a radio-friendly mix (if there’s profanity)
You may also want to create mixed-down stems, source tracks, and beats, since some licensors may want just the elements of your music. This is especially true for movie trailers. Using your mixing session to create these versions after you’ve made your official mix will allow you to have them ready to go at a moment’s notice since licensors often don’t have much time when they decide to use a piece. You should also provide 320kbps MP3s and be sure to fill out all your ID3 metadata fields, including your website and contact info.
10) Launch a crowdfunding campaign
It takes some work to get all the elements of a crowdfunding campaign right — this could be an opportunity to get the details sorted and launch a new project. We’ve got a host of posts that tackle the process of crowdfunding collected here: “Crowdfunding for musicians: tips, tactics, and trends.”
11) Launch a patron campaign
Similar to a crowdfunding campaign, using a service like Patreon can help you build recurring income to support your creative output. “Crowdfunding 2.0: from project funding to career planning” takes a look at Patreon, a prominent player in the online patron game.
12) Design a banner for your live show
There are many other artistic and creative projects you can throw yourself into for personal edification and to promote/expand your musical footprint. Album design, poster design, and other creative additions to your recorded output are among them. Why not design a banner for your live shows? You may even want to design banners of different dimensions to suit different venues and settings. Find a local vendor, price out vinyl banners, get the specs for designing them, and get your files ready for when you launch back into live gigging. You can offset the cost — and even cover or make a profit on the project — by signing on sponsors. Come up with a sponsorship package, design the banner with space for local and corporate sponsor logos, and sell your idea to local businesses in your area. For a fee, they get their logo on a banner that will be displayed to hundreds of local fans for months/years to come, and you get some cash flow and quality artist branding in return.
Got other ideas? Please share them in the comment section.