While many musicians are navigating the current stay-at-home lifestyle — which means a moratorium on gigging, in-person rehearsals, and most everything else that goes along with being an active musician — there are a number of activities you can engage in that can help advance your music career, social media outreach, and preparedness for when we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Here are some ideas that can keep you focused on the positive in the days and weeks ahead.
1. Develop a business plan for your music career
For all the creativity needed to sustain a career in music, having a business plan is one way to stay grounded, define your goals, and keep you reaching for the stars. Having a business plan can mean the difference between being able to make a living as a musician and being a weekend warrior with a day job for eternity. Here are a few suggestions on how to make a business plan. The most important suggestion: take it one step at a time! This kind of work can be overwhelming for creatives. I left my last day job by working on a business plan 15 minutes a day at lunch for a year. Slow and steady wins the race! Read more: Writing a business plan for your music career
2. Give away your music and build your audience
While it might be unusual in the music business, “Free (Plus Shipping and Handling)” deals (F+S&H) are common in other industries. An author might offer a free book in hopes you’ll buy other books or want to attend their conference or sign up for an online course. A cutlery company might offer a free knife in the hope that you’ll buy the whole set. The customer pays the shipping, plus a little extra to cover the cost of mailing materials and the time it takes to pack and ship the order. Read more: Give away your CD (and make money doing it!)
3. Broadcast a live performance online
If you perform live music, chances are you’ve broadcast yourself or participated in a live broadcast online. The speed of smartphone technology and the quality of the audio/video available to iPhone/Android users are pretty amazing — especially for those of us who have been professional musicians since before the tech existed. There are more streaming platforms and apps available than ever before, and the audio and video quality of the broadcasts gets better all the time with each new phone and software update. Read more: Broadcasting live gigs – platforms for music broadcasts reviewed
There are things you can do to improve the quality of the audio in your videos and broadcasts, and the lighting too. Taking the time to improve these elements in your work can increase views, shares, and engagement. Read “Improving the audio in your streaming broadcasts and videos” and “Easy fixes to improve the lighting in your videos.”
4. Monetize your social media channels
Your social media channels provide more than a platform to reach your fans with new music — there are many ways to make money, and these income sources can start with your very first follower. The Internet has become very good at monetizing the long tail, and there are ways within your reach to make income from your social media presence even if you have a modest following. In fact, you can start making money from your very first follower, and with every new level of popularity, you’ll have new income sources available to you. Read more: How to make money off your social media channels (no matter how many followers you have)
5. Invest in your home studio setup
If you’ve outfitted space in your home for the purpose of recording music, step two is amassing the gear for the task at hand. Here’s a checklist for things you might already have, need immediately, and can put off until later. Read more: The essential studio gear for your home studio
6. Finally release your album on vinyl
While turn times for vinyl are distinctly longer than they are for other physical media, there are so many reasons why offering a release on vinyl is a goal for many independent musicians. This lag in you gig schedule may be the perfect time to brush off those masters, design an LP, and release your music on vinyl! Read more: The vinyl manufacturing process at work (watch the video!)
7. Update your artist bio
Wouldn’t you love to just focus on letting your music to do the talking? That’d be nice, but in today’s Internet- and social media-fueled world, you need to write and speak about the music you create as well. It’s important to have an accurate and compelling description of you and your music so fans, press/media, and bookers take notice and have an opportunity to learn more about you. A well-written bio can compel the press/media to write about you or interview you and bookers to contact you to play live. To do this, you need to have at least three versions of your band bio at-the-ready: one sentence, one paragraph, and one page. Read more: Craft three band bios to describe you and your music
8. Collaborate remotely with other musicians
If you need to collaborate with another musician to make your project come alive, when do you look locally and when do you cast a wider net? Here are some guidelines to help you decide when remote musical collaboration is right for you and your project. Read more: Are you ready for a remote musical collaboration?
With the ubiquity of powerful DAWs, it’s easier to collaborate on tracks with creative partners a city, country, or ocean away. The concept is simple — you record some portion of a new song on your own DAW and then send what you’ve done to a collaborator. Musical partners can digitally exchange tracks just once for simple overdubs, or hundreds of times for more in-depth music collaboration — whatever’s necessary to get the music to where everyone wants it to be. When it comes to sharing music tracks, though, having a solid plan for how to prepare your material can save you significant time and help you avoid big headaches. Read more: Remote collaboration: Nine tips for sharing music tracks
9. Start a podcast, or become a guest on someone else’s segment
Hosting a podcast is an excellent way to build a brand and audience, but it doesn’t just happen by itself. The adage “Build it and they will come” just isn’t true when it comes to building an audience online. As far as podcasts are concerned, the technical side of setting up all your equipment, recording the audio, and doing the post-production editing is just the start. You also need to know how to give your listeners what they want and how to market and promote your content. Read more: Are you ready to produce and promote a podcast?
But wait… there’s more!
There are even more ways to leverage technology to try to drive revenue and there are a host of other activities we can focus on to build our artist brands for when things return to a state of normalcy. Here are additional 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. Read more: Boost your artist brand, musical chops, and revenue from home