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Right now, many lives are being affected around the world, whether from the spread of the COVID-19 virus itself, the public precautions, or the economic repercussions. And swift cancellations of many public events across the globe are threatening the livelihood of many performing musicians as well.
The musical economy is a social economy — most musicians rely on live gigs to pay their bills these days — but that doesn’t mean we’re going to just sit back and do nothing. So what can we do?
As a permanent resident of Italy (it’s true), I’ve been under a government enforced quarantine for about two weeks now, so I’ve had more than ample time to pause, reflect, and create. Here in Italy, there are moments around 6pm in which everyone goes out onto their balconies and collectively sings together. Italians are a very social society, and despite the current conditions, people have found a way to remain social.
In Rome, where I am based, there is a collective calm over the city. Nobody is panicking or hoarding — the stores are full of food, people are able to shop and go to the pharmacy, some people still run and ride bikes. People are at home enjoying their families and patiently waiting for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy. In this time of uncertainty, I would like to encourage people to embrace their communities (at a respectable social distance) and embrace themselves.
This may be the first time in modern human history that a large percentage of people will be staying at home, whether voluntarily or involuntarily; which means this is an opportunity for the music community to remind the world of our shared humanity in a social yet distanced way. Below are some ways in which you as a musician can utilize your time at home to improve your craft and improve the well-being of others through your craft.
1. Livestream your concerts.
If you’ve been anywhere near Facebook or Instagram lately, you’ve probably seen dozens of your favorite artists livestreaming either from empty venues or simply their living rooms.
Obviously, tons of gigs and tours have been canceled recently — and perhaps even yours. If you rely on touring or performance income, this situation is probably pretty difficult, so look into supplementing that lost income with donation-based livestream concerts. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all offer livestream options that many musicians are using to share intimate moments with their fans.
On some platforms, collecting donations may be tough; as you need to be registered as a non-profit. However, YouTube has an option called Super Chat in which fans can make direct donations during your livestream (note that YouTube takes a 30% cut), and other websites such as Boxcast, Livestream, and Patreon allow you to create exclusive videos just for your fans and subscribers, so you can charge admission in that way. You can also direct viewers to your PayPal, Venmo, or Cash accounts during your livstream concert. For more info on ways to monetize the live streaming ecosystem check out this article from Epiphan.
2. Produce music.
Self-quarantining can have some other positive benefits. For music producers especially, being locked inside for hours producing music is a dream come true.
If you’re already in a steady practice of creating a lot of music from home, now might be a great time to start or finish something you’ve been intending to do for a little while. Dive fully into your craft and make a daily routine producing music, writing songs, practicing an instrument, or working on collaborative projects.
A lot of great works have been created during epidemics and quarantines, such as many of Shakespeare’s plays (he lived through numerous plaques) as well as Sir Issac Newton’s development of his theory of universal gravity.
Creating can also help you financially during these uncertain times. If you’re already a seasoned beat maker, now might be a great time to start selling beats online, independently or through websites like Airbit and Beatstars. You can also start to work on sample packs or sound design reels to sell.
3. Work on your brand.
Seeing that many of us will be working from home these days, social media is poised to take on an even bigger role in our lives as before, as we look for ways to stay connected.
For artists, this is an opportunity to use these platforms to your advantage. It’s no secret that constant engagement on social media can help an artist organically grow their fan base. Whether on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok, now is a great time to start producing and releasing new branded content on these platforms. Here are just some things you can think about doing:
- Cover videos
- Curated playlists
- Clips of original songs
- Beat making videos
- Remix videos
- Transcription videos
- Tutorial videos
- Collaborative beat making/songwriting videos
- BTS videos of the creative process
- Blog posts
- Nice photos
It’s important to remember that social media is a tool to tell your personal artistic story and communicate your values as an artist to your audience. Developing your artistic brand and creating meaningful content in this moment could allow people to engage with your art and your story like never before.
4. Learn a new skill or side hustle.
+ In case you missed it: Soundfly just launched our free “Guide to Learning Things Online,” which details how to make the most of learning a new skill in isolation.
Now is the perfect time to work on the things you’ve always wanted to improve on. There are many great resources online for you to learn new musical skills, many of them for free. As you may know, Soundfly has tons of online courses available both for free and paid, and many of them come with 1:1 digital mentorship from a professional Soundfly mentor. Simply tell us what you’re looking to learn and we’ll be in touch with our recommendations about how to pursue it.
One of the great things about learning a new set of skills is that they could potentially open up new revenue streams for you, which will be very helpful these days as you may have to work mostly from home. What hidden skills or interests have you been waiting to pursue?
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5. Offer online lessons.
If you teach or tutor, and have lost lessons due to quarantines and isolation measures, now might be a good time to set yourself up a website or social media page to give Skype lessons.
People are certainly being more frugal with their money, but since so many musicians and school children are staying home right now, they might be looking to learn new skills or take on a new musical instrument.
6. Foster community through collaboration.
Social media can be a great tool to foster collaboration. Now more than ever, many musicians will be at home with nothing to do but work on music; it’s an amazing opportunity to collaborate with musicians and artists around the world either whom you know or those who are new to you. The possibilities are endless if you’re creative — just because gigs are canceled doesn’t mean you can’t keep playing with other musicians digitally.
7. Stay healthy, keep your body and mind active, keep a routine, and take breaks.
The most important thing to remember during this time is to stay healthy physically and mentally. It sounds obvious but it can’t be overstated: please wash your hands, avoid overcrowded areas, stay at home if you feel sick , and try to keep a safe distance from people when you’re outside. Try to avoid eating unhealthily because of the ease of living with a pantry full of canned foods — make sure you’re seeking out fresh foods wherever possible and cook them yourself.
Staying home might not seem so bad at first, but after a while it can get really intense, so it’s important that you develop some routines and not succumb to cabin fever. Setting a schedule for the day will help you feel like things are still normal; even if you can’t leave your apartment, you can still live a productive, functional, and active life. Exercise regularly and take breaks from your screens as often as you can.
If you can’t bring yourself to create that’s okay. There’s no pressure to create a masterpiece during this time. The most important thing is to stay safe and not endanger the lives of those around you. If you’re really struggling, here are some links to resources that can help artists who’ve experienced a major disruption to their income due to this ongoing health crisis:
- Artist Relief Tree
- MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund
- Sweet Relief COVID-19 Fund
- COVID-19 Freelance Artists Resource List
- Billboard’s State-By-State Resource Guide for Musicians
- Soundfly’s Free Guide to Learning Things Effectively Online
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