Article by Justina Beth-El
Hey, you! Yes, you. The one sitting in the middle of a pandemic that no one in the 21st century anticipated impacting first world America – the country where most of us grew up believing you could be literally anything you put your mind to. And that’s what you did. You’re a musician. Right now, you’re an unemployed musician. So what’s the move?
I wish I could tell you that there is a formula to sustainability in this uncharted territory. Unfortunately, there isn’t. At least I’m not aware of such a formula, but there is a silver lining, and my lord, is it brite! I, myself, was laid off from my full-time job due to COVID-19, but I’ve had several friends, family members, former colleagues and fellow musicians go above and beyond to help me out. You want to know the crazy part? I didn’t even ask! I think that has been one of the most tremendous victories in all of this chaos: for a country that has been so divided these past few years, its people are bending over backwards when and where necessary to help those impacted by this pandemic. With that said, if I can offer you any words of direction or encouragement, here they are: take people up on their kindness, and with every opportunity you get, give it back or pay it forward. Here are a few outlets to do just that:
How To Thrive and Rebuild in a Pandemic
- STAY CONNECTED
A. Continue To Create: The music you create not only draws people away from the panic, gloom and doom that occupies mainstream media, but it also creates a common ground for expression and feeling. That is true regardless of the state of the world. People have always connected through music. As musicians, we have the power to express emotions that so many other people feel but maybe feel too shy, too afraid, or lack the words to express themselves. Hell, I have difficulty talking about my feelings, but I certainly can write an album’s worth of music about them! Take advantage of that gift and use it to reach out and connect with as many people as possible.
B. Take advantage of Social Media: I’m sure you’ve seen one invitation after the other for live stream events of other artists – no big deal! Host these lives streams, and host them often! People are dying for some semblance of normalcy right now. Create that space for them! At the same time, don’t forget to monetize your live streams! Don’t be shy about it. Post your Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, Apple Pay – whatever! – info in the description of your live stream, and call attention to it throughout your live stream. If you do a simple cost analysis of the average bill for a person who goes out to see live music recreationally, he/she spends $50-$100/night in non-corona-world without hesitation. That might not even include the tip they throw in your jar. To watch your livestream on Social Media, people don’t have to pay a cover, they aren’t ordering food or drinks from a server, so they don’t have the industry upcharge or a tip to worry about. Really, you’re saving people a good 80% of the normal “night out” cost. Right now especially, people are happy and willing to contribute to you, the musician who is kindly performing for them with no guarantee of pay in the middle of a quarantine.
C.Give Back: Let’s be real: we have a TON of free time right now. Find a way to volunteer somewhere or somehow. If you’re a gifted sewer, find a way to sew face masks for medical professionals. Find out if your local school system needs help distributing meals to students that rely on school for two out of their three meals a day. See if there’s a senior neighbor in your community who needs to buy groceries but is cautious about braving the grocery stores, and maybe offer to do the shopping for them. Perhaps there’s a doctor or nurse in your neighborhood that needs child care while he or she continues to show up to work. Whatever it is, find out what you can do to give back to your community with whatever resources you have at the ready. That is the only way we will make it out of this pandemic as a society with our feet planted firmly on the ground.
- CREATE A ROUTINE (AND KEEP IT)
A. Set a schedule: As previously mentioned, we have a TON of free time right now. Set aside time to practice, write, exercise, distantly socialize, and – most importantly – decompress. One of the leaders in mental health in the U.S., Dr. Luana Marques, highly advocates disconnecting from the news and major media outlets to allow ourselves time to decompress amidst all the COVID-19 news. She offers a webinar series on coping during this pandemic that I found incredibly helpful.
B. Be specific and consistent: One of the greatest aspects of being a career musician is having the ability to create your own schedule, but without gigs or band rehearsals on the calendar during this quarantine, it becomes so easy to loosen or completely let go of the reigns on our schedules. The best way to avoid the collapse of structure in your business life is to set a specific schedule and be consistent with keeping it. Don’t just tell yourself “I’m going to practice my instrument every day.” Carve out a specific time every day for various activities, and treat those activities like you’re getting paid to do them.
- GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR BUSINESS
Whether we like it or not, as musicians, we are business owners. Like all the other business owners that had to get creative after closing their doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we too have to get creative to keep our businesses afloat. These are my personal COVID-19 specials:
A. Custom Songs: offer to write custom songs for your fans. Set a flat fee, and get to work! Get your fans involved, after all, it is their song. Have a one-on-one interview session with the commissioner of your music to really wrap your head around the heart of their desired subject matter. This will be a great opportunity for you to not only develop as a songwriter, but also to get to know a friend or fan a little bit better, and to make some extra cash!
B. Online Music Lessons: It’s as simple as it sounds. If you play one or many instruments, offer digital lessons for each! EVERYONE has a ton of free time right now, and parents are DYING to occupy their kids time now that school has been cancelled in 41 out of the 50 U.S. states until the fall. If you have a social media account, you have a means of delivering that digital lesson. If you don’t have social media (good for you!) Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and Skype are all free and functional video chat services.
C. Sync Placements: If you have a decent home studio set up and can crank out a few quality tunes, partner with a Sync Licensing service to pitch those songs to TV and Advertisements companies. I recommend SoStereo, but there are a number of other Sync Licensing services that you can work with as well.
- STAY CONNECTED
The most important things to focus on right now are health and community. Hopefully, I’ve offered a handful of practices – from staying connected, and establishing a routine, to getting creative with your business – that contribute to both. If you have other ideas or practices for staying safe as well as productive during these uncertain times, I would love to hear them!
Article by Justina Beth-El