COVID-19 Counter Measures for Emerging Musicians

No 29 in my series of tips for emerging East African musicians


Given the current situation with the global impact of COVID-19, that it directly affects musicians, in so much as, gigs, events and festivals are being cancelled everywhere – I thought i should put together a list of counter measures which might help reduce the impact on career and finances for artists.

Music consumption will not suddenly decline because the public is confined, if anything i think it might increase – its just the way its consumed that will change. People who normally pay to see bands play live are not suddenly not going to want that – they will look for other ways to get that experience

If more people are self isolating/social distancing – then the consumption of music at home via, streaming services, radio, tv, internet, physical media will likely increase.

Those artists who have built at least one strong social channel with good engagement will likely be able to use it to create income to somewhat replace lost gigs. Those who haven’t yet got a strong social channel can use this time to build one. (i wrote an earlier post about 1000 true fans to show what the potential might be)

If you have engaged followers here’s some things you can do:

1) get a subscriber list going – this has a slightly better engagement rate than social – allows you to send direct mails to the list followers – so you reach their mailboxes directly with any offers/ideas you have. Doing this asap will mean any ideas you have further down the line for online concerts, selling product etc will definitely reach your followers – in comparison to posting on social which only reaches less than 5% of your followers (on average). Mailchimp do a free mailing list (for up to 2000 list followers) and it integrates into facebook to collect list members straight from your page. (Using time to get a more direct connection to your true fans – to increase sales potential)

2) This is a great time to be selling/streaming your products but stop ‘pushing’ them at people – try pulling people into your products instead – lyrics are a big story to tell, so is the recording – the images, phone video snippets of production – people respond very well to story telling – telling them the story of your track is a better way of getting them to follow a link and listen than ‘selling’ them that link. Any music you have online, on streaming or sales platforms, is potential money in your pocket (if you have your rights set up properly). So find ways to bring even legacy tracks to the forefront by crafting stories on social to pull people in. (Using time to increase your income from legacy tracks)

3) Look through your track archives for any unreleased material, things that are maybe waiting on mastering, need a tweak here or there. The time you gain on lost gig ops gives you time to focus on your recorded music. Taking that next track to the next level – because with recording, no-one needs to be in the same room these days. (Using time to release new product at better standard)

4) If you are like most artists, many photographers and event organisers or industry people/media may have taken photos or video or written articles about you – but in the throes of doing live gigs, festivals, traveling, these things have been ignored or passed over. Now is a good time to find these assets and share them on your social channels – it consolidates and tells a story of your success, it gives you assets to share, it gives you industry players to tag and credit, it gives you opportunity to thank your fans/followers for all those great live experiences and to keep them closely engaged. (Using time to collect past assets and use them to grow your social channel engagement- which in the end gets you a larger engaged audience who are more likely to purchase/stream your music).

5) Depending on what kind of artist you are, what kind of product/s you produce – you might find Patreon an interesting platform to join. It’s a platform for artists and patrons of the arts to join up – swap money for product/connection. Pre emerging artists might struggle to provide an offer which attracts patrons but successful emerging artists with existing international fans might be able to come up with something which attracts. Anyone thinking of using this should do some research first into what is already working. These platforms can work well to bring in income but you do need to research how they work best to be able to make your efforts worthwhile. (Connecting with patrons of the arts to swap product/connection for regular income)

6) Live online gigs can be used to consolidate engagement, bring in new followers or even generate income. There are now so many ways to create short or longer form live music sessions from very low tech (smart phone only) to fully wired set ups with publicity and payment options. It’s first about being honest with yourself about what you can achieve live – if you are a singer songwriter – probably very easy to produce an online live gig which people would enjoy without needing much tech. However, if you’re a heavy metal band you might need more of a tech setup – in a kitchen rather than a studio – but more wired – therefore needing a platform which allows you to deliver that. (Stageit is one such platform). Instagrams live video streaming platform also allows you to set up a custom viewing group – so potentially could be a way to charge subscription to it. There are lots of webinar platforms (like zoom) which could potentially be trialled as ways to engage with larger audiences for chat and live show. Maybe thinking about changing the way you perform and engage with audiences to adapt to online – giving audiences that closer connection or opportunity to chat with you, that they don’t get in a normal live show. Trial the ideas you have for free – then when you have something that people like, then figure out how to charge for it. This is a potential income stream where you have full control of performance, timing and income. If you can put together a solid offering there’s no reason why it can’t be huge or something you share/offer to other artists.

7) podcasts are the thing many platforms are pushing into at the moment. Musicians, creatives, are people who the public naturally gravitate to listen to (hence so many prime time tv shows interviewing them). If you can come up with a creative idea for a regular podcast – there’s nearly as much financial opportunity in this as producing regular new tracks. The audience for these is mainly international at the moment, so best for artists whose music works for those audiences. Again it doesn’t require people to be in the same room, can be done professionally from a home computer with the right software and mics. As a creative trying to earn money, not everything you do has to be solely about you playing your music. Most musicians have knowledge about their genre, legacy artists, culture, music, lifestyle, life etc which the public could be interested in.

8 ) crowdfunding – i think as a musician you need to be careful how you ‘use’ your social capital (any positive energy from your followers you have acquired so far) – telling them you can’t eat is a one-time hustle which can cost you their long term support. But offering the Involvement in a project, for which they get some reward (typical crowdfunding) can work without burning all your social capital. Crowdfunding works but it is not easy, because it requires a long effort of marketing it cleverly from yourself/your team and you need to have a solid audience to market to. So unless you have more than a few hundred solidly engaged fans on your social channels its not a good idea. Also not a good idea if you don’t enjoy posting with purpose on social media. Crowdfunding is typically funding for a project rather than funding survival – so as such doesn’t replace income from gigs – but is good for funding your next studio project/album/merchandise etc

9) what musicians generally have a lot of is their own music. What fans and followers generally want is more music. Downloads & USB drives are very cheap ways to copy/share sounds and charge for them – copying part of tracks, talking about your tracks, sharing snippets of new music, exclusives – like a mini talk show – are ways for you to direct sell product to your fans and followers without ‘spoiling’ online sales of your products (because you are only sharing snippets). Cheap and regular – can be podcast like format too – small cost to fans – is very good way of leveraging your good fan numbers into income.

10) sell merchandise online (i’ll be doing another post on this later)