The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, and people around the world are struggling. Artists and performers are one group that have been hit hard economically. Many musicians make their living through performing. A good number supplement that income through teaching music and tutoring, while others may work in the service industry which has also seen many closures. With social distancing and mandatory quarantine being the current norm while the world works to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the income sources for musicians have been suspended indefinitely.
The path ahead will not be easy for anyone, but in effort to help our musician friends plan for this difficult time we interviewed fellow musicians about how they are coping and what we can do to support them and others. There are three big things that many of the musicians interviewed brought up: they offered ideas on how we can support musicians, thoughts on ways musicians can improve their craft and marketing during this down time, and reminded us to stay positive and thankful for what we do have.
On ways the average person can support musicians, some independent creators had this to say:
“There’s a lot of ways people can support musicians at this time: making playlists and streaming independent and local artists’ music on Spotify and Apple Music, watching their YouTube videos, subscribing, following, boosting online numbers is free and super easy to do. Most artists also have online stores where people can buy CDs and other merch; supporting the artist directly is a great way to help – especially when we currently have no gig opportunities to sell merch... At the end of the day, I know a lot of people are in a financially tricky situation at the moment, and a simple post on… sharing your favourite independent music really helps a lot to get the word out about independent artists.”
Berlin based singer/songwriter
“If you have friends who are independent musicians and you've never really listened to their music, now would be a great time to start. It's the small, independent musicians (who don't have a large online following) that really rely on performing live to earn money and build their following… The best way you can support them is by sharing their music links, posts or videos on your social media channels or by buying their music from Bandcamp so they can have a solid amount transferred into their bank immediately. You could also make a Spotify playlist with their music alongside bigger names. You can help them get the word out about their music so that their fanbase can continue to grow while at home.”
Berlin based singer/songwriter
“I think if you’re a fan of someone’s work, especially a musician or film maker who’s just coming up, reach out and ask if they’re okay. So many of us still work in the service industry so this crisis has wiped out most if not all of our income. I see a lot of artists going on live stream, creating work for anyone who needs it. We’re making that work cause it’s all we have right now. A phone call or text could change a person’s life.”
Los Angeles based Musician
So these are a few ideas of what we can do to help our musician friends, but what if you’re a musician wondering what you should be doing to use this time productively? A few working musicians gave these comments:
“It’s always good to put performances up on YouTube. I know I always check new artists out this way before I see them live. I like Patreon as a way to monetize… You can stream live and also have an on demand video. Have fun and others will too. Teach some dance steps. We all need to move!”
Maui based Musician
“It’s a rough time for sure. Obviously, creating any kind of online content is valuable, lessons, videos, any type of marketing. But we should also be prioritizing long-term game plans for when this is over (or at least calmed down enough to let people get back to some sort of normalcy). People should be putting things together now to plan for the gates to open back up later. Don’t try and plan the product, just brainstorm, create, and produce, and the business planning can come later. Especially for musicians, you’ll really have a leg-up if you have something significant to present to the world upon re-entry.”
Santa Cruz based Guitarist and Dojo Owner
“It’s a time to write. For cover bands it’s a time to discuss new songs to bring in and learn them. It’s a time to discuss and source new equipment acquisitions. It’s a time to make repairs to old equipment - learn how to do things you didn’t know before, like soldering or cleaning pots, or shielding guitars, etc. It’s a time to design merchandise and source materials. It’s a time to discuss and develop promotional strategies. For those with home studios it’s time to record. It’s a time to practice… individually of course.”
As difficult as this forced isolation has been, this time can be a time to hone our skills as artists and musicians. As long as we all continue to commit to self improvement no time that we have is wasted. It is also important to remember that we have a lot to be thankful for. A few teachers asked to comment had this to say about the benefits of being able to use the internet to continue working:
“[The pros of doing online lessons are] when you do, you intensely watch the student's face and body, there are not many distractions, so they concentrate. One on one [practice] is also not too bad except that we can't play at the same time.”
Auburn based Collaborative pianist and University Faculty
“If this pandemic ends, my goal is to be much more grateful and less complacent. I hope others will do the same. I look back and think.....I have students who practice, parents who treat me like family, I can sleep in late, I can have a great meal at some of the amazing restaurants afterwards, and end the day relaxing at starbucks planning lessons. I feel as a society, many of us have grown to constantly focus on what we don't have. I'm guilty of that!"
So let us be thankful, let us work to better ourselves and let us support our friends and those around us, whether they are musicians or not. If we come together as a community we will be able to make it through this difficult time. Stay safe and happy practicing!