By Mitch Rice
Music has offered us solace in the past year, but the life of musicians wasn’t easy at all. As live events were canceled or postponed and music venues were shut down, musicians had a hard time engaging with fans and, if big names found a way to continue their careers, smaller, lesser-known artists often struggled to make ends meet. The pandemic had a massive impact on the music industry, and even as some venues allow live performance again, things aren’t expected to return to normal anytime soon. Although most people miss the magnetism of live concerts, most of them are reluctant to sing and dance with crowds after following social distancing guidelines for over a year, and besides, venues have reduced their seating capacity for safety purposes.
In the first half of 2020 alone, the pandemic cost the music industry $10 billion, and most losses were caused by the decrease in physical sales and advertising spend. The crisis has left many musicians jobless, and many are struggling to maintain a steady source of income and questioning their career choice.
If the pandemic has reduced your professional opportunities and took a toll on your finances, here are some ways to get back on track.
Consider streaming, radio, and other monetization models.
Before the pandemic, the biggest chunk of a musician’s income came from live events. Now, the entire industry has to survive without them, at least for the time being. Although there have been a few shy attempts at festivals and concerts in the past few months, most musicians have found themselves having to postpone or cancel them based on how the COVID situation plays out. In this context, you have to think outside the box and consider other options which, although they don’t pay as well as live events, still account for something.
Music streaming was already a trend before the pandemic but, now, it’s turning into a massive industry. According to recent data, 89% of people listen to on-demand streams globally, and there was a 22.6% increase in the time spent streaming worldwide. YouTube was the most popular platform for music streaming, followed by Spotify and Apple Music. Although the revenue obtained from music streaming doesn’t compare to that of live events, it can still provide some financial stability, so it’s an option worth keeping in mind. Plus, most music fans expect their favorite artists to be available on streaming services, so you don’t want to lose that connection with them.
Although many assumed that radio was dead, radio actually made a comeback during the pandemic, and became a much-needed backup option for musicians who struggled to secure gigs. With more and more people spending time at home, listener numbers increased by 52%, so radio could be a good addition to streaming services. Plus, you can also consider online radios, which could help you branch out.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with fans, but it can also help you monetize your music. You can use platforms like Instagram and TikTok to make your art known to more people and to secure brand sponsorships. YouTube remains the top social media platform for musicians because you can make money from ads and views. Besides, on social media, you can experiment with various content ideas and thus gain more fans. Even though you probably won’t gain as many followers as Rihanna or The Weekend, social media remains a must-have tool for musicians, one that you should rely on regardless of the pandemic.
When live events get canceled, online concerts can become an option. Granted, you will have to invest in digital marketing, and it might be difficult to reach the same audience numbers, but online concerts are a great way to make yourself known outside of your local community and show fans that you’re still around.
Research all your financing options
Even with all the strategies above, you may still experience financial hardships. Maybe the revenue obtained from streaming and online concerts don’t compare to live events, maybe you’re a small, emerging artist, or maybe you’re a studio musician or backup artist, so you can’t build online fame as easily as your front colleagues. In this case, it’s important to consider all your financial options and see how you can get help before you find a long-term solution.
Most countries have established an emergency fund for musicians. For example, New Music USA has a solidarity fund for freelance musicians, as does Artist Relief and the American Guild for Musical Artists. In Canada, there’s the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit. In addition to national programs, there are also local initiatives. Fans are also willing to give back and support their local artists. Many people donate to music charities or support their favorite bands/singers by streaming their music, donating to them on Twitch, or buying their merchandise. You can even start a GoFundMe or open an account on Patreon.
Don’t forget that there’s also the option of applying for quick loans. If you don’t meet bank criteria, don’t feel discouraged because there are many other lenders out there, including Fintech companies, that have flexible lending terms and offer great debt relief solutions.
Should you get another job?
At one point during the pandemic, most musicians have asked themselves if this career path is worth pursuing or if they should settle for something more stable, at least for the time being. That is a difficult question to answer, and it depends on your personal situation. If you can’t make a living by being a full-time musician, you can’t find any financing options, and backup options such as streaming don’t work for you, getting another job, at least temporarily, could be an alternative. However, it’s not a decision you should take lightly, because returning to music after a hiatus isn’t easy. If possible, at least for a while, you should at least try to maintain continuity in your music career. However, if that feels impossible, getting a part-time gig or looking for another job could work too.
Data and information are provided for informational purposes only, and are not intended for investment or other purposes.