for independent musicians
THE UNFORTUNATE FACTS
Things probably won't be back to 'normal' in the music industry until sometime next year, or even later.
It will be harder to get concerts in the future. Some venues won't survive, bigger venues will take longer to reopen. The first small venues to reopen will be hit with a combination of original bookings, rescheduled bookings, a likely smaller budget and masses of new applications.
Fans will likely have less money to spend on concert tickets and merch.
Music consumer patterns will/are changing.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO!?
There are two ways to see the current crisis in the music industry... A catastrophe, or a golden opportunity.
For the first time I can remember. Small artists and big artists have all been thrown in the same box. The market is changing even more rapidly than usual and with it comes many new opportunities if we choose to see them.
This is a time where small artists can rise faster than ever before. A time where we can choose to 'sit and wait it out', or go and conquer the new reality of the music scene!
I've always been a fan of straight to the point articles. So I won't keep you waiting, by rambling on about historical statistics etc.
I believe the secret to our future success lies in the DIY world. Here are 7 points to consider:
1) Less people are working, more people have time to stream aka you are able to grab the attention of more people than usual atm. Consider this. When this crisis kicked off, my Spotify monthly streams under the artist name 'Inkfields' were a very humble 150. Now, a month later it's approaching 1,200. Still small, but close to growing tenfold in the space of a month and that's the highest amount of monthly streams I've had in my 6 year music career!
How did that happen? I didn't spend a single penny. Due to the crisis, I simply have more time to promote Spotify and Spotify etc is worth promoting atm, as that's a valuable source of income.
*Try encouraging FFF (friends, family and fans) to stream your music. Build Spotify playlists that promote other artists as well as yourself. Contact Spotify playlister's and ask them to add one of your songs (if they ask for money, don't pay them, there are plenty of playlister's who will add for free). Here's a playlist I made a few weeks ago that has grown to 81 followers at the time of writing: Save Indie Artists
2) Physical concerts don't exist for now and booking them could prove a waste of time, if they get postponed again. Get online and please be creative! Many artists are streaming on platforms like Instagram once a week and many of them for free (despite the fact that they need the money!). I did one Instagram donations-based live stream concert, in which I attracted 51 viewers and made a disappointing £8.50. I quickly decided that wasn't for me. However, I found a niche in online birthday concerts. People want to have birthday parties still, but they have to do them online. Some are very happy to hire musicians to add something special to those events. I've had a couple of well-paid birthday concerts so far and I'm at the beginning stages of successfully booking my first ever online living room concert tour! Find your online concert niche!
I would also like to mention that several 'online pubs' with live music have been popping up. Get googling ;)
3) Music isn't the only way that you can make an income from your art. For example, some musicians have successfully produced their own branded hand sanitisers and masks as alternative, but relevant merchandise. As I'm also an ink artist, I've been able to gain a couple of clients who've ordered custom made ink art.
4) Saving is a good idea atm, but you can still do everything for free and at home!. I just recorded, mixed and mastered a new song in quarantine at home with a Shure SM58 microphone and a pair of £70 headphones. I sent the master off to a friend with a top quality studio in Germany (I didn't tell him that I mixed/mastered with headphones) and he said that the song sounded great! I've now distributed it to Spotify etc with routenote for free (you get 85% of royalties for streams, but pay no upfront fees. For anyone who's interested in hearing my DIY result, the song is out on May 14th). I should also mention, that I did the artwork myself for free and I will do the PR campaign myself at no cost as well (that would be a completely different article!)
I'm aware that not everyone has the know how and equipment to for example mix themselves, but I'll bet that many would be able to get the job done online by using their personal connections. If a mate who's good at mixing happens to need some artwork etc and you happen to be good at graphic design, then you can help each other out and get a great result for free! You can also learn the skills that you need. There are so many resources online!
5) There are many different funds available to musicians across many countries atm. If you need immediate funding. It's available and it's there for you, don't feel guilty accepting it! A £500 grant from Musician Union saved my arse earlier on in this crisis!
Creative Scotland and Born To Be Wide have some good information on funding. Do some research and I'm sure you'll find much more!
6) It's annoying as hell, but social media practices are shifting again... I've been refusing to accept it for months (because I don't want to have yet another social media), but Tik Tok is important. Make sure your music is on it. Some small artists have become viral successes overnight through tik tok with old songs and without even lifting a finger, other than making sure that their music was available on Tik Tok (influencers picked up the songs). Cosmo Sheldrake is an example of an artist who rose through Tik Tok.
Things to think about:
*Tik Tok is all about 15 second clips of a song. Make sure you select the best 15 second part of your song.
*You should make a profile even if you never need it because: You need 1000 followers to stream live on Tik Tok. Some smaller artists have hundreds to thousands of followers on their accounts without ever having posted any content. If you suddenly want to do a Tik Tok live stream and you don't have an account/following, you won't be able to.
Whether you like it or not, you have fans on Tik Tok. Some of them may want to make content to your music and tag you. If you don't have an account, they can't tag you and that may discourage them from making content with your music in the first place!
7) Some words from venue owner and booker Nick from Sneaky Pete's (the best music venue in Edinburgh in my opinion):
* Artists are booking concerts now, they never really stopped, it's just that there is a gap for most venues and musicians between end of March and September in the calendars. In general I hear promoters are hedging their bets towards being able to open again in September.
* Musicians should look at postponing their shows now. If you can avoid cancelling avoid cancelling. If the show is from August or September onwards, then I wouldn't look to postpone yet.
* The current situation is going to mean that there will be fewer venues around in the longer term, and venues are going to take less chances with their bookings. This will mostly be because audiences are going to be less keen to attend shows for the foreseeable future.
*It's also worth noting that at the end of this year there is going to be stiff competition for performance opportunities, because in addition to an existing autumn/winter program the venues may already have, they also have pressure to reschedule, so that shows from the start of the year will be put at the end of the year and there will be less chance for new shows to be added. I would advise musicians to hold off on releasing a record just now, as usual touring to promote it is a lot harder to organise.
What To Focus On For The Future: Back to me (Inkfields)!
I think that online income is the way forward for the time being and probably for quite a long transitional period back to 'normality' which could last years. Here are some of the things that I feel musicians should now focus on:
1) Relevant Merchandise (relevant to this time and to current demand)
2) Boost streams and download sales. Release new music regularly (a song a month if possible). Every song will keep people listening to your music and give you another shot at a 'hit song'. Streaming is now one of the most important income sources.
3) You can now do a world tour with no travel costs. Just do it online and via live streaming ;)
4) Consider a Patreon account for a monthly income source.
5) 'Diversify your economy'. You're no longer a live artist. You're now a streaming artist who also designs the coolest face masks out there and happens to be a great online guitar teacher!
6) Try 'online busking' in online gaming and virtual reality communities like sims
7) Become a successful playlister. You will not only increase your streams, but also those of your mates!
8) Get over it and become a viral Tik Tok artist ;) The golden window of opportunity is closing fast!
I hope this article has been at least slightly helpful. Let me know if you have any questions and if I can help in any other way. All the best and good luck :) Sam aka Inkfields and State Of Green