The situation around the coronavirus pandemic is changing by the hour, let alone by the day. First SXSW was canceled, and many other festivals and conferences followed suit. Then thousands of live events and tours were postponed through March.
As of March 15, the CDC is recommending that all live events with more than 50 people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. This will have a huge impact on the smaller venues, clubs, and bars that are vitally important for performing artists and bands to earn an income.
Use your email list and social media to ask for help
Some music fans have the impression that all musicians are rock stars living out lavish lives. As you know, this is simply not the case for the overwhelming majority of artists who rely on regular gigs just to make ends meet.
So don’t assume fans know that you need support. There’s no shame in letting them know that this is a potential crisis for you and your financial well-being. Leverage the online tools you have to communicate that you need their support now more than ever.
Send a dedicated email blast with specific actions your fans can take to help you. (For Bandzoogle members reading this, don’t forget that your account comes with a built-in mailing list.) You should also take to social media to share the same information, and ask your fans to share your posts and help you spread the word.
Here are some of the best ways for fans to support musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Buy your music
If you have music for sale, whether it’s digital downloads or CDs, let your fans know where they can purchase it. Even if they prefer to stream music, they might still buy your music to support you.
You should also let them know that while streams and playlists are great, streaming revenue is measured in fractions of pennies and it takes a lot of time to accumulate to anything meaningful. Directly purchasing your music means much more money in your pocket — when you need it most.
Where should fans buy your music to maximize revenue?
- Bandzoogle: If you have your website on Bandzoogle, you can sell your music with zero commission on music sales. The money goes from the fan’s account directly into the artist’s account, minus only the processing fees from PayPal or Stripe.
- CD Baby: CD Baby’s retail store takes 9% of digital sales and $4 from CD sales (for fulfillment). Note: You can sell through CD Baby until the end of March, after which they’re retiring their retail store
- Bandcamp: It’s free to set up an account, but they keep *15% of sales.
- iTunes, Amazon, Google: These popular online retailers take a much higher percentage of music sales (iTunes take 30%), but may be the most comfortable option for your fans if they’re already used to buying from those stores.
Learn more: The complete guide to selling your music online
2. Use pay-what-you-want
When selling music on either Bandzoogle or Bandcamp, you can take advantage of “pay-what-you-want” pricing. So instead of selling individual tracks for $1 or albums for $10, you can set a minimum price and let fans know that they can pay as much as they want for your music.
This can be a great way to let fans support you even more while purchasing your music. When you set the price, that’s as much as you can get. But when you give fans the option to add more, there’s a good chance that you’ll make much more revenue, especially if your fans know that you need their support.
3. Buy your merch
Have any band merch in stock? Let your fans know that buying a T-shirt, poster, hat, or guitar pick would also really help out. You can sell merch directly through your website with Bandzoogle, and you can also sell merch through Bandcamp.
Note: You may want to give your fans a heads up to expect shipping delays due to the pandemic, but that you’ll get everything mailed out as soon as things are more under control.
4. Pre-order your album
If you were planning to release new music sometime this year, now might be a good time to launch the pre-order. Even if you don't have all of the tracks mapped out, you can create some artwork for the album and set up a pre-order campaign through your Bandzoogle website or Bandcamp. Just be sure to be honest about the timeline for the new music to be released, and explain why you’re launching the pre-order early.
5. Contribute to your crowdfunding campaign
If you want to take the pre-order strategy even further, consider planning out and launching an extended crowdfunding campaign. This way you can offer not only your music for pre-sale, but other deluxe packages and rewards for your fans.
You can now use Bandzoogle to run a crowdfunding campaign for your music, and all revenues are commission-free. Generic crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are also solid options, but you’ll need to factor in the percentage they take out from the money you raise (5% + processing fees).
6. Subscribe to your online fan club
An online fan club — where people pay a monthly fee in exchange for exclusive rewards and access to your music — is a great way to let fans support you on an ongoing basis. You can set up fan subscriptions directly through your website on Bandzoogle, and all the revenues are commission-free.
Here are some resources to help you get your fan club set up:
If you’re already using a service like Patreon, this is a great time to remind fans about the rewards you’re offering and encourage them to become a patron.
7. Make a donation through your website
We would normally steer musicians toward setting up a pre-order or crowdfunding campaign to give fans more options and context for giving, but under these circumstances, adding a donation button on your homepage definitely can’t hurt.
Include a message about any canceled shows, and that you likely won't be able to play gigs for the next few months. Be sure to emphasize that any amount helps if they’re able to donate.
Sell music, merch, and tickets, take direct donations, pledges for crowdfunding, and create monthly fan subscriptions from your website, all commission-free. Try Bandzoogle free for 30 days to build a website for your music.
8. Live stream concerts
Between tours getting canceled and local venues closing until further notice, many musicians are turning to live streaming shows from their homes and rehearsal spaces. It could be as simple as using Facebook Live or Instagram Live, then asking fans to make donations through your website, Venmo, or PayPal.
YouTube Live allows you to broadcast for free, but their terms of service seem to indicate that selling or monetizing live streams outside of YouTube is prohibited. (If anyone can provide more clarity about this, please leave a comment below.)
Consider looking into Twitch as well if you’re interested in streaming shows, rehearsals, songwriting sessions, Q&As, and more. Those live streams can be monetized through tips/donations, subscriptions, and even sponsorships.
If you plan on doing a lot of live streaming in the upcoming months, it might be worth investing in a paid platform that can give you more options, like selling tickets and putting the videos behind a paywall:
- Zoom (free for 40 minutes up to 100 participants + paid options)
- Crowdcast ($30/month)
- Vimeo ($75/month)
- Dacast (monthly or per-event pricing available)
- BoxCast ($119/month)
Further live streaming resources
- The complete guide to live streaming for musicians
- YouTube Live
- The complete Facebook Live toolkit for musicians
- Instagram Live for musicians
- How musicians can use Twitch to build an audience
- Twitch for musicians
- Live-streaming in the Era of Isolation with YouNow
- Tips/donations: Venmo, PayPal.me
Live streaming on Bandzoogle
If you have fan subscriptions on your website (or plan to set it up soon), you might be looking to offer exclusive virtual concerts for your subscribers.
We’d recommend investing in a platform like Crowdcast or Vimeo, and embedding the live video stream on a paywall page. Just give your subscribers the link and let them know the date and time for the event.
If you aren’t using subscriptions, you could even use the Calendar feature to sell tickets commission-free to an online show, then send out the link to everyone who purchased a ticket.
9. Take online music lessons
If you feel comfortable teaching your musical skills online, offering lessons is a fun and unique way for fans to support you, while also getting something of tremendous value in return.
You can teach via Skype, Google Hangouts, or even offer group lessons using one of the paid streaming platforms we mentioned above. You can have people pay you for sessions directly through your website’s store or on PayPal.
Our friend Bree Noble of Female Entrepreneur Musician is very passionate about this potential revenue stream for artists, and she wrote a great blog post on the topic:
Bonus: other ways to support
Countless industries and livelihoods are being affected right now, and the reality is that not all of your fans will have the capacity to support you financially during this pandemic.
Feel free to suggest small gestures like these that are still helpful, even just for boosting morale and showing solidarity with artists:
- Play and share your music with their friends
- Make a playlist of your music and share it with their friends
- Add your music to their existing playlists
- Play and share your videos with their friends
- Like/follow/subscribe to all of your online profiles
- Send an encouraging note to you and their other favorite artists
Credit to Kevin Breuner from CD Baby for many of the suggestions above!
Helpful resources for musicians
We want to thank our friends at Folk Alliance for sharing this list of resources for freelance artists dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and loss of revenues.
CD Baby published these Resources for musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic
ASCAP created a resource center for music creators: Music Unites Us
Some great advice in this post from Ari Herstand: 9 Things To Do Now That Your Gigs Are Cancelled Because of Coronavirus
Bandsintown post on communicating with fans about cancelled gigs: How To Keep In Touch With Fans During These Difficult Times
Music Managers Forum Canada is constantly updating this list of resources: COVID-19 Updates
Here’s a list of resources for Canadian musicians from the Unison Benevolent Fund in Canada.
Sound Royalties announced a new $20m fund from which music creators impacted by coronavirus can get no-fee royalty advances.
The Recording Academy and its charitable foundation MusiCares have established the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
A2IM, NMPA, Recording Academy, RIAA, SONA Create a COVID-19 Survival Guide for the Music Industry: Music Covid Relief
Spotify pledges $10m fund to support artists hit by Coronavirus pandemic.
SOCAN Announces $2 Million Enhanced Emergency Program for Members
NAC unveils $100,000 relief initiative for performing artists
New $300K Fund Set Up For Ontario Musicians: MusicTogether
You also might find (or be reminded of) some creative ways to make money with our blog post, 26 ways musicians can make money.
Hopefully all industries will be able to get back to some semblance of normalcy soon. We want nothing more than to see musicians back to packing venues to perform live for their fans. But in the meantime, we hope that all musicians stay safe, healthy, and are able to weather this storm with the help of friends, family, and their fans.
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