Seven months in and still no live shows! Ok...maybe a few, but everyone is 100 feet away and you can’t even see the whites in their eyes...or their faces for that matter!
*Sigh* I feel your pain. But do not despair. You are far more than a singer/songwriter... far more than a musician... far more than a tour van driver… and far more than an accountant (y’know that pesky role you sometimes play where you reach out to people and ask them to pay up on the gig money they owe you).
Not that those titles aren’t important, but if you’ve been making music for any number of years, you’ve got a lot of experience up your sleeve and a million ways to use it.
When this Spring kicked off in unexpected ways, I began to hope for the best, but plan for what might be a long haul. I made a list of all the roles I have played over the years and began to think of how I could leverage my acquired skills for myself and others. In my brainstorming session I came up with a bunch of side hustles and realizations that have helped create new opportunities over the past few months.
Here on some tips that might help you as you look for ways to stay afloat in this season...
You gotta’ pay rent, right?
Do what you gotta do. It might not look like you want, but be open to new possibilities and don’t knock the idea of taking on jobs that aren’t ideal or have nothing to do with music. Don’t be afraid to take a music hiatus if you need one. It’s ok to shift your priorities. Putting your music on the shelf does not make you a failure.
You are an entrepreneur
Remember, you are an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur starts a business and keeps that business afloat, often by wearing several hats. If your music journey has been anything like mine, then you know what it’s like to wear every single hat.
When I began living as a musician several years ago, I realized I was not only a music-maker, but a website updater keeping my site current, a visual artist designing my own show posters, a content creator making posts for my social media accounts, and so much more. As the months have passed this year, I have begun taking some of these rolls on for others.
Here are some entrepreneurial ways you can think outside the box as you consider what your ‘work” is for the foreseeable future.
Create and maintain websites
Do you maintain your own website? No matter what platform you use (hint: I hope it’s Bandzoogle) your skillset is necessary right now! People (especially small businesses) are realizing now more than ever that they need a website in what now feels like a virtual-only world. And believe it or not, most people don’t know how to make one. Offer this talent. Someone needs your expertise.
Provide Social Media Help
And guess what, people who need websites also need help with their social media presence: Facebook Business pages, Instagram accounts, Twitter, subscriber mailing lists, and anything that counts for communication these days. Remember that while online communication takes a front seat to in-person communication in this season, small business owners will be in need of help to do this better.
Because you’re an internet beast and you know what you’re doing, you have the tools to teach others. Offer your services as an online tech coach. Teach someone how to better use their social media, how to update the website you’ve just made for them, how to create a nice-looking newsletter, how to brighten up a picture in photoshop, how to run a professional Zoom call with all of its features...etc. Creating your own personal internet crash course or assistance side-hustle is a much needed skill set for right now!
Be the patron saint of all things small business
I’ve found that some people are at a loss on how to move forward with their storefronts. Offer a brainstorming session with local businesses in your neighborhood. You may be able to partner with them and help them:
get or design better signage that makes them stand out in this time
get the word out about how they are adapting in this pandemic
take better photos that get the attention of people on social media who never knew they existed
adapt their face-to-face services for a digital paradigm
better connect with neighbors
Your fans are still your fans
Do not underestimate the importance of your fanbase in this time. Even if they can’t attend a show, they still love you and want to support you. Leverage your skills in this time by first reaching out to them. The first website I created this year was by a fan who had been attending my shows for years. She knew I already had experience setting up and maintaining a website because she had been on mine several times over the years. And she knew I could help her get a handle on how to use her mailing list provider for sending newsletters because she was subscribed to mine.
A few more ideas...
The above list is not exhaustive by any means. But if there’s anything musicians know, it’s that most of our touring, performing, and creating actually revolves around staring at a screen for hours each day doing all the administrative tasks that keep the creative side alive. Now you can do that for others.
Here are a few more random things artists typically have a knack for that you might be able to offer in this time:
Voiceover work: The mic you use to make demos in garage band is probably just as good for this second use.
Video editing: Your video editing software now has two uses - making simple tour recaps and creating short social media promos for others.
Designing: Business cards may not be getting passed around as much, but online postcards, posters, and flyers are still in demand.
Event coordinating: These online virtual events need your help. Help an organization create their event page and handle online ticketing and event promo with suave.
Audio editing: It’s the year of podcasts isn’t it! Offer to clean up a podcaster’s audio, make it more cohesive, and add some music to it. Give it the professional boost it needs.
Copy editing: Make someone else’s words sound better...or write the words for them. So much content is being created. Someone’s gotta make it look good!
Live stream assisting: Most people don’t know how to create high-quality live-stream with great sound, better lighting, and a decent-looking space. Offer your skills in this area.
Give lessons: Ok, this one might be a no-brainer but maybe consider teaching a few lessons each week. Again, start with your fans. They already have a relationship with you and it’s a much easier sell. If they don’t want lessons, they know someone who does.
Look, even if you don’t have a degree in any of the above areas, you have experience and that always trumps a piece of paper. Do what you know and use what you know! The possibilities are endless. Good luck!
Joy Ike is a full-time singer-songwriter and artist consultant based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her writings on music, business, and branding have been shared by ASCAP, BMI, Bandzoogle, Indie on the Move, CD Baby, and several other prominent music industry blogs. She is also a contributing writer for Bandzoogle and gives lectures and workshops on fanbase-building, tour booking, social media best practices, and turning a music career into a sustainable living. You can find her through her artist consulting project, Cultivators, or at www.joyike.com, Facebook, and Instagram.
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