As everyone working in, or even peripherally connected to, the music industry knows, March of 2020 brought the live music and touring world to a complete stop, causing musicians and music creators to take drastic steps to completely change the way they went about earning a living. Many of us found ourselves having to do something we were already very accustomed to doing, pivot. We went from producing, presenting, creating and performing live music as our primary source of revenue, to secondary revenue streams taking front and center, alongside some new, and in many cases creative, verticals.
As an agent and manager in the music business, representing artists just like these, I find myself in daily conversations with my clients over how best to monetize their art, sometimes, out of sheer necessity. Since the ability to perform live was all but shut down completely, live streaming from their living rooms has quickly become the most common way that most artists have been paying their bills. Some have found creative locations to live stream from like parks, the top of the steps in Philadelphia where Rocky Balboa did his famous run, train tracks and more. That said, we have a problem. After more than eight months now, this article was written on November 9th, just after a contentious election and on the same day drug company Phizer announced a vaccine with 95?fectiveness, the world is suffering from extreme screen fatigue. Shares of platforms like Hulu, Roku, Amazon and Netflix are plummeting and live streamed concerts are taking a backseat to fans needing to just get out of the house and do something, anything. Ardent supporters and diehard fans have spent months online, tipping, watching, drinking with, enjoying and supporting their favorite musicians and now find themselves looking for other outlets for enjoyment. Artists who, six months ago were averaging three to four thousand viewers per livestream find themselves struggling to coax three to four hundred, and in many cases much less than that to sit for more than two to three songs.
With all of this going on and these changes in fan and music consumer behavior affecting what many artists have found to be the quickest and most effective way to keep their fans engaged and stay on an upward trajectory in their careers, it seems that now yet another pivot might be in order. Maybe pivot is the wrong word to use here, it may be as simple as using the skills, assets and tools you already have at your disposal to broaden the scope of your current portfolio. First and foremost, artists are entrepreneurs. A good entrepreneur knows how and when to expand their products or services to meet a need, whether that need be a customer need or the need to strengthen his/her bottom line. As an artist, your music and merchandise are your products and your very existence is your service. So, what can you do? Let's explore.
1. Remix, remaster and re-release - If you have songs that you have recorded that people love, but that may be lacking in attention lately, now might be a good time to create a cool remixed version of some of those songs. There is an artist that I manage that recorded a song many years ago that has been sitting on their Spotify buried down the page as the middle track on an old album that doesn't get a lot of streams since they are constantly pushing out new tunes. I happened to come across this track on one of my daily runs a few weeks ago and the song just blew me away! The song was written as an anthem of hope just after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. It never mentions the hurricane or New Orleans or anything really specific to that disaster but when you heard it, you knew what it was about. In these times we are living in, with Covid-19, political unrest, racial injustice, protests and more, America is in need of a spiritual and physical healing and some signs of hope and this song, even though written for a different time and place, could not be more relevant than right now. I suggested to that artist that it would be a great idea to re-introduce the world to that song through either a re-mixed or re-imagined version as well as an accompanying video showing scenes from the past year as the song builds to a crescendo and ultimately provides a sense of hope for a better future. This could literally end up being their next big single, and it's a song thats been in their repertoire for years! You could also release instrumental versions of your songs, acoustic versions of electric songs and electric versions of acoustic songs. I've seen a few artists doing this lately have having a lot of success with it.
2. Remix your merchandise - You can re-mix more than just your music. Think long and hard about what your fans want from you. They want a connection. They want to know that you need them as much as they need you and what better way to show that than through some personalized merch? There are so many printing companies out there that will do small on-demand orders that you can literally create personalized designs for your fans, whether they be geographically specific, or some other criteria that you can come up with. Maybe you have a lot of fans in say, Texas, but you're based in Nashville. You could create a custom T-Shirt just for your Texas fans with some sort of logo or design element specific to that State. You could do something as simple as changing design colors on your current merchandise. If you wanted to really go custom, you could create shirts with specific fan names on them. Yeah, it sounds a little cheesy but you'd be surprised how far a little personalization will go with your biggest fans.
3. Private shows - This is primarily for those artists here who already have strong local and regional followings, but most every artist has a few of "those fans", the diehard fans with money to spend who would love to have you come play in their backyard (keeping it outdoors is best in this covid era) or on their ranch, in their local community center or somewhere private for just them and a few of their friends and family members. This is something you could offer as a contest or auction type situation and goes a long way in making a very special connection with your fans, socially distanced of course. I look forward to the day when I can write sentences that don't have to have that socially distanced caveat.
4. Livestreams - Touching very briefly on livestreams as I know these have been really played out at the moment, but if you have a solid catalog of work, several albums worth, you may want to think about doing weekly livestreamed shows where you play each album in its entirety, discussing briefly the stories behind each song. Your fans will love this and absolutely love to hear the back stories behind their favorite songs.
5. Private zoom meet and greets - This is another way that many mid-level recording artists are doing really well for themselves. They are setting up a specific day and time to jump on zoom with a few fans, who pay a premium, to discuss anything those fans may want to discuss, talk about new plans, etc. It is the ultimate fan engagement.
6. Teaching Music Lessons - This is something that I have seen a few artists doing really well with if done properly. You are a musician. You have a gift. You may be really surprised to find out how many of your fans wish they also had that gift, but for whatever reason, just don't. There are so many fans out there who have instruments themselves but just aren't really that good at playing them. Maybe they know a few chords and can strum out a simple melody but that's as far as it goes. Imagine teaching them how to play your songs! Songs that they already love, and would love to learn how to play. Pick one or two of your easier songs, preferrably something with only a few chords and offer to teach them those songs for an hour or two per week, for a fee of course. You may find it a really surprising source of income.
7. Busking - Yeah, I know. It can be demeaning to some, but think about when you first started playing music. There was a time you would do anything to perform in front of anyone, anywhere because you just knew that if you made that simple connection, that people would love your music and you would make there day. What's changed? Covid-19 has, if anything, leveled the playing field. Artists, big or small, need to perform live music as badly as fans need to hear it. Most every town has some sort of public park, town square or something along those lines where you can easily get a permit from the city to set up and perform live for a few hours for tips. I know, the idea of playing for tips seems a bit of a step back to most, but isn't everything a step back these days? You could announce the performance to your fans in a specific geographical region and since the event is outdoors, the whole social distancing aspect will take care of itself. Yeah, I know, it doesn't always work that way, but this article is about trying new things to see what works. Until things get back to normal we are all forced to do a few things we may not like. That said, I have seen a lot of small to mid-level bands make more money playing in "pay what you can" type situations than they would normally get paid as a guarantee from a club.
8. Free Publicity - Believe it or not, there are ways for you to get your band, your songs, your videos and your news featured on premium news outlets completely for free. You don't necessarily need a publicist or a manager or even connections with writers at these outlets to get it done. There are a lot of free press-release outlets that will allow you to post one or sometimes more press releases for free in order to try to "funnel" you into their paid programs. These press-release outlets serve up these press releases to tens of thousands of journalists, critics, bloggers and more on a daily basis. Some that I would suggest would be PR.com, Issuewire.com, KissPR.com, PRLog.com as well as EINPresswire.com who run www.musicpressreleases.com. EIN Presswire charges a small fee to post but has a really strong reach. Spend a few minutes learning how to format a good press release on one of the many free online resources and get to typing. You could literally be promoting anything you wish, a new show, a livestream, a new single, a new video, whatever and it will get press. It will also boost the SEO of your band website if you link back to your site from the press release helping to ultimately push your search rankings higher. I know of several bands who pump out a press release once a week just to announce almost anything going on with their band and they are seeing solid results. Check out some of the "read counts" on the sites mentioned above for the large number of writers accessing these sites.
9. Play in a church band - I know, church may not be your thing. It doesn't have to be. There are plenty of churches worldwide who pay good musicians who aren't members of their church to show up on Sunday for one or two thirty minute sessions with the occasional Saturday or Wednesday night service as well. These churches often pay salaries or hourly rates and can be a good way to collect a regular paycheck for knowing how to play your instrument better than the average person. I work with a Nu-Jazz/Jam band who's members play different church services every other Sunday and those services pay so well that this band actually asks that we schedule their tours in a way that won't cause them to miss those services. Yep, you read that right, their side-hustle at a church takes precedent over their somewhat lucrative tours. I should mention that none of them are actual members of the church where they play.
10. Work with small businesses to build their brand - This works really well for bands and musicians who live in small metro areas where there are a lot of mom and pop businesses. A lot of small businesses have a budget to create locally televised commercials and are always looking for music for those commercials, spokespeople etc. that will make them and their brand look good. If you have strong name recognition in your home town and know small businesses like these, it can't hurt to reach out to them to see what they are doing with their marketing budget. If you see them running commercials that contain music or especially those that don't, consider offering up some of your music for a small fee. If you are in control of the rights to your music as many who read these articles are, you might find this a really good source of residual income, especially if you have a home studio.
There you have it, we will dig deeper in a future article into other ways you can make more from your music including Sync, Publishing and more but I really wanted to get this out there to give you a few ideas you may not be thinking of. If you are reading this article before January of 2021, we have not yet launched our full suite of support products, label services, contact database and more which includes a massive worldwide database of every relevant venue, promoter, festival, label, agent, manager, music supervisor, AandR, publicist, media outlet, playlister and more. If you are reading this after January of 2021, simply go back to our home page and click database for the largest set of tools available anywhere for independent musicians.
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