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The music industry shut its door practically overnight. Gigs are cancelled. Even Glasto is cancelled. Here are 10 of my tips on how best to use this time.

The music industry shut its door practically overnight. Gigs are cancelled. Even Glasto is cancelled. & over a quarter of the world’s population are socially distancing due to Covid-19. It’s a strange time for humanity, & not a great time for live music. 

Thankfully, musicians have shown their will & the show must go on! Virtual gigs are popping up all over the place, demonstrating artists’ fights to carry on entertaining & music lovers’ desire to keep listening & feeling united through it. 

Furthermore, many of us musicians & creatives are realising how much stuff we can get on with from our own homes to boost our musical careers. Here are 10 of my tips on how best to use this time:

Absorb knowledge 

I’m lucky to have a full-time job which allows me to work-from-home. With all the free time I’m saving from not travelling to & from work & not socialising, there really is no excuse for having no time to read & learn.

I downloaded Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-&-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood on Kindle & am getting really into music from that time. I also listen to an episode of Song Exploder each day, a podcast where artists dissect their songs & how they wrote & produced them. 

Adding to this, I discovered Guitar Star, a podcast where artists talk about their relationship with playing the guitar. I’ve spent a lot more time practicing. I even restrung my first guitar, a dreadnought Washburn which had the same blackened greasy strings from 2016, & have been getting reacquainted with it.

I’ve never felt so inspired as an artist to learn, discover new music, & find out about the musical journey of others, & with all this free time, it’s been a lot easier. 

Get songwriting 

I, like many songwriters out there, have a pile of unfinished songs – lyrics I’ve started & got stuck or bored with, or mere fragments of ideas. Now is the time to work on finishing your songs & putting those fragments together.

Naz (the other half of Naz & Ella) has also found more time to write & we’ve now got a new folder of song lyrics.

Come to think of it, I wonder how many EPs or albums will result from social distancing? Songwriting is one of the purest forms of activity you can do. All you need is a piece of paper & a pen, & maybe an instrument. So get writing! 

Focus on Marketing

This is a good time to think about how you can boost your marketing efforts & do all the things you’ve thought or talked about doing in the past. Now is the time to think about what else you can offer your fans to keep them coming back & following your progress. Here are some things you can do from home:

Record a podcast

We recently did our first podcast & it was a lot easier & less daunting than we thought it’d be. All you need is a microphone – we purchased the Samsung CO1U which is fairly inexpensive & recording software such as Garageband or Ableton.

Topic-wise, you can do it on anything that you think will cause interesting discussion. Make it something you know you can talk about for at least 15 minutes! We dissected our latest single so our audience would understand the meaning & process behind it. A podcast helps your fans get to know you a bit better, they want to hear your opinion!

Write a blog

I love writing, it’s a great outlet for me. I keep up a blog on our website just for fun, it includes reviews, opinion pieces, & advice for musicians. It’s garnered a lot more traffic & attention than I ever thought it would which is really rewarding & has led to connecting with more music lovers & listeners. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys writing. There are lots of options out there, such as Wix, WordPress or Squarespace.

Put out your demos

It’s easy to fall into the perfectionist trap as musicians, particularly in the digital age where access to recording is easier. But now is the time to share your demos with your audience & give them an idea of what you are working on & what’s to come.

Give online lessons

If you are looking for new ways to make money at this time, you could consider offering lessons on an instrument or singing. With the children all off school, many parents will be looking for ways to keep their kids entertained.

You can do this over Zoom, Skype or Google hangouts. Keep the lessons short & digestible, & don’t try to achieve too much. The first lesson will be more about getting to know the student’s needs & requirements. 

Live-stream gigs

Ok, so a virtual gig doesn’t beat a real one. But in this strange, isolating time, spending half an hour watching a virtually streamed gig happening live can provide real comfort & bit of entertainment & escapism from the situation we’re in.

So many artists are doing this, we are spoilt for choice. & as I said in the previous point, it brings fans & their audience closer together. I am quite a nervous performer, & find the idea of doing a video performance a lot less nerve-wracking, so it’s a great idea for those new to performing who want to be eased in gently.

You can go live on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube. You just need a phone or laptop with a camera & you’re good to go. Ensure you let your audience know well enough in advance what time & on what platform you’ll be doing your live show. The beauty of performing online is that you can monitor the feedback more easily from your audience, & take requests & respond in real-time. You could also consider charging a fee or accepting donations for this.

FemFolk & LOUD WOMEN are two organisations that we have seen doing virtual gigs, but there are probably more out there if you start looking! Let us know what you find in the comments. 

Connect with people online 

Distancing can be a very isolating & stressful time. This time has made it clear how many communities exist online, & plenty of groups have been set up to support one another. I recommend Facebook & Next Door in particular for this.

If you want to get involved with a new community & connect with others who share the same interests, online forums are great places to find such groups. I find Reddit generally a really useful resource for just about anything.

Want to join the conversation about a weird Norwegian noir series you just watched? Want to identify that bizarre-looking weed in your garden? Reddit will have a subreddit for it! (Subreddits refer to micro forums within Reddit, based around a particular interest/ thing). 

& us musicians are spoilt for choice, with subreddits – /r/WeAreTheMusicMakers, /r/musicians, /r/AudioEngineering, to name just a few. 

Give yourself time to relax – it’s OK to not create

This is an anxiety-provoking time for many. But the importance of self-care really is imperative at this time. Schedule yourself in a bit of time for relaxing, listening to music & just chilling out or catching up with friends.

We are currently being bombarded with online content. Everything is overwhelming. Take some time to relax & don’t feel guilty about it. If you are finding it hard to create at this time, that’s OK. Putting pressure on ourselves to create, especially at a time like this can backfire. If inspiration comes, great! If not, don’t worry about it.

So there we have it, there are our tips. But in general, any way that you can connect with your audience, even in a small way, is worth pursuing at this strange time. If you have any tips, gigs or music you want to share, then please do so in the comments below. Happy Isolating Folks!

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