Musicians get creative to reach fans and make ends meet via livestream concerts
Artists are not taking the effects of coronavirus lying down. Independent musicians are getting creative—with livestream concerts, online music lessons and virtual gift cards—to reach fans and pay the bills.
It’s no secret that making a living as a musician, especially independent of a major music label, is challenging. And, suddenly, the climb to turning a musical hobby into a career has become even steeper since the COVID-19 outbreak, with venues closed and gigs canceled.
Major artists like Billie Eilish, Cher, and Elton John have all had to postpone tours and concerts, while events like Coachella and SXSW have been postponed or, worse, canceled. While even the big stars are taking a hit, it’s the independent artists who are grappling with how to bring in enough revenue to pay the bills.
But after all, it’s show biz. And the show must go on one way or another. Here are a few ways musical artists are keeping fans entertained and doing their best to stay financially afloat when most of the world is under quarantine.
‘This time is very stressful’
Singer-songwriter Nathaniel Davis is known in his community just outside of Washington, DC, for performing at weddings, breweries, wineries and even corporate events. He’s built a career as a self-employed musician and has been able to make enough to support his wife and two kids.
But, as he puts it, the music industry took a “crushing blow” in the past few weeks, which has him and many other independent musicians rethinking how they can bring in an income.
Davis didn’t sugar coat his feelings when he pled with followers on Facebook page last week.
“I’m not gonna lie … This time is very stressful and anxious right now. Economically, coming off the three slowest months heading into event season where a large percentage of annual income is scheduled,” he wrote. “For those with steady incomes, paid time off and work from home, it may be hard to fully understand the impact this brings.”
Davis, joined by other artists around the world, is revamping how he reaches audiences. And he’s doing his best to stay upbeat in the process. He teamed up with Old Ox Brewery to serenade customers who order beer delivery. When customers hear a knock on the door, they think they’re just getting a few six packs (which alone lifts their spirits). But then they catch a glimpse of Davis performing a “concert from a distance.”
With the sidewalk as his stage, Davis covers popular songs, like “Shut Up and Dance,” while strumming a guitar and tapping a tambourine with his foot.
Davis also has a livestream concert planned for this Sunday, where he hopes that fans with a steady income will be willing to give tips digitally. He’s also considering offering music lessons via video conference and gift cards that can be redeemed later.
“These are really tough times,” he says. “But I’m resolved to redeem this situation and bring forth something positive.”
Drop Kick Murphys wasn’t about to give up performing on St. Patrick’s Day—the Irish band’s favorite day of the year. So they held a livestream concert on YouTube and invited fans to tune in. And more than 1.5 million did just that, likely with a Guinness in hand.
The millions of people stuck at home are turning to the internet for not only social connections but entertainment.
Musicians from small, independent artists like Davis to big stars like Garth Brooks, are plugging into social media to meet that demand. Livestreaming services through Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch make it easy for musicians to connect with fans.
And thanks to Venmo, PayPal, Cash app and Facebook, fans can send digital tips to artists, just as if they were at a live performance dropping cash in a coffee can.
A time to record and release new music
Although the majority of artists’ income comes from touring and sales of merchandise, there is still money to be made (and creative fulfillment to be had) from writing, recording, and releasing new music.
Yes, social distancing makes touring impossible. But, that frees up time for independent artists to work on new music.
For those who are fortunate enough to have studio equipment in their homes, recording new music is a great way to keep creative juices flowing during these long days in quarantine.
With music fans sitting at home — and hungry for music from their favorite artists — musicians can meet the demand by putting out new songs and even albums for people to enjoy, buy, and stream.
Heck, Coronavirus may have kickstarted DJ iMarkkeyz’s career. The Brooklyn-native remixed a few lines from Cardi B into a “Coronavirus” song that went viral. The song climbed to the top 10 on iTunes songs chart and has 1.4 million views on YouTube.
Talk about turning lemons to lemonade.
Plus, the two artists have said they will donate any proceeds from the song to families who have been most impacted by the virus.
How music fans can help
Despite these options, it’s still an incredibly difficult time for creative professionals who are losing significant parts of their livelihood.
Many artists are encouraging their clients to postpone rather than cancel their planned events.
Purchasing albums and merchandise is the best way to support your favorite independent musicians. Pull up your favorite artists’ website, Instagram or Facebook pages and find out how you can give a generous tip.
Every little bit helps, according to Davis. And support for musicians now will mean more live music—in person—on the other side of this. And more artists choosing careers that allow them to do what they love.
“With technology and creativity,” Davis said, “together as a community we can work through this time to find positive expressions to encourage us.”
Related: Meet Nashville’s Adrik Bagdasarian
Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.