As if becoming a professional musician wasn’t difficult enough, now you’ve got to contend with the whole events sector shutting down for a pandemic.
While there will always be people who have a worse deal from covid, it’s completely legit to feel anxious and helpless in the face of your industry grinding to a halt.
But after all the hard work you’ve put into your craft so far, is it really fair for anyone to suggest you should abandon your dreams and retrain as something completely different? Quite apart from being a little soul-destroying, it also suggests music and culture aren’t that important – which we all know is total bunk.
Don’t worry though, after some heated debate on social media during the pandemic (remember Fatima the ballerina?), pretty much everyone is on your side when it comes to celebrating your cultural craft.
That doesn’t solve the problem of how you can pay the rent though. So what can you do to make money that plays to your strengths until you can get back onstage or into the studio again?
The answer is: loads.
If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that we could all do with a lot more self improvement. From taking up yoga to baking an infinite number of sourdough loaves, gardening the heck out of our front yards and learning a new language, people have been ON IT.
Music, too, has become a favourite hobby to fill our spare time, with searches like ‘learn to play guitar’ having a big spike last year. People who used to play have been dusting off their instruments again, while newbies have been buying them online. This means there’s a whole nation of people out there who want to learn things you already know, and perhaps you could teach them.
There are a couple of ways you can do this. The first is creating a series of videos on YouTube that offer specific lessons for different techniques or stages of learning with a particular instrument. If you go through the YouTube Partner Programme and have good video optimisation set up, you could make a steady income from ads as your video is discovered and watched by housebound musicians-in-training.
The second way to make bank from this trend is offering bespoke lessons via videolink, and this is something you can charge for directly. There may be music teaching facilities near you who are running online courses during lockdown, and you can approach them and ask if you can get on their teaching roster, which could then lead to some in-person teaching work once lockdown is lifted.
But really all you need to do is start advertising yourself on social media, with a video clip to outline your credentials and give a sense of your personality. Then you can start taking bookings, and set up a PayPal or other account you can use to take payment.
Teaching is a skill though, so make sure you get into the headspace of a learner and offer them valuable insight into how they can improve. If they feel like they’re making progress with you, they’ll keep coming back and maybe even spread the word to their friends too.
You don’t have to have a ton of your own merch to sell, but you know what artists and fans want, and that puts you in a good position to set up your own merch business.
Whether you’re drop-shipping instruments and accessories, or offering a bespoke t-shirt printing and ordering service to other artists, you can make a profit by using your own knowledge of the music scene (and a little research) to gauge what sells.
Build a community
There are so many people out there who, like you, are musicians unable to work. If you can round up some of these people into an online community you can offer resources to help them earn money, and support to help them get through this tricky time.
Not only is this a lovely thing to do, but it can also be a moneymaker. You can charge a monthly membership for access, create e-learning materials and sell them, put ads on your site, and look for sponsorships from brands who are aligned with the support you’re providing. You can make videos and podcasts, and if you can build a steady and reliable audience you can get advertising on those too.
Think of it like this: anywhere there’s a collection of people with a clear niche interest, you know what kind of things they might pay a little bit of money for. And there’s also an advertising opportunity for anyone trying to reach them.
Building on your career, not replacing it
The best thing about doing any or all of the above is that it doesn’t need to replace your work as a musician. In fact, once you can get out and play again you’ll actually be better equipped for the music business than you were before.
So whether you’re a musician with their own merch company, a musician with a whole load of satisfied students, or a musician with a community of other musicians around them, you can still emerge from the pandemic as a musician.