Surviving The Pandemic in Music
This was an article I wrote back in 2020 when we all thought this pandemic thing was going to only be a few months, little did we know. I decided to repost it for obvious reasons and the content is still useful pandemic or not. I hope you enjoy it.
I know. We all have the same question. What do we do now? It’s already June 2020, the pandemic thing totally destroyed our year, there are no shows, and we don’t know when there will be. It’s been a weird ride for artists this year, but what do we do to keep going? Here are a few things that are happening, and a few suggestions to keep your career on track.
Go old school with the singles.
So, out there in record-land, the recent strategy has been to make massively long boring AF albums to manipulate the way streaming works. That’s why your new albums are about 10 tracks too long. Given the current situation, and given you're probably not Rhianna, maybe it’s time to drip-feed those singles again to build up momentum for an eventual album release, and make more effort around the release of each one. People are consuming more music now than ever so why not? Perhaps it would inspire you to make stronger songs, too.
Think about it. A single needs artwork, which creates more visuals which creates more content, creates more STUFF. More stuff is work, but also creates more engagement. Necessity sometimes forces new avenues of creativity. People KNOW you’re in a tricky position right now, so DIY is very much embraced and sometimes yields pretty creative pieces of art.
B-sides and bonuses
At the dawn of digital, we even had digital singles with B-sides, an art form that we have lost. I’ll tell you a story, as I used to bang these out for artists who were signed and were my first “label” production jobs. You’d get a day, and at the end of the day, the song would have to be finished. Maybe even two songs. The question artists asked was usually “ Do you think we can….” and the answer as producer, no matter how outlandish was ALWAYS “Oh yes we can!” The cool kids I was working with would often leave to go do something more interesting (like play Alexandra Palace opening for Franz Ferdinand or whatever) and I’d finish it off since I’d been given one of the best studios in London for the day. Bail, stay in a sh*tty value inn somewhere in Shoreditch, wait a month to see if they remember to give you a credit on the sleeve when the single dropped.
I’m not saying they were classics, but there was a sense of freedom, of experimentation and occasional inspired brilliance that gets easily lost in the record-making process, so why not bash out some b-sides to go with your single releases?
Livestreams, TV shows and lessons
With this topic in general, things require lateral thinking right now. We’ve seem people (sometimes surprisingly well) take on the livestream, and new creative ways to make videos, or video casts. I was super pleased to see a veteran blues artist I work with jump on board and absolutely KILL the livestream; if you think about it singer-songwriters and solo blues artists fit this format perfectly. Another of my wonderful clients Zaritza recently took place in a live online festival for charity, which was a great idea. If it’s a guitar and vocal, or keys and vocalist in a camera-ready setting it can look great with minimal effort and requires no special audio setup either. It just requires TALENT.
I also particularly like what my clients “The Hawkmen” are doing which is a fairly regular 30 minute “TV show” of sorts via Facebook - each member getting up to some nonsense, doing a little segment which reflects them, personality-wise. Scarlett, the glamorous pin-up singer shows you how to make cocktails, OF COURSE, Tim lays down the wonder of bad Dad jokes (from the back of his work van) geezer that he is, and so on.
Other people have been doing things like showing people how to actually play their songs, giving online lessons, all kinds of things they never would have before. The only limit is your creativity!
This ties in with another important concept: Authenticity. If you’re the real you, fans love it. While it’s nice to have a persona in some cases and wear a giant rubber monster suit or mouse head if that’s your bag, for most people being able to perceive an artist as a person is a big factor. Why else would they care about you? Letting people IN works. Being more honest, natural, real is INTERESTING. You can share all kinds of things, the creative process, recording, stories, demos, anything. The emphasis of off perfection for a while at least. Just pay attention to what works with your audience, do more of that does, and move on from what doesn’t.
Maybe there won’t BE a tour cycle for the rest of 2020 so you probably need to apply yourself in new ways to stay present, top of mind and engage your fans. Thanks for tuning into another in the set of articles for artists here at mixed by adam.
I hope you found this useful! If it was, I’ve compiled more resources on the topic of making it through the pandemic as a musician.