Posted: Jul 27, 2020
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest post written by Gideon Waxman, a London based drummer & music educator.
"There is still a long road to recovery for countless industries and individuals that have been impacted by COVID-19. In these unprecedented times, it may come as no surprise that the live music industry will be the very last sector we can expect to see returning to “normal.”
We are well aware of the colossal number of tours and music festivals having been cancelled due to risk of further spreading the illness; everyone involved in music has felt the ongoing effects of this pandemic. The immense losses have forced many event organizers to go out of business, and professional musicians relying on touring as their primary source of income have arguably suffered the most.
There are times in life when we are forced to adapt in order to survive. This is one of those times, and it’s why we as musicians need to become flexible in order to achieve financial security—I also want to give you some advice as to how to start becoming more self-reliant.
The music industry relies on a heavily freelance workforce. Musicians, sound engineers and touring crew all forego the benefits that conventional jobs offer: paid salaries, retirement plans, paid holidays, health insurance, job security—the list sadly goes on.
Freelance workers are entirely responsible for themselves, and there ain’t no safety net to catch us when we fall.
Nobody could have anticipated the fallout of the live music industry, but there may be other circumstances in the future that prevent tours from taking place. Musicians must learn to adapt through seizing new opportunities in order to prevent a dangerous loss of earnings, and plant roots in areas of stability. Having to rely on other individuals in order to complete work, or needing to outsource certain creative processes puts yourself at serious risk. Minimizing risk through being self-sufficient and diversifying your income is the key to regaining control. So, how do we do that? Let’s talk about that!
The modern music industry requires you to be a true chameleon. If you want to become a working session drummer, you’re limiting your potential if you only specialize in playing a few styles of music. Naturally the same goes for not knowing how to use electronic drum pads, or recording and production software, or even knowing how to put together a decent social media following.
One of the first keys to self-reliance today is simply becoming more versatile and adding different tools to your toolbox. Otherwise, you’ll either be passed over for certain session opportunities, or in order to take part you’ll need to outsource jobs to other people and incur additional expenses.
So, now might be a great time to take an online course, or several, to expand your skill base and deepen your musical knowledge. You’ll gain more creative control and it will save you a ton of money in the long run—plus online courses are so much cheaper than going to music school!
On a platform like Soundfly for example, you can learn about chords and harmony, beat making in Ableton, producing in Logic Pro, composing, songwriting, and mixing, all with a low-cost monthly subscription. And that’s just one example, there are tons of online learning platforms out there to check out on the internet.
The point is: diversify your skills to increase your opportunities. Now let’s talk about diversifying your revenue streams!
Relying on a single revenue stream is incredibly risky. Diversification is key. By having multiple streams of revenue it means you are better protected in case of a sudden loss of work. Instead of losing all of your income, you will (hopefully) only lose a portion.
So how can musicians explore new income sources?
There are so many ways experienced musicians can provide a service or share their knowledge in order to generate extra cash flow. I’m going to discuss a few digital platforms that are only a sign up away, through which you can provide remote services such as vlogging, recording, teaching, and mentorship, but the world is really your oyster as long as you’re creative.
And networking is an important part of this. Whether you’re offering your instrumental services as a session or (one day) touring musician, offering to produce, mix, or remix artists’ work for a small fee, songwriting and co-writing for other artists, helping with grant-writing, website copywriting, and newsletter drafting, or submitting to sync licensing briefs, all of those options become much more viable with a healthy network around you.
Technology-wise, right now many musicians offer private tuition over Zoom; allowing you to connect with a student anywhere in the world. It’s convenient, relevant, and functional, and it costs you nothing but time and energy to get started. But there are many other creative ways musicians can use technology to their advantage.
Building income streams on various digital platforms requires ingenuity and hard work. What you put in will warrant what you receive as a result, but it may take time.
With that in mind, here are some of my top recommended ways musicians can generate predictable monthly income online in this day and age.
Patreon is one of the best ways for creators to generate passive income in music, even if you have a small but loyal following. This is a popular subscription-based service that allows musicians and creators to create a community hub: sharing exclusive content in return for a monthly fee.
There are real incentives for music fans to become part of a Patreon community because subscriptions allow fans to be as close as possible to and interact with their favorite musicians. And unlike social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, with Patreon there’s no middleman between you and your community; your audience is yours alone.
Fiverr was launched in 2010 and instantly became a hit among freelancers and consumers thanks to its streamlined platform and smooth transactions. This site is the ultimate freelance service marketplace with millions of potential buyers looking for complete songs, remote recordings, graphic design work and much more. You can build income offering your services at the prices you choose to set, with fast, easy, and reliable payments.
Vlogging and Affiliate Marketing
You may think YouTube is incredibly competitive, and you’d be right to think that. But did you know as a search engine, it’s become bigger than Google?
There will always be room for more talented creators on YouTube. If you are self-sufficient and able to create fun and enjoyable content, then you can tap into one of the most rewarding passive income streams there is. To make it even more lucrative, through advertisements and building affiliate links, you can both increase your professional network and your audience at the same time that you’re building a solid passive income stream.
Whether you’re an educator, musician or even reviewing gear and equipment like I do on my blog; I guarantee you there is an audience out there that would love to see and read your content.
And if you’re interested in using your webcam to vlog or teach lessons en masse, definitely try out Twitch; this platform is gaining in popularity and is built around the needs of content creators looking to develop their audiences.
On the topic of generating passive income, if you can create and market a high quality product then you can continue to be paid even after the work is complete.
You might be a professional musician who creates video lessons, or a producer who builds bespoke sample libraries, there are tons of ways to make your work work for you. It’s a challenging yet incredibly rewarding endeavour. Check out Bandzoogle if you want to build an attractive web store with minimal hassle.
The key with diversifying your revenue to increase your self-reliance is to ensure that you are able to vary up the type of work you can offer. That way, in a worst-case scenario like the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll have alternate income streams on which to fall back.
And don’t worry if you aren’t an expert in any of this stuff yet, everyone has to start somewhere. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just don’t give up too soon without really working to build your foundations first. Whether you wish to pursue flexible and remote gig work or you wish to build a content hub through paid subscriptions or ads, there are multiple avenues worth exploring to help you adapt and thrive in extraordinary circumstances. Good luck! "
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Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer and music educator, who holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Westminster. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper - one of the web's most popular free online drumming resources.