It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a major effect on industries across the world and the entertainment industry is no exception. As musicians, photographers, and artists in the industry in general, this isn’t just our job-it’s our livelihood. As we grieve the world we once knew, bands and artists are forced to think of new ways of expressing their art and business. As most of us weren’t anticipating doing shows via Zoom, there’s obviously going to be some growing pains for us to work through.
At a time when the world is uncertain, there might be a lot of questions going through a musician’s head like “will I ever be able to play a show again?” and “how do I still reach new people?”. While these concerns are completely valid, there’s some light to be shed on what you can do right now. Here’s five common mistakes that you might be making as a musician during COVID-19, along with a little advice from our experts that you can use right now to improve your brand, following, content, and more:
1. A Lack of Web Presence
As many of us are still in lockdown (or should be), the internet has become the staple of our lives in everything from finding entertainment to ordering takeout. Pre-COVID, you might have been able to get by on flyers for your show around town and the occasional Facebook post, but the sad reality is that the world has changed and your online outreach is more important than ever. Use this time to really get comfortable with all forms of social media posting with relation to personal brand and the promotion of your upcoming products through ad campaigns. Also, make sure that you are reachable and rememberable-don’t make your fans dig for your website on Google.
What to do: Make sure that you are so easily reachable that you are the first or second result in any given circumstance. This can happen through a unique name or through targeted ads, but make sure that this does not become annoying to your viewers-there is such a thing as too much! Find a balance that you and your band are comfortable with for posting to social media. Plan out your posts and make sure that everything is ready ahead of time. The use of an app that posts on your behalf, such as HootSuite, can be helpful here!
Who is doing it well: Zealand the North (@zealandthenorth on Instagram)
Why we like them: Zealand’s use of a branded color palette and obviously synced posts make it easy for fans to find. They also have a name that is uncommon and interesting enough whereupon a simple Google search, nobody has to dig through links
2. Not Being Consistent
“New Music Coming Soon!” they say, while months go by without a peep from the band.
We’ve all seen this before. You want your audience to stay excited with you and to be as eager as you are to release new content to the world. This in itself isn’t inherently wrong, but if there is no follow up or consistency, you aren’t doing much to keep your audience engaged (and also brink on lying to them!). As a social media presence, it’s important to remember that you have to fight your way into people’s feeds. Your fans might be excited about your new music, but unless there is consistent follow up on what you’re doing and when, it’s very easy to lose interest entirely. Set up scheduled posts, or at least have a plan to post consistently, even if you don’t have music coming out any time soon. This will ensure that your audience stays with you every step of the way.
What to do: Do countdowns to your releases at least a week in advance for your releases to get your listeners excited and ready when you finally post on release day! Facebook and Instagram livestreams are also a wonderful way to stay connected to your fans right now and will keep you rememberable and relevant. Keep showing your fans that you are invested in bringing them new music and that you care about connecting to them personally.
Who is doing it well: Goons (@goonvibesonly on Instagram)
Why we like them: Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Goons has been releasing new content such as new singles and covers to keep us interested. It’s obvious that they have been putting in serious work to keep us excited and engaged.
3. Not Having (Good) Merch
As buying your favorite band merchandise from shows isn’t exactly an option for everybody right now, your website needs to be equipped to handle the demand of your fans. Drop shipping services like Printful help artists alleviate any pains with bulk buying and shipping arrangement so that you can focus on the design itself rather than logistics.
Merch can be such a connecting force for fans, whether it be a reminder of a special memory at a pre-COVID show, or as an indicator of a shared interest. This is the time to really dive into your merch as well as your online store and ask yourself a few questions:
-Does the merch match our brand? (Do we have a brand?)
-Is the merch good quality?
-Is it accessible via our website?
If the answer to any of these is “no”, you need a merch overhaul.
What to do: Get merch that is reflective of you as an artist or band that is high-quality and memorable. Cool designs or a word/phrase that has to do with your brand are usually popular, no matter the size of your fanbase. Extra points if you commission an artist or graphic designer to help you out here.
Who is doing it well: Kady Rain (@kadyrain on Twitter and Instagram)
Why we like her: Her merch is exciting, colorful, and in your face. She continues to promote the sales of her products on her socials and continues to wow us. She also goes the extra mile to employ artists around Austin for her merch so that it continues to be high quality and wearable.
4. Absence of a Clear Message
Or maybe you don’t have one at all.
Honestly, this is a huge one and possibly going to be the one to make you click off this page. So be it.
You need to stand for something. Anything. Your audience craves connection and relatable content. If you aren’t speaking up, you’re losing so much more than you think.
If you aren’t speaking up for equality, speaking out against injustice, and supporting marginalized voices, you aren’t reading the room.
Like anyone in the public eye, you are forced to be relatable to those around you. While sometimes this can be a bad thing, as you probably know the risks of having information about you out there for the world to see, people need to know that you are on their side right now. Music will always be the great connector, and therefore, is inherently political. Make it known where you stand and how you’re willing to help. Get creative with your voice and really get out there!
What to do: Have a meeting with the other members of your band/ crew and decide on something that you want to stand for. Make sure you all have a clear sense of what it means to stand for something in the time of social media. Most importantly, go out and make your voice heard in some way.
Why we like them: Both Johnny and Nominee use their platform to speak out against racial injustice and for BLM, providing a way for their fans to connect with them on the issues that they care about. By using their platform this way as artists in the public eye, people are easily able to see that they are willing to fight for what is right and that they are on their fans’ side.
5. Stopping Your Grind
While it’s true that you may not have to prepare for any live shows any time soon (unless you are doing any kind of remote streaming-which is definitely a good idea), everything that you do as a musician doesn’t have to come to a complete halt.
As we know, musicians have to wear a lot of hats. Use this time not to only work on that new single, but to really work out your budget, brand, a plan for when everything opens back up (how does your live show set you apart?), social media posting, and/or overhauling your website. You’ll thank yourself when things start to open up again.
What to do: Live streams and virtual concerts are a great thing you can do to not only keep your audience excited for the next step, but to also build trust and familiar bonds with your fanbase. Get up close and personal with what you really care about and share it with those that look up to you most.
Who is doing it well: Corbella (@corbella_band on Instagram)
Why we like them: Corbella is a band that has overhauled so many aspects of their brand in the last few months, as well as released new music, done live streams, and has been overall great in interacting with their fanbase. It’s obvious that Corbella has not stopped their grind in the least.
We at A&R think that all you do in the music industry is amazing. We write this post to you not to shame you, but to help you rise to your fullest potential and to make the most of this very challenging time. Music is the saving grace of so many during a time when many of us are stuck at home. We know that as artists you are creating a safe space for people to escape to, and that should not be taken lightly. If you find yourself asking “okay, what now?” to anything on this list, know that we are right behind you and cheering you on.