How can musicians, performers and live engineers continue to make money during the COVID-19 lockdown? Part 1
Over the past 7-8 months, we have all watched helplessly as the live music industry, theatre and all performance arts have slid into an ever-deepening hole. With pubs and music venues under heavy restrictions or even facing closure, and touring at all levels stopped in their tracks, most musicians, technicians, engineers and all supporting crew have not earned a single penny since the COVID 19 breakout. Financially, this has had a devastating effect on most music and audio professionals and I’m not sure that we will ever be able to measure the resulting mental health issues that will continue to grow from the varying levels of lockdown.
This blackout on live entertainment is also having a huge influence around the wellbeing of live music lovers. According to a study by Patrick Fagan, an expert in Behavioural Science and Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths University, showed that a “Fortnightly gig attendance could extend life expectancy by NINE years” and “Wellbeing increased by 21% from just 20 minutes of gig-time, compared to just 10% for yoga and only 7% for dog-walking”.
The UK live music industry is valued annually at over £5.2b and that is without all of the associated income around food and drink, music tourism, advertising and more. And how is the UK government supporting our industry and in particular, the professionals that work within it? Well, I think that we all know the answer here…
But it’s not all bad news. Many creative minded musicians have used the lockdown as an opportunity to explore more online opportunities to engage and build their fan base and even find new ways to earn some mucheneeded cash. So, over the coming weeks we are going to offer up a number of ways to help engage and build your fanbase and to earn during and beyond lockdown.
Let’s start with 3 ways to earn money from your existing talents:
1. Online Sessions
I have now remotely played on a number of tracks for various artists in the UK, US, Germany and Denmark. And to coin the old phrase, if I can do it on my limited ability, I’m damn sure that you can too.
Produce a short video play real, get it up to your YouTube channel and start sharing your talents. Your video, and especially your sound, should be of the highest quality possible, so make sure that you choose the right, mics, DI’s and audio interface and have quality cables and leads. There’s nothing worse than getting a great guitar (or bass, drums, sax etc.) sound and then recording it with the wrong or sub-standard mic and cables.
Don’t forget to make it obvious in your video and description that you are available for hire and get everyone that you know to share it. You should also consider promoting (advertising) your video on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Fees will obviously be higher if you are a respected musician or singer. But as long as you can deliver a great performance and sound you should be able to achieve anywhere from £75 per track upwards. The artist or producer will no doubt come back to you if you offer a great performance with a reliable service whilst working to a deadline.
NB: Take independent legal advice on your performance rights and maybe having a standard agreement in place for your clients.
2. Online Mixing & Mastering
Online mixing and mastering is an in demand service if you are able to demonstrate a talent for either or both of these skills. So many people are now recording at home and look for fresh pair of ears to finish their productions.
Offering these services also allows you to build repeat business with artists, and you can look to raise fees and even set up deals when artists find success.
This of course requires a good standard of equipment. For example, if you work “in the box”, then you will need a quality audio interface, monitoring and probably a good selection of plugins to get the job done. And if you’re not in the box, then you’ll also need to make sure that your converters, any outboard and of course, the all-important cabling is of a high quality.
Beyond this, a simple website to demonstrate your portfolio of mixes and the ability to use a file sharing or FTP service like WeTransfer to receive sessions and send mixes should be enough to get you up and running.
I have seen mix services from as little as £30 per track, but you can start at whatever price that makes sense to you. Don’t undercharge, you may regret it when you’re inundated with work but are still not meeting your earning potential. Also watch out for those fixes.. “The bass drum is not loud enough”, “Can you bring the lead vocal up a bit?”. It’s also worth offering deals on multiple tracks (EP’s, albums etc.).
NB: Take independent legal advice if dealing with record or publishing company’s and maybe having a standard agreement in place for your clients.
Yes, I know that there are already a million music teachers out there clambering to teach kids and adults to play guitar. And I’m sure that you may initially object to having to listen to an out of tune version of “Wonderwall”, “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” twice daily, but teaching can be a lucrative side gig.
The chances are that if you’ve been playing live for any length of time, you’ll already have fans who respect your playing abilities. So, reach out to these people and maybe use social media to offer your services. The principle is the same if you are looking to teach any area of engineering or producing.
Produce a great sounding video of you playing a few short phrases and then speak about how you can help the viewer learn or improve their playing. And you really don’t need a 5 camera set up, switchers, runners and lighting crews. If you take care over your shots and have plenty of light in your room, you can produce a very good video using your phone or tablet.
It’s often good to niche down in a particular area as this could single you out from the mass of teachers. i.e. You could focus on jazz or slap bass lines, how to play like Steve Lukather, tuning drums for recording or maybe even soul vocal scales. Be the “go to” person for that particular niche and you will build a good solid and loyal base of students.
There are 2 main ways to deliver your lessons. The first is live one-on-one music lessons via a video service such as Zoom or Skype. The second is to video a series of lessons and then market and sell them online as a downloadable product or on a subscription basis. But note, the latter would require a continual stream of new monthly content and will require a lot more effort.
From £10 - £50 per hour for one-to-one lessons depending on demand. And from £10 up for downloadable tutorials.
I hope that this has been of some use and maybe inspired you to look at the possibilities. Meanwhile, look out for part 2 soon where I’ll offer up more opportunities for you to think about.