What musicians should be doing NOW during the new COVID-19 reality.

Obviously we’re all temporarily living a new forced reality that needs no more explanation. The news is saturated with headlines and stories designed to (rightfully) frighten us and motivate us to take defensive actions to protect ourselves. This is one time where those salacious headlines are probably warranted.

But as terrible and historic the current situation is, we will move past this, and the wheels of the economy in general and the music industry specifically will start to turn again. Live performances will again fill your calendar, studios will again be booked, and music projects will get going again. My personal hope is not only that you’re staying safe and being a responsible neighbor by doing your part to “flatten the curve”, but that you will find a way to use this time to your advantage.

As a musician, artist, producer, or any type of creative person carving out an existence in music, it’s important to ask what lessons we can apply lessons from outside our industry, especially in times like this. It is, after all the music industry, with the same principles acting on it as any other industry. During other economic downturns, recessions, depressions – or whatever label you want to give the period where opportunities are scarce and prospects are bleak – the companies, governments, and organizations that make smart decisions now are the ones that emerge faster, stronger and better positioned to capitalize on the “good times”. And they always come around again.

If you look and listen closely, you can see the evidence of this even amid the COVID-19 madness. Local governments are investing in their infrastructure by prioritizing road repair projects while traffic on the roads is sparce. Companies are telling their staff to use this time to their advantage by catching up on training courses and skills development. Others are using the downtime to fast-track maintenance on their equipment and do upgrades that were put off while business was brisk. The thinking being that when things pick up, they’ll be in an even better position to serve their customers and taxpayers.

Retool. Reorganize and Refocus.

So now that television production has slowed, live gigs have been shut down, and any sort of socializing where music is the focus is “verboten”, what can and should the average professional musician be doing to follow the lead of those successful organizations and forward-thinking governments? To put it simply, think in terms of retooling, reorganizing and refocusing. Here are a few ideas to apply that:

#1: Just Create!

This one should be obvious. And to some, this self-isolation concept is a dream come true. At last, all those things that competed for your time are no longer available, and you finally have a wealth of time and a dearth of excuses to just sit and create new music? Refocus yourself and reignite your love music-making by dedicating a meaningful chunk of your day in your calendar to just letting those creative juices flow. You’ll never have a wider opening (or better reason) to get cozy with your DAW and your favourite instrument, and just let the muse take over.

Finish up those umpteen half-written songs that have been piling up over time. Or start fresh and explore a new style that stretches you creatively a bit. Or maybe this is a good opportunity to put a fresh spin on an old song? Whatever you choose, just hit it hard without having to feel guilty that you’re not “doing something more productive”. Know that right now, in Spring 2020, there’s NOTHING going on that you’re missing out on. 😉

#2: Metadata, metadata, metadata

Is there any one aspect of professional music production that is less fun, less gratifying, but more critical to you getting paid than metadata? You’ve likely been putting off this task for months or years. Well what better time will there ever be than now to go through your back-catalog and grind through that job?

Developing your metadata doesn’t have to be a difficult job, and it’s so important that it is done right. Consider a system like Magnetracks which will standardize your descriptors, moods, genres and categories with industry-standard language. Plus, there are tools to copy metadata in bulk from similar-sounding tracks, saving you loads of time.

By using a structured system like Magnetracks, you are ensured that your metadata is portable and can be seamlessly imported to other music databases in use worldwide. Also, showing that you’ve got well-formed, complete metadata will impress editors, music supervisors and libraries with your professionalism.

#3: Retool your Systems

No, this isn’t the green light to release the Gear Slut in you and go crazy buying new instruments, plug-ins and that vintage microphone you just found on Facebook Marketplace. With a pending economic downturn upon us, spending a lot of money on gear, might not be the most effective or even strategic thing to do. The focus at this time should be on “sharpening the saw“.

In other words, ask yourself what aspect of your career have you been letting slide while you’ve been busy doing other things? Some examples might be:

  1. Getting all your audio files, documents and paperwork organized.
  2. Registering your music with your Performing Rights Society (PRO).
  3. Focusing on building out your network of industry relationships.
  4. Working on your logo, press kit, social profiles, website, updating headshots, etc.
  5. Executing your marketing and promotional plans. Are you pitching your music consistently? Are you consistently reaching out to the people you need to?
  6. Automating (or making brain-dead easy) your fan outreach via social posts, DM’s and email campaigns.

We all behave the same way when we’re busy; neglecting the things that bring us the least joy even though we know they’re important. Now that you have no choice thanks to a world “on pause”, it’s an excellent opportunity to turn your focus to these admin items now.

There are many excellent software packages aimed at musicians that can easily be setup to handle all or most of the above, for free or next to nothing. Companies should take a look at Magnetracks, SourceAudio, ReverbNation. Independent artists should check out (again) Magnetracks,
SongSpace, Disco, or even non-music-industry staples like DropBox, Box.com and SalesForce CRM.

The Last Word

When the current situation does turn around (and it certainly will) and optimism reigns again, you’ll be WAY better positioned if you’re one of the people that used this time to their advantage. We already know that luck can often be just as important as musical ability and hard work. Take the advice above, and the old saying, “Luck favours the prepared” will apply in particulr to YOU.

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