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5 top tips for continuing to make money as a musician during lockdown

Times are tough for musicians at the moment.

At Encore we’ve been investigating this first hand – in a recent survey of 560 musicians we found that 64% of them were considering leaving the industry.

But as we all begin to adapt to the ‘new normal’, it’s more important than ever that as musicians we innovate and adapt to the changing conditions.

Here are 5 strategies for maintaining your income that we’ve seen our musicians put into practice – let’s dive in!

Make the most of your existing skills

Become an expert in virtual teaching

By now I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the idea of teaching music lessons online.

While teaching in a virtual space presents its own challenges, it does also present a opportunity for tech savvy teachers to shine.

Most teachers will switch on Zoom or Skype and leave it at that. But if you can show you’re a cut above the others when it comes to virtual teaching, you’re much more likely to retain and grow your number of pupils.

Here are a few things we’ve noticed successful teachers doing:

  • Using a multiple camera set up so you can show a close up of your hands (if the instrument requires manual dexterity like the piano) at the same time as your face.
  • Using teaching software that allows you to annotate sheet music virtually (like Practice Pal)
  • Record short practice videos you can send to your pupils to demonstrate particular techniques (e.g. a bow hold).
  • Use a microphone to capture better quality sound from your end.
  • Curate the ‘scene’ in shot while teaching so that it’s uncluttered and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Clearly demonstrate to parents how you are abiding by safeguarding rules for video and audio sharing.

Piano teacher Samuel Warner showing his teaching setup on Zoom which includes a high quality microphone and a phone holder which he uses to provide the additional camera angle pointed at his hands.

Create a COVID-friendly live package

Everyone at the moment is understandably very cautious about who they book for their weddings and events. If you can position yourself as the safest option, you could increase your chances of winning bookings.

If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend you make it clear wherever you advertise your services that you’ve adapted to the pandemic.

Here are a few common things we’ve seen musicians do:

  • If you have a band, offer a reduced line-up.
  • Offer an outdoor performance option (if possible)
  • Offer to take precautions like wearing a mask, gloves and taking hand sanitiser (when necessary)
  • Make it clear what your cancellation terms are in the event that one of your bookings has to be cancelled due to coronavirus.

‘Roaming’ wedding bands like Fiddlin’ About who can easily move location and perform outside are particularly popular for COVID-friendly events.

Explore your musical skill set

Music Video Gifts

When lockdown hit earlier this year, at Encore we launched Personalised Music Messages – a service which lets people purchase bespoke music videos from our musicians and send them to their friends as gifts. And it really took off – some musicians so far have earned over £1000 from the service and customers are spending up to £100 on a single video (which might only take 30mins to produce)!

Videos tend to be bought for loved ones stuck in quarantine, first dance songs re-recorded for wedding anniversary, or even NHS workers on the frontline.

With Christmas coming up, people will be looking for meaningful gifts to surprise their loved ones.
Whether you do this through a service like Encore or by yourself, being able to quickly produce a short bespoke video gift is a great service to be able to offer.

Pianist Sam Burkey has earned over £1000 from selling bespoke music videos like the one above. He explains how he did it in his own words here.

Perform virtual concerts

We’ve all seen them popping up on Facebook: musicians playing live streamed concerts, usually aiming to make some money on the side via a PayPal link or similar.

While the appetite for these kinds of virtual performances is never going to be as strong as the pull of a live band, we’ve still seen examples of musicians successfully monetising this kind of entertainment.

A word of caution: these types of projects do tend to require at least a small online fan base to get off the ground. If you haven’t yet built much social following or a newsletter mailing list, you may want to consider doing that first before attempting an online concert.

Top virtual performance platforms:

  • Stream via Twitch. First set up for streaming online gaming, Twitch is now a major platform for streaming online gigs. This works best with singers and other musicians who are adept at ‘busking’ style performances and taking requests on the fly. We recommend checking out Courtney Visser, an Encore musician who started using Twitch at the start of lockdown and now receives around 1,000 views per stream.
  • Facebook. Generally this only works if you already have a regular fan base on Facebook, but we’ve seen some musicians earn a significant amount by hosting regular weekly performances and offering a PayPal link for donations.
  • Directly approach corporates. Once you’ve developed a slick online performance product, offer it to companies as a christmas party option. Their HR departments will have cash to burn without the normal overheads of office perks, so you might be just what they’re looking for.

Encore guitarist Joncan Kovlakoglu gave us a taste of the virtual performance which he’s used to win corporate bookings. If you’re interested in learning more about his setup, he explains it in full on our blog here.

Do a musical skills audit

As musicians, we sometimes take for granted just how much we’ve learnt over the years about music. In times like this it’s worth taking stock, writing down a list of the skills you’ve acquired and considering how you might be able to offer them as an online service.

If you’re classically trained, you could consider offering theory lessons, instrumental repair, or general musicianship classes.

If you write music you might be able to offer songwriting classes, arranging, software tutorials, or orchestration lessons.
While things are remote, we’d also recommend that you aim to gain a competency in music and ideally video production. We find that musicians who are able to record and present themselves well online are much more likely to win bookings.

That’s all from us for now. We hope you found this guide useful – all our fingers are crossed that we’ll be performing again soon!

Encore Musicians is the UK’s largest online platform for booking musicians for weddings and events.
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