Times are still tough and it will be hardest before it gets better again so before we proceed with a long list of advice on how to get your feet back up, we’d like to tell you that IT’S PERFECTLY OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. You can scream and kick if you want…or bake cookies. But once you’re done, it’s time to do a little something. Little by little, day by day, there’s still something we can do for ourselves, for others, and for our music.
Here are some tips for musicians on how to stay sane and stay afloat during this time:
Take advantage of the new musical landscape
It’s extremely hopeful and inspiring to see how quickly lots of ensembles and musicians have reacted to the whole situation, creating new opportunities for composers that make the most out of the situation, such as the ones that our very own Larry Goves has set up for us.
Look out for these and if you’re a composer write some sweet quarantine tunes (mark my words, Quarantine music will be studied as a separate genre/movement in a few decades time)!
Lots of strength and love to all of you, remember we’re all in this together! 🙂
Have some socially-distanced fun!
Admittedly this period won’t be the best time of our lives for any of us, but who says we still can’t make some nice memories? Even stuck at home, there are plenty of things you can do to have a smashing evening.
Have a nice meal with your housemates where you actually dress up, or keep an eye out for online partying opportunities, such as online Pub Quizzes (our SU have been very pro-active with organising fun events for us!)
Reflect and get to know yourself more
While some creatives thrive in solitude, the lockdown isn’t an ideal working situation for everyone. “I need to be out at all times, amongst the people, the office, the streets, the nightlife,” says Roc Nation senior vp Lenny Santiago. “That’s what drives and motivates me. Solitude stagnates me.” Multi-platinum artist and songwriter Trinidad James feels similarly: “My inspiration to create comes from the way I live my life, which is on the go.”
Despite leaning toward extroversion, both Santiago and James have stayed productive by knowing themselves and managing their expectations. If you know that solitude exhausts you, don’t expect to feel exactly how you would under normal circumstances. Instead, develop realistic expectations for yourself.
Create a Destination
Knowing yourself is important, but its even more vital to know where you’re going. Atlantic Records senior vp of A&R Dallas Martin advises those who are struggling to “build out a plan.” A common theme with many successful artists is their ability to create and execute meaningful short-term habits, which ultimately helps with their long term goals.
James says he stays on track by focusing on a goal, and “Knowing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Adds independent recording artist King Elle Noir: “If you are used to going to a studio and having an engineer record you, maybe it’s time to watch a couple YouTube videos and learn how to track your own vocals, start making your own beats, etcetera. Anything you choose to do will only add to your career and build you as an artist.”
Alamo Records vp digital Drew de Leon suggests that artists stay creative by creating a 30-day personal challenge that could be unrelated to music, whether that means reading one book per week or learning a new skill, like a language. “Especially in a time when there’s no direction and where we can easily feel lost, we need to create a destination for ourselves,” he says. “Giving artists deadlines and goals is super important, so they’re constantly focused.”
Connect With Your Community
De Leon, who co-founded music networking platform The Digilogue, says that “having someone to talk to during this time is key.” While in lockdown, The Digilogue has been supporting and connecting with the music community through a variety of programs, like posting music job opportunities every Monday, highlighting one freelancer from its online directory every week, hosting the weekly Instagram Live talent show Digilogue After Dark and more.
And who better to talk to than current and potential fans? “Any talent out there looking to maintain momentum, I would highly suggest utilizing this time to build and connect with your fan base using all social media platforms,” says former Record Plant Recording Studios vice president Whitney Taber. “This is a great time to engage with existing supporters and fans along while maybe gaining some new ones.”
Adds Santiago, “What I find interesting is that this quarantine is showing us different sides of talent that we have never seen before, from Kelly Rowland’s ‘Coffee W/ Kelly’, Kevin Hart’s ‘Confessions from the Hart’, Fat Joe’s nightly insightful stories, J Erving & Troy Carter’s weekly industry zoom panels and many more. We need to keep that going!”
If creating in the lockdown feels impossible, use this time to become better prepared for your post-lockdown moves. Tabor suggests, “Reaching out and planning in detail upcoming projects, photoshoots, tours, mixtapes, merchandise drops and collaborations,” she says. “My dad always told me to always remember your seven Ps: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!”
For newer and emerging artists — who might need in-person performances and meetings to fully promote themselves — now is a good time to accomplish anything administrative that you’ve been putting off. Connect with your attorney, manager or label administrator, clear samples and finalize any paperwork necessary to release your work.
Build your website, app and socials, and consider trademarking your name and logo along with creating a company LLC. Rapper O.T. Genasis advises, “Use your time to reflect on the things that went wrong mentally, financially, physically, emotionally and fix it” for the future. “It’s always good to tighten up loose screws.”
O.T., who put together a business plan and released new single “I Look Good” during the lockdown, says he’s using his time to “Keep writing and strategize for when this is over.” And James is using his time at home to prepare for performing again. “I’m ready to attack after this happens,” he says. “That’s why I work out. That’s why I eat smart. That’s all I think [about] everyday: Getting back onstage to finish my current mission.”
Do you have any advice and tips to add to this list?
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.