2020 has been tough on everyone, but musicians are faced with a unique set of challenges. Live shows have been cancelled, venues shut down, and tours put on indefinite hold. While these are major challenges to overcome, out of every crisis comes opportunity. Learning how to connect with those opportunities has helped me bring in consistent revenue to replace the lost income of live shows. Here are my 4 tips for musicians while social distancing to help you thrive in these challenging times.
1. Take Your Tour Online
I was lucky to finish off my European tour in early March when things were starting to get hairy, but then the cross-country tour I was about to start in April was indefinitely postponed. Instead of distancing myself from my fans and going dark, I took my tour online by producing my own show, called Folk Friday Livestream. Getting started wasn’t all that difficult. I just picked up a good USB mic and invested in some pro video equipment to make my streams as high-quality as possible. To keep people engaged, sticking to a regular schedule is key. Performing for these livestreams on the same day at the same time gives both me and my community something to look forward to every week.
2. Stay Connected to Local Music Venues
Making money as a musician without playing live gigs is definitely a challenge. At first, I did what a lot of musicians are doing now—ask for virtual tips and donations through support links. This was helpful for the first few months, but once I saw those numbers declining I knew I had to try something different. To find new audiences and keep my listenership fresh, I began cross-posting my livestreams on the websites and social media pages of my favorite music venues. Right away, this helped me bring in hundreds of new fans. Not only that, it provided venues with fresh online content, helping them stay relevant to their own audiences. Supporting the venues that believed in me as an up-and-coming artist is really important to me, and it’s been very much appreciated by them. These connections will continue to have benefits long after the venues are able to reopen.
3. Create Your Own Community
Creating your own online community is one of the most effective tips for musicians while social distancing. In just the last six months, I’ve built a community of over 500 members, tripled my daily listeners on Spotify, doubled my email list, and grown my social media following exponentially. To build a thriving community, give your fans reasons to stay engaged. For my own community (called “The Levitators”), I post exclusive content, invite-only livestreams, and offer merchandise giveaways.
Beyond the benefits of building a larger audience, connecting directly with fans has been a moving experience. I wake up to messages from listeners who just discovered my music, telling me how much a song meant to them. Sometimes I hear from long-time fans about how my music is helping them get through these tough times. These connections bring me tremendous joy as an artist while also helping to build more lasting stability in my career.
4. Commit Yourself to Recording
The current lack of access to professional recording studios is another challenge for many recording artists. Which is why developing the skills (and the owning tools) for home recording is more essential than ever. If you’re just starting out at recording, don’t be intimidated by the technology—it’s much easier to learn than you think. If you’re a singer, songwriter, or musician, you don’t need to be a world-class producer to make great records. Focus on capturing your ideas, then connect online with recording professionals who specialize in production, mixing, and mastering. My fourth studio album, “True North” (due for release at the end of the year) was mixed and mastered by producers I collaborated with exclusively online. Remember that making records has always been a collaborative process. There’s no reason you can’t collaborate just as well remotely.
My life as a full-time musician is a life of service: to my community, to my art, to my passion, and to our world that needs good vibrations now more than ever. Pandemic or not, I intend to keep at it—and I’d invite you to join me.
About the Author
Rising singer-songwriter and global citizen Eli Lev is making the world a smaller place, one song at a time. Eli pens lyrics and melodies for everyday enlightenment—songs that resonate because they’re heartfelt, earthy, and offer the wisdom he’s gained through lifelong travel and self-discovery.
The Silver-Spring, Maryland-based artist just released Deep South, the third album in a four-part directional series that was inspired by indigenous traditions he learned while teaching on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. Just as each cardinal direction holds unique characteristics in the Navajo tradition, so do each of the albums in Eli’s ‘Four Directions Project.’ Together, the series imaginatively and intrepidly connects spheres and generations within a body of work that is irresistibly uplifting, emotionally resonant, and down-to-earth authentic.