One of the hardest hit industries during the COVID crisis has been the music industry. The effect was far reaching: along with artists not being able to perform, crews weren’t able to work, venues weren’t able to open, promoters weren’t able to put together festivals and booking agents weren’t able to route tours. Of course, we all know the reason why and support it – no one wants to spread the virus or put audiences at risk. On the other hand, what are musicians to do during this completely unprecedented time?
One established artist that got on the livestream band wagon quickly was singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge. Launching in June, Etheridge performed live from her kitsched out garage, charging $50 a month for an all access pass or $10 to watch a single show. Her five weekly shows include hits, deep tracks, live chats and more. Forbes has estimated that she is now earning $50,000 per month.
DJ D-Nice started his “Club Quarantine” in March on Instagram Live, with celebrity drop-ins from the likes of Drake, Oprah Winfrey and Joe Biden. One set had over 100,000 virtual attendees who were excited to be interacting with one another online while listening to great music. These sets raised D-Nice’s profile both on social media and in the press. While a well-known DJ among the celeb set, this has taken him to the next level. DJ Diplo did some sets on Twitch and promised the artists whose tracks he played that he would make sure they got royalty payments.
In July, country singer Kane Brown kicked off the “Pandora Live” concert series, which promises to “bring performances from top trending artists across country, Latin, R&B, pop, and rock directly into the homes of millions of fans through the end of the year.” These types of performances are good for both the streaming service (more subscribers) as well as the artist who will see a bump in both their profile and streaming sales.
While not every artist is a headliner, many smaller acts have had success doing live streams on Facebook, Instagram live or YouTube live, incorporating a virtual ‘tip jar’ for appreciative audiences as well as links to buy digital albums and merch. VEEPS, a VIP ticketing experience backed by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, is a direct-to-consumer platform which offers VIP experiences with the intention of giving “power back to the artists.” Their digital touring platform, which allow bands to provide a unique experience for fans that goes beyond what social media can offer, has been a big success.
Artists who are big enough to be influencers in certain genres have found this is also a good way to bring in some extra revenue while they can. Using a ‘name’ to get consumers interested in a product is not a new marketing idea, but with people being more apt to spend online, brands are seeking out artists to help with promoting a product. This could be a paid gig or an exchange, where the artist gets the product, especially worthwhile if it’s something costly like studio equipment. For lesser known musicians, it could even be an exchange for promoting one another – the artist promotes the product and the product promotes the artist. Many smaller artists are even doing trades amongst themselves to keep momentum going: maybe the singer in your band is great at graphic design and the guitarist in another band is an amazing photographer. Why not exchange what you’re good at while helping to promote one another? This type of exchange helps acts offer their fans cool new things, while introducing them to another artist’s music.
CAMEO has been another strong revenue source for musicians – if fact, they’ve begin running Facebook ads saying, “Live music may be on pause, but these artists aren’t.” If you’re not familiar, people can pay for personalized greetings from celebrities they admire via the CAMEO platform. Some of the musicians you will find on CAMEO are Lisa Loeb ($100), Mark McGrath ($99), Doug E. Fresh ($75), *NSYNC’s Chris Kirkpatrick ($100), Taylor Dayne ($150), Alice Cooper ($300), Shaggy ($400) and many, many, more.
While it’s a difficult time to be a musician, it’s also an incredibly creative time. Artists are releasing more music than ever, connecting with fans in a more intimate way, presenting live music online and taking bigger risks. Promoting content via platforms such as Play MPE’s Caster, which reaches tastemakers globally, is an amazing way to extend past your core fan base and get on the radar of radio programmers, play listers, music supervisors and music curators (to name but a few) who are all eager to hear more since they’re no longer able to go out to shows.
While there doesn’t seem to be a plan for live music to resume in 2020, artists are booking 2021 dates and keeping their fingers crossed. In the meantime, it seems like creativity, flexibility and ingenuity will win the day for musicians until we can all head out to a concert and sing together.
By contributing writer Katy Krassner
Photo from Pexels by @cottonbro