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9 Things to do now that Your Gigs are Cancelled Because of Coronavirus

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

Deep breath. Shit’s scary right now.

Yeah. I put on CNN for 15 minutes last night and nearly fell into a full on panic. Shut that shit off. Cable news is not helping anyone. Oh, and don’t listen to that Joe Rogan podcast episode with the infectious disease specialist either. That will not set you at ease. We know the headlines. EVERYTHING IS CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. And wash your hands.

But this doesn’t mean you need to shut down and give into despair. Look at this as an opportunity. So you were depending on the income from upcoming gigs? Welp, that ain’t coming.

So, you have two options: 1) self pity 2) get creative and find alternative revenue streams

During the next few weeks, months, whatever it may be, here are some things you can do in the meantime until life gets back to normal:

1. Live Stream Concerts

This is probably something you’ve been thinking about for awhile. I highlighted in How to Make It in the New Music Business how Dawn Beyer made $100,000 in a year live streaming on Facebook, Clare Means similarly cleans up on Periscope and Brent Morgan and Emma McGann on YouNow. But right now, you can pick the platform you’re most comfortable on and go live. Setup a PayPal.me link (make sure it’s clickable) and pop that into the description (or your bio if you’re using IG).

StageIt is also a platform which allows you to live stream concerts behind a paywall and charge tickets for these. People can also tip you during the concert. StageIt is currently upping their revenue split in honor of this trying time and giving artists 80% of their earned revenue (as opposed to the normal sliding scale of 63% – 70% for concerts earning less than $3,000).

But remember, when you perform a live streamed concert, you must interact with your audience in a way that makes them feel welcomed. A live streamed concert experience is very different from a physical concert experience. You can see a chat box, for one. So engage acknowledge their comments. Say hi to people popping in. Answer questions. Take requests. Make it super personal. Make it feel like they are getting a glimpse into your life, studio, process and world.

The reason they’re tuning in to watch this versus just a YouTube video is because they want to feel connected to you.

So connect with them!

2. Start a Patronage Hub

It’s time to shift the value proposition between Artist and fan.

Why do you feel ok charging for tickets to your concert or merch on your website, but you don’t feel ok with enabling your fans, supporters, patrons to make different kinds of offerings to you in meaningful ways when you’ve made meaningful offerings to them?

Patreon, Bandzoogle and Bandcamp enable you bring in your biggest fans into your world in a much more intimate way. Make sure you have high-priced, monthly subscription levels where you don’t need to promise too much in return (to maintain your sanity) to merely give your fans with the most means a way to support you in a streamlined way.

For $100/mo you could give them a shoutout in your email, pop their name on your upcoming releases, give them an Executive Producer credit (on Spotify). Have various price points from $1/mo all the way to $500/mo or so. Billionaires love music and want to support artists too! But again, be mindful of your time, creative energy and shipping costs. I highly advise against any physical rewards and don’t spread your time too thin. Putting their name in your email or on your record isn’t a big deal, spending an hour with them every week via a Facetime call could get taxing. I don’t recommend that. But come up with creative rewards.

+Bandzoogle vs. Squarespace vs. Wix vs. Weebly vs. WordPress: What’s the Best Website Builder?

+How To Make Money From Your Fans in an Ongoing Basis (Patreon Review)

+How To Turn Your Fans Into Paying Subscribers (Bandcamp Subscription Review)

You have to facilitate this transaction. They won’t just do it. Put up a Patronage Hub on your website. Point people there. Promote it.

This is not charity. This is shifting the value proposition. Don’t approach this like a merch store. Don’t even call it a store. Call it a “Patronage Hub.” Instead of trying to get 1 million people to stream your song, it’s time to get 100 people, or even 10 people, to support you in real, meaningful way.

You’re a creative person. Get creative!

3. Fan Offerings

Who says those cool Kickstarter-style rewards need to be reserved for crowd funding campaigns?

If you’ve ever run a crowd funding campaign, you know how challenging (and expensive) the physical rewards are, so don’t put together physical offerings. But one thing that works really well, is offering to write customized songs for fans. If you have a home studio setup, this is obviously super simple to do. You can setup a very easy way to do this if you’re using a web hosting service like Bandzoogle. Otherwise, it’s as simple as sending your fans an email and having them respond and sending you a PayPal for the song. Charge a good amount for this. When I had this as a Kickstarter package, I charged $250 per song, had 5 available and they sold out in 1 day. I then added 5 more and they sold out the next day.

+Get 15% off a Bandzoogle Subscription By Using Code ARI or by Clicking Here

Do you have merch offered online? Run a Coronavirus sale.

This is the time to appeal to your richest fans. Put an emotional appeal in there while not sounding desperate or like it’s charity. It’s not. It’s value. But the ultra rich need to step up in this time. Something like “Cancelled gigs and tours is hitting the music industry extra hard right now. And me specifically. I depend on gigs to pay my bills and support my family. I have a bunch of meaningful offerings I’m making available for a very limited time during this crazy Coronoville we’re living in. If you love what I’m doing, please consider one of these offerings in the coming weeks” Then link to your where you have all the offerings available and information about your upcoming live streamed concerts.

The messaging is so important. Don’t call it a “store” or “merch” call it an “offering” or “patronage.”

Beethoven depended heavily on the patronage of just a few wealthy noblemen to make a living. At some point in the twentieth century the music business became solely about selling small-priced items (records) to lots of people.

We can move back into an era of patronage. The internet has provided us the tools. Are you ready to utilize them?

4. Teach Lessons Online

I’m sure you’ve seen by now artists offering to teach one-on-one lessons directly via Facetime or Skype. But take it a step further. If you have a significant audience of musicians who follow you, check out Teachable (what Ari’s Take Academy is hosted on). You can pre-record lessons (5 minute video on articulation, how to solo over the blues, full instruction on how to play your most popular songs on guitar, piano and uke) and charge people to enter your school and take your lessons. Instead of doing a one on one lesson for an hour for $150, charge $37/month and your students can get access to every lesson – categorized. Continue adding lessons every day and categorize them properly. With everything getting cancelled – everyone is going to have a bit more free time on their hands to up their skills.

5. Continue Your Education

Which brings us to the next idea. This is a great time to continue your education. Have you always wanted to learn how to solo on guitar? Do you want to learn another instrument? Advance your Ableton or Logic skills? How about learning how to increase your Spotify and Instagram growth via advertising? There are plenty of courses by experts in the field who you could learn from to do any of this. Ari’s Take Academy is offering 10% our courses for the next 2 weeks because of this craziness and to help push you off the fence (use code COVID19). Many online schools will probably be opening up their enrollment again (if they had closed) and/or offering discounts of some kind. But even if they’re not, decide what you want to learn and go for it!

+How This Artist Grew To 500,000 Monthly Spotify Listeners Without Playlists

There are also great ways to continue your education for free. There are some excellent podcasts out there like the New Music Business podcast (episode one is launching Wednesday!). Other podcasts I learn a lot from are The Tim Ferriss Show, The Third Story with Leo Sidran, Song Exploder, And The Writer Is…, and How I Built This.

This is also a great time to catch up on all the books that you’ve been meaning to read to enhance your business that you haven’t gotten around to.

+How To Make It in the New Music Business (second edition)

6. Home Studio Work

SoundBetter (recently acquired by Spotify) enables you to offer your services to anyone around the world – without ever leaving your home studio. Recording, mixing, mastering, production, songwriting, singing, whatever. Someone needs a violin part on their track, they can send you the files, you track your parts, send the files back and boom, you made a session fee and they finished their track.

7. Get Yourself Registered (finally)

If you’ve been putting off getting your works registered. Now’s the time. Make sure every song is registered to your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SOCAN, PRS, etc) and make sure you have an admin publishing company to collect your worldwide mechanicals (like SongTrust – use code ARISTAKE for 20% off). Also make sure every song is registered with SoundExchange. And it’s also a good idea to copyright your music.

+How To Get All Your Music Royalties: ASCAP, BMI, PRS, SoundExchange, PROs and the Rest

+How To Copyright 10 of Your Songs for $55

8. Write, Record, Plan!

Time to write your end of the world songs. JP Saxe beat us to it. But in all seriousness, time to get active with your recording and release schedule. Also, plan out your 6 month and one-year goals. It’s always a good idea to update and reassess your goals every 6 months, but now you have the time, so hunker down and map them out. Make sure these are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.

9. Set a New Routine

I understand how not having your office space, studio, gym, coffee shop can upset your routine and want to make you fall into a pit of despair in front of Don Lemon. Don’t let the Lemon win! Set up a space in your place where you will work. Try to do it in front of windows. Make sure you have ample amounts of coffee. Toilet paper may be sold out, but you can still find coffee beans! Do some pushups. Start a running routine. Pop in a Bowflex tape (oh how I miss sentences like these). You get the idea. Then sit yer ass down and get to work. You got this!

This is not the time for despair. This is the time for a creative shift in how we approach our business. We are all in this together!

If you have any other ideas on ways you are shifting your businesses in this time of quarantine, please add them to the comments below!

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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