There’s no getting around how monumentally bad repercussions from the COVID-19 are impacting musicians. From indefinitely rescheduled festivals to canceled tours, musicians are being challenged in profound ways. There’s no silver lining here, but trying to stay as creatively engaged as possible during this time can help. Not every musician will be able to stay productive while stuck at home. However, many can use the time to plan their next career steps, write new songs, and engage with fans.
Create a list of short-term goals
Goals are essential for serious musicians. Embracing them during this crisis can do big things for your productivity and musical mindset. Take your long-term career goals and convert them into small, actionable tasks you can tackle right now from home. Examples include recording demos of new songs, implementing promotional tactics, and practicing your instrument. Build your short-term goals around your specific needs, limitations, and resources.
Pick up new musical skills or develop old ones
If you have energy and emotional bandwidth to spare, taking on new music skills or honing in on old ones is a good way to stay engaged right now. You won’t be able to take music lessons in person, but there are endless resources online. How-to guides, video tutorials, and blogs can help you learn to record, mix, and produce your music. They can also give you valuable music theory insight. The unexpected downtime you have now can be used to think about things you didn’t originally have the time for. However, focusing on building new skills and sharpening ones you already have will only work if you’re really up for it. It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed during this time. While some musicians will find comfort in challenging themselves creatively, others won’t. If it feels rewarding for you, go for it.
Band practice and in-person writing sessions are out of the question right now, but remote collaborations aren’t. Musicians can use software, video conferencing technology, and good old fashioned email to exchange ideas and work during this crisis. Musical relationships can be productive during these hard times as long as all parties are able, willing, and on the same page. This requires open and regular communication, shared goals, and consistent work. While practicing your live set might not be easily done remotely, writing and producing can be. For many musicians, remote collaboration isn’t ideal. Yet, the unavoidable boundaries and limitations could inspire lots of positive, creative resourcefulness in your work.
Streaming live performances is a solid way to engage with audiences during the crisis. It’s a great opportunity for musicians to keep motivated and in practice, even if you’re a small, unestablished artist. Yes, thousands of musicians are doing this and there’s often more music being streamed live than audiences can possibly listen to, but making the effort to set up digital shows and performances can keep you engaged and active for however long this crisis drags out. And by performing regularly via live streaming, you’ll increase your chances of connecting with new fans.
Stick to a music-making schedule
This last tip can be hard to do, but it’s worth it to try. If you want to make music a part of your daily life during this crisis, try sticking to a regular music-making schedule. In theory, being stuck at home means more time to focus on music, but that’s just not how it works for most of us. From our pets and partners to social media, chores, and cat videos, there’s an endless amount of distractions that can get in the way of making music when we work from home. Creating a schedule and sticking to it can help you remove distractions and focus on your craft.
Even if we embrace schedules, remote collaboration, live performance streaming, goals, and developing skills, staying completely engaged with music right now won’t be easy for many musicians. If staying musically active makes you happy and sane, then you should prioritize it in your life right now the best you can, but in a non-judgemental way. There will be plenty of time to put strict expectations on our careers later. For now, making music and enjoying it will have to do.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.