If we’re lucky, safe in-person music experiences will become a regular part of life again sometime in 2021––if we’re lucky. While music fans and artists alike are desperate for a sense of normalcy to return to live music, there are still a lot of unknowns around the idea of people packing into venues to see musicians. If you’re not sure what to do when it comes to waiting for touring to become safe and viable again, the same advice applies now as it did back when the U.S. started locking down in the spring. By staying productive, active, and creatively engaged, you’ll make the most of this time. We don’t know exactly when touring will be a major part of music again, but there is a lot we can do while we wait.
It’s time to stop seeing livestreams as substitutions for conventional shows. Instead, they’re unique performance opportunities that give fans and artists a completely different set of benefits and drawbacks. People who never would’ve been able to see you perform in person can and will tune into your livestreams, and it’s affordable and relatively easy to play in front of lots of people using this digital format. But if you’re looking for the magic and energy of performing right in front of people, digital concerts won’t be able to deliver the same experience.
Even so, livestreams are well worth your time not just while we wait for touring to return, but indefinitely moving forward. At the bare minimum, it’s an outlet that will allow you to stay practiced and musically active as a performer. But play often enough and promote your digital events wisely, and you’re likely to strengthen relationships with fans, broaden your audience, and give people music during a time when they desperately need it.
Plan, practice, and get the boring stuff done
This is an ideal time for practicing and preparing as a musician. If you’ve ever wanted a big chunk of time to get things done, well, this is it. It’s a good time to prepare your taxes, perfect your set, and plan your next big musical move without constantly being afraid of turning down important opportunities because most opportunities don’t exist right now for touring musicians.
While this is a good time to get the boring administrative stuff out of the way for your music project, it’s also a priceless opportunity to reset your career by getting to the heart of what music means to you, what you hope to accomplish by making and performing it, and assessing where you’re at and how close you are to reaching your goals. Following through and actually doing this can be extremely hard work made even harder if your year is packed with live shows. This is a season when we’ve all been forced to slow down and pause our plans. We can see it as an absolute negative or a valuable opportunity for growth, renewal, and planning if we choose to.
Throw your time and energy into making new music
We can’t hit the road and bring our music to audiences at different venues night after night. But one thing we can do at home happens to be something that many touring musicians struggle with pulling off: creating new music in a free, unrushed way. Limitations like only being able to write a week or two at a time don’t exist at the moment because there aren’t any shows to come back to for the vast majority of us. The music industry seems quiet and subdued to the world now, but the truth is that we’re going to see an incredible amount of new music come out over the next year or two that was made during this strange time of isolation. If all you did over the next six months was create, record, and produce new music, you and your career would be infinitely better off for it. If musical creation helps you feel sane, connected, hopeful, and productive right now, then there’s no better way to spend your time while waiting for live shows to return.
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.