Even before the pandemic, the music industry had become more digitally driven than ever before, from the meteoric rise of playlists to the increasingly tech-centered ways fans discovered and consumed new music. Local shows and touring were the few areas in music that weren’t completely upended and transformed by the internet. Then, the pandemic hit.
All things, including music, will never be quite the same. Exchanges we used to take for granted, like meeting local musicians you’d share the stage with at a show, have become sparse or even non-existent in many communities. We will get back to the normalcy of live shows again, but we don’t know when that will happen. In the meantime, musicians can turn online to forge friendships, build industry connections, and collaborate with other artists.
Another casualty of the absence of live shows: artist to artist relationship
It’s important to realize that we’re not just missing out on connecting with listeners and earning money due to the absence of live shows, though those things are hugely important. We’re also missing at least a year’s worth of opportunities to forge new relationships with like-minded musicians in person. The consequences of this mean more bad news for independent musicians in the form of less opportunity, collaboration, and connection.
This makes maintaining music industry friendships and finding new ones online especially crucial during this unprecedented moment. Reaching out to an artist you’ve never met over email and saying you like their work and want to collaborate probably feels much more awkward and ingenuine than meeting them in person, but in the absence of live music, these interactions are a big deal. They can lead not only to meaningful friendships, but also the sort of collaborative relationships that can result in great music you couldn’t have written on your own. And during a time when artists and listeners alike are isolated, artists working together are able to pool their resources and ideas to create opportunities for one another.
How to form meaningful artist relationships online
If you want to build meaningful artist connections online, the first thing to look for is commonalities between you and other musicians. You might respect someone’s ambition or success, but that doesn’t mean you have enough in common to build a relationship off of. When you find an artist online with similar goals and music you actually want to listen to, that’s a solid foundation to start with. Reaching out over email or connecting via social media are easy ways to make an introduction online. However, you’re more likely to hear back from artists that have a similar following to yours if you’re reaching out to collaborate or play shows together. The truth is that well-known artists usually don’t have the time or interest in responding to every message they receive, even the ones from ambitious and friendly musicians.
Similar to meeting someone for the first time in person, there’s no telling whether or not you and another artist you connected with online will actually become close or work together in the future. Every musician has different personalities and quirks, which means you might dig someone’s music but won’t be a good fit as a friend or writing partner. But you shouldn’t let that keep you from building authentic artist relationships online. This is an area where the pros far outweigh the cons, and this will be the case long after live music starts to look more normal.
Even when live events return in earnest, tech’s dominance over the music industry isn’t likely to subside and is instead more likely to increase. Yes, we should keep forming meaningful relationships in person when we can, but it’s also important to use the convenience and reach of the internet to build connections online as well. If you live in a rural area or are new to playing shows, online relationships are actually a huge advantage because they level the playing field by connecting you with artists you wouldn’t have met in person. This is a rare situation in music where you have everything to gain and basically nothing to lose.
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.