The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected the music industry in innumerable and drastic ways. Among those hit hardest are independent touring artists, who rely on live shows to grow their fanbase and expand their brand. But it’s not all bad news! While we all anxiously await the reopening of venues and relaunching of tours, now is a great time to dig in and build your brand in creative ways, specifically in the digital sphere.
Here are some ways touring artists can make the most of this unprecedented time…
Now is the time to try new things. If your brand has been lacking in the social media department, use this time to rethink what you’re presenting to your audience.
- Make a plan to try out new things on your social media
- Take a look at what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t, then wipe the slate clean. Map out a plan to post and test new content consistently to see what works.
- Engage your followers by asking them what they want to see or hear more of. Ask them to submit songs they’d like to hear you cover. Write jingles about their pets. The sky’s the limit.
- Try new platforms to meet new fans where they are
- Try your hand at short content apps such as Triller, TikTok, IG Reels or Snapchat.
- Set up a streaming schedule on Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, or other platforms with streaming abilities.
- Invest in paid promotions to push your music out and gather more followers.
- If you are able to, try experimenting with paid advertising on your new releases and social media pages, even if it’s just a spend of $5 or $10 a day.
- Rework your digital presence
- Experiment with your website and try to make it more engaging. Add more engaging deep-dive content like live recording archives, discographies, and band member bios.
- Refresh your social banners and other graphics to build a cohesive visual presence.
Once you’ve got a good idea of what types of content best resonates with your audience and what platforms it best resonates on, outline your strategy.
- Decide how you will manage your social media, both during this downtime and beyond
- What platforms will you focus on? Will you use scheduling software to post in advance, or keep it more free-flowing? Will you have repeating series (ex: #coversongsaturdays) or streaming schedules, or do you want to keep it more loose and organic? Who on your team will handle content creation, copywriting and posting?
- Map out a consistent posting schedule
- Set up a rough outline of how often you will post, what types of content you’ll focus on, and which platforms you’ll use.
- Determine your budget & schedule for paid promotions
- Expand your fanbase and grab new followers by boosting your posts or promoting your pages. Determine how much you are able and willing to spend, but don’t dump all your money into a single campaign at first. Start small and test what ads & objectives work best for you before scaling up.
Once you’ve got a good idea of what types of content resonate with your audience the best and how much content you’ll need to execute your schedule, invest some time in creating a bank of content to pull from. Make sure that your content is as diverse as you’re comfortable with, and that you split time between carefully crafted, branded content around singles and albums, and more organic & native content.
- Some content ideas to get you started:
- Give a tour of your rehearsal or studio space.
- Set up a camera, hit record, and just jam. Capture those authentic moments.
- Write or record a song on the spot. Viewers love to see the behind the scenes process.
- Have fun with your musical skills. Not all posts have to be about pushing your releases. Record a video of you covering the Super Mario Bros theme or mash up the Game of Thrones theme with another song.
- Record some beat breakdowns.
- Talk to your followers about your writing and recording process.
- Prep some ask me anything sessions (live or through written submissions).
While it may be difficult to replace the income lost by not being able to tour, once you’ve done all the work above to capture an engaged and supportive digital audience, there are ways to capitalize on that to start earning income in a new way that will have the ability carry on far past the pandemic.
- Use paid promotions to drive sales, views, downloads & streams
- Don’t forget - people can still buy your music! Experiment with paid promotions to drive traffic to your Spotify or Apple Music profile, push people to purchase downloads, watch YouTube videos, stream albums, etc.
- Consider setting up a Bandcamp or other direct-to-fan storefront, and driving traffic there to get the most bang for your buck.
- Sell off your old merch and get creative with new merch ideas
- Try social media auctions for one-off rare or old merch items or physical records that are no longer available.
- Come up with some new print-on-demand designs or homemade items such as handwritten lyrics or other wares (depending on your level of craftiness), to cut down on overhead.
- Livestream shows
- Setup a livestream and collect donations or charge for tickets directly.
- Tip: people often spend more when they’re given the option to tip or name their price vs. a set ticket price, especially for an untested experience like a livestream.
- Get creative - could you partner your live stream show with a local restaurant or brewery or other brand?
- Use existing tools that people are comfortable with, like Eventbrite to host your live event. You can either pre-record or livestream through a video platform such as Vimeo or Zoom, etc.
- Consider setting the event as a free to open up access to all fans, so you can focus on collecting their emails instead.
- Focus on email & data collecting
- In addition to generating revenue, collecting emails and fan data is one of the most important things you should focus on when exploring any of the above opportunities. It may not seem as important as driving direct sales, but building your email list builds a solid foundation for future endeavors. And bonus: emails and engagers on social media can be retargeted for any marketing initiatives such as future releases, performances & merch selling campaigns.
The pandemic has hit the touring industry hard, but anyone who has been on the road is no stranger to adversity. It’s anyone’s guess when everything will be back to normal, so do what you do best: be creative! Take this to time to reflect, to build, and to create. Use this time to build fans online - build email lists and fan data. When the time comes to book shows again, you’ll be sitting on a gold mine of potential ticket buyers.