With most of the world on lockdown – or at least severely restricted – many of our usual work-related activities are no longer an option. Gigs, tours, teaching, rehearsals… all cancelled.
But for those of you who are healthy and not dealing first hand with the effects of Coronavirus on friends or family, you might find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands…
And, in that case, maybe an opportunity (aside from spending some quality time with your loved ones) to tick off some of those items that have be languishing on your to-do list for too long and to come out the other side in a positive place…
So, with lots of input from Jazzfuel musicians around the world, I wanted to share some initial ideas or reminders…
(Feel free to add more as a comment and I’ll update)
They seemed to fit nicely into 3 main categories:
Career Admin: Doing those work-related chores and tasks that often get pushed to the bottom of the list, but in fact will really help lay the groundwork for your long term career.
Music: What are those long term creative projects that you’ve not quite got around to until now..?
Audience Development: connecting with those millions of jazz fans around the world who are healthy, safe and suddenly find themselves with hours of free time on their hands. How can you engage with them, build you fanbase digitally and sell more music?
Build out your promoter database
This situation will end, sooner or later, and one way to catch up on lost work will be to reach out to a much bigger list of possible venues and festivals than before. If you can spend some time researching the right ones – and how to contact them – you’ll be in a strong position once things get back to normal.
Reconnect with your industry supporters
Regardless of where you’re at with your career, it’s pretty likely there are ‘industry’ people (promoters, journalists, agents, managers…) who’ve already shown interest or helped you out along the way. If you haven’t checked in with them recently, now would be a great time to see how they’re doing.
Sending emails which ask for nothing and actually give something interesting or nice are generally exceptionally well received!
Work on your long-term career plan
It’s amazing how many more things fall into place when you know what you’re aiming for. If you don’t have a plan for the next 12 months – even a loose one – thinking about some s.m.a.r.t goals for the main areas can help focus things:
Album launch plans
If you have an album recorded and are preparing to release, make sure you’ve got the key milestones and dates mapped out on a calendar. Releasing singles, preparing a press release, video content & the full album, updating your promo materials… All these things need to be scheduled ahead of time, and now might be the moment to do it.
Grow your press database & build some personal relationships
Whether or not you’ve got a new album planned, the more journalists and bloggers you can connect directly with the better. As with gig booking, it’s not rocket science: pick a few bands who are are making similar music to you and use Google to find all of their reviews.
The men and women writing about those projects are most likely to write about yours too. You might also find – if you send them a nice personal mail – that a lot of them have suddenly got a lot of free time to listen to new music…
Pitch to playlisters
If you have your music on Spotify, getting added to relevant and well-followed playlists can help introduce your music to a lot more fans.
Step 1 on the ladder is public playlists: make a list of themed playlists which match your style, research the contact details of the host and then send them a message asking them to check your track. Playlists with 500-5000 followers work well as a starting point.
I’ve seen real results from jazz musicians in my Spotify Bootcamp who’ve put in the hard work on this and seen the rewards in terms of expanding their reach on Spotify.
Set up online lessons for new or existing students
A lot of musicians have been commenting how they’d been thinking about switching to digital lessons or even building online courses. Getting this up and running massively increases your opportunities for earning as a teacher, not to mention the flexibility it provides.
As with many of these ‘tasks’ it’s not a quick thing to arrange, but if not now then when..?
I’m not sure it counts as a ‘usually forgotten’ activity, but many musicians suggested adding it. Practicing more than usual, perhaps? Or on different things? If you’re a member of the Jazzfuel Community (free Facebook group) you can check out what other musicians are planning here.
Composing / Arranging
Seems like every musician has that ‘dream’ project (large ensemble, anyone?!) that they’ve never quite found the time for…
Overhauling / tweaking / customising instruments
Obviously this depends on your instrument and your skills, but some downtime from gigs is a great opportunity to explore this side of things…
Connect with some other musicians around the world and set up a co-writing session either via Skype (or similar) or by going backwards and forwards on email…
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has the possibility to record at home, why not get something new down..? Or combine with a live stream, taking people behind the scenes in your home studio…
A lot of musicians are trying to make up for cancelled gigs by live-streaming to fans via social media or their website. Not only is it a great way to strengthen that artist/fan relationship, you could also choose to give viewers the chance to contribute (as they would by buying a ticket). There are lots of options for that, including Paypal and Buy Me A Coffee.
If you have something scheduled, send me a link to include here: jazzfuel.com/livestream-jazz-gigs
Perhaps the key to growing your audience is to somehow let people deeper into your ‘world’ aside from just listening to the music. Tell your story, show your motivations & beliefs…
There are lots of ways to do this (videos, playlists, social media…) but perhaps an underused one by many musicians is writing words.
As an easy first step, have you already written an engaging a personal email to your newsletter subscribers?
And then, going one step further, is there a topic that is closely related to your music or project that you could produce an article on? As a minimum, you could host it on your website and direct people there from social media.
But, before you do that, take a look at the hundreds or thousands on relevant blogs online and offer it to one of them as a guest post.
From their point of view, they get free relevant content for their site. From yours, you get to share you music with a new audience and to motivate them to become fans.
If you have an article in mind and need help on where to pitch it, drop me a note and I’ll see how I can help.
Promote your existing releases for people to buy
Of course, for musicians, promoters, agents, managers – as well as freelancers and business owners in general – these are really tough times. But there are a big group of people – employees of established companies, for example – who simply need to stay home and try to keep working.
I’d suggest that, for these people, buying music and supporting musicians is as much of an option as before. So coming up with some strategies to put your music out there are worthwhile both for now and the future.
If nothing else, is all your music available in one place – such as a Bandcamp page or shop on your website? If not, that would be a good place to start.
After that, is there promotional material (media, old reviews, quotes, liner note) that you can start redistributing via social media or press to bring peoples attention to your back-catalogue?
Create / update a playlist
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger I was a big fan of making mix tapes.
Spotify playlists are the 21st century equivalent and, as well as being quite fun, curating a playlist (especially around a theme) is a great way of giving jazz fans some interesting content, whilst at the same time showcasing your music…
Set up a strategy call with some other musicians
We need a support network at the best of times, but maybe now is a great opportunity to reach out to similar musicians (either in your community or around the world) and fix up a video call.
Can you come up with plans to form a loose ‘collective‘ to share each others music with your own audiences?
Publish some content together?
Plan some contacts-sharing or marketing ideas?
Of even just talk about what’s going on with this current situation?
I hope some of these ideas have given you some motivation for keeping things moving forwards in a positive way during these tricky times! If you’d like to suggest anything to add, feel free to post in the comments section below. If you want to be a little more connected with the Jazzfuel community in these tricky times, there’s a free community Facebook group here.
International jazz booking agent, manager and host of Jazzfuel.
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