How can musicians navigate through Covid-19?

2020 has taken a sharp turn into uncharted territory, and everyone is affected. Musicians and those in the music industry face specific challenges, and may be feeling anxious for the future. Adam Hignell takes a look at the new normal for musicians, and tries to find reasons to be optimistic.


What’s the story?

In case you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ll know that coronavirus has spread across most of the world and there is a huge global effort to reduce the devastation it looks intent on wreaking.

As a result, most people are in some form of social distancing or self isolation. And that means everyone is at home, most of the time. No bars, no restaurants, no cafes, no concerts.

While there is a clear and present danger to society, normal life has been put on hold. For some, that means working from home instead of the office, but for musicians, that invariably means cancelled gigs, studio work and performances for the foreseeable future. If that’s an important source of income, you’re looking at a drastic change in your financial circumstances.

Musicians are in a particularly vulnerable position, as are many freelance workers. There may, thankfully, be a few things that can be done to mitigate the worst effects.


Be healthy.

First, front and center. Keep yourself and your household healthy. Follow government guidelines, avoid crowded places, eat well and get some exercise. You don’t need to be a medical worker to know that following basic self-care procedures will be beneficial.

Likewise, in times of great anxiety and stress, take good care of your mental health. Try and find moments to meditate or engage in a relaxing pursuit. Making music is one such pursuit, so maybe it’s time to finish that album.



It’s radical stock-take time. What can you cut out from your regular expenses? Are there any welfare options open to you in your location? Did you have contracts in place for your cancelled work? The ISM has great advice for performers during Coronavirus. You may be able to agree postponement, rather than cancellation, so get in touch with your booker immediately.

During this period, many mortgage brokers are offering payment holidays, as are some utilities companies. If you can’t pay for certain things at this time, you’re always better off communicatiing with the providers. Everyone is going through this in some way, so there is a good chance they’ll be understanding.

Interest rates are extremely low at the moment, so if you’re really struggling, consider taking out a loan to get you through the next few months. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than starving.

You’ll be spending less on going out, which is a silver lining of sorts!



Suddenly, your time is a commodity to be spent in a very different way. You may be looking at wholesale cancellations, you may sudenly have the kids at home all day, or you may suddenly be working from home. Others may sadly be out of a job altogether.

Either way, you now have to re-cast your daily routine. And while that can be inconvenient, it can also provide opportunity.


Clear backlogs.

Not the sexiest suggestion, but a really useful one. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Attack all that admin you’ve been putting off.
  • Get your tax and accounts up to date.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Improve your branding.

Your accounts may be more important than ever right now. Get on top of them, figure out any cost-cutting options, chase up any unpaid invoices and get your taxes up to speed.

Additional free time is a great opportunity to improve your core offer, make yourself better at your craft or learn new skills that give you extra market credentials. Right now, Skillshare are offering a 2-month free trial, and 190 Universities around the world have opened up hundreds of online courses for free. Meanwhile, Future Learn have an amazing array of free courses to offer. Online

Move your performances online.

While it may seem like every musician and their dog is suddenly live-streaming their gigs or DJ sets, it’s proving really popular amongst the thousands of people who can no longer go see concerts. Consider what you can offer to not only generate a little extra income, but bring a little joy to others at this time.

That could be performing, or doing online classes for learners, or making social media content that educates and entertains your fans. Even if you’re not a publically-facing artist, maybe you have a unique skillset or story that people would like to hear about?

Lots of people feel for musicians at this time. We all know the festival season was on the way, and lots of our favorite acts will struggle to make up for the lost income. So why not put up some items for sale? Even a ‘lost’ recording, an old mix or some great new content. Many fans want to help, so don’t be shy.


Improve your marketing.

How many times thave you thought to yourself ‘I really should promote myself better, but I don’t have the time’? Well, now you do!

There are some amazing online resources to help you improve your marketing processes. I personally recommend Column Five as their blog has regular suggestions that always seem to work with a musician’s business model. Shaw Academy are also offering a 4-week marketing course for free. You can spend your new-found free time writing targeted blog posts, creating better content, improving your processes and communicating your brand more effectively.


Replenish your batteries.

Sometimes, you win the war by stepping back from the battle. While things seem tough, it’s logical that we attack the problem with force. When work dries up or you’re suddenly looking at reduced income, it makes sense to fight back. But, we need to look after ourselves, which sometimes means taking a step back.

If you’re risking burnout or feeling overly anxious, why not read a book or simply use the down-time to get some rest.

Our minds can function more erratically when stressed, so you might find you come back with a refreshed and more effective outlook.

As sports-people always say when they get a long-term injury “I’m gonna come back stronger”… we can do the same. It’s not going to be easy, but there’s reason to be optimistic.

This is a reset for the world. The environment is getting a breather, and our sense of community is strengthened as we fight a common enemy. There will be tough days ahead, but when we get through this, there will be a collective euphoria that could create some powerful and long-lasting vibrations. As musicians and DJs, we’re going to be instrumental in soundtracking humanity’s survival.

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