Written by Bolu Bello - as part of Commission Mission.
The year is 2020. We’ve been stuck at home under social distancing measures for 3 months now. No more performances at gigs. All the festivals have been cancelled. Your favourite studio has been shut for weeks. During a time like this, it’s easy to lose steam, drive and momentum. However, there is a way for you to be able to turn this situation completely around and make the most of it.
To build a legacy in the music industry, you’ll need to have true resilience and adaptability. What we’re facing now is the prime opportunity to demonstrate just how capable you really are. So, in order to get out of this rut, you’re going to need to pivot. Pivoting simply means turning. In this instance it specifically means turning your attention to focus on what you can do, even if it feels like there’s so much you can’t do right now. Here are 10 things you can be doing right now to pivot yourself right out of that rut!
1. Refocus on your branding.
One thing artists tend to overlook or not spend enough time on, is branding. Your brand has nothing to do with who you think you are, but everything to do with who your fans say you are. One thing that you’ll find is that over time, your brand evolves or no longer encapsulates who you are as an artist. The things you could be taking a look at right now are:
- Your logo
- Your display profile images
- Your digital bios
- Your EPK (electronic press kits)
- Checking all links are up to date and correct
These brand assets are the physical representations of who you are and that’s why it’s important to update them regularly. The key word for you here should be ‘consistency’, in both your visual style and identity. That way you’ll be able to build a loyal tribe who both love and share your music. Your brand is just as important as your music when it comes to your artistry, take this time as an opportunity to brush up on the areas you need to.
2. Focus on your social media.
Social media can be a confusing and overwhelming place, with so much content flooding our screens round the clock. It’s even harder than before to stand out, especially if you don’t have a carefully planned-out strategy for being able to tackle it head on.
One thing has become clear over time is that all the various social media platforms operate quite differently from one another, yet it’s important to be present on them because your fans can interact with you directly through them. Facebook has been designed to facilitate conversations and grow strong communities.
Twitter on the other hand is more suited for short form, mainly vocal information e.g. single/album announcements, while Instagram is at the forefront of aesthetically pleasing content, in particular its Stories feature which has helped increase overall engagement. TikTok too has recently emerged as another great output for artists who want to gain more exposure and connect with their audience like never before.
Therefore, it’s essential to learn which content will do better on which platforms, particularly since social media is a global meeting point that unites your fanbase. So, with access to so many people, you need to develop a social media strategy that will enable you to find the loyal fans that will help propel your brand forward, then make a long-term commitment to it.
To get started you should do the following:
- Set goals for your social media platforms. These could be based on follower count numbers or engagement percentages
- Learn as much as you can about your audience and about what content they would want to see from you
- Conduct research into how similar artists to yourself are using their social media pages for some inspiration
- Get your phone calendar and try to plan out content in advance as much as possible, aiming to post at least once a day
- Take some time to see what sort of content works and what doesn’t so that you can adjust accordingly
3. Revisit how you market yourself.
Marketing doesn’t have to be rocket science. It’s simply sharing your brand with the world. A lot of artists get used to a particular style of marketing themselves, meaning they no longer allow themselves to be experimental and try new things out.
Take some time to revisit your previous marketing campaigns to see what worked for you and what really sucked. There’s no sense in doing something that doesn’t work.
Allow yourself to go through this period of real evaluation; when you do your next round of marketing, you’ll be able to create a plan that is pretty airtight and stands a much greater change of yielding better results. The time to do this is now, so you don’t end up driving your time, money and efforts into all the wrong places.
No idea how to start putting together a strong marketing plan? Check out this article which breaks it down: https://bandzoogle.com/blog/5-steps-to-creating-an-effective-music-marketing-plan
4. Draft up your list of industry contacts in one place.
The importance of having all of your contacts in one place cannot be stressed enough. This way you can clearly identify what contacts you have and the areas in which you need to develop more contacts. Networking can be one of the most powerful things an artist can do, particularly since, as they say, ‘your network is your net worth’.
So, if you haven’t already, open up that Excel Spreadsheet and get busy filling it in- it’ll aid in your organisation, make your life easier and help you feel like you’re more in control.
5. Go through your unfinished music.
I’ve never met an artist that isn’t sitting on some old music, music they started but then abandoned or music that they just never got around to finishing. Since you may not be able to make new music right now, it is a really great time to take another fresh look at what you have already to see if you have any rough diamonds laying dormant.
The beauty in this comes from being able to play around with the music, reimagine it and really say something with it, that you may not have had the time to really do before. Set yourself a challenge to do something new with what you’ve got. Sometimes you’ve got to look back in order to move forward.
6. Listen to all your previous music.
A great use of your time right now is to thoroughly assess your previous releases. Not only is this great for seeing what proved popular amongst your fans, but also for you to be able to see areas in which you could improve your artistry.
Reflecting should be a constant ongoing process; however, most artists are simply not patient enough, jumping from one release to the next. The danger in this is never taking stock as they go. Now you have no excuse.
Listen to your old music as objectively as you possibly can, pick it apart, and note the things you’d improve and change if you were to do the track again.
Through this exercise you’ll find things that you can take forward with you as you prepare to work on future music. Remember, if you want to be great at what you do, then you can’t afford to ignore the areas in which you can improve.
7. Do more writing now than ever before.
Everything normally is so busy. Now that you have to stay at home, there’s no greater opportunity to embrace the stillness by getting some song writing done.
Reconnect with the values that are important to you and refine the message you’re trying to communicate through your music - then get writing.
The more content you prepare now, the easier those studio sessions will be once we’re all allowed back in!
8. Make the most of technology.
Technology has been a lifesaver in more ways than one over the past few months. In a strange way we’ve never been so connected even though we’re further apart than ever before. In the same breath then, it’s important that artists make good use of available technology to keep working and creating.
It’s as simple as having a song-writing session over FT (Facetime) with your producer or setting up a Zoom video call to have a group meeting with your team; from your manager to your stylist.
Communication is arguably more important now than it has ever been, so maximise your use of technology and start scheduling your time with others.
9. Reach out for those all-important collaborations.
With everyone at home, more people are paying attention to their social media and emails more than ever before. Take advantage of this by reaching out to people you’ve had on your hitlist for a long time, they might be more able to get back to you at the moment.
In addition to this, invest your time in working collaboratively too. Ask your peers what they think of your music, to get feedback that could help shape what you’re currently working on.
To take this a step further, also invest time in seeking those brand collaborations too. The only way you’ll be able to do this is by clearly identifying the parts of yourself that are important to your brand as an artist.
For example, you could be a producer who doubles up as a caffeine junkie. If drinking absurd amounts of coffee is something that forms part of your brand, then now could be a great time to seek brand partnerships in the coffee world. All it takes is a splash of imagination to think about ways in which you can expand your brand!
10. Take time to actually plan for the next 12 months.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. You can’t expect to make any reasonable progress unless you actually plan to do so.
What’s great about planning is that as you’re setting the goals and targets that you intend to reach; you’re also actively brainstorming about what steps need to be taken in order to get there.
It’s not enough to just aim for the stars, you have to build the rocket to get there too. If you haven’t already, grab a piece of paper and make note of your goals for the next year. Then, to make it more detailed, grab another piece of paper and write down the next 12 months as headings.
Then under each month, section out two columns titled ‘what’ and ‘how’ so you can start your planning right away. There’s no time to waste and there’s literally no time like the present.
Without a shadow of doubt, this time can be used to do the things you usually claim you don’t have time for. It would be irresponsible to waste it.
Use this list, or your own ideas, to pivot so you can develop the legacy you’re building for yourself as an artist. After all, only you are responsible for your brand.
There’s plenty of ways to use this time effectively, so maximise the opportunity that you’ve been presented.
Commission Mission was created by Young Guns Network and London In Stereo to commission 20 new and experienced freelance writers to create articles to inspire, inform and entertain young people in the music industry who are struggling during Covid-19.
The supporters who made this project possible were Association of Independent Music, London In Stereo, Musicians Union, Motive Unknown, PPL, Remi Harris Consulting, Small Green Shoots, Young Guns Network, Youth Music.