Ross Barber-Smith

2020 has been a year to remember, for various reasons. We’ve probably all heard the word “unprecedented” more than we have in our entire lifetimes. We’ve seen countless graphs and charts, and heard way too much bad news. And for musicians, a way of connecting and reaching an audience, as well as a large proportion of income, disappeared pretty much overnight, when the first lockdown was announced.

As a web designer who works mostly with musicians and music-related businesses, I’ve been in the position where I can hear a lot about the struggles and concerns artists have had, and been able to offer a few insights as to how they can utilise and improve their online presence at this time. I’ve found that I’ve also played the role of a counsellor at times too, just being an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on when things have felt confusing and incredibly uncertain.

And while I’ve been told that I’ve provided value to the artists I’ve worked with during this period, I feel that I’ve also learned a lot and been inspired by their tenacity and work ethic, fighting against the odds to keep moving forward.

The biggest lesson I’ve had reaffirmed here, is how resourceful and open to change artists can be. Adapting doesn’t always come naturally, but I’m always so impressed by the attitude and strength musicians have. Building a career in music has never been easy, but with the combination of talent, work ethic, attitude and persistence, it can be done. EVEN in times of Covid.

Since live events are currently severely restricted, artists have been forced to adapt. Some ways I’m finding the artists I work with are pivoting are:

  • Focusing more on crowdfunding and subscription sites such as Patreon
  • Utilising this “downtime” to revamp their online presence and promoting merchandise and music sales via their websites
  • Collaborating with other artists to write & record online
  • Live streaming on various platforms, and encouraging their audience to donate
  • Teaching online, or offering virtual consultation services
  • Writing and recording new music, and planning ahead for their upcoming releases
  • Rediscovering their “why” and becoming clearer on their artist identity and purpose
  • Building new relationships with people in the music industry, and nurturing existing relationships

Based on conversations I’ve had with artists I work with (as well as others I don’t!) I’m hearing that a lot of artists are learning about the role the internet can play in their careers – both now, and post-pandemic. Many artists are rediscovering their love of writing, and are improving their skills in planning and marketing, which will help them out in the careers moving forward.

We can’t describe this pandemic as a good thing, by any stretch of the imagination – but there are some silver linings to be found. A big part of a successful career in the music industry is the ability to adapt, and that’s one thing this pandemic has really forced artists to do. So while the current situation often feels bleak, I do think that the skills artists have honed during this time, will put them in good stead for a much more positive (and hopefully profitable) 2021 and beyond!

In many ways (when it comes to a career in music), it comes down to perspective. And it’s the way we look at things, the way we adapt our approach, and the way we connect with people, that is really going to pull us through and set ourselves up for the times ahead.


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