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Top Tips for Keeping Your Music Career Ticking Over During Covid-19

Deputy General Secretary Naomi Pohl spoke to BBC Music Introducing on Saturday night about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, and ways that musicians can keep creating and working in 2020.

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By Naomi Pohl Published: 29 September 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 14 December 2020 | 2:46 PM
A white man in a wheelchair is indoors, performing in what appears to be his home on a keyboard, while leaning over to type something into his laptop.
During the crisis, many organisations have moved their events and training online, meaning there is lots you can do to upskill from home – and some of it is free! Photo credit: Shutterstock

It’s such a tough time and we know musicians have a lot on their plate, just trying to keep their heads above water, but if you’re able to find some time for your music career in 2020 then here are Naomi’s top tips:

Firstly, keep performing, practising, rehearsing, recording new work and writing

Don’t stop! You are a musician and you don’t stop being a musician just because paid gigs are scarce at the moment. The music industry needs you, so even if you take work outside music to earn an income this year, which we know many musicians are forced to do, please don’t leave for good.

The best way to ensure a return to music is to keep performing and creating now, even if it’s tough and you are busy with other things or feeling uninspired.

Work on your online presence

As well as ensuring you are active on social media and putting on online gigs (which can be ticketed through sites such as Eventbrite), why not start a music blog or curate some playlists on Spotify and slip in a few tracks by yourself or your mates.

Any online activity can help to increase your profile and fanbase. Also, if you have a website then take this time to ensure it is up to date.

Apply for funding

Check out the Arts Council England, Wales, NI or Creative Scotland websites to see what funding streams are available for individual performers. Also check out the PRS Foundation. The MU offers free advice on applying for funding for its members.

Get out there and busk

If you’ve not done it before, why not think about a local open air performance to keep your hand in and sell some music or collect some donations. As long as social distancing guidance is followed, busking is permitted in most places and it’s a chance to perform whether you are a seasoned busker or not doing your usual gigs at the moment.

See if you can organise a gig at your local

If you’re in an area that allows it, and you can’t easily tour or perform in your usual venues, make contact with pubs, bars & restaurants nearer to home. Many people are staying local at the moment and you might find a paid gig or a profit share arrangement if you ring around some local businesses.

Teach – at home, in schools or online

Even if you’ve not taught music before. You can also check out our advice for music teachers.

Get on top of your career admin and register with PPL and/or PRS to ensure you get any royalties you’re due.

Don’t forget to register tracks and your recorded performances with PPL and any songs you’ve written with PRS for Music. Royalty distributions have been hit by Covid-19 but there is still money being collected for online, broadcast and radio plus live performance licensing is slowly returning too.

Attend free online events and training

During the crisis, many organisations have moved their events and training online, meaning there is lots you can do to upskill from home – and some of it is free! Check out our events, FEU training, the Ivors Academy and Featured Artists Coalition for example.

If you are going to do anything for free, make sure it’s for your own benefit

Want to do an online gig for free to keep up with your fans? Go for it. Someone else asks you to perform online for free to promote their brand, make sure you get paid! There is no harm in collaborating and agreeing to share in any profits or donations, but you shouldn’t be employed at a time when it has never been harder to make a living as a musician.

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Thanks to

Naomi Pohl

Naomi Pohl is Deputy General Secretary at the Musicians’ Union. She has worked in the arts sector in the UK for nearly 20 years representing creators and performers. Since joining the MU in 2009, she has championed the rights of musicians, songwriters and composers working across TV and film, the recorded music industry, in education, orchestras and theatre. Naomi is currently involved in a high profile campaign for improved streaming royalties for performers (#FixStreaming) in conjunction with The Ivors Academy. Since the #MeToo movement started Naomi has been leading the Union’s Safespace service and the Union’s campaign to tackle sexual harassment in the music industry.

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