It’s been the most challenging time for the creative sector, particularly those in performing arts, whose main source of income has completely dried up. What follows may not contain many solutions or answers to your questions, but hopefully it will offer some hope and ideas.
Hardship Funds for Musicians
The Musicians’ Union (MU) Coronavirus Hardship Fund – can provide a maximum of £200 to MU members. To be eligible, you must hold a UK bank account and be able to demonstrate genuine hardship from loss of work due to the pandemic, and you must not have already claimed from the Fund.
Help Musicians Coronavirus Hardship Fund
Aimed at self-employed musicians who do not qualify for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, and unemployed musicians who are unable to make ends meet. There are different routes for applying for this, depending on whether you are receiving or have applied for Universal Credit.
PRS Members’ Fund
If you have held PRS membership for at least seven years or you have earned at least £500 in royalties, the PRS Members’ Fund may be able to help. The Fund provides short-term loans, unexpected crisis grants, help with sheltered accommodation, debt management advice, and career change advice.
Other Funding Available
Arts Council England (ACE) – Project Grants and Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) Fund
ACE Project Grants opened in July 2020 and applications will be accepted until April 2021, with an overall budget of £75m to be allocated. The DYCP Fund (from October 2020 to October 2021) has £18m of funding to allocate and aims to help musicians and artists build new networks and create new work. The range of grants is between £2,000 to £10,000 and is available for individual artists and/or creative practitioners. Round 9 opened on 11 January 2021 and closes on 18 February 2021.
PRS Foundation has various funds for artists and musicians who write their own music. Women Make Music and The Open Fund for Music Creators are open until 12 February 2021, and there is also the Sustaining Creativity Fund.
Are you a member of PRS? Are all your songs registered with PRS? If you are a songwriter and you are not registered, then you are missing out if your music is played or performed in public.
The PRS collects royalties every time your music is played is played. This includes live performance, but also performances of a recorded version of the song, for example if a bar, restaurant, shop, plays your music, or if it is played on the radio, online, or on TV.
PPL is the UK’s music licensing company for performers and recording rightsholders. They license recorded music when it is broadcast on radio, TV and online. Are you a member of PPL? Are all your tracks registered with PPL?
Both PRS and PPL have international mandates so it is not just when your songs and tracks are played in the UK that you can earn money.
Use the member areas of the websites to analyse where your music is being listened to and how. What does the data tell you about where your music is popular? What might you be able to do now to build on this, and what might you be able to do in future?
Some musicians and artists feel uncomfortable engaging online. It is difficult to stand out and use a voice that attracts new fans and keeps existing fans happy. There are some basic rules that anyone can adopt.
-Having an awareness of your brand is key. Do your visuals help to represent your sound? Do you have a website? Do you analyse your online stats? Now is a good time to do this! You could have fans in part of the country, or part of the world that you didn’t previously know about. Touring isn’t possible, but there are other ways in which you might engage with those people.
-Consistency is important. It looks sloppy if you use a logo on your website, but not on Bandcamp, or you use a different promo shot on your socials to that which appears on Spotify.
-In terms of engagement, you will be muted or unfollowed if you post several times a day – unless perhaps you are really funny. The flip side is that posting something new every three weeks isn’t going to be enough, especially not at the moment where we’re all online more than ever.
If socials are definitely not your thing then don’t bother. Spend your time working on the actual music/ videos/ writing: It is always going to be more rewarding that getting new likes! The scarcity of online information can add value, and you might find that your fans prefer it.
Is there something that you could make, or that someone you know could help you make? Something that links with a song, that might be easy and cheap to produce and that you could sell?
Music fans are willing to buy more merchandise than ever as a way of supporting artists. We’ve seen artists sell limited edition linocuts, paintings, and homemade chutney since the start of the pandemic.
Is this all on your website? Have you got links to the merchandise section on Spotify? Make sure everything is joined up.
Diversification and Upskilling
If you have created content for your website, you’re probably familiar with editing software. Maybe you can make more videos for your own songs and/or other artists’ material.
Same with music production: could you mix or remix for others? Could you learn how to master? Many musicians have recorded at home during lockdown, if you can help mix what they have done and make it sound ready to release, then that is a skill you could be relying on now.
A lot of bands/artists have created home videos teaching fans how to play their songs. You might also think about teaching your instrument to others in a more traditional way, on Zoom or similar.
Alternatives to Live Music
A lot of artists and bands started livestreaming at the start of the first lockdown, mainly providing content for free. Now there are loads of artists running ticketed shows, some offering bundles, where fans can access the stream plus merch.
Outdoors shows will one day become a thing again, subject to restrictions. Can you start planning something spectacular/ interesting for when lockdown ends?
Look After Yourself
It’s such a difficult and stressful time and you have to focus on making sure you look after yourself. As a musician/ creator, you need to keep doing what you do. Keep yourself physically healthy and try to stay connected to your network.
There is a list of organisations offering mental health support on the MU website and UK Music has also put together a list of music activities to support wellbeing here
If you need legal assistance with any music related issues, then contact Laura firstname.lastname@example.org