The musicians' guide: financial management during COVID-19

Posted on March 25, 2020

If you’re a gigging musician, you are probably starting to feel the strain. Your livelihood is all about entertaining the public at gatherings, or at festivals or live music venues, and most opportunities have more or less dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing major festivals being postponed, we’re seeing pubs and restaurants being closed and even the small intimate gigs at coffee shops and clubs are gone. Social distancing is the new norm to stop the spread of the virus. 

Things are going to be very different for (at least) the next few months irrespective of where you are on the spectrum of nonchalance to panic. As a musician, you’re either choosing to, or being forced to, take a significant financial loss for the good of the larger public. 

What can you do to survive during this time? 

Well, in addition to the other WaterBear blogs in the Musicians Guide series, you can take the following steps to conserve cash. The old maxim “Cash is King” is hugely relevant right now. 

What support schemes are out there for self-employed musicians? 

Temporary changes to benefits have made it easier for musicians to apply. 

Hardship Funds being implemented for musicians facing genuine hardship. 

Health and welfare with financial assistance offered by organisations. 

Reassurance and support services. 

There will also be many more. So now you’ve got time on your hands, do some research. Keep up to date with the government website as things are changing fast. Maybe consider watching the live news conference at around 5pm everyday to get the real news - avoid fake news on social media for your mental wellbeing. 

What can you do differently to conserve cash?

As a gigging musician, you are already probably very good at managing tight budgets so carry on with that. At a time when hoarding and rationing is the norm, it seems strange to encourage thriftiness, but it can be a means of survival.

Review all your expenses and identify what can be postponed or stopped.

Mortgage or rent – get in touch with your lender or landlord and ask about payment holidays or reduced payments during these times. With mortgage lenders offering mortgage holidays even for buy to let mortgages, most landlords should be in a position to provide some assistance.

Council tax and services – contact your suppliers and again agree a holiday or reduced payments. I know that this creates a future debt but once things get better the economy will bounce back. Hopefully it will be quick, as people have been locked down for some time and want to go out and be entertained.

Credit cards, banking and loans – contact your financial suppliers and ask about delayed or reduced payments. Can you get a coronavirus business interruption loan guaranteed by the government for your business?

Household expenses – draconian times require draconian measures so you should look to reduce your intake of non-necessity items such as alcohol, tobacco/vape juice, crisps/chocolate and snacks. Teach yourself to bake bread, and other food stuffs using basic and cheap ingredients – you’ve got the time and it’s fun and rewarding to eat something you’ve made for a few pence!

Running out of cash?

Cash in hand – how much cash do you have?

In a spreadsheet (or “old school” it with paper and pen), work out what you will need each week after you have deployed some or all of the foregoing. You’re now creating a budget for the next few weeks. How long will your cash last and when do you need to worry about running out?

Sources of cash generation for an isolated musician

Live streaming concerts

Can you go live from your home? If you can, it can generate funds.  Be sure to include a Paypal.me link for donations

Check out these live-streaming options:

Instagram Live for musicians 

The complete Facebook Live toolkit for musicians

YouTube Live

Remember to show your fans that they can support you

Remember your fans can:

Buy a t-shirt, hat, or other merch from your online store if you have one.

Buy a CD/Vinyl/Tape/USB/MP3, whichever music format is most useful. This puts more money in your pocket than streaming.

Listen to you on your streaming platforms. This is great as every play is monetized.

Add one of your songs to their playlist.

Include your song in their own videos.

If they have design skills, design you a cool shirt or poster that you can sell.

When touring does resume, buy a ticket and help you pack out that venue.

Contribute to your crowdfunding site if you have one (if not, you might want to set one up).

If you're interested in learning more and are serious about progressing in your career as a musician, please join us at WaterBear HQ for an Open Day or Order a Prospectus.

By robert.logan

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