All bets are off. Business in the live gig market post COVID has changed. In some aspects it has been taken back a few decades. In other aspects, it has finally come of age. One thing is for sure. To survive and thrive in this post COVID market, you will need to level up in your Music Business plan. Competition is high. Technology has evolved. The sheep are more desperate. The wolves are hungrier. Business savy Promoters + Audiences demand something far better.

Cover Artists streaming live on Social Media during lockdown cleared the field in terms of value. A great thing if you are on top of your game. A massive challenge if you are not.

These Seven Super Secret Weapons, if applied and utilised, will help you navigate through this transitional market.

Sharpen your tools…………

The Show

There is MUSIC and there is BUSINESS. The MUSIC is the product that you create and express and offer for sale. Believe it or not, we receive demos from many bands year after year who simply cannot play their instruments or sing in tune.  They may be able to market themselves and bring heads to a local gig however they simply cannot cut in on stage or in the studio therefore the longevity in this industry is rather short.

Hire a teacher – continue to challenge yourself musically. Know how to play your instrument well

Develop a musical style

Develop a vocal style

Get a vocal coach and constantly upgrade your skills in regular singing lessons

Learn how to read music

Be able to sing live and in tune.

Be able to perform unplugged.

Write Songs that people will select for the Soundtrack of their lives

Write and record consistently and plan to release product every few months. Recording one single or album is not enough. Thanks to streaming, you are competing with the rest of the world. The human animal gets bored very easily and demands to be fed something new on a regular basis. So give it to them.

Practice on your own

Rehearse regularly

Create a show for every performance whether on stage, live on Socials, in a podcast or interview or with fans.

Hone, refine, redefine – your music is a constantly evolving organism. Keep it fed and watered so it can grow.

Put together a team of people for your Music Business who are NOT on a learning curve so you can focus on your Show.

The Offer

There is MUSIC and there is BUSINESS. The BUSINESS is all about finding someone to stream your music, purchase your merch and buy tickets to your shows. The BUSINESS is all about your OFFER. Without an audience, you keep the wallpaper in your bedroom company. The Music and your Show are your PRODUCTS and like every other business in the world, you have to understand how to manage, organise, administer, distribute, market, sell, generate and regenerate. Unless you can self-organize and self-manage, you will not survive.  Construct a strong business structure in place and create a workable synergy between yourself, the band and your team. Work together as a joint venture.  Nominate all the band members for different jobs to keep the business going.  You play your parts live on stage – you share jobs off stage.

Decide who owns the Brand and the Products and outline what that includes

Build your Team – (Production Manager, Crew, Technicians, Agent, Management, Publicist, Merchandise, Lawyer, Accountant, Licensing, Social Media Management, Photographer, Videographer, IT Guru)

Copyright all Music and Lyrics

Trademark your Name & Logo

Purchase the Domain Name for your Brand Name for Website and Social Networks

Claim your Google Presence including your Brand name as a Gmail address

Engage a Web Master as your website is your public face.

Form a legal entity for your label, song writing/publishing, touring, merchandising, etc.

Register with a song writing Performing Rights Organization

Select your Distribution networks

Build your Networks – join Associations and Organisations as well as Communities and Causes

Cover Yourself with Health & Equipment Insurance

Craft agreements with all involved – Band Members, anyone helping out, Agent, Manager (down the track), Publicist and Label.

Plan and actually have regular Meetings to stay on top of the business.

Take ownership of your business or you will attract someone unscrupulous who knows they can easily take you for a ride.

Know what is going on in your own business.

If you do not know what to do, pay for advice. Find people in the industry who have experienced it and hire them for Business and Performance Coaching.

Find a mentor.

Start with your Business Plan and run your Music Brand like it is a business …because it is.

The Value

Very few original gigs pay you a guarantee until you have proven bums on seats and even then you typically get offered a versus deal. Ensure you have your own income source while you build your brand. Put together a financial plan – not just for the band but also for yourself. Factor this into your Business Plan. Save for recording, maintenance and replacement of your instruments, perhaps work in a covers band to support your original habit, have a financial cushion for when things go wrong – the van breaks down etc. Put this in your band agreement. You need money to produce your product. Think bigger!  Have a plan in place for every step of your career. Employ smart strategies to build your career on a solid framework of credibility and reputation by working with a team towards an agreed business plan and suite of deadlined goals.

Follow sound financial principles – Save 10%, establish a 10% Cushion, then Invest 10% and only then Risk 10%.

Keep yourself financially covered at all times.

Create a Band Kitty agreement to cover all costs

Play in a Covers Band to support your Original Project. You build your chops, test your material, develop your market and expand your network.

Always follow the money – be accountable for all income and expense

All roads lead to a live show. But in 2021, thanks to lockdowns and uncertainty, you need to create alternate mechanisms for income for times when live shows are impossible.

Streaming is not profitable but a necessary part of your PR campaign.

Build your followers, likes and subscribers into your email list.

Your email list are your customers.

The best time to sell merchandise is at a live gig. Have a good solid inventory available for sale at your gigs and have an accountable process in place to manage the sales.

Have a clear Income Plan in your band for the Brand where the combination is of selling CDS and Merchandise, Sponsorship, and performing live in this Local Market.

Build your markets systematically. Start in your town then Regional then interstate then national and then global. Choose your Professional team wisely. Choose a team that will build your career in the Localised market, establishing a solid foundation in Australia, before you attempt to conquer a Global market.

The Brand

Who are you? What is your story? Why would anyone want to stream your music, purchase your products and buy tickets to your show? These are the hardest questions to ask. Once you push through the resistance, and there will be plenty, you will be able to leverage your story and build your Brand Plan. Your brand is an expression of your story. Find your story. Find your Cause. How many high profile artists experienced challenge and tragedy in their life, joined an organisation that supported them through the pain who then went on to collaborate with that organisation in fund raising events, garnering much more media attention and sponsorship dollars and therefore raised all profiles exponentially. Allow yourself to get real and allow your authentic story to emerge.

Create a Logo to match the experience and energy and emotion of each tour, campaign and release. Any adventure you take your audience on, your logo is your calling card. Leverage the f**k out of it!

Construct your Live and Digital style. If I rock up to your gig and you are on a break, can I spot you in the crowd? Do you stand out or do you look like one of the punters? What is your style? Do you set fashion trends? How do I feel on your Website or Socials? What sets you apart from other bands live or digitally? Your digital footprint tells the world who you are.

Know Your Target Market and Be Clear on the Value of Your Brand

Optimise your Social Presence

Build your metrics – like, follows and subscribers

Feature yourself doing what you do

Share your Human Story

Create a continual Photo Shoot schedule

Craft a Biography and Sample Press Releases

Start Trends and establish yourself as an Influencer

Discover your USP

Refine your POD

Content is King. Script it. Plan it. Discover it. Play with it.

Employ the Manick “Social Media is the 5th Beatle”strategy

The Assets

Your assets are everything that is needed to produce your show, deliver your value, manage your offer and express your brand. Internal Resources will include your health, fitness, wellness, mindfulness and overall energy blueprint. If you are unfit, it will be impossible for you to maintain any sort of performance or recording schedule. You need fuel and your internal resources are the foundation for your energy. It takes a great deal of preparation, planning, repairs and maintenance not to mention initial investment and of course the continual replacement and upgrades for your external Resources so it is wise to manage them in much the same way you manage your health and wellbeing. What  Assets could you better leverage and utilise to add value to your brand? You are only limited by your imagination. Partner with a not for profit organisation that could really benefit from accessing your fan database. Collaborate with a local business who could really benefit from accessing your fan database. Reach more people through their networks, create awareness of some special cause and consider donating % of proceeds – either ticket, CD or merchandise sales. Create innovative competitions and grab media and blogger attention. Get innovative with the Merchandise that promotes your brand.  Make a list of everything that you need to gig, put a repair and maintenance plan into place, and value what you have as these resources enable you are well resourced and able to deliver your show in all its forms.

Instruments, Equipment and Tech.

Transport – get your vehicles serviced, keep them fueled and back a back up transport plan for every show

Gig Kit – strings, gaff, cables, batteries, mics, picks, sticks, extension leads, power boards, stationary, tape, staples, pens and of course a first aid kit. – check it before the week begins and replenish it monthly.

Health and Fitness – get Gig Fit – tours are exhausting – cancelling gigs on a regular basis because you have caught another cold is not great for building relationships in the Industry.

Digital Footprint – Website, Email List, Socials, Streaming Platforms – Profile and Covers, Bio Links and Logos – Upgrade, make sure they match. These are digital shop fronts.

Live and Local – Stage Clothes – wash them, iron them, look after them, pay someone to hem your jeans or learn how to do it yourself. You seriously do not want to know the media interviews that have gone pear shaped because the drummer’s shoes stank out the studio! Ew!

Promo Kit – CD, Merch, Tickets, and Autographed Promo Shots – Conduct a weekly stock take and update and replenish monthly.

Comfort Kit when Touring – everything you physically need – Pillows, Sleeping Bags, Towels, Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Mugs, Your Favourite Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate, Spare Keys, Mobile Phone Charger, Phone Credit, Sunglasses and a backup Credit Card.

The Team

Relationships are vital aspects of your life as a professional musician. This industry is a comprehensive matrix of connections without which nothing works. It is important for you to understand how your team works together in synergy as well as how to value each and every relationship for today’s social media manager in may well be tomorrow’s promoter of that festival you want a spot in.

It is not just the relationships in the industry that count, it is how you connect and engage with your fans. How do you connect with rival bands working a similar market to you? How professional are you with young emerging media? And the big one – how do you manage the significant others of the band members?  How do you keep it all together when the shit hits the fan? How many bands have broken up because of a breakdown of a relationship? If you are in a relationship with someone managing your band or helping out with bookings do you have a succession plan sorted so you don’t lose information or gigs when someone wants to bail. What do you do when the girlfriend of the drummer is looking after your Social Media and is missing the mark? Who is going to tell her without pissing him off? Consider all these relationships, set up agreements with clear parameters, include in your business plan, establish your process, create a succession plan and learn how to manage. Here are some agreements to consider:

Band Agreement – Music Rights, Licensing, Representation, Management etc

Business Plan and Agreement

Financial Plan Agreement

Marketing Plan – Image and Brand Agreement

List Item

Social Media Management Plan

Communications Plan and Agreement

Operation Plan

Succession Plan

Strategic Plan

List Item

The Influence

The more people you can reach and then convert into fans, the more value will be added to your business. The more value you offer the more people, the more value will be added to your business. How do you measure the value of your influence? What are your metrics? The more people you can reach and then convert into fans, the more value will be added to your business. The more value you offer the more people, the more value will be added to your business. Quantify your live show value in bums on seats. Qualify how your live show increases the gross bar sale figure for a venue. Outline the BUFA for your Brand (Benefit, Utility, Feature, Advantage)

Giveaways – Show Tickets, Merch, Signed Items – keep a healthy Giveaway catalogue set aside to generate interst with your fans

Keep it local – get to know the community hub around each show. Promote, Meet N Greet, Talk to Local Media, Free Sample Shows for Local Businesses.

Connect with Local Community Groups

Connect with Local Businesses

Get to know your Local Fans

Connect to Local Music Stores, Teachers and Bands.

Maintain a healthy balance of all seven super secret weapons in your Brand Plan. There is no magic bullet however there IS a process for you to follow with consistent attention and effect. Do not give up when it all gets too hard. Push on through the frustration and focus on the end result that you and your band have set together and not only survive the Music Industry but flourish and enjoy it.

Nichola Burton

Nichola Burton

Nichola Burton is the CEO of The Pushworth Group, Coach and Program Manager for Music Means Business, Event Manager and Producer, Artist Manager, Podcaster, Author, Musician and Vocalist in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia with over 30 years experience working with Musicians, Performers, developing Artists and coaching them through Marketing, Branding, Show and Business Management. She holds qualifications in Business and Front Line Management, Training and Workshop Delivery, Music Business Management and Piano and Voice from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.


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