In the midst of challenge, worry and the news, we count our blessings. Here in Nashville, we experienced a tornado to kick off quarantine in March and last week half the city lost power in another fierce storm. In New England, locals are anticipating a May freeze to cap off an already trying winter. We ask ourselves almost daily, “What world are we living in?”
We’ve lost family, friends, colleagues, and mentors. We’ve sent love, prayers, meals, care packages, cards and virtual hugs. We’ve watched loved ones enter hospitals – people we would visit every day if we could, but are unable to see. We’ve sent encouragement to those on the front lines. We follow their posts closely each day, wishing well, and hoping they are okay.
At Market Monkeys, it’s been a continuous team-wide debate: how to discover, create, improve and maximize opportunities for our artists, while also maintaining a sense of perspective. How to be as ambitious as ever in our undertakings, and maintain impeccable quality standards, and also be kind to ourselves and one another. How do you manage artists’ careers in a time when stress is high, technology confusing, and the future unclear? What do fans need, want? What helps?
This has been a time to take stock, assess skills, build new ones, and most of all – to not get caught up in what everyone else seems to be doing, but to do what feels true to the artist. We feel very lucky to work with artists who are incredibly self-aware, have strong brands and missions.
As we navigate these unprecedented times, one thing is clear; people still need our art! The question is how artists can best make their art available to fans without live shows. As consumers, we choose and revise daily sources of information we let in – more so now than ever. We’ve honed our skills at following certain people’s social feeds for different elements we appreciate now.
• Informed, useful news. If I pay attention to these few people’s feeds, maybe I’ll see what I need to know and then I won’t have to scan all the other click-bait junk. That will be a relief.
• Humor and humanity. Everything she posts makes me laugh – it’s positive and good natured. Seeing her foibles makes it easier to be so human here every day. I cherish every laugh, they overcome worry and bring peace.
• Remembering and hoping. Sometimes remembering what I did a few years ago rubs in what I can’t do now, but mostly memories bring joy. I can see I really have been living a full life of going, doing, trying and experiencing. Memories bring hope and remind me I’m still doing, trying and experiencing, even now.
All of these are good reasons to follow someone’s social media, join their Zoom party and take their calls. Interestingly, these sentiments are consistent with what Billboard/Nielsen are reporting about music consumption during the Coronavirus quarantine. Two incremental research reports issued during stay-at-home orders found that consumers are turning to entertainment even more the longer this goes on to “take their minds off the current situation and escape. They are seeking refuge in past favorites and exploring new content.” They are looking to entertainment more for escape and encouragement, and less for news and education. In short, we are all coping!
In a two-week period in April:
• 84% of general population listened to music they usually listen to
• 62% listened to music they used to listen to but have not in a while
• 62% listened to new music
Music video streaming is climbing. Audio streaming is continuing at a steady pace. Paid subscriptions to streaming services have increased.
While virtual concerts have been vibrant in the independent music scene, and have provided income for artists in the wake of tour cancellations, research shows the general population’s interest in virtual concerts is relatively low – hovering around 35%. It’s even lower for young age groups (though increasing now that they are getting the hang of school at home). This makes perfect sense. Afterall, seeing an artist perform live is only part of what happens at a concert, especially for young people. The good news is, most of the people interested in virtual concerts are willing to pay for them. But we need to keep thinking creatively, and seeking ways to connect with music listeners who aren’t interested in livestream concerts.
With this in mind, I will share a bit more about the choices we’ve made here at Market Monkeys. I’ve never been more proud of our artists and team!
Our artists took early stands and embraced their roles in preservation of public health and safety. I was in Asheville, North Carolina with Della Mae the night they decided not to proceed with the rest of their tour, including the remaining dates that weekend. At the same time, our entire global team monitored the travel of songwriter John Smith as he navigated his way back to his home in the UK after cancelling his tour in Australia, when he was already there. These might sound like easy decisions now, and small sacrifices to make in light of what has played out over the last two months. But it would be tempting for any band, once they’ve already paid expenses and traveled to a location far from home, to proceed with what was planned for them 10 months prior. It’s a hard call to make to turn around and go home. But they did not hesitate. They did so independently. The welfare of their fans came first, especially those who were not yet aware of the threat the virus posed. Promoters, agents, crew, and all those involved worked round the clock to make these cancellations.
What we’re doing now… and how to get involved/support our efforts!
Our team has been focused on getting uplifting music and content to fans. Many of you have asked what you can do to support us and our artists. In this post, I’m breaking all the marketing rules that say you should give people just one clear call-to-action. There are SO MANY things you can do to support artists creating music in this time – pick your favorites! Here’s a checklist, followed by more details:
• Buy recordings and merchandise from John Smith and view/share his live streams
• Support Musician’s Health Alliance by purchasing this cookbook
• Become a member of Folk Alliance International and participate in their online programming
• Donate to MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund. They were the first to support the music community in this time and have the broadest reach to musicians across all genres.
• Donate to Passim’s Pear Fund. Passim has deep reach to Folk artists who are struggling from loss of income due to cancelled tours.
• Donate to IBMA’s Trust Fund operated by the International Bluegrass Music Associations, to support the Bluegrass community specifically.
• Tell others what you’re doing! When you tune into a live stream, post it on your social media. Use the watch party feature on Facebook to invite others to join you! Email and text your friends.
On April 17th, we released a new album for UK songwriter/guitarist John Smith – a live record called “Live in Chester” – in the spirit of celebrating live shows past and looking forward to when we will be able to reconvene at shows in the future. Listen here!
John played a “world tour” – ticketed Zoom shows in all the time zones of countries he tours in 6pm & 8pm local time each day for the dear fans in the UK, Europe, US, and Australia who pre-ordered his album. In May, he will make two live stream appearances. www.johnsmithjohnsmith.com
Della Mae’s approach has been about ongoing engagement with fans via Patreon. They have weekly video cocktail parties with patrons, are giving online music lessons to kids and adults, and post new content daily. For the public who are not in Patreon, they host weekly events Sunday mornings and Monday evenings. All to support their mission, and help alleviate the stress fans are experiencing in this time.
They are actively participating in online dialogue about gender equity, and are seeking ways to support women who bravely tell their stories. We are all very concerned for women’s welfare, especially in this time of quarantine. We are actively re-envisioning what it means to release their new album now – as we seek understanding about what has and has not changed about the world. Listen to Della Mae’s album “Headlight”
New service offerings
When I said I was proud of our team, it’s because they have been incredibly resourceful, flexible and committed in this time. In a time when small businesses are threatened and many folks are left out on their own, we’ve pulled together. This is not a time to give up or give in, it’s a time to be creative! Neil, Ali, Molly, Rachel and I have weekly meetings where we put our heads together to consider what our artists are doing, and more importantly, what we can do to support them. I’ve been amazed at how quickly the entire team mobilized to invent, learn, and become real-time experts with zero lead time. Live streaming existed before Covid-19, but it is not a skill most of the music industry had honed yet. Many artists are still struggling with audio quality, how to handle ticketing, merchandising, and other facets of their career. Market Monkeys has always offered services ad hoc to select artists in addition those whose careers we manage. In this time, we’re adding a few new services to our offerings:
• Safe merchandise fulfillment
• Livestream planning, scheduling, platform selection
• Hosting and managing Zoom concerts
• Building and managing Patreon
• Maximizing online income
• Social media planning and coordinating
Fundraising and virtual event planning
It’s an important time to raise funds for organizations who are supporting artists and our community. Conferences may be cancelled, but those organizations are still trying to find ways to be useful to their memberships. So we are proud to be getting involved every way we can!
Musicians Health Alliance is an organization we have leaned on heavily over the years for their expertise helping the community find health insurance and source funds for physical exams, tests and procedures in times of need. So we’re proud to include multiple family recipes in a cookbook supporting them. Get your copy and get cooking!
Folk Alliance International announced their annual conference will not happen as planned in early 2021. However, they have been incredibly proactive providing educational content folkies are hungry for right now. They are planning other ways to build and support the folk community in this time, and we are proud to help them do that!
In their recent webinar series, I moderated a panel about teaching music lessons online. You can see upcoming webinars and view video recordings of past ones here: folk.org/resources/upcoming-webinars
Folk Alliance is also hosting a series of one-one-one sessions called “Connecting Folk” – both Neil and I will be offering our time. More details on what that entails and how to sign up to come.
As you can see, there has been plenty to do around here! We are grateful for the work, grateful to be doing it together, and grateful for your support.
If you have ideas we can bring up on our next weekly call, send em our way! We truly believe a great idea can come from anywere. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of all… Stay safe out there, friends.