Surviving COVID as a Musician - Tunedly Interview
I gave this interview last week with Tunedly, an interactive online recording studio. I was glad to share my story alongside other musicians. It was refreshing to see everyones uplifting stories and read about their pivots during this past year of COVID. - Julianna
To say the music community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic is a gross understatement, if ever there was one. Substantial declines in revenue amounting to billions of dollars, as well as widespread unemployment across the industry, can only be described as a devastation.
Songwriters and musicians are among those most affected by the drastic slowdown of music-related activities over the past year. And with uncertainty still looming, even with vaccines being administered, it seems there is still some way to go before some semblance of normalcy returns. In the meantime, many music professionals will stay reeling from the fallout. Others will discover new opportunities to keep up with the changing times.
In fact, despite the doom and gloom brought on by the pandemic, many songwriters have tapped into their survival instincts and have managed to find ways to cope. With that said, we reached out to a few music creators to find out how they were coping with the pandemic. Specifically, we wanted to know how they were surviving COVID as a musician. We were heartened by the responses and suspect their stories reflect those of many musicians around the world. We hope you will find some words of inspirations in their stories shared below.
Julianna Emanski: Grammy nominee and Artistic Director at Lumedia Musicworks
Note: Lumedia is a nonprofit dedicated to performing and sharing early music, which is music that existed before 1750.
1. How long have you been a musician in the music business? I have been involved as a professional musician for 17 years. I have been preparing for this career since I was 7.
2. How are you / your company coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? Noting the lack of modern expression for baroque music, Lumedia was founded with the intention of being as equally present online as it would be a live performing ensemble. We viewed the pandemic situation as an opportunity to concentrate on our digital content production and grow our audience geographically.
3. Have you found it difficult to practice social distancing? Of course that has been challenging, but musicians are accustomed to doing whatever it takes to get things where they need to be. For example, we incorporated bandanas to fit with the western theme of a recent production.
4. Are you still being productive? Hell yeah!…How much time do you have?? Lol. In all seriousness, Lumedia has enjoyed a very productive year. This year I personally have built an entirely new skill stack in video editing, color correction, audio engineering, and more. This has led me to reimagine the possibilities. The journey has been a creative process in and of itself. 5. Has your creativity been impacted in any way? My creativity has definitely expanded, as has my confidence and curiosity to try new things. The way things were done in the past was comfortable, but the future possibilities look more exciting. 6. What tips and advice, if any, can you share with other songwriters/ musicians/ music companies about surviving during COVID? My advice is don’t be afraid. Find your courage, and look for opportunities in unexpected places.
Vasco Lourenço: Musician and Sound Engineer from Portugal
1. How long have you been a songwriter/musician? I studied classical piano in the Conservatory of Music of Viseu in Portugal. Later on, I went into jazz. Besides working as a sound engineer (I stopped 2 years ago), I've been playing live in different projects for 17 years. 2. How are you coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? I haven't changed anything in my personal life due to the current world situation. I enjoy waking up every day imagining what music track I'll be composing that day. Writing for music libraries gives me the confidence to proceed with my creative experiments and ideas in every track I make. Besides, they can actually be bought (multiple times) by some video creators from another part of the globe, which is truly rewarding. 3. Have you found it difficult to practice social distancing? I don't [have the need to] practice social distancing, because I have never had a busy social life. I actually don't feel affected [since I don't go anywhere]. 4. Are you still being productive? Every day, more than ever. 5. Has your creativity been impacted in any way? Since 2019 I've been concentrating my creativity on my online music work. Working for online music libraries enables me to produce results every day that can potentially sell unlimited times. It gives me the freedom to experiment with new ideas that I couldn't before. Besides striving to find better ways to mix my tracks, I like to find different ways of developing the same ideas. Stock music helps me do that. I don’t feel my creativity was affected because I focus on what I want, not on the current events.
6. What tips and advice, if any, can you share with other songwriters/musicians about surviving during COVID? Although live music was significantly impacted by the current world situation, other music outlets remain profitable and grow every day. Since I started composing stock music for several music libraries in 2019, I was able to find a full income online from my music. While working as a sound engineer and playing some live gigs, I had the idea of stock music being too cheesy and of low quality. But that's because I was comparing it to other types of music. By switching my perspective and seeing the purpose of stock music (to serve as background music for videos or other projects), I could tap into that specific music business and started enjoying doing that.
Content is everywhere, and video demand for advertising or for businesses is increasing. And music plays a vital role in conveying the message. That's why making stock music can be life-changing, as you'll also get passive income for years to come. It can also be fun, as you learn to compose in different styles and keep improving your mixes. It's a never-ending learning process. I wrote an article on my blog about selling stock music that might be a good introduction for musicians wanting to broaden their perspectives of the music business. Here is the link in case you want to try it out.
Jeremy Nunes: Fulltime Comedian and host of "Dynamite Drop In" Podcast on iTunes
Productions: Who's with Me?! Standup Special now streaming on Amazon Prime and Neighborhood Sasq-Watch Standup Special now streaming on Dry Bar Comedy.
Note: although working as a comedian, Jeremy plays the guitar and is surrounded by other musicians in the music industry.
1. How long have you been a songwriter/musician? I've been doing standup comedy since 2002, which is when I learned to play guitar to do funny songs in my shows. I also learned it mostly to pick up girls in college, and met my wife 10 years later in 2012. So, clearly I'm not that good :). 2. How are you coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? The work has been limited, but fortunately I've been able to survive on the residuals from my Amazon Prime special Who's With Me?! What's been hardest is being at home with my kids all day. Only Samuel L. Jackson can accurately describe how desperately these kids need to be back in school! 3. Have you found it difficult to practice social distancing? I've come to accept social distancing. Girls have been practicing that on me since high school [ha ha]! I just feel bad for the guys that want to give a hug or hold hands. What would Richard Dawson do if he were here?! 4. Are you still being productive? Since my special released, I've been working hard to write a new show. I also wrote a comedy book based on my real life experience as a small town mayor. So many people tell me I should put all of these funny stories into a book, so I did. You Can't Write City Hall releases May 4 this year. 5. Has your creativity been impacted in any way? The hardest part is not being able to have the usual real-life experiences that I base my stories on. The good news is that my time as a mayor gave me the political skills to lie on the spot, so I've been making things up! 6. What tips and advice, if any, can you share with other songwriters/musicians about surviving during COVID? Keep powering through. Eventually there's a light at the end of the tunnel. For most, it's sunlight. For some, it's a train. Here's to the sun.
Stephanie Andujar aka StephA: Singer, Actress, Dancer, Producer, and Director
Recent songs: "One Big Dream" and "Thinkin' Bout You"
1. How long have you been a songwriter/musician? Over 10 years now…I’ve been singing for a long time, since I was a kid. I finally realized I could put pen to paper and make some songs, lol. I’m self taught too- just listened to a lot of singers I admire and then figured out my own sound. For me personally, I like listening to a beat and then letting lyrics flow. I improvise on the mic too, and sometimes I get upset if I wasn’t recording at that moment because I’m like, “Dang, that was good! What did I just do?!” Lol
2. How are you coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? I’m going with the flow of life lol, but I’m doing well, God bless. I made two songs during 2020 and a lot of what I was feeling was put in... I released them as music videos that I directed & edited as well. The first one I put out ("One Big Dream") has to do with a lot of the injustices one has to endure and feeling like…am I dreaming or what, you know. The other ("Thinkin’ Bout You") is a love song because even through all this, love was still on my mind lol.
3. Have you found it difficult to practice social distancing? It’s been ok. I mean…I’m born & raised in New York City, so the streets of Manhattan have always been packed lol, but we are all trying our best. It’s not easy to follow certain rules when you’ve been accustomed to interacting with people on a daily basis, something we’ve been doing our whole life, you know? It’s all good though, because we have an in-house recording studio and I usually record alone. Post production is taken care of by my brother and producer, so it’s like taking turns but thank goodness for email and all that too lol.
4. Are you still being productive? But of course lol. I’m working on a new song as we speak - something cool, funky . I believe it’s a great time to experiment because there’s many outlets now to showcase your talents. Everyone is born with a talent, I’m sure of it, and there’s no excuse now to not let it be seen. I never let anything stop me and COVID wasn’t going to do that, so long as God gives me the will & strength.
5. Has your creativity been impacted in any way? I came out with music this past year and let the current state of affairs influence my music. It even allowed me to figure out other creative ways to film and got me out of my comfort zone. Had they not put into place so many restrictions, my choices probably would have been different. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. This showed a lot of true colors, and I couldn’t help but express it. Isn’t that what we’re put here for…to add some value to the world and show the by-product of what the pandemic has created?
6. What tips and advice, if any, can you share with other songwriters/musicians about surviving during COVID? Listen, I’m from Manhattan…I’ve seen a lot and been through a lot. This pandemic showed that we, human beings, are more connected than ever. We all rely on each other's energy. If there’s something you’re feeling, put it out in the most creative way possible because it can help you heal. You never know, your art might just resonate with someone who you didn’t know needed it. My family-based production company, Andujar Productions, was started with the belief that we are expressing ourselves for the greater good. So...have thick skin, patience and courage...and always believe.
Marcus Wadell: Music producer, Songwriter, Indie pop artist
My Story: I always thought live streaming was for video gamers - I did not plan to be making a song from scratch while live chatting with people week after week after week. However, it turns out that I really enjoy it, and combining music and software brings out a lot of my strengths! It's a great way to connect with my audience in real-time, there are more monetization opportunities with YouTube, and the discovery/searchability for gaining fans is fantastic.
Rewinding a bit... Before quitting my more traditional job to pursue music in 2019, I started sneaking my music into software videos at work and crafting commercial jingles and audio branding for companies - including Domino’s Pizza. After honing my skills as a writer and producer on late nights and weekends, I finally decided to make the jump to full-time music...and then 2020 happened. I shifted my focus to growing my online presence, specifically on YouTube. Once traveling to Nashville for songwriting/production trips became infeasible along with live shows, I started adding two main pieces of content to my schedule:
Creating a song from scratch on a live stream, and
Music production and mixing tutorials on YouTube
In the time that I've been focusing on my YouTube presence, I've gained 512 followers and over 1,200 watch hours. In addition to that increase in attention, I've seen it directly affect my opportunities for new revenue. Viewers have reached out to me directly to ask about using my services as a producer or mixing engineer. I've also already had a video sponsored by a music distribution company (DistroKid), and developed relationships with music production companies (Audio-Technica and iZotope).
Lucidious: Entrepreneur and Hip-hop artist
Lucidious' response to how he has survived Covid-19 as a musician: For me, COVID highlighted voids in being disciplined at home - it was much more of an emotional experience than figuring out how to bring more money in. I rely on streaming income, so I was fortunate in that regard. It was also hard finding inspiration and connection while being ‘stuck.’ I thrive on connection and freedom, so being held hostage at home for almost a year has brought so many challenges.
COVID taught me that, ultimately, we are in charge of our own space; physically; mentally, and energetically. We create structure and only we can hold ourselves accountable with our organization and commitments. I brainstormed outside of music on expanding new companies/ideas and created NVOKO - a legal platform for independent artists. It also showed me how important having a social connection is, but that we ultimately must be connected to ourselves. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high right now because people haven’t sharpened these tools. They are uncomfortable alone and sitting in meditation, but now they are forced to. Still, many haven't taken the calling to learn. The universe simply smacked us and made us look in the mirror on so many levels. BIO: Lucidious is an entrepreneur and hip-hop artist from outside the Washington, D.C. area. Currently located in Los Angeles, he has built a fanbase in the hundreds of thousands and has totaled over 100 million streams across all available platforms. He has built his fanbase and streaming growth with zero label investment, zero playlist placement, and zero outside marketing influence. Songs by Lucidious are streamed millions of times each month by listeners around the world.. His music takes a strong stand on mental health awareness, personal struggles, and the pressure that many people face in our fast-paced, tech-driven society. Despite his focus on running an indie label, Lucidious Music, he has spent years mastering social media marketing and entered into the world of artist development and has developed two companies - Artist Huband Nvoko. Website: https://www.lucidiousmusic.com/
The COVID situation seems set to stick around for at least another few months. And even after it clears up, the music industry will take some time before fully getting back on track. But as you can see, music creators have found creative ways to cope. We hope you enjoyed reading these stories and have found value in the messages shared. All the best!