Life During Quarantine: How You Can Continue to Thrive as an Artist

April 22, 2020

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Sırma Munyar. It’s the latest in our ongoing Life During Quarantine series.]

As soon as it became clear that it might be awhile before we all go back to normalcy, many artists rushed to their social media accounts to host live stream sessions. At first, we got used to seeing more live concerts and DJ sets from our favorite artists’ homes and studios, but soon enough, the live stream trend became all about “Anything goes.” Now, even friends seem to go live on Instagram, just because.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for it. I admire anyone who’s making an effort to stay connected and active at a time like this. But what do you do if the idea of streaming is enough to raise your anxiety levels to an all-time high? How do you motivate yourself to connect with your fans if you’re getting a little sick of seeing so many people appearing on your feed all the time?

1. Turn your attention inward.

Take this opportunity to contemplate how you want to shape up your artist project, career and lifestyle. At the end of the day, everything is temporary: there will come a time when we finally come out of this and have to get used to a whole new kind of normal. It’s not a bad idea to think about what you want your own world to look like then.

Do you miss collaborating with other musicians or are you realizing that you feel better writing on your own? How big of a priority is your artist project to you?   

There are no right or wrong answers here. This is not a mad race to the finish line. This is about you making your own life worth living, not just as an artist, but also as a human being.

2. Make a list of everything you can do now.

You have more time in your hands now to work at your own pace than ever before. You can clean out your computer, organize your discography, sample library, contacts and do all the boring administrative work you’ve neglected for so long. You can listen through your old demos and plan out your next album. If you’re too nervous to play live shows through your phone right now, perhaps you can focus on working on your live set instead. Even if you don’t play any instruments, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep your vocal performance sharp.       

During quarantine, I’ve come to the realization that if I have an ongoing to-do list with creative assignments as well as business-related tasks, it helps me feel like my project is still alive and well. It can be a wonderful thing to lock myself into my room and make music all day, but eventually, I tend to reach a point where I lose perspective and start questioning everything if that’s all I do day after day. Most artists thrive when they have a balance between creating, touring and releasing music for a reason. The fact that balance is a prerequisite to success hasn’t changed: we just need to be the ones to spearhead a new kind of balance that works for us this time around, instead of following suit.

3. Make a list of everything you want to do when quarantine is over.

You might be thinking that it’s pointless to book shows or even studio time now, but looking into an abyss is not going to make you feel any better about it. When you put your plans down on paper, you take the first step towards making them a reality.

There will soon come a time when you’ll be able to put them on your calendar, too. But if you refrain from even picturing that future now, you might soon lose the will to do so.

4. Take care of business, even if it bores you.

There are items on my list I’ve been staring at for quite some time. I need to update my Genius profile with all the lyrics to my songs (and some backstories, too). I’ve been wanting to share song breakdown videos to explain the creative process behind each record I’ve released to date, but I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet. I’ve also been looking for an opening in my schedule to produce and release a sample pack. With a few new singles I have in store, I should probably write press releases and update my bio, too.

Even if you don’t plan on releasing new music any time soon, this is a good time to make sure your business is in order. And if you don’t know much about the business side of music, what better time than now to learn more?

5. Open yourself up to remote collaborations.

I’ve just released a new song this week with a producer from Albania. I’ve never met him in person: we’ve only been in contact online. I liked the demo he sent me as well as his previous work, and we came to an agreement before embarking on the project, so I thought, why not give it a shot? Happy to report that the release campaign has been going well so far: our song got picked up by EDM label, Magic Records, and landed on Spotify’s New Music Friday Turkey playlist!               

If you’re a singer-songwriter and can record your vocals at home, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t seek opportunities to collaborate with producers and songwriters remotely. In fact, why not email artists you look up to as well? You’ve got nothing to lose.       

6. Learn a new skill you can utilize for your artist project.       

If you’re an EDM producer, you can teach yourself how to make audio visualizers in Adobe After Effects. If you’re a performer who’s not great at doing her own makeup like me, this is a good time to practice and watch YouTube tutorials to see how other artists do it. And you don’t have to rent Photoshop to design visual content for your project: there are so many user friendly mobile apps you can use, most of which you can download for free!                   

7. Get in shape physically, mentally and emotionally.           

Those who reap the benefits of meditation and therapy, and those who work out a lot have one thing in common: they preach what they practice- and for good reason!           

If you don’t push yourself to stay active physically, engaged mentally, and in touch emotionally, you’ll inevitably feel more trapped and defeated. It’s easy to lose the motivation to focus on such things now, but there is an end in sight to this quarantine. When it’s time to go out and be social again, the will to do so may not come naturally if you don’t make an effort to be content now.               

A lot of musicians ignore the fact that the sheer act of leaving the house and living life on the outside is one of the main things that feeds creativity. This is why it’s so important to fill that void now as best as we can. You can’t go to the gym, but you can exercise at home. You can’t go to a happy hour with friends, but you can host one on Zoom. You might think you don’t have a lot say, but maybe you just need to write down your thoughts to help them come out.       

Believe it or not, all of these factors may alter the way you feel about your music, too. If you’re experiencing a lot of mood swings and struggling to get excited about your day in the morning, it’s probably time to make a change. If that change is a new healthy habit, you’ll hit two birds with one stone. As a live performer, you’ll be grateful that you stayed in shape during quarantine. As a songwriter, you’ll be glad you pushed yourself to write your thoughts down even when you didn’t think you could.   

It’s important to survive this period not just physically and financially, but also psychologically. However, being kinder to ourselves doesn’t mean that we should stop striving for betterment altogether. Self-induced challenges trigger a different part in our brains than the ones life puts in our way. They lead to more self-confidence, which begets motivation. If you catch yourself retracting because you think the last thing you need when everything is so hard already is yet another challenge, ask yourself this: can you really achieve self-fulfillment in any other way?

SIRMA is an independent singer, songwriter and producer. She’s the creator of the Modern Pop Vocal Production course on Soundfly and has a degree from Berklee College of Music.

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