What am I supposed to do?
I am by no means a person that has it all down and has all the answers. My answers to most any problem are - work harder, knock on doors, ask questions. No money? No excuse. I can't hire someone to do everything and there are many like me that don't have that luxury. So we try, make mistakes and learn.
Admittedly, I often do have days I wish I could work smarter and not so hard but my strong suit has been tenacity, a relatively thick skin, a willingness (though sometimes reluctant) to wear all the hats and a very hard time sitting still. Its not ideal for a creative type to be spending the majority of their time on nuts and bolts, but thats what I've got.
In spite of that there have been several occasions during our Covid lockdown and following limbo that musicians have asked this raggedy underdog,"what should I be doing for my career/career hopes right now" - other than the obvious things we can do with our time such as writing or practicing. So here is my top three answers no one wants to hear.
Work on your relationships. Relationships are everything. Sincerity is everything. Being genuine is more than everything. The best relationships are built over time and aren't all about you. While you may not have a big circle of close friends or know a lot of people in the music industry locally, nationally or beyond, focus on the ones you have, the people that you appreciate, the ones that you respect.
Our industry can make us feel selfish at times - after all we are always saying, "look at me". Just make sure there is more to you than that. Don't ride it out until things are "back to normal". Be there for someone now. Its also important to remember you are not the only person suffering during these times (and also not the only one with talent). Do somebody some good without expecting a shit ton in return. Trust me, its good for your soul.
As an independent artist, I am a part of one big, dysfunctional family. If 2020 hasn't made you realize how much we need one another to survive, nothing will. Likewise, you may find yourself re-thinking some relationships - people you thought you needed but seem to always bring trouble along with them or maybe their moral compass feels off. Who you associate yourself with does matter and I've learned that the hard way, more than once. Set a few boundaries.
One of the greatest challenges for me personally is maintaining structure during downtime. Anyone that has toured on a somewhat regular basis has probably experienced a post tour depression. You go from making music everyday and a routine: shower, often getting up early, spend hours in a van, unload, show, pack up, hotel, eat, wash, rinse, repeat. Some juxtaposition of that sequence of events for weeks at a time. You're doing what you love everyday (hopefully with people you like) and sometimes its like being in the military for boot camp with alcohol. It can be exhausting, stressful at times, but it feels great especially when the pace aligns with your adhd.
Come home, crash. You need a couple days to rest and take care of yourself and adjust to a different environment, time zone and habits. For me this is where the trouble begins... the desire to work, the nagging anxiety that is telling me I have to start booking tour dates for 8-9 months out, make sure I can pay bills, make some new music, figure out how to accomplish all the things I fell behind on. My brain turns into a big yarn ball of anxiety and depression if I don't seek out some structure to my days.
Ironically, that thorn in my side prepared me for the covid lockdown and slowdown. I have managed much better than I thought I would. I fall off course regularly but keeping a journal with personal goals and daily tasks helps me so much to maintain my sanity and feel like I'm moving forward rather than standing still. I don't think it matters if you like to be up late or get up early, or take a nap everyday at 3, just have some type of consistency in your life for your mental health. Goals = Hope right now. Don't allow yourself to flounder. Spend time on things that will help your career and well being.
Don't assume this is going to be over on January 1, 2021. If you have worked as a full time musician, a hired gun, or part time while working at another job that has basically disappeared, please, do not sit on your butt and assume someone else will sort this mess out...Make some kind of financial plan. Hopefully you haven't run through all your cash. I know unemployment and PUA hasn't paid the bills for some, but others might have cash left after paying the bills. If you have never budgeted, do it now. In other words, get your financial shit together.
I am no financial advisor but I recommend a sum-zero budget and live as frugally as you can for the time being unless you are independently wealthy. Pay your bills and curb your discretionary spending as much as possible and don't lie to yourself about things that aren't adding value to your life. Spend on things that will make you money or truly improve your quality of life. Nothing improves your quality of life like living within your means. Make it a goal to pay off consumer debt.
SAVE your money. There are online savings accounts that pay much more than banks with brick and mortar branches, many with no min balance and no fees. As of this writing I'm looking at one that pays 1% APY vs the bank paying .01% APY and charges a fee. Have 3-6 months living expenses saved and accessible. The worst thing that could happen is we come out of this sooner than later and you have a nice cushion, peace of mind, and can tour and invest in your career without financial stress hanging over your head.
As a side note, if you don't have health insurance and haven't put the time in to register and persist in obtaining a health care plan in the Marketplace (YES - YOU CAN) or see if you qualify for expanded medicaid, that should be at the top of your list as well. Yep, I just "mom'd" you.
Bonus - Check/respond to communications.
Until you learn this ancient and mystical skill of the masters, you will fail before you leave the starting gate.