What we’ve learned from running an indie label through COVID
I’m an optimistic person but there’s no point in sugarcoating it, this has been an incredibly tough year for the arts. Back in February, we were preparing for one of our acts – Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird – to make their inaugural trip to the US to play at South by Southwest. They had seven showcases lined up. Then the plug got pulled on the whole thing.
I remember the moment South by Southwest got cancelled was the moment I realised COVID was unlike anything we’d seen in our lifetimes and there were going to be longterm implications. I’ve since seen a number of exceptionally talented musicians and artists decide to throw in the towel and put their artistic pursuits in the too-hard basket, which is incredibly sad.
The year has forced some challenging questions on all of us and some of these questions don’t have easy answers. But here’s a few important things to bear in mind:
#1 – Remember why you’re in the game.
The music industry has always been incredibly difficult. COVID made it even harder. Let’s be honest, if you’re a musician or you’ve started a label principally for money then you really should’ve picked a different industry.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t strive for success, of course you should. You’re running a business. But COVID reminded me and my dad that the main reasons we started our label Double Drummer were because we love music and we wanted to help artists bring their artistic vision to life.
#2 – If you don’t feel like creating, that’s ok.
I think a lot of musicians and creatives felt like they should be writing or making things during the extra free time they had at home due to lockdown. But that’s self-imposed, false pressure.
The important thing to remember – and I tried to remind our artists of this – is that if you’re not feeling up to being creative, that’s totally fine. Don’t be so hard on yourself. This has been tough on everyone.
Watch a TV show, go for a walk, read a book. Just don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you’re an artist, you are your own boss. And if you’re not feeling like your own boss – if you have label people or management putting pressure on you to deliver stuff when you’re not mentally feeling up for it, then you’re working with the wrong people.
#3 – You’re never alone.
It was a nice irony that during a time when we were all physically isolated, a lot of people made a conscious effort to reach out, make new connections and check in on others.
I was invited to several new Facebook groups that sprung up in the wake of the pandemic with the sole purpose of keeping people connected and trying to make sure people were ok. I even started one myself.
#4 – Resilience and patience are useful.
As a sensitive person who’s always in a rush, these traits don’t come naturally to me. This insane year has forced me to re-prioritise and I’ve managed to change some bad habits and behavioural patterns that I had previously. Which has been useful.
Records were delayed. Tours got cancelled. You gotta roll with the punches. Nothing ever happens exactly as planned – COVID or no COVID.
This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.