What to do when your gig is cancelled

As I write this post, the world is going through something I haven’t seen in my lifetime. The Corona Virus is shutting down whole countries. It is also taking a toll on people in the entertainment industry like never before. I know many touring artists that make a large part of their income by playing shows. Now they are faced with weeks of cancellations. I wanted to come up with a few ideas for you if you are dealing with lost revenue from a gig being cancelled. I also wanted to make this post more universal than just for this latest pandemic. My hope is that you can use these ideas for a cancelled gig under any circumstances.

Play a virtual concert

We have many options for playing a virtual concert these days. Some of which allow you to charge admission. You can make these as simple as turning on your smartphone, or as fancy as running a full mix into a dedicated video system. Depending on your situation at the time, you should pick which technique connects best with your fans.

Either way, you want to make your virtual concert special for those “attending.” Try to make your virtual concert different so that this experience is unique. Don’t just try to make this a video of a show you play at your normal venue. Use this opportunity to connect with your online fans. Read their comments as they come in and respond to them between songs. Take requests live. Show them your rehearsal space and give them a virtual tour. Play songs that you have been writing, but haven’t played out before. Play a cover that you normally wouldn’t play in a live setting.

Some tools for playing a virtual concert on social media are Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Twitter’s Periscope, and YouTube Live. Platforms for hosting a concert other than social media are StageIt, and LiveStream.

No matter which you choose, make sure you have the ability to get paid. StageIt offers virtual ticket sales. What can you do if your service doesn’t sell tickets? Give your fans a link to donate money toward your performance. Give them a virtual tip jar. PayPal.me is one way to create a link in order for fans to send you money online. You could also use your Venmo or CASH name in your bio or video description to collect money.

Check out my post about accepting digital currency for more info.

I highly recommend the Mevo video camera that uses the LiveStream platform or Facebook Live to stream. It is simple to set up and it can do cool things to make it look like you have a whole production crew working for you.

Play house concerts instead

This might not be the safest alternative to a virus outbreak, but these small “events” can be a great fan builder. If you are already in an area where your gig got cancelled then put an alert on your social media about looking for a house concert opportunity. Let your fans help! Odds are a fan would love to be the host of a house concert. They look cool to their friends and you get to play a show instead of sitting in a hotel room eating pizza.

Wells Division playing a house concert in Madison, WI.

House concerts allow you to play your show to a smaller more attentive audience. If people are attending a house concert, it is usually because they are excited about a band being a part of it. Odds are, those people in attendance will enjoy their experience of your intimate show a lot more than a regular concert at a local club. The audience will feel special and your band is a attached to that feeling. That is a hard thing to buy, so take advantage of this. Make sure to offer deals on merch and for sure have a way to sign up these attendees to your mailing list.

Give lessons

There a lot of you that already give lessons in your down time. If you aren’t then maybe this is a good time to think about it. You can even offer lessons online. You are no longer restricted by geography and distance to your student. Host a Skype call, or a Zoom meeting to connect with your student. You still get the one on one interaction without being in the same room.

Session work

Session work has been a long time favorite for working musicians. This has filled in gaps for many touring acts over the years. There are always songs that need help when it comes to recording. A songwriter is looking for talent like you to complete one song. Then you move onto the next songwriter and so on. It is good practice for you, and it helps that songwriter achieve their goal of completing their recording. Plus, you get paid!

You should create a profile on SoundBetter if you are looking to get into session work. This is an online platform, recently bought by Spotify, where people can go to hire session players. I like SoundBetter because it is specific to session musicians. People are going here for one reason only.

You can also list your service on Craigslist and Fiverr. These websites offer other things, so you might get lost in the mix (no pun intended). The one thing these two websites have over SoundBetter is that most people know about these. If you want to cover your bases then it is a good idea to list yourself on as many online sites as you can.

Use the down time to finally do other things

A lot of working musicians have lots of things going on all at once. Odds are, you wish you had more time to dedicate to other things. Well, a cancelled gig gives you that time. Maybe you have been wanting to sit down and write new songs. Musical instruments might need long overdo maintenance. Your family would probably like to see you more. You had a bunch of emails to write for your email subscribers. There are a bunch of Spotify Playlist curators that you have been meaning to contact about your music. Now is the time to put those things into action. “Action breeds success.” Being bummed out and watching Netflix won’t put your band ahead of the curve when the gigs suddenly start up again.

Please see my post about diversifying your music business. I wrote that post for times just like this when things are turbulent. It will show you how to move away from a one income stream business like just touring. Create multiple revenue streams to help balance things out when one stream dries up.

Hang in there

The best advice I have is to hang in there. Use this situation and learn from it. You can then figure out ways to fine tune your music business and how it is run in the future. Maybe touring 365 days a year isn’t the best plan. You might work in more virtual shows into your calendar regardless of a cancelled show because fans really like them. The spare time you have now is nice and you realize you need more throughout the year to stay well. Most life lessons don’t come after a success, they come after a failure. If you can survive this set back then you are prepared to meet the next hurdle head on.

* Please note that the word cancelled is spelled correctly. Americans tend to use the spelling with one L (canceled) which only really started in the 80s. Since I was born in the 70s, I will stick with the two L version. Both spellings are acceptable, however.

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