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Musician’s Response to NY Times “A ‘Great Cultural Depression’ Looms…”

I’m writing in response to Patricia Cohen’s (no relation to me) widely-shared article in the New York Times regarding the cultural depression and difficulties that artists are facing at this critical juncture.

As I’ve said before, I do believe that orchestral and opera performances will be some of the last pillars of normalcy to return post-pandemic. I’m not surprised to read anything in the article, and I greatly appreciate the increased awareness that it has brought to the artists’ plight in the United States and beyond.

The article shares harrowing statistics and stories about how artists are impacted in this pandemic and briefly tells the story of musician and dancer Carla Gover. She successfully pivoted to an online business, leveraging her breadth of knowledge and passion for her art.

This anecdote is followed by this line: “if technology enables some artists to share their work, it doesn’t necessarily help them earn much or even any money.”

Okay. Let’s back it up because I would just hate to see my fellow artists wallow in self-pity.

Ms. Cohen brings up violinist Jennifer Koh’s Instagram streams and how they’re not earning her money. That doesn’t mean that the internet can’t help you make money—it means that maybe not all musicians are good businesspeople.

And that’s been fine until now. We didn’t need to learn how to create content, build a platform of engaged listeners and fans, teach online courses, or even set up a website. However, in this dearth of live performances, doing so may be the most profitable way to connect with your passion. Many musicians are naturally gifted at content creation, but may be less versed in the art of conversion: finding ways to turn a fan base into a money-making venture.

Perhaps the “aspiring Juilliard grads” referenced in this article can take inspiration instead from fellow alumna Katie Althen, a hugely successful flute vlogger. She has produced a #flutelyfe empire, creating content for Instagram and YouTube. Also known as @katieflute, she can rely on multiple income streams outside of just performing in concerts. Doing some cursory research, I can see that she is a member of various affiliate programs including Amazon and the Flute Center of New York, she is a YouTube Partner and is entitled to earn revenue from Google AdSense on her videos, and she also teaches privately.

My own experience, reaching over 5000 followers on Instagram and 1200 subscribers on YouTube within 9 months, has already left me in a more comfortable place than many of my freelance colleagues. It’s taken a lot of drive, but I find the work fulfilling, and I’m grateful for the time that I get to spend with my instrument rather than working outside my field.

I choose what content I make and I fill my social media calendar with pieces that help me improve my playing. Last year, I recorded and posted 65 etudes. This year, I’m planning to record Barret’s 16 Grand Studies which will be a huge feat for me and will motivate me to practice more and step outside my comfort zone.

My journey involved figuring out what worked for other musicians with big online followings, as well as sifting through tons of information not geared towards musicians to see if any of it worked within the classical music niche. As people reached out to me for social media advice, and I saw my tips help skyrocket their accounts to thousands of followers, I decided to create my online course to give people a framework and a step-by-step path to follow.

The course is designed to help freelance artists foster the skill sets necessary to build an online following and capitalize on it financially to make the most out of this cultural depression.

In my opinion, these are the necessary skill sets to be successful online:

  1. Branding: setting yourself apart from other creators and positioning yourself in the market.

  2. Content creation: knowing how to make great content that serves you and inspires your audience.

  3. Packaging: defining your messaging and employing best practices in order to reach the right people.

  4. Engaging: knowing how to conduct yourself on various platforms including etiquette and best practices for growth.

  5. Conversion: because there’s a reason behind putting hours and hours of work into your business, and that’s to pay your bills.

If you are interested in jump-starting your own personal brand for teaching and digital musicianship, please sign up for my FREE one-hour webinar that will take place on January 18th at 8 PM EST. The webinar is lovingly entitled IMSLP: Instagram for Musicians Severely Lacking Publicity.

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