By Noe Gutierrez
Every sector of life is being impacted by the pandemic. Independent or “Indie” music is music produced freely from the jurisdiction of commercial record companies, a process that includes a do-it-yourself and self-governing approach to creating, recording and publishing by autonomous musicians.
The independent artist makes their living off of their music and discovers a number of ways to do so.
Before COVID-19, an increasingly large number of musicians were hustling their way through the music business without the aid of a label and were actually the fastest-growing segment of the global recorded music business.
A 2019 report from MIDiA Research fielded in partnership with digital music distributor Amuse says independent artists generated more than $643 million in 2018, a 35% jump from the year before (Forbes, 2019). It appears that percentage continued to increase in 2019/2020.
At this time, things are very uncertain for all artists and we here at Coachella Valley Weekly are committed to maintaining our platform for artists as much as possible until we can return to full capacity. We reached out to some of our finest independent musicians to see how they are holding up.
We spoke to Courtney Chambers, Mark Gregg, Derek Jordan Gregg, Michael Keeth and Vinny Berry via Facebook Messenger.
CVW: Given the current climate for working musicians, what are you doing to maintain your livelihood while you are not able to perform live?
CC: “I’ve been working on building up my online presence that can generate income including YouTube, any music streaming platform, live streams where people can tip, also going to launch my Patreon site soon as well as doing prep for the future by building up my music catalog for film and television. In addition, I’m involved with the Academy of Musical Performance (AMP).”
MG: “All income has ceased for pretty much all live performers. If you need money, I recommend you find some work in an ‘essential’ service.”
MK: “This is the most surreal experience our generation has lived through. I, like most, am completely out of work right now. But I am doing a series of live streaming shows, the first was last Friday, as part of the CV Weekly’s online festival. I have lots more planned and the link to my Venmo is there for tips.”
DJG: “Well, luckily I was able to put a little money aside from my gigs over the last few months, plus, I travel light, and I keep a low overhead. The last few years are a far cry from the earlier days in my career but I still hold on to a kind of “gypsy” sensibility where you never know where your next paycheck is coming from. Anyway, I’m living off of what I’ve put aside and I’m enjoying putting all of my energy into making music and trying to put out a positive light. It reminds of me when I first started playing and it was just about enjoying it, not about making any money.”
VB: “I’m fortunate enough to have a little money saved up from gigs that I’ll be OK if this doesn’t last too long. It’s honestly been nice to slow down a little and get some stuff done musically that I haven’t had time for in a while.”
CVW: What are some of the solutions you have been/will be participating in to help get through this time both financially and professionally?
CC: “I’m still researching but Musicares is a great resource for musicians.”
MG: “A lot of entertainers are doing live Facebook stuff right now so that’s great. I may consider doing something a little bit later but at the moment, I’m finishing a recording that represents Mark and Misty performing at Twelve that we will release in a unique way, for fans of that show. It will not be released online. I think we just have to suck it up. There’s not much that can be done in a pinch. I’ve been doing this a long time so I’m prepared for a small disaster. I think musicians should take this as a wake-up call and enroll in the 1099 Independent Contractor program so they can be eligible for unemployment insurance or keep enough liquid assets or easily liquidated assets on-hand for these contingencies. I can go three months or more if I have to. If you’re not freaked out about being unemployed or losing your gig, my hat’s off to you but I think everyone is that has done it for a while.”
MK: “I’m writing and polishing new songs and I’ll be releasing the second track that Arthur Seay recorded and produced for me, very soon!”
DJG: “Well Jetta King and I threw the VirtualFest with CV Weekly this last weekend. I’m guessing we’ll throw something similar next weekend. I know her and I made a little bit of money in tips while streaming, which we definitely didn’t expect.”
VB: “I have a new project that I’m just starting to get off the ground and having some extra free time will help push that. Armando Flores, Mitchem Michael Patrick and myself just released a preview of a song called ‘Change’ we hurried to finish a few days ago. I’m not really sure what to do in this unprecedented time but I love where CV Weekly and Derek’s heads are at with the online festival. In all, if you’re a musician, we can always use free time to write and demo tunes and practice your craft. I bet you some excellent music is going to come out on the other side of this. Bad times always breeds good music.”
CVW: It’s difficult all around for a lot of people. How can the public support musicians apart from financially?
CC: “Share our music, stream our music, subscribe to our YouTube channels, it costs nothing.”
MG: “I don’t think people can worry too much beyond their own circles and households so, once again, I think we are on our own. Having said that, I’m willing to help any musician I can. My phone number is (760) 969-2634. I may be able to help with a temporary job or a delivery or even limited essentials. I will do what I can to help.”
DJG: “Well, it’s a give and take. Local musicians support the community emotionally. I think it’s important to patronize the arts, especially, if you’d like to see the best humanity has to offer. Buy artwork, buy albums…FULL LENGTH ALBUMS! And really dig deep. Delve into it. Truly feel it. That’s worth more than any monetary compensation, but it goes without saying that all artists that make people feel should live comfortably if they choose to.”
MK: “The public can help by streaming, listening, watching and sharing the music of their local artists. Tipping and buying downloads is great; but just giving us an audience and keeping the good vibes rolling, is a huge help to all of our mental well-being.”
Contact these artists directly or support them by donating below:
Venmo – @Courtney-Chambers-8
MARK GREGG – (760) 969-2634
Venmo – @Mark-Gregg-9
VINNY BERRY – (818) 606-0827
Venmo – @VinnyBerryMusic
Venmo – @Michael-Keeth
DEREK JORDAN GREGG
Venmo – @Derek-Gregg-5