I TRULY believe that entrepreneur is another word for survivor, most independent artists are so used to living on the brink of destruction for so long that when actual crisis and destruction come about in the form of a pandemic, we just invite our old friend in for some tea and start rearranging the furniture.
If creativity is your business, your business NEEDS to be creative
I’m Shao Dow, a full-time rapper and manga author. I have been making a living from my artistry for the past 10 – 15 years.
Over that time, I’ve performed at Reading and Leeds Festivals, spoken in Parliament on behalf of small music venues, appeared on Ninja Warrior UK, performed in many different countries around the world and won an award that recognised me as the hardest working artist of the year.
I am a creative entrepreneur and if there’s one thing I always say (well not always, like semi-occasionally) it’s “if creativity is your business, your business should be creative”.
I never wanted to be in an office, forced to wear a suit and sardine my way onto underground carriages in the morning. More power to you if that’s your calling, but it’s not mine.
Unfortunately though, in exchange for career freedom comes financial uncertainty and just generally everything uncertainty as well as the occasional ‘what am I doing with my life!?’ 3am panics.
But through all that, at least I had my music, at least I had the opportunity to stand on a stage and entertain people with hard hitting bass, impossibly precise lyricism and an energy that could power a whole room.
And then suddenly, that was all gone.
Quarantine hit, people stopped going outside, live venues shut (some forever) and humanity went into a semi survival mode. Also, something about toilet paper, I don’t know.
I count my blessings, that I’ve been luckier than most, I didn’t have a job to lose, but I did lose out on many opportunities and a big source of income in terms of live shows and bookings.
Covid-19 forced a lot of independent artists to realise that without gigs, we actually don’t get paid very well for the thing that we do so well – our music.
Most streaming services pay approximately 0.004p per play. I often joke to my fanbase that if enough people stream my music, I can buy a packet of crisps.
Well for a grand total of £4 for around 1,000 plays of one of my songs, I’m actually not that far off!
On the surface, my routine didn’t change that much for me, I normally work from home so that was fine, I have a home recording studio so don’t need to worry about booking studio time and, as a self-confessed introvert, the prospect of not having to leave the house for nonsense reasons was actually quite a blessing.
Then on the other hand, everything changed. After getting over the initial shock and worry about the future, I feel as if I was forced to think more creatively than I ever have before.
If I look back over this quarantine period I realise that I’ve released more music than I had in the previous three years.
I refocused on learning Japanese and now can read and rap in the language, I taught myself how Facebook and Google ads worked in order to promote my releases, learned about investing my income, revamped my website and my merchandise range so that I can make some money online.
I wrote theme songs for cartoon shows, taught online lectures on building a music career and through it all, I survived.
If creativity is your business, your business NEEDS to be creative. Opportunity is out there I would encourage anyone, self-employed or not, to use this time to refocus, to reinvent, to evolve.
As a rapper, as a manga author, as an independent artist, as a ninja (sometimes) I’ve made it my business to constantly learn and grow throughout this quarantine period. So even if COVID tries to take one or a few things away from me, I can be sure that it’ll never take everything.