At the beginning of 2020, the new year had started. The world was starting a new decade, a new opportunity, and a new trip around the sun. The EDM community had all of the shows, festivals, albums, and plans for 2020 ready to roll out. However, 2020 had other plans.
Now in 2021, the future is still unknown, but we can remain hopeful. During this time in isolation, many artists and performers have taken the chance to take a break, try something new, or keep working on their goals. Artists around the world have faced so many challenges trying to keep their music careers alive. Most artists rely on live events for income, continue their popularity, or create a name for themselves.
What would be even worse is trying to start your music career during a pandemic. However, it can be done, and this is how.
Nick Ruffalo, a 21-year-old artist that goes by Ruff, had just started his career in 2020. He started getting into EDM production while in college with inspirations like The Chainsmokers and Martin Garrix. 2020 was going to be a big year for him as he just started creating his music, but the pandemic threw a wrench in his plans.
“My pre-pandemic plans for 2020 were heavily rooted in live shows,” said Ruff. “I was planning on performing as much as possible while releasing new music and testing in progress records out live at clubs.”
Unfortunately, most of last year's live shows were canceled. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the world, festivals and concerts started to be canceled quicker than ever. Ultra Music Festival in Miami, then EDC in Las Vegas, Beyond Wonderland, and other festivals all over the world started to be canceled until 2021. This left many artists without the crucial opportunities to perform, release new music, and build a reputation for themselves.
The loss of live events challenged music producers to find new ways to reach their audiences. Most of the music industry relies on performing to reach their fans. Even though it seemed impossible, many artists found ways to connect with their listeners online.
When asked about what was different about releasing music during a pandemic, Ruff said, “Figuring out how to penetrate the market that finds new music while out partying when there are no parties.” Like many other artists, Ruff was able to find a channel that worked for him. Ruff was able to reach his audience with the popular app TikTok. Ruff explains, “I never thought I would be using that app as much as I do but it has been great during these times with connecting with people from everywhere.”
Things like social media, live streaming platforms, zoom, and other virtual communications began to bridge the gap between artists and fans, but the absence of live events still created many issues in the music industry. 2020 may have been a year that put live events on hold, but many artists took the time to recreate their music and prepare for the epic return of live music. To be ready when the time did come, Ruff decided it was also a time to work extra hard on producing new music.
“I've become more motivated to adapt and find new ways to crush the same goals,” Ruff said. “My perspective on life has changed a lot over the past year and in a good way. I wake up at 5:20 AM, get in a workout, then answer some emails and comments, shower, and produce all day.”
Even though he faced many unprecedented challenges, Ruff was still able to see the reward from his hard work. Ruff was able to drop his first single “Self Sabotage” with MIKEY C and Lila McKenna in July of 2020. Then turned around and released another single, “Without It” with Robbie Rosen in October. Since these two singles dropped, Ruff's Spotify has grown to thousands of monthly listeners .
So even though last year was nothing shy of an absolute disaster for the world, Ruff was able to make an opportunity for himself with hard work, dedication, and hope. Now that 2020 is in the past, Ruff took the time to reflect and regroup. Looking forward to 2021, Ruff wants to focus on growing his brand and releasing all of the original music he worked hard on this year. To stay motivated through the rest of the pandemic, Ruff keeps a few things in mind.
“The light at the end of the tunnel (for me that playing at Ultra),” Ruff explains. “The dedication to your craft will always be enough to keep you wanting more.”