WXPN Best of 2020: With touring on hold, Philly artists get creative with their side hustles - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

As the year winds down, we’re continuing our look back at the music of these past twelve months with an ongoing series of XPN Best of 2020 deep dives. Today, The Key’s Emily Herbein reflects on the side hustles we saw emerge during COVID.

This year started off on a huge high note for so many Philadelphia musicians; I know I certainly felt it too. There was just something about the promise of 2020 that felt like there would be a pivotal shift in local music. This year felt like it would be the year where the local scene would be tighter than ever, and now all of that excitement has been replaced with uncertainty. There were canceled gig announcements left and right (no more stacked shows like the one at Johnny Brenda’s with Slomo Sapiens, Ali Awan, Dominy, and Grace Vonderkuhn), record releases that have yet to be celebrated, like Bartees Strange’s blowup LP, Live Forever; and emerging solo projects, like that of Mo Lowda & the Humble’s Jordan Caiola, left with no way to make a proper debut.

Thankfully, Philly got creative, as it always does, and found other ways to stay close and to continue to make a living. Musicians who rely on touring income had to revert to side hustles or pick up an inconsistent restaurant job for the first time in a while, and that in itself is scary. Many have been relying on unemployment, music and merch sales, and crowdsourcing to pay bills — but because Philly musicians think of each other as family, it went without question that the scene would help each other out.

Below are a couple of local artists who are working around their music and merch sales with other side-hustle projects that you should look into.

Laura Lizcano, a singer-songwriter who draws in equal parts from her Colombian heritage and jazz training, has been making collage art in quarantine and selling prints through her Instagram. She also released her debut LP, Heart, in October.

Singer/songwriter Maggie Mae Gallmann started the page Private Yoga Philly early in the pandemic after her yoga studio closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Gallmann is a certified yoga instructor with focuses in chronic pain ailments, anxiety and stress reduction, and dance. She teaches her classes via Zoom or Facebook, and operates on a pay-what-you-want basis. Gallmann also fronts her own band, and their recent single “Hometown” employs indie Americana sounds with a big-band feel.

James Everhart, of the band Scantron, dove headfirst into freelance graphic design and gave Jimmy Scantron Design a revamp after he lost his design job at City Winery. Despite the setback of being one of many who were out of work at the start of the pandemic, Everhart has been one of the busiest artists that I’ve seen. His most recent project includes designing the cover art for the Philly Holiday Album. Freelance work has also given Everhart the room to connect with clients outside of the region. “I was fortunate enough to help with some charity groups here and in Cleveland that opened the floodgates to new clients across the country. I am currently enjoying life as a freelance designer which allows me time to constantly tap in to my creativity and focus on music and giving back to the creative community of Philadelphia. I consider myself profoundly lucky to be part of this city’s vibrant scene.”

Arjun Dube of Trap Rabbit has taken on remote tracking responsibilities at his studio, Treacle Mine Recording. This technique has been gaining popularity through the pandemic as artists who can’t record together in person attempt to piece their projects together digitally. Dube works with engineer Michael Cumming and collaborators Logan Roth and Sophie Coran, recording electronic and acoustic drum parts for remote artists who need the tracks. “We collectively became more geared towards producing music rather than just playing instruments this year. We still do a lot of that too, but we really had the time to sit down and think about how great records are made. Engineering, arrangement, mixing, feedback, mastering — for the first time, we tried to tackle every part of that process ourselves. It’s been challenging but also incredibly rewarding,” Dube said. “We’re currently engaged in producing our own music as well as other artists’ music, like for the incredibly talented Tammy Hyunh. Our dream is to do this for more and more clients and build a network of trust and quality within our community. We really love helping people bring their ideas to life.”

Colin McCarry of Party Muscles is responsible for the Quarantine Quizzo endeavor at The International Bar in Fishtown. What started as a “just for fun” weekly Instagram stream actually turned out to have a lot more emotional stake for McCarry as quarantine progressed. It kicked off with enormous success, with up to 75 teams joining the livestream on any given week. After being furloughed from his job at Mission Taqueria in Center City, McCarry made Quizzo donation-based in order to cover his pending unemployment. After injuring his hand in a bike accident and needing emergency surgery, the music community once again pulled through for “Philly Col Quizzo,” and his coworkers at The International started a crowdfund for his medical bills. “I had this slogan that basically meant, don’t cheat during Quizzo because everyone is playing on the honor system while we’re all home quarantined. My friend Shane Buchanan made a t-shirt screen with my phrase ‘Don’t Be a Quaranteenie Weenie’ and raised $900 for my surgery. I’ve actually been putting off doing a public thank you because I’m still so shocked and humbled. This community really showed up for me. Talk about emotional support during this pandemic.”

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve likely been a part of an artist’s financial or emotional support system over the last couple months just by checking in with them. These are just a few examples of the many ways that our local musicians are bringing their side hustles to the forefront of their careers while touring is on hold. I think, if we have anything to thank this pandemic for, it’s that there has been an added emphasis on the importance of supporting and connecting with the people you care about. As side hustle after side hustle continues to emerge, the encouragement shows up times ten. Philly is special in that way.

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