Internationally-acclaimed DJ Michelle Pesce has perfected the art of spinning at events like Coachella and The Sundance Film Festival, Golden Globes, Emmys, Academy Awards and eight Grammys after-parties. Named one of InStyle magazine’s Badass Women of 2020, she is also the founder and CEO of Nona Entertainment artist entertainment company creating custom musical vibes for Hollywood’s leading events.
Since live events paused in response to the pandemic this year, Pesce, like most performers, has had to rethink her approach to music. She quickly pivoted to work with studios and networks on socially-distanced opportunities while supporting the continuing rise of independent music creators.
“There is so much going on right now, and we have to adapt,” Pesce says. “Initially many clients were scared to dip their toe in streaming events, but as the pandemic continues, they’re taking chances on new platforms. With streaming, we’re getting to know each other’s personalities and sharing stories about music on a whole different level.”
According to a new “Independent Artists: Pathfinding Through A Pandemic” study released today by Amuse independent record label and music distributor in partnership with MIDiA Research market intelligence and consulting firm, independent music creation has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Almost 70% of independent artists worldwide spent more time writing or making music during lockdown this year, signaling that the independent artist sector continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the global recorded music business.
The study also found that the Artists Direct segment generated $873 million in 2019, which was an increase of 32% from the year prior. About 57% of independent artists created more content for social media, 36% reported celebrating more online and nearly 20% experimented with live streaming performances. While live streaming has become the go-to during quarantine, half of artists in the study agree that streaming services alone do not pay them enough to earn a living. The majority (64%) of artists earn less than $10,000 per year with the average income totaling $8,079.
Most independent artists in the study report maintaining as many as five different income streams including publishing, teaching, session work and merchandise. Live touring, which 50% of artists in the same study last year considered a key measure of their success, fell to 39% this year. And while the majority of artists are creating more music, only 46% of them released new projects this year.
“If more artists can crack funding and remuneration earlier in their careers, the direct artist sector can grow even more strongly than it is already doing,” Mark Mulligan, managing director at MIDiA Research, said in a statement. “The case here is clear for increasing the ways that artists of all kinds can close the funding gap as they build their music careers especially in the wake of the pandemic.”
Spinning at small, private Zoom parties and socially-distanced outdoor events has allowed Pesce to enjoy deeper interaction with her fans. She also discovered new ways of performing at a virtual premiere party for Paul Feig’s “Love Life” romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick on HBO Max, Disney’sDIS -0.6% drive-in series at the Rose Bowl and Prime Video and Street Food Cinema’s drive-in movie nights at L.A.’s The Grove.
“DJs have become more tech savvy. Things are changing so fast, and we had to navigate getting the right equipment into our spaces and pivot to new platforms,” Pesce says. “We’ve found new creative and responsible ways of gathering, and literally built a new community in the process.”
While the rise of model and influencer DJs and the #MeToo movement have made female DJs more popular, Pesce points out that they still struggle in competing for a declining number of gigs during a pandemic in an industry traditionally dominated by men. A 2017 video published by BBC details the pay inequality, sexual harassment and other challenges that have made it more difficult for women to rise to the top of the dance music industry. Still, less than 10 of the 2019 Billboard Dance 100 artist rankings included a female artist.
As co-founder of Los Angeles-based woman. collective (with marketing professional Kate Mazzuca and DJs Ana Calderon and Daisy O’Dell), Pesce is creating more breakthrough spaces for female DJs to survive–and even thrive–in the dance music space. She is steering conversations about equity, empowerment, unity, safety and responsibility into action among her diverse network of professional, L.A.-based female DJs. By joining together, she says that women with real industry credibility and experience stand the best chance of transforming the industry into a more equitable landscape.
“As a big sis in the DJ world, I try to give love to others,” Pesce explains. “I share screenshots on Instagram to promote fellow female DJs…it’s so easy to quickly send a shout out and support each other.”