This past week David Hooper at MusicMarketing.com put out a podcast answering the question of how to balance the creative and business aspects of a music career. It was, in fact, a question that I submitted when he called for questions on his Facebook page, and I think he offers some pretty great tips as part of this episode. You can listen to to the episode at MusicMarketing.com.
During the podcast, I had the opportunity to offer some of my thoughts and input based on my experience, but I’d like to elaborate a bit further here on Teen Jazz.
Figure out what you want
Balancing the business and creative aspects of your music can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. If you go at it each day with a plan, an idea of how much time you want to set aside for each, it’s much easier to tackle, even if other things come up.
As I said in the podcast, I don’t think that there is any one right way to find a balance – it’s going to be different for everyone and it’s going to be different each day you go at it, but starting with a plan will help you accomplish a lot.
The first step is to figure out exactly what you need or want to accomplish in the big picture. Do you want to produce a music video? Do you want to put out a new album? Or do you want to go on tour?
Once you figure out what your long term goals are, you can figure out the steps you need to take to accomplish them. Write them out so that you have a clear picture of what you need to do so that you don’t go at it randomly.
For any goal there’s going to be both music and business steps to take. For example, putting out an album.
|Learn your instrument at a high enough level to record an album||Write a press release announcing the album|
|Write the songs & lyrics||Coordinate radio promotion for the single/album|
|Learn the songs at a studio-ready level||Send out email blasts, social updates, etc. to fans to let them know about the album. In other words, build buzz surrounding the album release.|
|Rehearse the songs with the band||Do interviews surrounding the release of the album|
|Record and produce the album||Plan a CD release party|
|Practice, rehearse and memorize the music for the CD release||Figure out how you’re going to have the album mixed, mastered and manufactured|
Once you figure out what your goals are and what you hope to accomplish in the near future, you can create weekly and daily tasks that keep you and your business moving.
A daily task could be working on the writing/arranging for the album. You can write songs and develop their arrangements a little bit everyday. A weekly task could be updating your fan base about the progress of the project via Facebook, email, your blog, Twitter, etc.
When you’re working on a project or touring, sometimes it can be hard to step out of it to reach out to fans and music business reps, but you have to find a way to maintain any momentum your business has going for it by keeping in touch. When you’re plugged in to a project and really dedicated to creating it, it can be hard to pull yourself away and do other things, but it’s important to find a balance and make time for other tasks.
One of the suggestions David Hooper had in the podcast was to schedule different tasks at different times of the day so that you could mentally prepare for them and “switch modes” more easily. I think that this can be a great method, but don’t worry about it too much. Sometimes things may come up and your routine gets thrown for a loop. The most important thing is to be as flexible as you can while staying on track with what you need to accomplish.
Divide and Conquer
It’s easy to get distracted with all the different hats we wear as musicians, so prioritizing the work you need to get done helps quite a bit. The easiest way to do this is by dividing your tasks into different categories. As far as business goes, I suggest:
1. Revenue Generating Tasks – gigs, digital downloads, sending out emails to concert promoters or sending out emails to help you get more people to your shows. These are the most important tasks because they are what earn revenue. Make sure you complete these tasks first!
2. Relationship Building Tasks – answer questions from fans, send emails to keep in touch with your contacts, etc. These are important but not as important as the items in category #1. Do these second.
3. Everything Else – updating Facebook, listening to music (aka “research”), blogging, etc.
As for the “art” side of your business, you should spend as much time (if not more) working on your craft as you do working on the business. It will hurt your business if your product (you as an artist and your music), doesn’t stand up to the marketing and business efforts you’re making.
David Hooper said, “If you can’t spend at least an hour on your music a day, you should really look at what you’re doing” and I agree wholeheartedly. If you’re serious about pursuing music as a career, you should make sure that you have at least an hour a day to refine your skills and hone your craft.
That hour (minimum!) should be spent practicing – working on your instrument, your recording technique, your stage presence, etc.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you find that you’re unable to manage the different responsibilities necessary to your business, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes paying someone to do the things you can’t do or don’t have time to do is worth it.
There are some things that other people can do better and faster than you and you need to decide if it’s really worth spending the time to do it yourself. Yes, you may be able to do it yourself and yes, it may save you money, but sometimes it’s better to bring in someone who has that skill set to help bring your project to the next level. (You can read more about building your team in this guest post by Cyrene Jagger, The Musician’s A-Team.)
We’ve put together a worksheet to help you plan out this next year and better manage your creative and business tasks. Download our Music Business Planner.
In summary, I can’t say that my method is perfect, but it has worked for me. If you’ve figured out a way to balance it all, I’d love to hear what it is. You can let me know in the comments.
Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.