Hey everyone! Welcome to the latest episode of Teen Jazz Radio! For those of you in the US, I hope you all enjoyed a little bit of time off for Fourth of July Weekend! I’m Shannon Kennedy, your host and I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to our show and to the fantastic young artists we feature as part of each episode.
Today on Teen Jazz Radio I’m going to continue a conversation on managing the two most important aspects of a career in music – the music and the business. We’ve already started the discussion on this very topic over at Teen Jazz with an article called “Balancing the Business and Creative Aspects of Music,” and of course, we’ll include a link over at Teen Jazz with this episode’s transcription, but I wanted to elaborate a bit further.
Also in this episode, I’m also going to feature the music of Althea Rene, Dan Higgins, Drew Simpson, Franck Sitbon, Christian Hernandez, and Nivo Deux.
As I mention at the beginning of each episode, I know that many of you are listening to this podcast for different reasons – some of you may be here for the advice offered as part of this episode and some of you may be listening to check out the music we feature as part of the show. So, as I mentioned in the last episode, I’m going to try and space the music and the advice out evenly throughout the podcast so that there’s a little something for everyone.
So, before we dive into today’s tips, let’s check out our first music set. This week I’d like to introduce you to flute player Althea Rene and Dan Higgins. The first song you’ll hear is More Than You Know by Althea Rene from In The Moment and second I’m going to feature Don’t Back Down by Dan Higgins from City Side.
Once again, the first track was Althea Rene with More Than You Know. We recently posted our interview with Althea up on Teen Jazz, so we will include a link to that in the transcription of today’s emission as well. And after that was Dan Higgins with Don’t Back Down. You can find more information about Althea Rene at althearene.com and Dan Higgins at danhiggins.net. We also interviewed Dan Higgins, and you can read that on Teen Jazz as well.
Alright, so let’s talk about balancing the business and creative aspects of your career.
As independent musicians, we quite often find ourselves fulfilling the duties of several roles and each requires us to develop a wide range of skill sets. These duties, at a company or record label, for example, would usually be completed by entire teams of people, but as independent artists, we’re left to complete them on our own. And the unfortunate reality is that any time we spend working on those tasks is time we take away from our craft – our songwriting, our production, our practice, and so on.
The problem is, for most of us, there isn’t another option. We have to learn to balance the business and creative aspects of our careers ourselves.
Finding this balance is a problem that most musicians face and although, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve already started to discuss finding a balance on Teen Jazz before, I wanted to bring back into the conversation.
So how do you start to find a balance?
First, you have to:
Figure out what you want
Finding time to balance both the business and creative aspects of your career is not always easy, but it isn’t impossible. If you go at it each day with a plan, an idea of how much time you want to set aside for each, the two sides of music are much easier to tackle, even when and if other things come up.
As I said in a podcast I did with MusicMarketing.com a few months back, 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.
One day you may find you need to dedicate a few hours to practice or writing and only a quick ten minutes to marketing while the next you only need to practice for a short time and focus on sending out an email blast or contacting radio stations about your new release.
So how do you decide how much time you need to allot to each?
The first step is to figure out exactly what you need or want to accomplish in the near and distant future. What are your overall goals?
Do you want to be a songwriter, jazz performer or orchestra musician? What about a film composer? First, figure out what skills you need to succeed in the role you are aiming for.
If you want to be a songwriter, you should have at least some skill as either a keyboard player or guitarist. You should also study lyric writing, harmony/theory, etc. If you want to be a jazz performer, you need to play an instrument or sing, obviously, have an understanding of improvisation techniques, be familiar with the standard repertoire, etc. And so on for the other options I mentioned before. The time you spend on the creative aspects of your career need to focus on developing these things.
The next step, once you’ve figured out what you want to do is to figure out how you want to do it and promote it. 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 and near future goals are, you can figure out the steps you need to take to accomplish them and what you’ll need to do on a daily basis to achieve 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.
So let’s pick an example, because for any goal there’s going to be both music and business steps to take. Okay, so something specific, maybe like putting out an album.
An album is a perfect example because it has numerous elements that take you from the creative to the business aspects of your career on a regular basis. So, some of the creative aspects would be things like [the examples below] while some of the business tasks are [the examples below].
|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|
Of course, those are just a few of the things that you need to complete to finish an album, and if you’re really interested in learning more about that particular process, we have a great guide and workbook available at adviceformusicians.com.
So, once you figure out what your goals are, in this case releasing an album, and what you hope to accomplish in the near future, you can create weekly and daily tasks that keep you and your business moving. So the overall goal is the album itself. The daily goals may be to finish writing, to record certain instruments, to work on the arrangements, to finish lyrics, to do a photoshoot, etc. 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. So you can see how a big project can be broken down into digestible and more accomplishable tasks and the overall goal no longer seems daunting.
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. You cannot just focus on the creative process (as much as we would like to). 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 from Musicmarketing.com had in the podcast I briefly mentioned earlier 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. And don’t get too carried away with planning and checklists and things like that. Those are big time wasters and it’s easy to get lost in the planning and never get to the execution stages of a process, particularly when there’s tasks involved that you don’t particularly like doing (procrastination anyone?).
Our second set of music for today’s show is going to feature Christian Hernandez and Nivo Deux. The first song you’ll hear is The Drop by Christian Hernandez from the album 5 For 5 and second I’m going to feature Culture Shock by Nivo Deux from Open Beta – EP.
Once again, that was Nivo Deux with Culture Shock and before that was Christian Hernandez with The Drop. You can find more information about Christian Hernandez at christianhernandezmusic.com and Nivo Deux is at nivodeux.com.
The second thing you need to consider when trying to balance your music career is that you can always:
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, doing research on venues that are looking for music, 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. These things sometimes seem more important and are almost always more fun, but they are the least important things you can do. Spend the least amount of time on these and don’t get carried away. Try setting a timer so you don’t lose track of time and so that you can go back to focusing on more important items in a timely manner.
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.
And last, but not least:
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. And sometimes you don’t have the skills necessary to do different tasks well (check out our last podcast to find out what we think about “good enough”).
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.) Plus, working with others gives you the opportunity to build diverse relationships.
If you’re still wondering where to get started:
We’ve put together a worksheet to help you plan out this next year and better manage your creative and business tasks. Check out TeenJazz.com, where you’ll find a transcription of today’s episode and where you can download our Music Business Planner.
So those are our thoughts on balancing the creative and business aspects of your music career. I can’t say that my method is perfect, but it has worked for me and I hope it will help you start to find the right balance as well. 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 at TeenJazz.com.
Our last set of music for today’s show is going to feature Drew Simpson and Franck Sitbon. The first song you’ll hear is Meet Dr Washington by Drew Simpson from the album Noteworthy and second I’m going to feature Dorica by Franck Sitbon from A Toi La Vie.
Once again, that was Franck Sitbon with Dorica and before that was Drew Simpson with Meet Dr Washington. You can find more information about Drew Simpson at drewsimpsonmusic.com or in his interview with us on Teen Jazz.
Before I close out the show, I’d like to invite you all to check out Teen Jazz if you’re interested in learning more about me, Shannon Kennedy or the community. As I just mentioned it’s TeenJazz.com.
Or if you just would like to say hello, come and say hi at our Facebook page – that’s facebook.com/teenjazz. I promise to say hello back!
All the links that I’ve mentioned as part of the show will be up on Teen Jazz and Teen Jazz Radio, so if you’re interested in learning more about these talented artists, please stop on by – I know they’ll appreciate the love! You can leave comments on any of our posts at TeenJazzRadio.com.
A very special thanks to Jazz and Bossa Radio for featuring Teen Jazz Radio on their web radio station. We recently partnered with them at the beginning of this month to share our artists with a wider audience and we are excited to have joined the Jazz and Bossa Radio family. You can visit them at jazzandbossaradio.com. All of our Teen Jazz Radio podcasts are featured over at Jazz and Bossa Radio on Sundays at 3pm EST and on Wednesdays at 5pm EST.
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In this week’s episode, you heard the music of:
- Althea Rene – “More Than You Know” from In The Moment
- Dan Higgins – “Don’t Back Down” from Cityside
- Christian Hernandez – “5 for 5” from 5 For 5
- Nivo Deux – “Culture Shock” from Open Beta – EP
- Drew Simpson – “Meet Dr Washington” from Noteworthy
- Franck Sitbon – “Dorica” from A Toi La Vie