Emails. Social media. Websites. Blogging. Search engine optimization. Marketing. Practice. Songwriting. Performance. Load in and load out. Rehearsals. Recording. Interviews. Merchandise…
It’s no secret that musicians have a lot to do, from marketing to performing to recording. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for overwhelm, we could all do a better job of simplifying our daily activities. If we could get our daily tasks down to a science, we would be more efficient and more effective in the long run too.
Here are several actionable steps you can take towards simplifying your music career.
Step 1 – Plan & Prioritize
When your career efforts are simplified, there will never be any doubt as to what you need to do next. Your priorities will be laid out in your calendar, and you’ll know exactly when to switch from one activity to another (also see Step 4).
“That’s not creative”, you may protest. “I can’t control when inspiration hits.”
While that may be true, don’t you think you could increase your chances of capturing more of your ideas and inspiration if you were in the habit of setting aside a regular time for it?
I realize that we don’t all have normal or regular schedules (especially as musicians), but you should be able to achieve some semblance of consistency with each of your ongoing duties, whatever they may be. We’re not looking for perfection here.
Don’t forget to create an order of priorities. List them off and organize them from most important to least important. I know this is an unromantic thing to do, but if you’re serious about simplifying your music career, you have to be willing to go through this process.
Step 2 – Stick to Your Goals
If you haven’t actually taken the time to set goals, make sure to do that first.
What happens all too often is that even after we set goals, we put them away somewhere where we’ll never see them again. That’s a sure way to get off track.
While I would never discourage anyone from tweaking or revising their goals along the way, you need to keep them in front of you so you don’t lose sight of them. They will help you make adjustments as necessary.
For example, an opportunity comes up that you’re interested in. However, it has nothing to do with your goals, and will not bring you any closer to achieving them. There are still some desirable results for taking the opportunity, of course. So, what do you do?
Your goals will help you to filter through the opportunities that come your way. They will keep you on track. They will help you to make course corrections, which usually have to be done on an ongoing basis anyway.
Step 3 – Consolidate
How could you be marketing while performing? How could you have social media messages sent out every time you post something new on your website? How could you have automation tools work on your behalf? How could you hit two birds with one stone?
Listen, I’m not trying to be funny. There really are ways of leveraging your time better. You may have to brainstorm some ideas, but the right opportunities could help you to get more done with less effort.
Check out the How to Sell 15,000 CDs in 18 Months video in which Bob Baker interviews Terry Prince. At the time, Prince was performing 10 days a month at the pier. He didn’t go looking for an audience; they found him.
His performances marketed his music, which in turn led to (a high number of) CD sales. I can’t really think of a better way to maximize your time, but there probably are ways. Of course, most live performances are supposed to work this way. A show is supposed to lead to more opportunities.
However, if you watch the video carefully, you can see that Prince made a production of the whole thing. He didn’t stroll up to the pier with a $100 guitar and sing bad covers. He had a real keyboard with a PA system and a nice-looking display for his CDs. You have to pay some attention to esthetics for best results.
Step 4 – Systematize
It’s time to borrow a term from the business world. Yes, systems can be applied to music careers just as much as they can be to business. It’s just that most musicians tend to scoff at them or write them off as being “uncreative”.
Systems may be boring, but they aren’t entirely devoid of creativity. They do require you to think linearly and sequentially, but systems can often be improved upon and made more efficient, and that’s where your creativity will serve you well.
Make checklists for yourself. Document step-by-step processes for activities that you have to do on a recurring basis. Not only will you be able to use this reference material for yourself, you will also be able to pass it on to others to carry out the same tasks if necessary.
Have a set time for practicing. Have a set time for checking in with your social media. Have a set time for songwriting. Create a checklist for how you market a show. Create a checklist for how you promote an album.
Make your life easier by having reference documents that you can go back to at any time when you need them.
Creating a system for your music career is both time-consuming and – let’s be honest – boring. However, the long-term results are worth it. You will be more efficient and more productive for having them.
Don’t forget; focus is hugely important too. If you have the choice between spending an hour on a dozen social media sites or three social media sites, fewer will likely prove to be more beneficial. Don’t overextend yourself unnecessarily.
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.