Many artists bemoan the amount of time they must spend on the business and marketing end of things, rather than instead focusing on their artistry and musicianship, and while there's no silver bullet to changing this ratio, there are a number things you can do to make life easier on yourself and have more creative time.
Guest post by Kevin Carthy for TuneCore
Kevin is a musician and the founder of Music With Flavor, which acts a hub of educational resources for independent artists.
Is there an easier way to approach how artists conduct business?
Every musician is different and has their own preconceived notions about what it means to treat their music career as a business. I’m sure if you knew an easier way to achieve success in the music industry, you’d be open to exploring it.
While I don’t have a magic wand that will allow you to put your career on auto-pilot, I will say that automation is increasingly prominent. This is great for musicians as it is helping us to buy back some of our time so we can focus on the things we truly enjoy doing the most.
I personally want you to strive to have the luxury of spending more time on your music while the business and marketing activities are handled by the dream team that you’ve assembled. However, if you aren’t there yet, I want you to know that there is a lot that you can do now to make life a lot easier on yourself.
Systems: Your New Best Friend
I encourage you to put the ‘hands-off, auto-pilot’ dreams on hold for a moment and turn your attention toward the idea of developing systems for both your creative and business ventures. If you’re looking to take your career to the next level, developing systems for your day to day operations will make all the difference.
If you want to be more than just another musician or artist from your hometown, then you have to think in terms of systems and processes. You will need to think bigger than just the music you are creating, no matter how amazing it is.
Here are some areas that you should focus on when it comes to developing systems for your music career.
Assess the Situation
Before you can get to where you’d like to go you need to have a strong understanding of where you’re currently at with your music career and who’s involved. You need to ask yourself questions like:
- What are the activities that I’m currently undertaking?
- Do I have any help? If so, who’s helping me?
- If I don’t have help, what type of help do I need or want in the future?
- Who do I know that would be willing to help me?
- What are the business related activities I’m good at or love to do?
- What activities do I suck at or despise?
Once you have identified all of these areas you can then begin to start piecing the puzzle together. Understand that you may temporarily need to handle most of these activities yourself depending on your circumstances but the goal is to have a system for someone else to eventually come in and take the reins.
Your success relies on building a team, but more importantly, your team will only be as strong as the system you have in place.
To help you along with this process I highly suggest you create an organizational chart that outlines all of the areas that you’d like to be filled. You can physically draw this out on a piece of paper or use a tool like Organimi to help you out.
Given the current state of the music industry, artists are now expected to release content at such a high clip in order to stay relevant.
When quantity becomes the name of the game, quality is likely to suffer to some degree. However with some minor tweaks, you can not only maintain a solid rate of creation, but also ensure that the quality of your content remains consistent as well.
Your content takes on all different forms from the music you create, to the videos you shoot and produce, the photos you post and so much more.
I highly suggest that you begin to document your process and start to flesh out what types of content are bringing you success. I would begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- What has helped me to produce the best music possible?
- Who do I currently work with (producers, engineers, other artists, etc.)?
- Who do I want to work with that in the future?
- What is my creative process?
- Will everything be written and memorized before I hit the studio?
- Will I have a blueprint for how my music videos will be shot?
- What have my experiences been like developing/creating content?
- When I created my best content, what did I do to make sure everything went smoothly?
- How far in advance do I need to start planning these things?
The idea is to get ahead of the game and eliminate any problems or obstacles that may come your way.
Nothing will go exactly as you planned, but you must do what you can to master the elements that are in your control. Don’t get into the habit of making the same mistakes over and over again – learn from them and document what needs to happen moving forward.
When it comes to building systems for content creation, I believe that scheduling and project management are of the utmost importance. Once you assess the situation and have a plan in place, it now becomes paramount to use your time as efficiently and effectively as possible in order to accomplish everything you set out to do.
While you may not require some elaborate project management software I suggest you use something to keep you on track. There are free tools like Google Calendar or Trello that can help you to do just that.
Marketing, Distribution & Promotion
One of the biggest areas that artists struggle with is promoting their content effectively.
They work so hard and sometimes even invest a ton of money on creation, but tend to lose steam when it comes to marketing or forget to create a plan for promotion entirely.
Knowing things like when you plan to distribute your music through a company like TuneCore and when you need to have that music uploaded may seem trivial but are very important.
A lot of promotional activities aren’t difficult, but they can be easy to forget about if you don’t have a documented system in place to make sure you remember all that needs to be done and how to accomplish it.
Your solution could be a checklist for each area of marketing, promotion and distribution that you can pull out and refer to when it comes time to release content. This will make your life a lot easier and reduce the need for a superhuman memory.
There are a number of tools that help with the area of distribution, promotion and marketing but the main ones relate to automation and helping you be more efficient. These tools consist of: social media schedulers like TuneCore Social, Sendible or Buffer; email marketing apps like ActiveCampaign or Mailchimp; music distributors like TuneCore; and outsourcing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr.
The key to your finances is to review them regularly, track absolutely everything, and know who paid for what, (especially if you’re in a band).
You’ll find that you begin to see your goals through the numbers and start to look at things from a business perspective.
You start to realize what’s important and understand that you have to hustle a lot more to accomplish your goals.
Budgeting and forecasting help you to operate more efficiently overall, so be sure to make them a part of your regular routine.
There are a ton of solutions to help you with your finances, but some of them may be more than what you actually need from a music standpoint. You can simply use a Google or Excel spreadsheet to track your finances or there are financial apps like Mint, Quickbooks, or YNAB (You Need A Budget) that will help you get a bit more comprehensive.
Another tool that is perfect, especially if you’re in a band, is Splitwise. This app allows you to submit expenses and see what everyone has paid for and who owes what.
Lastly, if you’re able to, it doesn’t hurt to hire a freelance professional to handle and organize some of these things for you. Even if it is just a bookkeeper that helps you once or twice a month.
Creating systems can take a bit of grunt work to get done, but it is well worth it. As an artist you have so much on the go and trying to accomplish all there is to do in a day is almost impractical. Having a system in place that you can rely on will save you not only time, but your hard earned money as well.
Don’t leave your music career to chance and rely on luck to get you where you want to go. Start doing everything in your power to control the things that you can control. This allows you to be better equipped to handle any obstacle thrown at you.
While you may never see the day that your music career can run on auto-pilot, at least you’ll know that you’ve brought a bit of automation into your life and a whole lot of structure to guide you on your musical journey.