5 Things Artists Can Do to Build Their Network

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the co-founder of 24West a full-service creative agency focusing on music and tech.]

 

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what aspirations you have for yourself professionally, at the end of the day you’re only as strong as your network. In the past, there was a bit of a stigma about artists being active in terms of connecting with music business professionals beyond playing shows and hoping their manager can get a label rep or two out to see them play. For a musician or band to be viewed as an “artist”, it had to appear they didn’t care how successful they were. The rule of thumb for creating a successful music career was to “get in the system without personally engaging in it”. As a result, a lot of artists ended up getting completely ripped off by said system or never truly reached their potential as a career musician because they felt it was ‘uncool’ to take matters into their own hands. Thankfully, those times are done.

In the 90s, we saw punk and hip hop bust open the door and show that you could be a ‘cred’ artist and still handle your business as a professional. One look at what Jay Z did with Rockafella or Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion) did with Epitaph (and all its subsidiaries) will put to bed the idea that real artists don’t involve themselves in the business of the business. In the subsequent years, this has trickled down to each level of artist; from Metallica finally gaining the rights to all their masters a few years ago to the bedroom producer running their own press and Spotify campaigns around their singles.

Here are five ways that independent artists can be more aggressive in taking their fate into their own hands:

1. Facebook and Linkedin Groups

Okay, so maybe involving yourself in Linkedin Groups is a little ambitious for most artists, but there are plenty of Music Business Networking groups on Facebook. I pull new contacts and valuable strategic information from these sorts of groups literally every day. While a lot of my personal favorite groups are invite only, there are plenty that are open for anyone to join. Start joining these groups first and gradually as your network grows you’ll gain access to some of the more exclusive ones. Same principle applies to Linkedin groups if you’re willing to delve into those waters as well.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Cold Email

A lot of people are under the impression that it’ll be a waste of time to email the people they look up to, but doing so can lead to the biggest breaks you’re going to find. What’s important is to just do so with tact. Don’t email an A&R from your favorite label or the guitarist in that band you’ve been obsessed with lately to speak about yourself or ask a favor. Hit them up with specific questions and ask for advice that doesn’t require them to commit to anything. For example…do you really love a particular manager’s roster? Do they always seem to release music in the way you wish you did? Find a contact there and reach out.

Here’s a basic example of a way to reach out that may be fruitful for you:

Hey <artist manager>, my name is Rich and I am a songwriter. I currently play in a band called <band name>. We’re about to release our first record and I am really big fan of the way you roll out new singles with your roster. I was wondering if I could buy you a cup of coffee or shoot over a couple of questions via email to pick your brain a little bit if that’s okay? Thanks so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!”.

3. Go To Networking Events

Same principle as the Facebook Networking Groups but in real life. If you live in a major city like Chicago, Austin, New York or Los Angeles there are ample such events you can find and attend. If you don’t, start your own group. It may be sparsely populated at first but it’ll grow over time. Also, keep in mind that when you’re first getting started these events are about quantity. When you’re starting out you should try to meet anybody and everybody in your city that is involved in the music industry. As you progress, you can hone in on those with events specifically for the bigger players.<

4. Embrace the Hashtag

There are certain hashtags that you should monitor and look to throw yourself into the resulting conversation on Twitter, for instance #MusicBiz. This is a great way to figure out what is currently trending in your professional world, engage others with the same goal and start establishing yourself as someone that people should take seriously. The same sort of success can be achieved by following music business professionals and engaging them in conversation around industry-related articles or thoughts that they post.

5. Collaborate!

A beautiful thing about a music ‘scene’, whether in real life or digitally, that often gets overlooked is the exposure to each others network. Whether you’re collaborating with another artist on a local show or tour, creating a networking group or writing/recording a song together, if you work together both of your networks will automatically double for the endeavor.

If you take a little time each day to dedicate to these suggestions, you will see incredible gains in terms of your understanding of the music business, as well as, the number of opportunities that are presented to you. Also, it puts you in a position where you have a lot more of the chips on your side of the table when the time is right to start talking to labels and managers about your project.

The Secret To Buying More Time

[Editors Note: This is the third post in a series by Debbie Stanley, owner of Thoughts In Order. Debbie has been helping chronically disorganized clients get their act together since 1997. Her latest book is The Organized Musician and she’ll be speaking on “Time Management for Musicians” at South By Southwest 2017.]

With my last two posts, we established that time management is every DIY musician’s most essential organizational skill. I gave you a method for differentiating your externally controlled time (things you must do) from your self-controlled time (those precious few hours that are actually yours to control), and I emphasized how essential it is to budget your time even more carefully than money, because there is absolutely no way to earn, borrow, or make more time.

You get the same 24 hours per day that everyone else gets, no matter how talented and deserving you are or how hard you work. Unlike money, with time you get what you get, period.

Except … there is one loophole.

You can’t actually receive more time for yourself. You’re still getting your 24 hours, no more and no less. But you can gain the use of more than your standard daily allotment. Let’s look at two ways to do it:

1. Delegation

Delegation is assigning a job to someone else. In theory, it sounds like a great solution: If you don’t have time to do a task or a job, delegate it and it will get done without your involvement.

The problem is that anything you delegate does still require some of your time. If a task will take 4 hours, you don’t regain 4 hours of your time by delegating it: Considering the time it takes to get the other person’s commitment, give him or her instructions on how to do it, respond to any questions, monitor to ensure you receive it by the due date, and confirm it was done correctly or well, you might only save yourself 2 hours. And if you end up having to redo it yourself, now that 4-hour task has cost you 6 hours.

So delegation can be a great help, but you must calculate correctly the time you’re actually saving, and you have to put safeties in place to prevent getting back a substandard result.

When the task is creative, like a show poster, in addition to communicating the details to be included and the due date, you also need to do your best to convey the look and feel you have in mind, then hope the artistic output will be something you like or can at least live with.

When the task is purely administrative, like running the merch table, detailed written instructions emailed in advance and also printed and kept with the merch supplies will save you in-person training time and head off many questions and mistakes.

Delegating an ongoing job will often pay off better than a single task because, once the person is up to speed on the requirements and skills of the job, the need for your supervision time is reduced. You still have to spot-check now and then, but when the delegee is skilled and motivated to do well for you, the time you save by handing over that job is close to 100%.

Jobs that are well-suited to delegation include merch management, upkeep of all of your show postings across various platforms, organization of your photos and videos, and updating of your EPK with new assets and media coverage. Highly skilled and trustworthy delegees can even manage your sync licensing catalog, social media, and booking.

But how do you get people to do that much work for you for little or no pay? This is where relationship equity comes in.

2. Relationship Equity

A second way of gaining the use of more than your standard hours is with relationship equity, a form of currency that everyone continually earns and spends. It can replace money, which is of course great for ramen-eating indie artists, but it can also replace time, which is just as valuable as money and sometimes more so.

Whenever you ask for a favor, you’re spending some of the relationship equity that you’ve built up with the person you’re asking. When you succeed in delegating jobs to volunteers, it’s certainly not for the fame and glory at this point: They do the work for you because you’ve banked relationship equity with them.

It gets really interesting when you think about what happens when you ask strangers for help. Why would they do anything for you? They don’t even know you. But if they know and like something about you, or if you’re connected by a mutual friend who has a lot of relationship equity with them, they’ll help you out.

If you’ve ever contributed to a stranger’s GoFundMe account shared by a good friend of yours, you’ve seen this in action. Same with fans who have never met you but like your music, so they chip in for your next album’s PledgeMusic campaign.

The true magic happens when your relationship equity is working for you and you don’t even know it. At that point, it’s not costing you any money or time, and in fact you wouldn’t be able to purchase it even if you did have those resources to spare. When fans bring their friends to your shows, when reviewers tell their readers to buy your album, when bookers tell other bookers that you’re a solid hire … all of those situations represent relationship equity.

In each case, you have impressed—and have not turned off—the people who are speaking up for you. At some point, you did something that made them willing to invest their own time and relationship equity on your behalf. I can’t overstate how valuable that is.

So how do you build relationship equity? In addition to creating great music, which will cause people to like you as a halo effect of liking your art, it’s things like engaging with fans after the show, liking and replying to their comments on your social media, helping other bands to get bookings, being courteous/on time/not a diva with your own bookings, responding to email and messages promptly, and, perhaps the biggest one, showing appreciation. Saying thank-you, genuinely and constantly, might be the single most valuable thing you can do to “buy” more time and, by extension, more opportunity.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building an EPK

By Tyler Allen

The electronic press kit – or EPK … (or just called a “press kit”, because they’re all “electronic” in 2016) – is an essential tool for not just artists, but for brands of all kinds.

In the simplest of terms, an EPK is a way to give writers, journalists or any business contact more info about your brand. Most of the time it’s the details that would be a bit “too much” if sent in an email – the long form bio, the company overview, the photo library, stats and numbers.

However, more commonly, it’s  a way for writers to have a one-stop-shop for images, links and any other materials when writing a story. This is a major aspect of the EPK.

So, therefore, the EPK serves two purposes, let’s say you’re sending out a pitch and include your link to an EPK, what do you want to happen?

While you can use an EPK when pitching a venue, a label, a music supervisor and just about any business contact, for the sake of clarity, let’s say you’re pitching a magazine to cover your work.

First: You want the writer to read your email and go to your EPK to learn more. If your pitch did the trick, great! But sometimes writers want more background info first. That’s where the EPK comes in.

Second: When they agree to write a story on you, they have a quick place to grab press photos and bio info. This is a god-send for writers. It’s always a huge hassle having a writer go back-and-forth with an artist over images or details. Having them all in one spot makes the writer’s job easier, which makes them more willing to work with you in the future.

A quick frequently asked question: Tyler, can’t I just send them to my website for more information?

Yes and no. Your website should be fan facing – it should be a place for fans to buy merch, get show details and overall updates.

Your EPK, on the other hand, is business facing. It’s not meant for fans – but rather for writers, talent buyers, labels and more. For instance, a fan doesn’t need to know about your streaming stats, and while they may enjoy a long-form bio or press photos – they’ll likely be consuming those on social media, rather than your website.

So – should you send business contacts to your website directly? No.

But can you send them to a press page on your website? Yes! This is actually preferred.

Which brings us to our first common EPK mistake.

Mistake #1: Sending EPKs in PDF Form.

In the early days of the internet, making a website was hard – so, EPKs were sent as a PDF file. However, while technology has adjusted, some artists are still sending out EPKs in a PDF form.

So, here’s the issue with PDFs as EPKS.

  • Not Mobile Friendly.

55% of emails are opened by phone – so it’s essential that your EPK or anything your linking to via email is mobile friendly. A PDF file – just isn’t.

  • Attachments Often Go To Spam.

If you’re attaching a PDF, there’s a good chance it’ll go to spam. Especially if it’s your first time contacting this person.

  • Hard to Update.

Likely – you’re going to have constant movement – you’re going to have new streaming stats, new show news, new photos, new tracks. If you’re using a PDF, you’re going to have to redesign your EPK for every new release or news. Which sucks.

  • You can’t stream/link from a PDF.

You can link out to Dropboxes of sound clips or images, but it’s clunky and involves new window pop ups. Which just isn’t very user-friendly.

The solution? Web-based EPKs.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-3-16-24-pm

The best place for an EPK is it’s own page on your website. So, www.yourwebsite.com/press — and then have areas of your website designated to press quotes, images and tracks.

This way, if a venue or writer stumbles across your website and they want to know more, they can just quickly move over to your press page to get all of the details. Similarly, sending someone a URL in an email, is much more clean than an attachment, or a series of Dropbox links or PDFs.

A good example of this can be found on a lot of major label sites, or large indie artist websites. For instance, Wiz Khalifa’s EPK is a great example of a one-page EPK, housed on his website (via Atlantic Records).

Second Best Solution? Web-based EPKs.

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Perfecting the website EPK means that you need a good web designer, or a good template to begin with. Not all artists have this, so therefore, sometimes folks want to reach out to an existing service.

I’ve used third party apps with clients, and I know plenty of labels and distributors that also use third party applications. So it’s really not “second best”, but it can stifle your options in some cases.

Some of the first EPK services to pop up were ReverbNation and Artis ECard. Nothing against these two platforms, but personally, I feel as if the design is limiting as well as the functionality. They can still function as an EPK if you spend time with them, but I tend to advise against these.

Sonicbids isn’t a bad choice… for Sonicbids gigs. Festivals like A3C, SXSW and Bonnaroo use Sonicbids for booking, and I was actually a columnist for the Sonicbids blog for some time. If you’re unfamiliar, Sonicbids assists artists in booking through their unique online system. You create a Sonicbids EPK, and then find shows in your area, and apply through the Sonicbids platform.

Finding a show near you, or one you’re interested in, might not always be possible.

My main gripes with the Sonicbids EPK is that it’s really intended to focus on Sonicbids gigs.

The layout isn’t that customizable, and the end-user has to click around a bit to find information. Which, they should expect if it’s a Sonicbids event. However, sending a Sonicbids EPK outside of Sonicbids, isn’t always design friendly. It can even be a bit off-putting. To have a Sonicbids EPK, you also need an active Sonicbids account, which isn’t much ($10 a month) but it is an investment.

My Preference, Presskit.to is a relatively low-key platform, but I really enjoy it. It’s also 100% free. The company is now run by Caroline Distribution, which is owned by Universal. It genuinely mimics a microsite, while having all the information succinct, and just a click or two away.

You can easily incorporate streaming embeds, as well as “wins” which showcases your latest news. I’ve used this for my artist for the past few years, and so has Caroline Distro, which is a very solid major-fueled distribution and promo company. The above photo is for artist See.Francis, check out his EPK and see if you dig presskit.to!

Mistake #2: Having Too Little, Or Too Much Info.

Everything in our industry is about balance – while your EPK is a great place to go in-depth, it’s possible to go a little too in-depth. It’s also possible to get a little overly poetic with the copy. While it’s great to believe that you are a “natural born leader with the heart of a lion, whose perseverance in this industry will be sure to illuminate the minds of millions.”

It’s good to play your strengths, but leave some poetic license to the writer.

Also leave some nuggets of backstory to yourself for use in interviews and other instances. I remember I worked with a Gospel group – and their EPK bio, spoke on every member and their own personal journey to finding Jesus. While, hey I was happy for ‘em, it was a bit much for a writer, label or booking agent.

Here’s what should be in your EPK and what it should include:

  • A Long(er) Form Bio.

Your bio should be very, very brief in a pitch. I’m talking a few sentences here.
“Artist X is a Boston native, whose track “Song Y” just garnered 300K streams on Spotify.”

It should be a bit longer for your website.
“Growing up in Boston, Artist X first came in touch with hip hop through his dad’s vinyl collection. During college, his fascination with music composition led him to meet producer, Producer Y, who eventually worked with him on his debut album, Album Z. Z, went on to be an overnight local success, as X kept momentum alive throughout the years.”

And your EPK bio.. A bit longer, and maybe even throw in a few statistics, in case this is sent to any business folks.

“Growing up in Boston, Artist X first came in touch with hip hop through his dad’s vinyl collection. During college, his fascination with music composition led him to meet producer, Producer Y, who eventually worked with him on his debut album, Album Z. Z, went on to be an overnight local success, garnering over 200K monthly Spotify listeners, and to date, has nearly 1 million spins across all platforms.

X isn’t only known for his recordings either. His live performances have led to praise from Blog A, Magazine B and Website C. He’s also performed at SXSW, A3C as well as many other festivals and venues across the US. ”

Is this a hard/fast rule? Nah – you can add in certain details no matter what medium you’re giving your bio on. Just remember, a pitch should be short, website should be fan facing, and EPK should be more for your business connects. So, write accordingly.

  • Press Quality Images.

Keyword here is “press quality” – ensure you do a photoshoot for an album, or get a photographer out to your shows. Remember a good EPK will be used for all business needs – including booking. Therefore, throw in a few live-show photos, too.

  • Latest News.

I love presskit.to’s native “win” feature, as it has a section that showcases the latest things you’re proud of. Maybe you had a big press story, or maybe you hit a big streaming milestone. Things like this – as well as latest/upcoming shows and events, should all be discussed in your EPK.

  • Video & Audio.

This is one huge reason why I advocate not using a Dropbox or PDF EPK – because you want the recipient to be able to quickly listen to your work, without having to break away and go to a new tab, etc…

Be sure to embed audio and video in your EPK – whether that’s a native Mp3 or video file, or just embed a YouTube and SoundCloud clip, which is easiest.

Pro Tip! I usually send a streaming link (SoundCloud/YouTube) in the pitch email – alongside a link to the EPK, because sometimes, the email pitch is enough and they just want to get straight to the music. So, be sure to give your streaming link in a pitch, while also including your EPK link.

  • Stats & Files.

I like to create PDF forms of artist streaming stats – I usually use Spotify’s Fan Insights to create them. I generally include these in an EPK. You can also have a list of notable shows, a master list of press coverage, sales info on merch. Anything that catches the attention of the person reading and sells them on doing business with you.

  • Social Media Links.

Very important – press, labels and venues – all want to see how people are vibing with your work. Be sure that your social links are visible, whether that’s on it’s own page, at the bottom of your bio, or in your footer.

Mistake #3: Not Updating It.

We’ll wrap this up with a simple – but important mistake. Not updating your EPK. Anytime you have a new release, new news or any form of new content – add it to the EPK.

Writers, talent buyers or labels – they may go back and re-read your EPK after a few months. And it’s not a good look to keep it idle. However, more realistically, you’re going to be using this often – and it’s easy to forget about maintaining it.

So, if you make an effort once or twice a month, to update your EPK with any content, you’ll be good to continue using it as you see fit. 

These are just three in-depth, but practical ways to ensure your EPK is great and solid for business use. If you’d like me to glance over your EPK, website, social media channels and more – for advice, reach out at www.wtylerconsulting.com or just email me directly at: tallen@wtylerconsulting.com


w tyler allen

As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more about Tyler Allen’s music consulting and background on his website here.

How Musicians Can Stop Running Out Of Time

[Editors Note: This blog is written by Debbie Stanley, the second in a three-part series that aims to help musicians of all genres and career levels get organized in order to become more productive and meet their creative and professional goals.]

In my last post, I explained why time management is every DIY musician’s most essential organizational skill. We looked at time as a limited resource, similar to money, and at the fact that only a portion of your time (sometimes a very small portion) is actually under your control.

The truth is that you have relatively few hours and a ton of work to do if you want to make it as an indie artist, so you need ways to operate at peak efficiency. There will inevitably be mistakes and circumstances that end up costing you time; a certain amount of that is unavoidable. But what you do with the rest of your time—how you streamline, systematize, and prioritize—could add up to the difference between the career you want and one you’re stuck with.

Budgeting time is similar to budgeting money. When you write a financial budget, the thought process goes like this:

  1. “How much money do I need?” (Add up monthly expenses)
  2. “How much do I have?” (Add up all sources of monthly income)
  3. If it’s not enough: “How can I make more?” and “How can I spend less?”

The process for budgeting time is basically the same, with one key difference: Your ability to “make more time” is limited to what you can pay or persuade others to do for you, so the bulk of your budgeting strategy will likely be about how you can spend less.

How Much Time Do You Have?

If we use the same thought process to start a time budget, estimating 16 waking hours per day and 30 days per month, it looks like this:

  1. “How much time do I need?” (Add up hours of all monthly time commitments)
  2. “How much do I have?” (Total your hours [16×30=480] plus hours contributed by others)
  3. If it’s not enough: “How can I delegate more?” and “How can I spend less?”

Caution: Budgeting time is not as clear-cut as budgeting money. Unless you pay for everything in cash, you can calculate your regular monthly expenses simply by looking at your recent transaction history. But to know how you spent your time, you have to track it manually. You could keep a time journal for a month if you really want to be precise, or you can do like most people and estimate from memory.

This doesn’t have to be perfectly complete: At this point you don’t really need to know what you’ve been doing with all of your time, because presumably you’re planning to get rid of the slackery stuff anyway. You just need to know how many hours are “externally controlled,” meaning formally committed to something.

Let’s add that up:

  • How many hours per month do you spend on your day job or in school? (Include commute time and breaks)
  • How many hours on dressing, grooming, hygiene, meals, and other personal care?
  • Do you require more than 8 hours of sleep per night? Add in the extra time.
  • If you’re on a sports team or committed to recurring fitness classes, how many hours do you spend on that? (Again include commute time)
  • Are you responsible for childcare or tending to your parents? How many hours does it take, both at home and in chauffeuring?
  • Any hours spent on a committee or other volunteering?
  • What about household stuff like laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping?
  • If you already have regular music-related commitments like rehearsals or a residency, how many hours do those take including commute time?
  • Anything else? You want to end up with a total of all hours per month that you either can’t get out of or really don’t want to give up.

Total all of your externally controlled time and subtract it from 480. This is the time you have left each month to make your music career. Was it more than 20 hours per week? If your calculations are correct, you’re blessed with an abundance of available time! Was it fewer than 10? That’s ok—knowing you have less time can help you to stay focused. It can also be the writing on the wall that motivates you to put your music goals ahead of the bowling league or Netflix binges.

Now that you know what you’re working with, you can fill those hours intentionally instead of letting them simply pass you by. Managing your own indie music career brings an endless array of things you could do, paths you could try, approaches you could take, and angles you could explore. You will definitely have no problem filling your time. The challenge is to fill it with actions that have the best potential to contribute to your goals. As you’re devising your strategy, keep the following habits in mind.

Habits That Waste Your Time

  • Failing to define your goals. You didn’t just throw a dart at a board full of industries, land on “music,” and accept it with a shrug. You chose music over all other options because it’s your passion, but you must define it more specifically than that. What part of the music industry? What role do you want? If it’s performance, what instrument? What genre? Touring? If so, where, how often, and to what size of audiences? And dozens more questions. If you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming at, it’s as if you’re throwing darts blindfolded and hoping a bullseye will jump in front of them.
  • Losing sight of your priorities. It’s so easy to take your eyes off the prize. It can happen if you live in reaction mode instead of actively planning your steps. But even if you’re utterly fixated on achieving your goals, you might still be vulnerable if another captivating thing—or person—enters your life. Donovan Keith alludes to this risk in the mournful “Silhouette,” about an enchanting girl “and the promises you made me forget.” Here’s a jarring realization: Having this career requires not having a multitude of other good things. There are difficult crossroads in your future.
  • Mishandling distractions. This is the minute-by-minute version of forgetting your priorities. If you’re supposed to be concentrating on those booking emails or that website update, but as you’re working on it you keep checking Facebook or wandering away for a snack, you’re just making everything harder for yourself and spending more time than you can afford. I trained myself out of this habit with a Nike “Just Do It” poster next to my computer. I cursed at the damn poster countless times, but it kept me on task.Here’s another trick for when your brain keeps interrupting you with reminders of other things you want or need to do: Make a “parking lot” to jot them down and keep going. It could be a pad of sticky notes, a notebook, a note in an app on your phone—whatever method you can use to capture the thought and go right back to work without breaking your concentration.
  • Reinventing the wheel. The most foolhardy myth about time that we nonetheless keep telling ourselves is, “I’ll remember.” Any time you do something that you’re going to do again, document the procedure. Make a checklist. Capture the details of the steps as you’re doing them so the process can go even more quickly and accurately the next time. Then remember to use the checklist next time, and refine or correct it. Soon you’ll have a killer procedures manual and it will be far easier to delegate tasks to others.

Habits That Protect Your Time

  • Write down your Big Picture. In a notebook, in a digital document, on a posterboard, on your mirror with a dry-erase marker . . . whatever way works for you, but somewhere, in some form, have a clear description of your goals and the timeline and tasks that are carrying you toward them. Look at it whenever you’re feeling unfocused or uninspired.
  • Know your flow. How long can you work without losing concentration? 15 minutes? An hour? Do you do better working on something a little bit each day, or in a full-day marathon? Or as career counselor Wilma Fellman asks, are you a sprinter or a plodder? Sprinters like to work on projects when inspiration hits (or a deadline looms), while plodders prefer to do a little at a time within a regular, methodical routine. Whichever you are, don’t try to change—embrace it and make it work for you.
  • Know your energy cycle. Are you an earlybird, a night owl, or maybe the in-between afternoon person? Again, whichever you are, don’t try to change. Studies indicate that this tendency is innate, not just a habit or a preference. Try to complete your tasks at the time of day when you’re most likely to have the type of energy they require: Do email and write social media posts when you’re best able to be quick and upbeat. Handle contracts and advances when you’re sharpest and least likely to make errors. Do routine tasks like posting new shows to all of the online calendar platforms when you’re most tolerant of boredom. Catch up on skimming social media timelines and checking out new music when you’re fried and no good for much else anyway.
  • Recognize false urgencies. The internet, and the email and smartphones it spawned, have conditioned us to respond with urgency to things that are utterly unimportant. Be very selective with who and what you turn on notifications for. Create blocks of isolation when you can silence your phone and work offline, or if the work is web-based, open one browser window at a time. Close yourself in a room if your housemates need a visual cue not to disturb you. You might be surprised at how productive you can be without the constant popups and dings.

Now you’ve got some new ideas for figuring out how much time you really have and making the most of it. In my next post, I’ll give you ways to enlist help from others and to equip them with the tools they’ll need to actually save you time instead of creating more work for you.


Debbie Stanley, owner of Thoughts In Order, has been helping chronically disorganized clients get their act together since 1997. Her next book, The Organized Musician, publishes Sep. 20, 2016.

How To Work That 9-5 and Still Be an Inspired Musician

[Editors NoteThis article was written by Rachel Bresnahan originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog.]

I speak for myself when I say this, but I’m sure plenty of other musicians think the same: we all want a consistent, full-time, make-a-living-off-of-music job. Whether that’s behind the scenes or center stage, being able to sustain a life off of our music would be fantastic.

But because we all need to have a place to live, buy groceries, and pay off student loans, we sometimes have no choice but to opt for a nine-to-five job. It may not be music related, but a day job can make life a little bit easier to handle. However, there are times when it may seem as if you’re focusing less and less on your music and losing touch with that part of your identity.

Even if you aren’t playing or booking gigs every day, that doesn’t mean you’re giving up your musicianship. There are ways to focus on your day job as well as your passion for making music.

1. Set music-related deadlines (and stick to them)

Making time after work to go to the gym, maintain relationships, eat right, and just plain relax requires plenty of effort all on their own. So at the end of the day, we don’t blame you for not wanting to sit down with a metronome or manuscript paper.

Maybe you’re too tired or feeling uninspired, but it’s so incredibly important to keep yourself emerged in a musical mindset with music activities. You don’t have to write a full-length, best-selling album in a night, but you do need to maintain some focus in music.

Try setting some personal or professional deadlines for writing music, practicing, self-marketing, or any other part of your musicianship. If you’re in the process of writing lyrics, plan to have a part of the song done by the end of the week or spend 20 minutes a day drafting emails to send to venues. Creating deadlines and goals, however big or small, will help you keep music in mind even if playing a gig or writing seem too far out of reach for a day’s work.

2. Plan some relaxation time that includes music

A passion for music is great in this way – you can continue to grow as a musician even if you’re not practicing for two hours every day.

Sit down with an album and make the time to actively listen to it – don’t make a snack or check your social media. Just sit. Listen. Think. Doing this will help you listen for elements that may inspire you further to create and add-on to your own music.

3. Ask yourself, “Is this a healthy break, or am I avoiding music?”

I can definitely “out” myself with this one. After taking some time away from music, there are moments when I avoid my craft all together. If you’re like me at all, it’s never a fun practice session when your hands are out of shape. The fumbling, the mistakes, and the frustration can be discouraging and it becomes a vicious cycle. I don’t want to practice because I’m self-conscious of the way I sound, but only practicing will help me get back in shape.

However, taking a well-needed break is also healthy. Hitting the restart button will not only clear your mind, but it will also hopefully make your heart miss making music. What’s the saying? “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” It’s totally okay to take a step back, but make sure you’re doing it with intent.

4. Surround yourself with musicians who inspire you

Spending time with like-minded friends is never a bad idea. Being able to talk to others about music is a wonderful way to keep your head in the game. Take a second to talk about, analyze, and explore music in an intellectual way. These conversations can help you think about music critically; you might even continue to learn new ideas and techniques from others. I find that the people that I surround myself with inspire me the most with my music and keep me constantly thinking of my presence in music.

It’s no easy task to balance a music career while maintaining a life outside of music. But you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re compromising your passion for a steady paycheck. Let us know in the comments below how you’ve managed being a full-time musician with a nine-to-five job.

How To Ask For Feedback

[Editors Note: This article was written by JP Remillard and was originally featured on the LANDR Blog. JP is a mastering engineer with over ten years of experience, a musician, and a label owner. Polish the sound of your next release using LANDR Instant Mastering!]

Feedback: you need it. Especially if you’re trying to get better at producing music.

Feedback will make you a better producer. Critiques mean learning and growing. It’s a must for anyone looking to take their music to the next level.

So how do you get the feedback you need and use if effectively?

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK

It’s simple. If you’re not getting feedback, just ask.

Ask someone you trust. Get feedback from people you respect, artists you can learn from and creators who’ve been in your shoes.

It’s a win-win. They get better from teaching and you get better from learning.

WHAT TYPES OF FEEDBACK TO EXPECT

Knowing what kind of feedback you’re getting helps you to apply it in the best way possible. So know ’em.

Three types of common critiques are:

  1. Technical – Technical feedback is specific. Like “your reverb is too loud” or “your EQ’ing in this part could use a little work.” It’s the most practical and useful kind of feedback. If you’re wondering about a certain part then ask about it! 
  2. Directional – Direction deals with your artistic vision as a whole. If you’re putting your guitars away and picking up an 808 get some directional feedback first. Making drastic career moves is serious. Ask before you act.
  3. Opinion – Opinion feedback is someone telling you if it’s good or bad. It’s the hardest type of feedback to apply. But it’s also the most common. If someone thinks your music is good, then make more. If they think it’s bad, then make more anyways and continue to get better.

Andy Warhol put it best when he said:

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad. While they’re deciding, make more art.”

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HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF CRITIQUES

  • Don’t Jump to Conclusions – Don’t interrupt and try to explain why you did something a certain way. Take everything in before discussing it. Let your mentor flow through their feedback. It helps them get to the core of what they’re trying to say.
  • Encourage Honesty – No feedback is good unless it’s honest. Some blunt feedback might sting a little at first, but it’ll make you a better producer in the long run. Put your pride aside and strive to the get the most honest responses you can.
  • Make a Wrong a Right – If you’re told that something isn’t sounding right, or you did something incorrectly, ask how to fix it. Doing this turns negative feedback into constructive feedback and gives you something concrete to work on.
  • Relax and Take Notes – It’s a fact: writing ideas down helps you remember the stuff that counts. If you just listen, things go in one ear and out the other (you know it’s true). Having notes allows you to reference your feedback later.
  • Follow Up – Once you fix something based on feedback, go back to the source and make sure you did it right. You’ll never know if something is fixed until you ask the person who told you it was broken.
  • Build a Feedback Network – Surround yourself in producers. Having a network of creative people is the best way to be be constantly stimulated and critiqued. There are no solo geniuses. Brian Eno suggests that all great art comes from the Scenius.

GIVE TO GET

If you want feedback, give feedback to others. Be constructive, positive, compassionate. Use ‘liking’ and comment spaces to support and interact.

Everything is an exchange. People remember all the little things you’ve done for them. When you ask for feedback on your own music, they’ll be more willing to help.

CUT THE CRAP

“Check out my SoundCloud bro” is the worst thing you can do. People can sense shameless self promotion. Not only will you not get the feedback you need, you’ll lose a listener forever.

Make it a private, human-to-human interaction. Call them by their real name. A specific approach triggers curiosity and avoids ‘the bullshit radar.’ Plus it makes the discussion more elevated and personable.

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APPLY, APPLY, APPLY

Don’t go to all the trouble of getting quality feedback and then do nothing with it. If you never change, nothing will get better. Sure, some feedback won’t work. But at least try it before you trash it.

Being a better producer means small changes. And small changes mean growth. So get feedback, apply it, and become a better musician.