Ben Washer is co-founder and CEO of Reach Records.
Organized, structured, accounting, planning….I better stop before you throw up. Those words are rarely used to describe a musician. When we think of a life in music the last thing that comes to mind is dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. It’s more of a creative, free flowing, spontaneous, type of life right?
But if you’ve been in music for any length of time, chances are you’ve had a rude awakening about the “back office” of life. All the areas we don’t think of when we picture a life in music, are exactly the areas that cause the most stress and have the potential to ruin our creativity.
There is nothing worse than being out on the road or in the studio, stressed out about another bill that you forgot to pay. You want to be focused on the moment, but instead once you realize the late bill, you think of a million other things that still need to be done or were forgotten as well. Before you know it, creativity, expression, and your artistic passion are drowned out because the office of life is out of order.
The stress piles up because humans tend to ignore the things we aren’t good at. So the snowball effect continues until something hits the fan and you have to stop everything to address the disorganization of life. Over there you have all the things you are talented at you could be doing, but over here you are neck deep in tasks that make you want to quit because its too hard.
But for someone else, all that stuff isn’t too hard. In fact, its naturally easy. You just have to find the right people to help you. An old poet said “No man is an Island”. Which means you probably need to get to work finding some more people to be a part of your team.
Believe it or not, for every music type, there are others who are gifted in administrative areas like accounting who actually like doing it! We are all different, but we were made to work together to accomplish things. Despite what the media may tell us, the one perfect person doesn’t exist in this world. For every superstar, there is a team of people making the machine run.
There are so many areas of a career that need planners and organizers to help make it the best possible experience for you and your fans. Merchandise management, online order fulfillment, accounting, project management, booking and travel, taxes, bill paying, etc etc. I’m not even talking about huge careers, this holds true for the part time artist.
When you have gifted people helping you out in areas that you are weak, you will find tremendous freedom. Your creativity gets a boost, your passion is ignited, and now you are released to create and do what you do best as an artist.
But where do you start? How do you find those people? When you are buried in to-do lists (if you even have a list), it feels like the last thing you can do is stop and go search for someone. Trust me, you will be thankful that you did.
- Write down a list of all things you are doing that you hate to do
- Put down the type of person next to each item that needs to handle it (accountant, intern, etc)
- Think of people you know who could possibly help you out, or that you can pay to handle it for you
- Ask around for services/websites/people that might meet your needs in areas that are causing you stress.
Here is a dead simple list you can do in 30 minutes in order to get the organization side of life running more smoothly.
Also, here is a list of groups that have greatly helped our label and artists by effectively handling niche services in different areas. Others are out there as well, so ask around, but we have found these specific groups to work for our needs (note: I am not getting paid for these mentions! It is truly for your benefit.)
Obviously the best digital distro service on the planet.
Company that pays all your bills, does your taxes, tracks everything so you can get some financial relief. They specialize in musicians.
Send a design, they do the rest from manufacturing shirts to online orders to customer service. You get your own online store and they send you a check every month.
A painless way to track and budget your money day to day.
Of course we all end up having to do things we don’t love to do. That’s life. But it doesn’t mean we have to be stuck buried under the weight of all the tasks that distract us from our main goal. Free yourself, become a better artist by releasing the tasks which keep you away from actually being an artist. If you don’t take action now, then a year from now everything will still be the same. Pause, take a few hours, go to a coffee shop and get off your island.