I hate when people tell me what to do or think.
So this post isn’t going to be an attempt at mind control. This post is meant to be suggestions for helping you succeed as a DIY musician.
A version of this post originally appeared on Audio Issues
The DIY Mindset: Balancing Business And Creativity
The DIY mindset is all about balance. If you want to be a truly independent artist, you’ll need to be genuinely independent.
Being a DIY musician means being able to handle both the creative side and the business side of music.
So here are some tips on how to make that balance more doable.
Schedule time for both business and creativity
Scheduling stuff is a straightforward thing, and prioritizing your schedule could change the way you approach being a musician.
If you’re serious about reaching your picture of success, you’ll need to schedule time to pursue your goals. Blocking off time for recording, songwriting, or practicing for a live show keeps you accountable.
Likewise, scheduling time to do business stuff will keep you accountable.
Examples of “business stuff” would include doing social media, emailing music industry people, writing and scheduling email campaigns, and keeping your finances in order. All things you must do, but things you might not have fun doing.
Scheduling helps, both for creative things and logistical things.
Doing The Creative Side Of Music
Now for some tips on how to do the creative side of music effectively!
Carve out time to create
This goes back to scheduling things.
Do you want to get better at songwriting? Then you’ve got to show up and make time for writing songs. Do you want to produce awesome tracks? Spend time in the studio. Want to become an entertainer? Then schedule practice time.
Music is a marathon, not a sprint
You may have heard it said that music is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about showing up creatively, every day, and taking one more step in the marathon.
Those who succeed are those who persevere.
Unplug for a day
“Phone addiction is real,” says Forbes. “…Even more concerning is the fact that this addiction is linked to some serious mental health risks.”
Not only that, but phones are just distracting unless you’re using them for producing or writing music (I do).
So try unplugging for a day. Delete all social media apps off your phone. Put your phone in another room. Turn it on Do Not Disturb mode.
Consume literature and art
We’re all recycling centers. We consume, then create. Without the former, the latter is much more difficult.
That’s why I suggest reading (or listening to) a book or podcast. Hear other people’s ideas. Intentionally listen to an album. Consume literature or art.
It will fuel your creativity.
Doing The Business Side Of Music
Now for the business side of things. It’s not that fun, but it’s needed.
Think of your music career like a small business
Once you start thinking of your music career as a small business, you’ll begin to take it more seriously. You’ll start to make money from your music.
Here are some things you can do that will help you treat your music career like a small (but growing) company:
- Reinvest in your company
- Open a separate bank account just for music income
- Budget for expenses
- Spend time on music promotion
- Set clear and attainable goals for your career/business
- Create an email specifically for this music business
- Get organized and embrace spreadsheets, to-do lists, and folders
- Start using an email list
The pros and cons of having a manager
Most DIY musicians realize that getting a “big break” is so rare that you shouldn’t expect it to happen. If it does, great.
But most musicians reach their goals by hustling and never quitting. In other words, by being their own manager, at least for a while.
And because you’re doing it all by yourself, you can get overwhelmed by all of the things on your to-do list.
That’s why a lot of people team up with a manager. A manager can take a lot of those logistical things off of your plate, allowing you to focus more on creating more and better music.
However, it’s not always a good idea to get a manager.
Let’s look at some pros and cons of working with a music manager…
- They have contacts: the manager you start working with should have connections. If they don’t, they’re probably not worth the money you’ll be paying them. Your manager should know how the business works, they should understand what needs to get done, and they should be on the same page when it comes to your future.
- They can offer objective feedback: your manager doesn’t necessarily need to love your music. It may be better if they do, but if they don’t, they can still offer you feedback on your brand, style, voice, and overall direction. They should also be able to tell you what’s working in the current music industry and what’s not. They’re not your boss, but they can be really helpful in directing you.
- They can be your advocate: when you pitch yourself to a music industry professional, press outlet, or venue, of course you’re going to hype yourself. But when the hype comes from another source — your manager — it’s much more effective. People see, “Oh, this manager is putting their name on the line to vouch for this artist. The music must be worth checking out.”
- They can be the middle man in disputes: this is especially true if you’re in a band or duo. Managers can end up being the mediator in any arguments or disagreements. If they’re a good manager, they can also help get all members on the same page.
- They cost money: before you partner with a music manager, read the fine print. Be sure you can afford what they charge. A standard contract gives your manager 10% of your earnings. That doesn’t include reimbursing your manager for expenses they’ve incurred, like travel costs.
- You may not be ready for a manager: managers are typically only for artists who have a big enough following and make enough money to afford a manager.
Thinking Like A DIY Musician: One Day At A Time
The main thing to remember is that you’ve got to take it one day at a time.
What can you do today to further your music career? How can you start balancing your creativity with the business side of music? How can you best wear your creative hat and your business hat as an indie musician?
That’s how you think like a DIY musician.
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