There’s no doubt that juggling the many tasks you need to do as a developing music artist is challenging. This is particularly tricky if you are also working around a full-time job or studies at the same time as trying to move your career music career forward.
However, prioritisation and time management is challenging at every stage of your career. As you become more established and more successful, it doesn’t necessarily mean it becomes easier. In fact, if anything, it can become even tougher – you’re more in demand, your team grows and then there is even more people and schedules to be managing. Priorities need to be clear and time management needs to be slick across the board, so that the entire team is working together cohesively.
How you prioritise the tasks which are most important and how you manage your time is an ongoing balancing act throughout a music career. But if you are working independently or are perhaps at the very beginning of your careers where you’re doing everything by yourselves, I know that this can feel even more overwhelming than usual. It’s sometimes difficult to find the energy to devote consistent time to your music career around everything else you have to do.
As an artist manager, I’ve had to perfect my time management and prioritisation skills down to a fine art – teaching my artists techniques and helping them to focus on priorities effectively. Times that by 3, 4 or 5 different artists you might be managing and you get the picture as to how crucial this is.
Here’s how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist:
1. Focus on the music first
If you’re at the very beginning stages of your career, you feel you’re still a new artist, or your sound is still developing, really focus on getting a clear sound identity down first.
If your sound identity is still unclear, i.e. you haven’t been able to narrow down and define exactly what your genre/style/defining musical motifs are, and what you want to be communicating musically as an artist, continue focusing on this until you’ve defined it.
Then focus on getting a really great product (and when I say product I mean high quality recording of songs that you’ve written or performances of your voice/instrument) under your belt. If you don’t yet have high quality recordings of songs or performances that you’re proud of, this is your starting point.
Make sure you focus on the music first. This is absolutely your top priority in the beginning stages of your career, because until there’s some singing, playing or songwriting of yours to showcase you can’t drive anything else forward.
2. Make audience-building part of your daily routine.
Audience building is one of the most important tasks of your job as a music artist. However, lots of artists make the mistake of thinking that audience building can’t start until they have a release to promote, or have played X number of shows, or until that have a manager – in truth, if you don’t begin building your audience til this point you are likely late.
A small and sustainable way of starting to audience build is to document your musical journey. For example, what are you working on each day that is a part of your music career that you can give a snapshot of for anyone who’s following you on social media. Been writing lyrics? Photograph them. Been rehearsing? Film a clip of it for your followers to hear. Playing a gig? Livestream a song from it for those that couldn’t attend.
Choose a social media platform and share just one behind-the-scenes look at what you’re working on musically each day of the week. By the end of the week you’ll have shared seven pieces of content that have given people some insight as to where you are in your music career, what’s coming in future, and what’s going on the behind-the-scenes!
There’s lots of other audience building strategies and approaches you can take further on down the line when you start putting campaigns into place around your music releases. In the meantime, you can start building your audience in this simple way now. You can even do it on the way to work!
3. Batch your tasks
Make a list of everything you need to do of a week – that might be songwriting new lyrics or material, recording, rehearsing, curating social media content, collaborating with co-writers and producers.
Then try and batch those so that you’re focusing on one thing at a time. For example, if your focus is on the music and you know that you need to write or record new material, make sure that you set aside a specific time to do that.
Maybe Saturdays are specifically dedicated to songwriting, Mondays are the days when you contact promoters and open mic nights about coming to perform, Tuesdays for a half an hour is the day that you really focus in on your social media.
During each time you will only focus on that time slots allocated task, rather than flitting from one task to another. Otherwise your focus becomes very diluted.
If you can, avoid trying to complete 20 different things that are your list all at once, or split your focus amongst lots of different tasks. I find it’s much more productive to spend intensive time focusing on just one task at a time.
Knowing in advance what you will be working on at a given time also allows you to prepare and organise around it much more easily. Crucially, you should find this allows you to complete tasks more quickly.
4. Eliminate unnecessary tasks
As a developing music artist, yes there is lots to do. But it can also easily feel like there’s even more to do than there really is – I’ll explain why. Instead of just keeping busy, you should really be thinking about if I task has a return on its investment of time. Is it a necessary task, in other words? Much of the work you undertake may not be. But how do you tell?
If a task isn’t either improving your craft, strengthening your brand, building your audience or making you money, it is likely an unnecessary task. Sure, there’s lots of little things you can do that might make minimal improvements in a certain area, but if it’s not having a specific return on investment it may not be worth the time it takes. For example, if you are playing a gig to help build your audience, does that gig attract audiences who fit your own audience demographic? Does it get good numbers of people through its doors? Are they likely to be responsive to the style and type of act you are? These are the types of questions you should be asking to determine whether this is a task worth undertaking.
It isn’t possible to do everything at once, especially if you’re working full-time or you’re studying so it’s important to prioritise. When time is at a premium, if a task doesn’t fit into any of these categories you can probably eliminate it.
5. Take one action every day (no matter how small)
If you want to make sure that your music career is moving forward consistently, make sure that you’re taking one action towards it per day. Whether you have 10 minutes to spare, or you have two hours to spare, make sure that you’re doing at least one action per day. This ensures that momentum is kept even when working around a busy schedule, and allows you to fee that you are not neglecting your music career.
If you save all your music tasks and do them on one day at the weekend, it can become quite overwhelming and very easy to procrastinate (hence falling behind with your goals) instead of breaking these into more manageable chunks. As a result, quite often what that means is that nothing happens because you don’t get around to it, or something else comes up and the time that you set aside to focus on your music career falls by the wayside. Sound familiar?
Break down your to-do list of tasks that you need to do that week into small chunks and do one of those things a day, even if that’s just sending one email or posting one thing on social media. That way you know that you’ve at least done something, focused a little bit on your music career that day.
Those were my tips on how to prioritise tasks as a developing music artist. I hope they help. If you have any more tips that you have found help you prioritise tasks in your music career, please do leave them in the comments to share with fellow developing music artists.
For more on this topic you can view a previous AR Seminar on this topic here and for more information on the ‘Self-Manage Your Music Career’ course, please register your interest here.