Pretty much every indie musician I’ve talked to has two big problems: there’s just too much to do, and despite putting a lot of time and effort into their career, they feel stagnant, like they’re not making any progress.
In this article, we’re going to solve these two problems with one stone. If you want to go further, I have a time management and productivity ebook as well as a goal-setting ebook that you can download for free to keep the momentum going in your music career.
The problem with doing all the things
For sure, you have a lot of responsibilities as an indie artist, and a lot of those tasks are important. But what if I told you that you were wasting a lot of time and effort doing things that may not have as big an effect on the growth of your career as you thought?
Let me explain. The DIY revolution has pushed the mindset that you need to do everything on a lot of musicians. The music market is so crowded that we feel like we have to be on every single social media platform out there if we want to be successful. On top of that, revenue streams are diminishing and fragmenting so we feel like we need to be drawing from all the revenue streams to actually make money.
But here’s the flaw: if you’re trying to split your limited time between everything, you probably don’t have the time to dedicate to each to do them really well. And as a result, you’re taking a lot of small steps in different directions instead of focusing your efforts on a few things and taking your steps all in the same direction.
Let’s take a look at an example. If you’re using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and SoundCloud to promote your music and connect with your fans, can you realistically fully understand and master each platform? Will you know the best times to post, the best ways to engage, and the best ways to link, all the while pushing out unique content and actively engaging with fans on all platforms? Probably not. All social media platforms are different and all of them require a unique approach if you want to be truly successful.
It’s the same for revenue streams. If you really want to be successful licensing your music, you can’t treat it like a passive income stream – just putting your music out on licensing sites probably won’t get you very far. You need to be actively improving your songs, co-writing, networking in the licensing industry, sending personal emails, and doing research to find the productions your music would fit best.
It’s the same with everything else you might do in music – gigging, recording, releasing music, YouTube cover videos, and merch. If you try to do everything, you simply can’t give everything enough attention to make your endeavors really successful. In short, you’ll be doing a lot of things halfway, never actually putting in enough effort to reach your goals. You’ll be doing a lot of things, but not getting anywhere with any of them.
The focused approach
So how do you get past this perpetual overwhelmed feeling and also start seeing real, meaningful progress in your music career? It may seem counterintuitive, but the key is to do less, but better. If you really want to be successful, it’s not about doing a million different things and hoping it will work out. It’s about knowing where you want to go and taking calculated steps to get there. And saying no to everything else.
So how do you simplify? The first step is to really understand your goals in music. What is the one thing you really want to accomplish with your music? For sure, you can expand your efforts and start taking on more things as your career grows, but for now, try to find your one thing.
If you really want to spend most of the year gigging and touring, why waste your time trying to get licensing placements for your songs? Instead, focus on making connections in the live industry, developing your setlist, improving the way you set up your merch table, and promoting your shows. Maybe you could start doing streamed concerts or house concerts and develop some really cool merch. All these tasks really compliment touring and gigging, so the steps you take will lead towards a common goal.
The next step is to look at all the little tasks you’re doing every day and start cutting things out. What tasks aren’t taking you closer to your goals?
Is posting YouTube covers actually going to help you reach your goals in music, or are you just doing it because it’s popular and some industry expert told you it was a good strategy to get more fans? Despite what you may hear, doing YouTube successfully is a huge undertaking that goes way beyond just posting videos. But if you want to become known as a cover musician, or if you want to use YouTube channel monetization or micro sync licensing into a main revenue stream, it can be a worthwhile undertaking.
Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.