If you're a self-managed artist, then you already understand the struggles of trying to keep your career on track. Being self-managed means you're both the artist and the businessman/woman, and quite often those two titles clash. But it can be done – and fluidly! Countless artists have found the balance between the two roles. Here's how to take control of your career and keep your business on track while not compromising your artistic integrity.
1. Do an audit on yourself
First and foremost, how do you keep yourself on track? Whether we're talking about constantly practicing and improving on your skill, or keeping tally of financials, it's important to be able to recognize where you need the most help. Try to be as unbiased as possible, and don't make excuses. At this point, you want to be as transparent as possible. Part of running a business is accepting your weaknesses head on. Remember, this is ultimately going to help you in the long run. Get your bandmates to perform this audit as well. Look at all the areas of your business objectively and make a list of items that need improvement. Communication, following up, tracking finances, booking outreach, and social media management could be some of things that land on your list.
2. Measure your own goals
Once you've audited your band for everything from financials to fans, performances to practices, begin to measure your own goals. Get everyone in the band to write down what his or her personal and professional goals are. This will help set a benchmark for you to work backwards from. Some may see your band as a hobby, while others see it as a full-time job. During this time, it's important to start a dialog with your bandmates to make sure the work you're putting into your career as a musician isn't going to be affected by those less committed. Some goals might be easy to fulfill, while others might take years. Whether your goal is to reach 5,000 Facebook fans or sell a million albums, it's important that each person's goals are voiced. Revisit that audit and list names of who can help you address the areas in which the band may be weak. Is there some outside help you can hire? A good friend with a knack for bookkeeping who can help get you set up? A conference you can attend that will help you learn more about that area? Do whatever it takes to ensure your weaknesses don't get in your way.
3. Create a to-do list
Now that you've figured out what your goals and your blind spots are, it's time to get your hands dirty. Start with creating a to-do list. And not just one list – make many. The more you write down, the more likely these tasks will get done. Your to-do list should include everything from cleaning your practice space, to writing your next single, to meeting with industry professionals. Turn these things into schedules so they're not weighing in on your brain and taking up creative space. Use task management tools; one of my favorites is called Asana. Artist Growth is a great platform geared towards artists. Even a simple Google Doc will do. If you're in a band, share the to-do list with your bandmates to ensure everyone is on the same page. Divide and conquer the tasks you need help with. Breaking things into smaller pieces will make them more attainable.
4. Understand your financials
Though this is the least fun, it may be one of the most important. As you'll learn early on, a penny saved is a penny earned. If you're starting to get serious as a band, start a bank account and put all funds into it. A sock drawer just doesn't cut it after a while. Know how much getting from Point A to Point B will be and how you'll manage cash flow around these upcoming trips or sessions in the studio. Getting ahead of debt will allow you to make decisions based on what the band needs and what the band can afford. Somewhere between these two roads, you'll find the right path.
5. Be creative every day
Now that your business space is organized and you have goals, to-do lists, and a plan, your mind should be freed up to be creative. Separate time for yourself to work on your music and don't be distracted by incoming emails, etc. It's important you protect this time and you stay on top of your other tasks to ensure you can focus on your creative work.
6. Stay inspired
The music is only half the job; it's important to love even the tedious aspects of being a musician. Try to highlight the aspects you like, and educate yourself on things you might be struggling with. When it comes to marketing, publicity, or financials, there are countless resources that can be found online to help you with your career. Subscribe to newsletters and magazines, and do your research. Read up on success stories from artists like yourself, and use them as inspiration when it comes to your career.
7. Reward yourself
You're not in it alone, so share good news when you receive it. It's important that all of your hard work is rewarded and celebrated. Give yourself a pat on the back. You've stayed focused and strong, organized in your business and creative space, and you deserve a high five!
Good luck, and I hope this helps you find a balance!
Sari Delmar is the CEO & Founder of Audio Blood, a full-service artist and brand development company based in Toronto, Ontario.
Courtney Parkes is Audio Blood's Marketing Manager. She has played a leading role in launching out-of-the-box marketing activations and strategies for Pistonhead Lager, PledgeMusic, Canadian Music Week, Hidden Pony, Sneaky Dee's, and more.
Audio Blood is a community of young, culturally engaged, and inspired tastemakers. Audio Blood has earned their name as Canada's go-to hub for groundbreaking events and talent by making genuine and honest connections with every person we work with. It's AB's so-crazy-it-just-might-work approach to marketing that have people turning their heads internationally.