As we all know, thriving in today’s music business can be very challenging, even WITHOUT a global pandemic. Developing a professional mindset can help you set goals, establish momentum, and better prepare you to get on the path to success.
For the most part, “being professional” and a “recipe for success” is probably pretty similar for those working within the music space as in any other field, a formula consisting of hard work, dedication, punctuality, collaborating and communicating well. A few key differences with regard to the music industry: turning a profit is so hard to come by (working within a “freemium-dominated space”), as well as the fact that competition for potential (or even CURRENT!) followers’ ears and eyeballs is fierce. Competition is of course a factor in any business, but within the music world, there is a staggering number of producers, labels and DJs who are releasing massive amounts of music and podcasts every day, and often for free. The Internet/social media has proven to be at the same time both a blessing as well as a curse, on the one hand offering music-makers and promoters potentially limitless opportunities to connect with new audiences, while on the other, fighting to stand out in a vast sea of players can be pretty tough. With all of these factors in mind, how to even go about it??
The answer: a STRATEGIC APPROACH, an essential part of which is having a professional mindset…
Here are a few key points to keep in mind:
DEFINE YOUR GOALS
Establish what success will mean to you.
This will vary, of course, depending on whether you are a producer, label head, DJ, or promoter, but in any case there will be probably be some similarities or overlap: you will most likely want to increase your following on social media, increase download sales and stream counts of your music, get more visitors to your website, or acquire more clients.
ESTABLISH A SET SCHEDULE/CONSISTENCY
You’ll see this talked about and written in many different places: doing tasks within a set, regular time period or schedule can help you focus and eliminate distractions/excessive multi-tasking, since you are devoting that day and time period to ONLY DOING THAT PARTICULAR TASK AT HAND. Maybe do the majority of your planning for the week ahead on Sundays or Mondays, new releases on Tuesdays, connect with your fans on Thursdays or Fridays, etc. Also, you can benefit greatly from MOMENTUM: start doing one thing, continue, finish, and then you will be ready to move on to the next task 🙂
“The force goes into the flow” – Neil Peart, Rush
SET UP AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE YOU CAN BE MOST PRODUCTIVE
Find ways to optimize your workflow/workstation, become more organized, pre-plan your work whenever possible, prioritize tasks, and eliminate distractions… If you know there is a certain time you are more productive (early mornings, late-nights), then maybe set aside that time block to do a certain task (especially if it requires mire quiet or concentration). Pre-scheduling social media posts can also be very useful: on Facebook and WordPress for example, you can create and then schedule your posts to go live at a certain time and date, allowing you to batch-create content ahead of time, to the degree that you have it ready.
*Producers, JP Lantieri has some nice tips on organizing your DAW
This can *force you to get things done (providing, of course, that you honor the deadlines you have set for yourself! – this also takes self-discipline….)
I’ve heard it somewhere too that one way you can do this (in terms of strategic planning) is by figuring out how long it takes to do certain routine tasks that you do regularly (such as making a promo video, sending out emails, brain-storming new ideas). You can then factor this in to developing your schedule.
KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE IN MIND
When creating promotional content, keep your audience in mind, this is one key aspect of the professional (for example, I listen to music with a different ear when I’m listening on behalf of Electrofans than when I would be listening on my own) While I realize that, for artists creating their own music, making the exact kind of music they feel is of course important and ideal – and will likely be appreciated all the more so by their true fans, but as for marketing/social media content especially, you want to keep your audience in mind. Understand the main kinds of information they will be looking for (release dates, website links, etc) and make sure to provide it to them.
Realizing that things are going to take TIME (and lots of it). Everything (as you already know, producers) takes time and a ton of work, and factoring into the equation that there will be many edits, revisions, etc is essential — nothing of quality happense easily or overnight — so you have to allow for this. For example, I have completely realized after putting together a podcast regularly each month for Electrofans for going on three years now, that YOU JUST CAN NOT RUSH IT, and that IT’S A PROCESS – that you have to allow for. (But over time, you CAN expedite certain things to help you speed up the process a bit).
And remember the “forest for the trees” metaphor: it can become easy to lose your perspective by becoming overwhelmed by so many things you have to do and how hard you have to work in order to achieve success. Keep in mind that things will take time, and that you have to pace yourself, but if you keep working steadily, you WILL eventually see improvements (more followers, better-sounding mixes, etc). You could also maybe do an evaluation from time to time of things you work on during your regular daily or weekly routine, and if you find that a certain thing may be taking TOO much time and is not perhaps contributing enough to the bottom line of what you’re trying to achieve, maybe you could cut it from your schedule. At the same time, if something takes more time and work than others, but is really essential to your ultimate goal (such as, for me, writing [more detailed] blog posts, or putting together the Electrofans podcast each month), than you’ll just have to accept the fact of how much work is involved, and maybe over time you can find little ways to accelerate your workflow (starting from presets or templates, etc)
STAY AS “EMO-FREE AS POSSIBLE”
(REALLY important for working within the music industry in any capacity:) This can be very hard, I know, but to the degree that you can do it (including not taking things personally if you don’t hear back from that label you’re trying to pitch / artist you’d like to collaborate with, etc), is very important 🙂
If someone doesn’t respond back to you right away, it’s important to keep in mind that they might be CRAZY crazy-busy, maybe you could kindly send them a reminder nudge (one) after maybe a week or so (I can actually say that I can sometimes appreciate getting a little “reminder email” from someone, because I have so many things I have to do, plus it can also reinforce that someone is genuinely serious about working with you in some capacity. *Make sure to be careful with this though, as you definitely do not want to spam or annoy someone)
RE-INSPIRE YOURSELF (regularly)
If you’re “not feeling the work vibe” at a particular moment, maybe go out and take a walk, listen to a quick pick-me-up song, or grab a cup of coffee or tea and a little snack.
*When you get burned out, take a step back (take two or even THREE steps back if need be), and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and when you get back to work on your project, freshly re-charged, you can realize how the individual task at hand you’re working on fits into the bigger picture of your grand strategy!
STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN DISCIPLINE AND FLUIDITY
One of the key components of success is absolutely: DISCIPLINE, no exceptions here, at the same time though, it may actually be better with certain tasks to add in a certain degree of flexibility. Example: my new goal for the ‘Electronic Music Pro’ space here on Electrofans is one new article each week (ideally each Monday). I had wanted to already get this article in the can and have it published by now, but then I realized “wait a minute, this is gonna take some time to say what I want to say in an organized fashion,” so I then decided to take a reasonable amount of time to whittle out all the edits of the finished version.
(I’m actually starting to realize, right now as I write this article in fact, that perhaps some tasks [such as writing more involved blog posts, or ANY DETAILED WORK] are best approached by carving them up into STAGES: Step 1) Start – flesh out the important points, 2) Edit, 3) Take a break (important!), 4) Edit, 5) Take another break, 7) Final edits and 6) publish (or “Export audio file” :p)
Through sheer tenacity, clear definition of your goals, and working regularly toward achieving them, you can increase your following, improve the effectiveness of communication with your fans and improve the overall quality and efficiency of your catalog or workflow. Hope these little thoughts and ideas can help you to increase productivity and maybe even help you down the pathway to success if even in some really small way.