If you are anything like most musicians I know, you are trying to fit a music career around a whole load of other stuff: a demeaning job, a screaming baby, a demanding wife / hubby, a barking dog that needs walking three times a day, a temperamental cat and perhaps an expensive coke habit brought on by all the aforementioned. All this means that the time you have left to make or promote music is probably at a minimum and you really need to make the most of it. So, feeling sorry for you, and being a temperamental cat-owning musician myself, in this post I thought I’d share some key time-saving tips for musicians.
1. Get a Dropbox account
These days a music career involves a serious quantity of files. Not just audio files, but PDFs, Word documents, press shots, videos, databases and more. And if you are serious about your music you’ll find that these files inevitably need to be shared between multiple parties: band members, journalists, managers, publishers, publicists, producers, radio pluggers, tea boys…and it can get really messy when these files are shared via round-robin emails. To avoid said messiness, and to ensure that you don’t have to send the same song to the radio plugger AGAIN, it’s much more time-efficient to use a free ‘cloud-storage’ solution like Dropbox to share files. Using Dropbox you can set up a shared folder which everybody involved in a project - regardless of whether they are using a Mac, PC or a smartphone – can access quickly and easily without having to trawl through endless email trails. Additionally, using Dropbox means that all your files get backed up. Handy for when the computer takes your new album down with it.
2. Use email autoresponders to communicate with fans
There are probably quite a few things that you might want to let somebody who signs up to your mailing list know – i.e., how to buy your record, where your social media profiles are located on the web, where to find details of your live dates and crucially, how to become a groupie. With autoresponder services (such as Mad Mimi or Getresponse) you can host your mailing list online and then send various pre-programmed (and nice-looking) emails out to fans at intervals of your choosing. For example, it’s fairly easy to set things up so that as soon as fan signs up to your email list, they get a thank-you message and a link to your online store; 4 weeks later they receive an email about how to follow you on social media; 8 weeks later they get a special discount code for your t-shirts and so on. The point is that this is all done automatically – no more wasting time cobbling together mailing lists and sending crummy e-newsletters out using your Hotmail account. Additionally, because the emails are of the HTML variety, they look pretty; and services like the ones mentioned above handle unsubscribes automatically, meaning no more having to spend ages checking ‘people not to annoy ever again’ lists when you send out your spammy messages (sorry, interesting e-newsletters).
3. Use a ‘social media dashboard’ to manage multiple social media profiles
As a musician you’ll probably have social media pages coming out of your ass – using a ‘social media dashboard’ such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck can save you a truckload of time because such tools let you update all your profiles at once. Additionally, you can use these services to schedule status updates in advance, meaning Hootsuite can tweet inanities about your latest release on your behalf whilst you’re doing something far more productive down the pub.
4. Get to grips with RSS feeds
Gaining a good understanding of RSS feeds can be a huge time-saver. RSS feeds let the content from your site ‘travel’ really easily and crucially, without much effort from you. Using RSS feeds wisely, and in conjunction with some of the tools discussed above, you can set things up so that (for example) when you update the news section of your site, your fans automatically receive an email containing the news in question; your Facebook page gets instantly updated with the same story; a tweet containing a link to the news is posted; the news is pinged to Google’s search engine instantly, and the item appears in RSS readers. All meaning that you only have to write that news story once and can use the time saved to concentrate on oh, I don’t know, writing some songs or something. I don’t have time to go into the technicalities here, but google phrases like ‘What is RSS?’ and ‘RSS to email’ and you should be able to build up a picture of what I’m waffling on about.
5. Use shared calendars
Paper diaries are sooo last century. If you’re in a band, you should use a shared calendar to let bandmates, managers and groupies know when you’re available for a rehearsal, moan or good time (or all three) respectively. So long as everybody else is sharing similar information, you should be able to organise rehearsals, gigs and shags way quicker than by resorting to constant ringarounds or emails. You get a free, shareable calendar with a Google account, so no excuses. (Whilst on the subject of Google accounts incidentally, you may find our post on how musicians can use Google Apps productively interesting too).
6. Use your smartphone smartly
There are a truckload of iOS and Android apps available which are invaluable timesavers (and often lifesavers) for musicians. Which ones will help you most depends on what you are up to, but personally my phone acts as a Dictaphone (for remembering those down tunes that come into my head whilst on the loo); a metronome; a guitar tuner; a notepad for jotting down lyrics; a personal organiser; a multitrack recorder; a device for telling my Facebook fans I’m writing songs on the loo; hell, I even use it as phone. In a nutshell, you should use a smartphone to further your music career during periods where in the pre-iPhone era you might have not got anything done. Like when you're on a boring bus journey, or in an important meeting at work.
7. Plan your music week carefully
Time is like anything else – you have to be organised with it to make the most of it. Don’t do things on the fly. Working out what time you have free each week, what you intend to get done musically with that free time and sticking to a timetable may mean you don’t just end up on Facebook when you could be writing a concept album about beans, or promoting your current critically-acclaimed esoteric jazz-punk fusion release. Make a to-do list and stick to it.
8. And speaking of Facebook…
When your wife, husband, cat or dog does finally allow you to have a bit of free time to concentrate on the real passion in your life (music), for God’s sake don’t waste that precious ten minutes on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or checking your site’s analytics. Or objectifying ladies. The internet’s great and all but I reckon I’d have recorded way more than 2 albums in 6 years had it not been invented. Most musos I know are the same: they moan about having no time to get anything done with their music only to spend any free time they actually do get browsing the web. So when you do have a bit of time to write your jazz-punk-fusion thingy, lock yourself in a room, switch off the internet and don’t come out until it’s written. If you do need to use the internet for musical reasons, for example, sending out e-newsletters about gigs and so on, stay off the saucy sites until the job is done.
Having spent a lot of time writing all the above I am now going to get the guitar out. Oh hang on, there’s some footie on TV tonight.
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