The debate has literally been waged for centuries: should artists and creative types care about money? Or should they toil away at their craft and share their work for free, because they love the creative process so much? You’ll find arguments on either side, but even for those who do not charge (or charge only a little) for their work, make no mistake: music is a business. And it needs to be approached as such if a musician wants to be successful.
Data, Data, Data
Business is all about numbers. Not just the numbers associated with your bank account — although, those are important, to be sure — but the whole collection of different data types relevant to you. You need to track everything: how many albums/products you sell, how many people attend your shows, how much traffic your website gets, the number of visits to your sales pages on all of your online sales portals (BandCamp, CDBaby, SoundCloud, etc), email engagement, and a whole lot more.
Trying to keep track of and interpret these numbers manually is incredibly difficult, but there are plenty of tools out there that can do the work for you. Many professionals turn to a business intelligence tool like Tableau, but there are lots of challengers out there vying for its place in the usability rankings.
Messaging and Branding
When we were younger, we’d have to wait for days, weeks, months, or even years for news of our favorite band’s comings and goings. Those days are long gone. Today, if a musician wants to be successful, they need to reach out to their audience every single day. Thankfully, since the invention of blogging and social media, this has gotten much simpler and takes far less time than it used to.
Tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and CrowdFire allow you to schedule your social posts in advance. Services like MailChimp and Tiny Litter have made newsletter creation and management a simple and streamlined process. And because we live in the future, even interacting one-on-one with fans is doable. Responding to messages and liking/fave-ing mentions of you on social media are great ways to engage with your audience in between album releases.
As a musician in charge of your own business, you have a lot going on. Obviously, you need to keep creating music. You also have to manage your data, update your website and social media feeds, reach out to collaborators/clients, manage the production and distribution of the music you make — which means coordinating between vendors, giving interviews, sending invoices, paying bills, tracking your inventory, and trying not to lose your mind. Even the most organized among you can’t do this in a completely analog fashion–no matter how much you may love your bullet journal.
Project Management tools like 17 Hats, Trello, Evernote and One Note are fantastic ways to keep track of your tasks and your time. You can find tools that allow you to do everything through one dashboard or you can break these tasks down into groups: invoicing/money/budget tracking, project management/coordination, and scheduling. Be prepared to try a few different combinations and methods before you find the one that jives with your work style and approach.
Make no mistake: there is more to being a successful and profitable musician than simply making music and hoping people listen. You have to put yourself out there and learn how to properly market and sell your music. Thankfully, there are a lot of great time-saving tools to help you do that.