Wouldn’t life be great if we could just sit and play/create music all day? That is a delightful idea . . . and unfortunately not even remotely a reality for most, if not all of us. If you are managing your own career, you have probably already found out that music isn’t the only thing that demands your time throughout the day. Emails, texts, phone calls, social media updates, budgeting, etc. all vie for your attention and can seemingly be endless. While they may be cumbersome at times to deal with, it is imperative that you keep yourself organized if you wish to have a career in music. Let me repeat that . . . it is imperative that you keep yourself organized if you wish to have a career in music. And all together now . . . “it is imperative that . . .” Just kidding but you get the idea. I can’t tell you how many how many folks I’ve run across whose organization and ultimately, communication is less than stellar. Generally speaking, those two things are heavily connected. We all get backlogged sometimes but it ultimately comes down to a very simple idea . . . want to work? Stay organized. This seems to be the bane of many musicians. That might seem harsh but I’ve seen it far too many times for it to be a coincidence. So, here are 5 tips to help you keep you on track:
- Set aside time during the day for the organizational stuff – It’s very easy for the extra-music stuff to completely dominate your time. To be honest, there are days where this is unavoidable, especially if you’re at a pro level and you’re self-managing. But, setting aside a specific time during the day to do it (over morning coffee, just after lunch, etc.) can help keep you on track with our own goals and whoever you’re doing business with and allow you to keep it under control without it dominating everything else. Bear in mind, this does tend to fluctuate but if you strive to keep it to a certain part of the day when possible, it can help.
- Stay on top of your emails (or any communication) – While this is easily contained in tip 1, it demands its own mention because as working musicians, we live and die by our ability to communicate. Whether it is texts, emails, calls, or Facebook messages, it is important to respond to these things in a timely fashion. If people feel that they are being blown off, they are less likely to hire you. Whereas, if you make timely communication a part of your organizational process, folks will generally be more inclined to contact you for work.
- Learn Excel (or a similar spreadsheet program) – Your need for this may heavily depend on what you are doing in music but believe it or not, knowing how to build and manipulate a spreadsheet is quite valuable. A spreadsheet allows you to, by default, cleanly build things like music libraries w/links, cost estimate templates, and much more. Want to be able to send subs one document with links to everything they need in a tight, organized fashion? You can do that with a spreadsheet program. You could also have that same document built with tabs for every instrument with links to their respective sheet music folders. Many folks do use Word-like programs to accomplish these tasks and while I do concur that it is possible to use them for this purpose, personally, I feel that Excel (or similar programs) pack a lot more punch in this department.
- Utilize a shareable online storage service – Most folks I run across at this point are already hip to this but for anyone who isn’t using something like Google Drive, I would strongly recommend it. The ability to send files of virtually any type is more accessible than ever before. Maintaining a folder of charts, MP3s, setlists, stage plots, etc. is indispensable for on-the-go musicians. Case in point, if you never heard from the venue regarding an FOH (front of house) contact and you need to send your stage plot and input list; if you have it on a drive, you can text a link to the .PDF right there at the venue while standing in front of them. All you have to do is take the time to set it up.
- Make physical to-do lists (as in, pen and paper) – It’s cliched and tired, but it works and it truly does help. As stated earlier in the post, we are bombarded by things all day long and with the addition and evolution of social media over the past 10-15 years, it’s easy for these things to distract us and keep us from accomplishing whatever tasks we need. Now, why pen and paper? I’m sure you’re thinking, “it’s 2019 . . . you’re clearly out of touch.” Before you dismiss it, hear me out. I use digital lists as well but when we physically write something down, there is a mental finality to that and with the exception of throwing it away, it will sit there on your desk and stare back at you until you do something about it (check it off, cross it off, etc.). It’s less about the physical medium and more about the psychological effects of using that medium. Try it . . . I think you’ll be surprised. On top of that, digital lists often exist on our phones, and generally no more than page swipe from our social media of choice . . . and there goes our productivity.
Aaron Kusterer is a musician, producer, tour manager, and composer based out of Long Beach, CA. He has performed with artists such as Eddie Money, Juanes, Mitch Malloy, and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson) to name a few. He has also performed across the globe during a 10-year stint with the United States Air Force Band, 6 years of which was spent as a music director and tour manager. In addition, he owns and operates Advantage Tour Management. For more information on him, check out: AaronKusterer.com.