Making Time to Make Music

My last post dealt with some suggestions as to how to become a successful musician, with defining success for yourself as the most important of those suggestions. In this post I’ll point you to “Artistic Efficiency: How to Create More and Get Out of Your Own Way,” a wonderful article by Michael Shoup. In it, he lays out the five steps that took him from touring his way into over $6,000 worth of debt (an event that almost derailed his music career) to ditching the debt, completing an album, starting a music marketing company, and booking an extensive, money-making tour. Briefly stated, those five steps are:

  1. Minimize. Shoup says that the first thing musicians need to learn is how to cut out all of the things that suck valuable time out of their days. Ask yourself what sort of things you do during the day, and then ask yourself what would happen if you just stopped doing them. Would you have more time to practice, to write, to record? Does that extra time fit in with your definition of success? 
  2. DelegateRule #1: Never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Rule #2: Always try to get someone else to do it for you. You get the idea. Likely there are some tasks that you may be able to stop doing yourself, but they still have to be done by someone. You may be able to hire someone to help, but if you’re like most up-and-coming musicians, you’re probably a little short about now. Tap into your network of friends. Perhaps they can help you free up some time.
  3. Prioritize. As a former trainer with FranklinCovey, I can attest to the fact that knowing your priorities and making time for them is the key to a happy life. When you minimize, you begin to realize that you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. Shoup makes a list of things he needs to do and then ranks the list according to what he deems most important. All of a sudden he’s focused on the things that matter the most.
  4. Automate. This step is closely related to delegation. What are some routine tasks that could be taken care of automatically, but without becoming too impersonal? For example, Shoup funneled his booking emails to an auto-responder that followed up and sent a press release without his having to get involved.
  5. Create. Shoup’s last step is actually the result of having minimized, delegated, prioritized, and automated. This is so important, Shoup says, because

[a]s an artist or content creator, this is what will actually make or break you in the end. This is what you should be funneling the vast majority of your time and effort into as it feeds your authentic ability to connect and engage your audience.

These steps need to be running in the background as you chart your path to musical success. Make them your operating system. Cleaning the clutter from your life is a good thing, even if you don’t yet know what you need to do to be successful. My guess is that you’ll figure that out during the creative time you’ve managed to carve out for yourself.

Visit Michael Shoup at his website.m

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