Music Career Self Management 101

Let’s face it – we all know that mastering time is a big piece of being successful. And even more, is fitting it all in, especially when you have a music career. It seems like every artist I meet is pretty overwhelmed these days – everyone needs help managing the hours in a day, and knowing how to better slice the pie.  Most of us still spend far too much time on Facebook as it is, sigh (whoops, that’s not the type of self management we need).

But not getting control of time, or not learning how to manage it, will leave your career – and you – in the dust – and I know those of you reading this (or me for that matter) are not the kind of people who are up to letting THAT happen!

So, how can you get a hold of your to-do list and not only get it all done, but continually make progress? I’ve been looking into it and decided to exercise my hand in creating a system – one that works specifically for musicians – I’m calling it: the Self Management System for Music Creators and Creative Types, because I think it’s not only about managing time – it’s about managing You and a system to work off of that incorporates you, your music and music business time.

You know I hear so often many artists say “If I just had a manager,” thinking a manager is the magic answer. But honestly, if you can’t manage yourself, no one else can either! If you’re truly going to have a successful artist-based career, the first step is self management. Let’s face it, the better you are at it, the more successful you will be, and it starts right here.

The Self Management System: Time Management for Music Creators & Creative Types

At the core of everything you do is primarily one thing that you can’t live without – You. So guess what happens when you are not at the helm? Everything else suffers. This is a constant lesson for those of us with careers in music. Now, most of you will say (even myself included sometimes) that’s a bunch o’ BS. Because we just want results, we don’t want to have to manage ourselves – that’s for someone else to do – but not when you understand what it can do for you.

What happens when you can’t manage yourself:

  • You get sick (often) because you run yourself into the ground splattering your energies everywhere all at once…
  • You waste your precious time and efforts by having to do things two or three times over, because you weren’t focused the first time you did it, and you didn’t plan for what was coming, sigh.
  • You hire a publicist who does absolutely nothing for you because you thought THAT was the answer…

Sound all too familiar? I know because I see it happen every day — and — it happened to me too! That’s why I’m creating this system, because I know there’s always a better way – and I want to bring it to you too!

Slicing the Pie: Here’s a new way to slice the pie three ways: Self Management >> Music >> Business

If you are not at the helm, everything else suffers. Self management is first – at the foundation, followed by music second and business third. It’s kind of the evolution of how this thing goes. You commit to yourself and become a musician (self management), you create your music in the world (music) and you bring it to the world (business).

The breakdown of the pie is based on the 10,000 Hour Theory, which says that in order to be great at anything (music, sports, dance, even business) you need 10,000 hours of it (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers – the part about the Beatles and their 10,000 hour rise to fame).

Add to that the fact that today you not only have to be good at music but you have to be good at business and management- in essence, you would need 10,000 hours for each category – but wait – don’t freak – there’s a plan!

Now let’s break down 10,000 hours into 10 years:

10,000 hours divided by 10 years = 1000 hours.

Divide 1000 hours by 48 weeks (give yourself 4 weeks off) = 20 hours per week.

I’ve broken it down into two versions – one for those of you who do music full-time and the second for those of you who have a day job.

So, there are 96 hours in a week to be productive (sans 8 hours for un-negotiable sleep-time and one full day off). And yes, I know that includes eating, grooming and traveling – but I have created some ways to multi-task so even those minutes are focused and effective (you’d have to see the whole plan to get the whole picture).

So, If You Do Music Full-time:

So you have Mon – Sat = 6 days x 16 hours = 96 hours per week (sans 8 hours for non-negotiable sleep-time and one full day off).

Divide those 96 hours into 3 sections: 1- Self Management, 2- Music and 3 – Business, and you have 32 hours per week for each category.

Weekly: Self-Management= 32 hours, Music = 32 hours, Business = 32 hours.

If you have a Day Job:

Let’s say that you work 4 days a week, Mon – Thurs, 8 hours each day – that’s 32 hours (and if you don’t have a 4 day workweek – get one!)

So you will have to subtract 32 hours from the 96, which leaves you 64 hours. Divide 64 hours of into the 3 categories, which leaves 21.33 hours per category.

Weekly: Self-Management= 21.33 hours, Music = 21.33 hours, Business = 21.33 hours.

Here’s a rough idea of what falls into each of the 3 categories:

Self Management: 
Planning/goal setting, scheduling, brainstorming (or brain-dumping), visualization (critical – if you can’t see it, it won’t happen), reading (researching, reading other musician autobiographies, & poetry – inspiration for your lyrics), visualizations/affirmations (every morning & night), meditation (this is your clarity folks!), shopping (got to be fashion-forward ;), exercising/yoga/working out, walking/exploring, extra-curricular activities/classes, nutrition/food (life source) and, down-time, errands,  and you-time (doing exactly what you want to do at least once a week), etc.

Music: Skills & Soul
Practicing, technique, studying music, lessons, working with your coach/mentor, group class, accountability partner, songwriting, co-writing, making music, recording your songs, recording your record, making videos, band or show rehearsal, Live streaming performances, checking out other musicians, researching new music, etc.

Business: Savvy
Social media, research, blogging, newsletter, promotion, marketing, networking, strategizing, business planning, business meetings, meetings with your team, hiring-firing, administration, systems, website, graphic design, booking, and eventually (when we’re in-person again) songwriting conferences, music/film conferences, music conferences, festivals etc.

Start with:

  1. Keep a journal to keep track of your time so you know exactly what you are spending your time on. And for gosh sake – use a timer when you’re on Facebook, gasp!
  2. Now, get out your calendar and start scheduling it in. Play with it until you can figure out how to make it work! When you get out of balance or fall behind, all you do is schedule make-ups and momentarily sacrifice in some other area.

Try it for one month – see what happens! And hey – don’t beat yourself up about it – it takes more than a few tries to get things in place and running smoothly. Just don’t give up – you will make a huge difference in your progress when you keep trying to slice the pie. Of course every now and then when you decide to do a big project, you may put aside the other pieces, but can make them up later. I do it all the time.

Obviously, there’s more to making this work than a quick-peek – but it’s a head-start. Hope it helps, let me know what you think!

Want more great tips, solutions, and some free guidance? Join my FREE 6 Week Online Artist Development Program: Step Up to the Spotlight. This program has helped over 13,400 artists amplify their impact and skyrocket their careers. I want you to be next.


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