I’m gonna cut to the chase on this one… Here are 11 free online tools for creating branding assets and managing your marketing efforts that every musician should know about! “Marketing” is no longer a scary word used only by advertising executives. Indie musicians need good branding to rise above the masses of people able to easily post music. These are sites, platforms and resources I use all the time to help create and track my marketing efforts that are either totally free or free to try: Continue reading
You may have thought that you only need a plan when you are mapping out travel logistics for your next tour, or when you’re coordinating who’s bringing what dish to the next family holiday gathering, or when you are scheduling a record release. But we make plans to actually prevent chaos, increase efficiency, and see better results. And as musicians, we can use as much help as we can to create consistency in our schedules and to boost the productivity that we are so often generating on our own.
So why not make a daily success plan? Continue reading
I’m writing this for anyone who has changed his or her plans after graduating from college. For anyone who has studied one thing and has gone on to do something slightly (or extremely) different. And especially for anyone who, like me, has gotten a lot of crap for making those choices. Continue reading
I’m often asked “what do you do, exactly?”. There are two groups of people who generally ask this: 1) people who know me, or think they know me, and then stop for a second and realize they cannot quite grasp how I spend my time and 2) musicians. This article, my friends, is for all of you.
Before I begin, let me preface this with the following: My life is a roller coaster. Most of the time I’m working, or, at the very least, working on getting work. Then there are times where I just want to give up, lie on the couch, watch Netflix and declare that It’s Time To Get a Real Job – with an exasperated “I can’t take this music thing any more!”. This happens monthly. It’s my occupational period. It always passes. No one ever knows about it. And it’s normal. Continue reading
Whether you’re in your first year teaching piano students or your 50th year, here seven great tools and resources that every piano teacher needs to keep new students rolling in and sticking around for the long haul!
1. This worksheet bundle. Have your students learning to read music in 21 days? Um, yes please! These packets are awesome and skip the acronyms (Every Good Boy etc etc) and get right to being able to read music. Perfect for all ages! Continue reading
Originally posted on Music Think Tank.
It took some effort to leave my default self in the cold streets of Harlem, prior to entering City College Of New York’s Aaron Davis Hall. The theater of 600 seats was temporarily converted into an intimate space for developing new perspectives, dropping the “music careers are hard” bullsh&t, and having conversations about success. Led by one of my favorite mentors, Emmy-winning composer Michael Whalen, and PR guru-author-badass Ariel Hyatt, the six-hour seminar consisted of two presentations, three panels of experts, four Q&A sessions, and zero breaks (save a few moments of stretching). Continue reading
For the past three years, twice a year, my company is paired with two or three Cornell undergraduate students in an alumni program Cornell calls “Externship Sponsorship”. For about a week, my workload shifts to account for planning discussion sessions with my “externs”, setting up interviews with industry experts, and managing tasks that will not only provide value for them, but also contribute to my business. I love that they are called “externs” because it reminds me that this is their exit from college, even if just for a few weeks, to explore a new industry, to examine other fields of their interests and see what else is possible. “Intern” seems to be such a corporate word implying someone is coming “in” to help me. (You can read my article on my own internship experience here.) While they’re here, we do interchange “intern” and “extern” often, but the sentiment is there- this is for them. Continue reading
As a freelancer and small business owner, I have always struggled with structure. The kind that has me change out of my pjs, that tells me when I should be pitching for new work, when I should be creating more content, or when I should be marketing what I already have created. The kind of structure that makes sure I am working efficiently and not just busily. Enter the 50 Hour Challenge.
Workflow for freelancers, work-from-home career folks, and musicians has always been a topic of great interest to me. I have tried everything to get the most structure as I could, from scheduling every minute of my day to having accountability buddies check in with me. My tricks and tactics worked to keep me in line and in action, but I was still not seeing the results I wanted. I knew that if I wanted different results, I needed to take different actions.
Time for Change
I decided to take on a month-long challenge of timing my work and working for 50 hours a week. JUST work.
There are a few apps that can help you in this challenge that let you time tasks as you do them, categorize the different actions you take, and retroactively add in how you spent your time. Time Doctor is one. I used Toggl as my timer.
The timer went on when I was working, and it went off when I was eating, traveling, on Facebook, etc etc. My 50 hours was JUST working. The intention of this challenge was twofold: to see how much work I was actually doing, and to try something new to get new results.
What happens when the timer goes on and the work gets done? Miracles.
The results after one month?
• Increased the number of commercial opportunities by 300% by the end of the month.
• Gained twice as many new clients in the month than I had averaged for the past year.
• Finished two projects that I had started in the past 6 months that weren’t scheduled to finish for another 3-6 months.
• Started another two projects that had been in the back of my mind for years. They are now fully underway.
The 50 Hour Challenge
The challenge was hard, but it was a huge eye-opener. Here is why I recommend you take on the same task:
1. Get a reality check. I had no idea how much time I spent in a week actually working. I felt like I worked a lot. Some of that feeling came from the stress of having to create my own sources of income. Some of those feelings came from spending big bursts of energy on short projects. To know I was working 50 hours during the week provided a sense of accomplishment and purpose. When I normally would have ended my day, I found extra things to do just to add up some more hours. And the extra things I did were things I normally would have put on the back burner. Procrastination was out of the picture when the clock was ticking.
2. Results are a numbers game. I used to think that if I work x hours a week, I get y number results and if I work 3x hours a week, I get 3y results. There is some truth to this for me, but through this experiment I have seen the value of working effectively to produce results. While I haven’t yet tested out additional months (stay tuned for an updated report), I DO know that I had previously worked less than 50 hours a week. In fact, I would take a guess that I worked 30-40 hours a week, on average, perhaps less. As a freelancer and small business owner, this challenge showed me that the more time I spent doing effective work, the more results show up. And the key word here is effective, which is why some people can make their millions with a four hour workweek (so I heard).
3. The universe is watching. This may sound a bit hippy-dippy, but by taking on this challenge, it was like I was telling the universe that I was willing to do the work to get more results, thus more opportunities showed up. Almost like I had proven myself. You get what you give. That sort of thing.
4. It creates a foundation for long term results. These are hard to measure at this point, but I do believe that sometimes I do research and out-reach and don’t reap the benefits for weeks, sometimes months, even years. Putting in 50 hours of a variety of work a week ensures that I will continue to see benefits even after the challenge ended. I have planted seeds and will continue to do so until the harvest.
5. You can find more time. I couldn’t believe how “busy” I used to say I was. But when I was competing against a clock, I came up with new ideas to propel my business forward that I wouldn’t have come up with if I wasn’t trying to fill a 10-hour day. Somehow I found the time to start these new endeavors and begin working on them. I shifted from trying to fill a day, to wanting the day to be longer.
This challenge showed me how to be much more efficient with the time I spent working, and the structure of keeping track of what I was doing allowed me to be mindful of the work, therefore more efficient. I’d love to hear any structures YOU’ve put in place, or if you are up to this thirty-day challenge to see what you can shift for you and your business! Comment below with your results!
Dreading Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) morning? Or waking up to a pile of work, a deadline, or just a good dose of self-doubt?
As a freelancer crafting my own creative career, I teeter between being extremely excited for my next batch of work and wondering why I thought it was a good idea to start my own company. It’s a fine line and I’m often looking for security, inspiration and a kick in the butt. The first two are kind of illusions based on feelings, but the latter can come in many forms, from a check-in call with my accountability buddy, to a list like this one- a series of quotes on success and motivation, curated just for you on those mornings of dread (or the night before).
1) A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
2) A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.
3) The best revenge is massive success.
4) If you’re going through hell, keep going.
5) Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
6) The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.
7) Nobody ever wrote down a plan to be broke, fat, lazy, or stupid. Those things are what happen when you don’t have a plan.
8) Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
-Thomas A. Edison
9) The early morning has gold in its mouth.
10) Consider that all accomplishment is constituted by a series of resolved breakdowns.
11) When you’re in a rut, you have to question everything except your ability to get out of it.
12) If you want to elevate your results, elevate the people you surround yourself with.
13) The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
-Spencer Johnson MD
14) Do it or don’t do it… Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
15) It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
And I had to throw in one of my own, something I am constantly reminding myself as someone who used to rely solely on inspiration hitting to get anything done:
16) Inspiration is an illusion, and in its absence lies an excuse to not act. Action is the artist’s true muse.
-Cheryl B. Engelhardt
What are your favorite quotes that get you out of bed and up and running? Which one of the quotes on this page resonate most for you? Leave a comment below!
Recording a record is a big deal. It takes tons of time, a bunch of money, meticulous coordination, not to mention the artistic energy to create the songs and arrange them with your band and/or producer. So it’s easy to forget some things once you’re in the thick of it and laying down your songs. Here are four things you definitely want to do before you leave the recording studio that will set you up for the future.
1) Make sure you’ve been recording all the bloopers- the “making of” videos make for great webisodes, or vlogs, to give to your fans. If you were running a fan-funding campaign on Kickstarter or Pledge music, these videos make great content for exclusive prizes. Include shots of the studio, the engineers (with their permission), some fun closeups of the band playing their instruments, and any band banter that your fans won’t be able to see elsewhere!
2) Get mixes and masters of your instrumental-only tracks. More than 70% of my 40+ TV placements were of my instrumental tracks. Ads and TV shows often have voice overs and/or dialogue that need to be heard, so while your lead vocal and the lyrics may be totally sweet, they will distract from what is really going on. Music paired with the moving image is meant to enhance, not take away, from what is going on on-screen. So make sure you have these available if a licensing campaign is in the album’s future.
3) Get everyone’s name for the album credits. This is SO much harder to do once you are out of the studio. Include everyone that lifted even a pinky for you, and that includes the interns who brought you coffee during your late-night sessions. Trying to go back and find everyone is super tricky so I advice having a list you keep current.
4) Register your songs with your PRO (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC) and make sure all co-writers or co-publishers are on the same page as you in terms of how you’ve split of the shares of both (Writers and Publishers). Again, this is one of those things that is hard to iron out after the fact, so stay on top of it before it becomes an issue. Make sure your producer is in on the deal and that you’ve cleared up if he is getting points (percentage of the album’s income) on the record or being paid up front (or a combination of the two). Also, register your album as a “body of work” with the copyright office as well as SoundExchange.com and Gracenote.
Taking care of the business before it becomes history and you dive into the next phase of your record (marketing it, touring, releasing it, music videos, etc etc) will help smooth out the process and leave you with what’s important: an awesome record to promote!
Lastly, here’s a cool new resource for you that will take you through the whole process of making a record, from writing to recording to marketing (complete with an invaluable 40-point checklist!). Click here to get the whole course at a nice discount, just for you!