When you desire to improve upon a skill,
regardless of what the skill is, consistency is key. Practicing
your instrument for 90 minutes every day will produce much
better results than trying to fit six hours of practice into
two days per week. This holds true for every aspect of the
music industry. Consistent, daily work will be much more efficient
and keep you much more sane than trying to fit a week's worth
of work into your single day off.
I've got a number of tasks that I try to invest time into on a daily basis.
Though everybody's priorities and daily schedules will vary, here are a few
ideas to get you thinking about what you should be doing every day.
1. Play your instrument
If you want to be a professional musician,
you've got to get your hands on your instrument every day!
There are plenty of folks who just want to
use their instrument as a creative outlet, as well as players
who don't enjoy "practicing" in an organized way.
There are plenty of people in this camp who have made music
their career. However, even if you aren't into organized practicing,
you should still get your hands on your instrument in some
way on a daily basis. When it comes to playing, the phrase
"use it or lose it" absolutely applies! Just as
all muscles atrophy when they aren't used, your hands and
muscle memory will begin to deteriorate when you start neglecting
your instrument for long periods of time.
If you're in a rut, or are unsure of what
to practice, there are plenty of resources on the internet
that can help you to figure out where to go next (ideally,
seeking out a private instructor will drastically reduce the
frequency of this situation). If you aren't into serious practicing,
there are plenty of ways to have a good time just playing
your instrument. You could always just sit with it and see
what comes out; many great songs have started this way. Or
you could just work through some of your band's material or
try to write some new stuff. As long as you're playing something,
you should be able to keep your chops in working order.
2. Critically listen to music
Listening to music regularly is essential
for serious musicians! I'm talking about real, deep, critical
listening, as opposed to listening in the background of something
else you've got going on.
There are a huge number of things to be gained
by listening to music. First of all, it's enjoyable! Isn't
the reason you want to do music as a career because you love
music? Listening to really incredible musicians is probably
what inspired you to want to play or write in the first place.
If you're in a rut or feeling uninspired, it might be that
you just need to listen to more music!
Of course, listening can inspire you in more
specific ways as well. You might hear a particular lyric that
gives you a burst of inspiration for your own music, or perhaps
you'll hear some beautiful chord or transition that you just
have to figure out. Maybe you hear an incredible solo that
you connect with and want to learn, or even just a funky sound
that you want to learn how to make. Learning things from recordings
is hugely helpful in the development of your ear. You can't
go wrong – listen to music every day!
3. Tackle your emails
The music industry moves fast. Oftentimes,
if you leave somebody hanging, you can miss out on some serious
opportunities. If you aren't the type of person who enjoys
communicating and is slow to respond to texts and emails,
you're going to have a hard time making things work in this
I've definitely been guilty of this at times
but have since found a solution. Pick a time every day (I
prefer mornings after waking up) to sit down and respond to
any emails that need attending to. If you let them pile up,
this could take forever. However, if you spend a little time
every day responding to messages, you should be able to easily
take care of them all within 30 to 60 minutes. This way, everybody
who messages you is getting a response within 24 hours. That
may not be ideal, depending on the nature of the email, but
it's preferable to just letting the message sit forever.
4. Take care of business
If you want to do music as a career,
then you've got to treat it like one. In other words, you
have to show up for work if you want to keep the job!
Whether or not you have a day job, think of
music as its own job. If the only "work" you're
doing is showing up to rehearsals and gigs, you're probably
putting in less than 10 hours a week. That wouldn't get you
very far in any other field, and it's not going to get you
far in music.
If you want it badly enough, you can find
the time and energy to make it happen. Clock in to your "music
job" every day and try to get something done, whether
it's contacting new promoters or venues, following up on leads
for cool opportunities, reaching out to new potential connections,
writing new material, or researching better ways to approach
your marketing strategy. The difference between five hours
and 15 hours is huge, and if you're working smart, you'll
start seeing real results as you put in more time.
Solo artists have a ton on their plate, but
if you're in a band, you can be even more efficient. If you
could only handle 10 hours a week doing your "band job,"
results might come slower than you'd like. However, if everybody
in your band puts in 10 hours a week, that stacks up to your
band being a full-time job! If you're in a band, divide and
conquer. Figure out what the strengths of each member are,
and let everybody take a different responsibility in order
to work quickly and efficiently.
5. Take one small action in service
of your bigger goals
This goes hand in hand with getting business
done, but stretches beyond it. Taking care of tasks associated
with your music career can seem like a total grind if you
forget why you're doing it in the first place!
Take time to regularly review your short-
and long-term goals and decide your daily plans of action
with those goals in mind. Also, periodically take the time
to reevaluate your goals. Are they still relevant to what
you ultimately want to achieve? Is it time to change them?
Your goals and actions won't always be business
related, of course. Though the business stuff is vital, try
not to let it completely bog you down! You might have goals
that revolve around practicing and becoming a better player,
or getting better at writing catchy hooks. Whatever your goals
may be, take time to work towards them on a daily basis.
A little bit of additional advice on this:
Make sure your to-do list consists of specific, actionable
steps, or you'll find yourself procrastinating because you
haven't actually taken a few moments to determine what your
next actions truly are. For example, "get better at writing
hooks," as noted above, is a goal – it's not an
action step that belongs on your to-do list. The questions
you have to ask yourself now are: How can you get better at
writing hooks? What can you do right now to start making that
happen? Perhaps "research songwriting books on Amazon"
is the action step you want to take today to achieve your
goal of getting better at writing hooks.
Every time you complete an action in service
of a project or goal, make sure you always sit down and figure
out what the next action has to be so that you keep up your
momentum! This will help you put your day-to-day into perspective
so that you can achieve a nice balance of focusing on the
tasks right in front of you as well as the big-picture view.