5 ways DIY musicians can save time on tasks

DIY musicians and independent artists doing it for themselves is a great way to keep creative control, and save money you might not have on hiring in support for your releases. However, although technology has made DIY more accessible than ever it can come at a cost: your time and energy being spent on ‘admin’ rather than creativity.

Some artists don’t mind the extra tasks they need to take on when going it alone on recording, releasing and promoting but others find it leaves them feeling close to burn out. It can feel like living a double-life, albeit less glamorous than your average superhero most of the time – you’re a musician, a PR, a booker, a photographer, a graphic designer, a videographer and editor, you’re organising the production of your release and the distribution, you’re playing live and booking studio time, you’re managing social media. And you’re probably doing it all with a job to pay the bills and friends and family who want to see you sometimes too. It’s no wonder doing it yourself can leave you with a feeling of ‘done with it all’.

There are some ways DIY musicians can cut down the admin time without cutting corners and get efficient at the tasks that need doing to free you up to do the stuff you really want to do (that’s make and play the music).

Five ways DIY musicians can save time on admin tasks

1. Be incredibly focused and know your goals

The best way to save time and cut down on the amount of admin you’re doing is to be very clear on your goals, focus on them and understand what moves you closer to them – anything which doesn’t is something you’ll need to learn to say no to.

Being an independent musician means thinking like a business and that means you need to know what your long term goal is (to make a living from music and quit my Joe job), what your tactics are for getting there, and who your audience is and where they hang out. You might be groaning and thinking ‘I just want to write my songs’ but if you are serious about your success (whether that’s making a living or just making enough to fund your next release) spending time mapping this out will save you time and energy as you go.

Write down all the goals you have for your music (release on vinyl, get in the charts, play this festival, go on tour, get a sync placement – whatever it may be), and for each one write down why you want it and how it would make you feel when you achieve it. Pick the two or three of these goals which are most important to you and spend time really imagine yourself in that moment of success – how would you feel holding the first copy of your album on vinyl, dropping the needle in the groove and hearing your music come back? Or what would it be like to step out on the stage at your favourite festival and see people dancing in the sunshine (ok, let’s keep it realistic, huddled under a bin bag in the rain) as you play? How would you feel if you missed those moments?

Once you’re really feeling it write down all the things you could do to help you get to each of those goals – the big stuff, and the small stuff too. Once you’ve exhausted your thinking pick out the three things which will move you there the quickest and prioritise these tasks. This is your focus and everything else is slowing you down from getting where you want to be.

If you’re not sure where you’re going longer term or you have an idea but you’re not sure how to get there get in touch and see how we can help.

2. Learn to say no

Saying no can lead to FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – but what you turn down is just as important to thriving as a musician as the opportunities you take. If you’re spending a lot of time on crafting beautiful Instagram images but no-one is engaging with them or clicking the link in your bio this is unlikely to be the best use of your time. Know that you love playing live and always make a decent amount and have great conversations at the merch desk – put your focus on building your bookings and getting out there as much as you can.

If you’re not sure where you are spending your time and whether it reflects the results you get from it spend a week or two noting down every day everything you do for your music – whether it’s a creative task of writing and recording, or it’s posting social media, or it’s sending and replying to emails. Then look at which of these tasks made a positive difference and moved you closer to your goal. Some things you do will take longer to come to fruition (you might not get a result within the time you’re monitoring) but you’ll certainly get a feel for if you’re putting time and energy into things which are dead ends.

And if you think your time is disappearing through procrastination there are a whole load of apps to help you stop the digital time suck at least – your phone will tell you how long you’re spending on social media (it’s not research to be endlessly scrolling instagram – a note to myself as much as you all) and apps like Flipd, Offtime, Freedom and Cold Turkey will lock you out of social accounts on your phone for a set period of time to free your mind for what you really should be getting on with.

But do make sure you know the difference between saying no to the wrong things and saying no to the scary things – if you’re saying no because it’s outside of your comfort zone (a show in a new town, a partnership) then think again and say yes. The best opportunities lie just outside of your comfort zone and you should now have more time to commit to them by saying no to the wrong things.

3. Get into a rhythm and automate your email and social media

If you have just 15 minutes a day you can boss your social media once you’ve got yourself set up and have found some short-cuts to support you. That’s right – it doesn’t have to be a massive drag but can be something you can do on the bus to work, while you’re waiting for your tea to cook, or in that downtime between soundcheck and showtime. How? Like this…

Know who you’re talking to and where

Getting set up is key to cutting the time it takes to manage your social media and the first part of that is to know who your audience is and where they hang out. There’s no point spending all your time on Instagram if fans of your music are more likely to be on Facebook. How do you work this out? Well, there’s a post here on how you can work out where your audience is and if you’re already on several social networks you’ll probably know where you get the most engagement and conversation from people.

What are you talking about?

The second part is to know what you are talking about – and only talking about your next release or next show isn’t the best approach. Think of the 80/20 rule (which – fact fans – is also known as the Parato Principle) and try to make 80% of what you’re doing conversation and contributing to communities, and only 20% about what you’re promoting (your next release, your next show, your merch).

People want to be connected to you as an artist, not seeing a constant stream of adverts from you. If you do only want to advertise to people – save even more time by putting your money into actual adverts.

Automate to save time

Once you know who you’re talking to, where they are, and what you’re saying then you can use a couple of tricks to make everything flow more efficiently and save you time.

If you need and extra pair of hands to get these automations set up right or to create some content or manage your social media book in for a call or get in touch with us to see how we could help.

4. Pick your distro with care

You might be throwing up your music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud directly but if you want to reach platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Play you’ll need to go through a distributor and it’s worth considering which one is right for you.

There’s a lot to consider from which platforms they send your music to, to any costs which may be involved but it’s worth also looking at the detail as some of it could save you time and give you a head start on gaining listeners. Some distros will set up a pre-save page for you (saving you the job of doing it through SmartURL or similar) which allows you to share a link to your music ahead of the release date and encourage people to have it added to their library or playlist when it’s released. Getting people to hit that button can help work the platform algorithm and boost your music around release day.

Lots of distributors also have extensive blog and help sections giving you tips and tricks on how to boss the industry – and you don’t even have to be using them to get this insight. Add them to your reading list or sign up to their emails – take a look at CD Baby and Ditto to get your started on learning more.

5. Grow your team and delegate

Of course the easiest way for DIY musicians to grow their team is to pay others to take on aspects of what you do – that might be through finding a manager, or working with a PR, marketer or booking agent.

But there are other ways – perhaps cheaper – than working with music industry professionals. If it’s the level of admin you’re struggling with (replying to emails, filling in festival applications, managing your social media) you could hire a Virtual Assistant to help with these tasks – a freelancer who is likely to work remotely on a given set of tasks.

There would be some time involved in setting the VA up with the right tasks and permissions, and you’d need to keep in touch on progress but it could be a way to manage admin particularly at busy times (such as when you’re recording).

The watch out here is if you’re asking them to contact journalists, bloggers or radio stations your assistant may not have any relationship with them and so you’ll need to set your expectations of results lower than you might with a music PR.

DIY without the burnout…

For DIY musicians there will always be weighing up to do between whether you spend time and energy on doing tasks yourself or you invest some money in hiring in others to help you with the business side of your business. There may come a time when you decide it’s time to invest to grow, or you just need more hands to help you with all the admin, but until then it’s good to find ways to save time and avoid burnout.

If you’ve got a time saving tip to share with other musicians leave a comment below or get in touch with me on Twitter – I would love to hear from you.

Need some help with your next release?

Whether you are a DIY musician or an independent artist growing a team and thinking about spending your budget on reaching your fans directly or you want to gain coverage and airplay through a PR get in touch and see how we can help you. Want to find out more about those we’ve worked with – head over here.

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Sarah Lay

I'm the founder of We Are Noble and Wild, co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an artist manager, music journalist, PR and author.
I'm a fan of black coffee, the west coast of Scotland, crows, conversations and connections. I'm in love with possibilities.
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