For all of their artistic merits, musicians all too often fall short of the organizational skills it takes to maintain a linear path toward progress and growth. While there’s nothing explicitly linear about finding success in the music world, there is a litany of things one can do in order to stay on track.
A lot of us grew up imagining that the road to rockstardom is paved with legendary parties, endless debauchery, and burning hotel rooms. The (not so) sad fact of the matter is that nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is going to hold your hair back while you’re puking up last night’s bottle of whatever you could afford and prop you up on a stage like a wind-up monkey. That’s the dream–not the reality, so do yourself a favor and don’t expect any special favors.
That’s not to say you can’t have fun along the way, but you need to understand the distinction. Music takes work, and it takes organizing that work to make it matter. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do. Let’s take a look.
Wake Up Early
I know, I know… getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t exactly a savory thought, especially for people with artistic minds. Maybe it’s the inherent aversion to a typical 9-5 grind that we denounce in place of a career geared toward creativity. But like any other trade, music is a business. Businesses require structure, and the only other commodity as valuable as money is time, so you’d better not waste it.
If you’re like me, you do some of your best writing late at night. Maybe you have a job that requires you to work late (Nashville is a bar town, so it’s not unusual to make some extra money at one that closes at 3am). In either case, it can get difficult to hold yourself accountable in this regard, so let someone else do it. Schedule coffee dates in the morning with friends or prospective collaborators. Make appointments that you cannot afford to miss. Plan a co-write at 9. There are plenty of people out there with the same goal as you, and you can’t get there without them, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. (To find people with similar goals, consider using Muze’s search filter.)
Also, a gym membership should never be out of the question. If you get into the routine of working out at a specific time each day (or at least a few days), you won’t only adapt to a more efficient schedule, but you’ll keep yourself in good health. Working out is a great way to keep both your body and mind tactful and full of the energy that this industry requires.
Stay Stocked On Supplies
The cornerstone to organization is preparation. If you show up to a gig without the necessary equipment, nobody is going to want to cut you a break because you “forgot” your microphone. Most places have gear on hand, but it’s never safe to assume that you’ll always be covered or that they’ll readily invite you back after having to provide for you when you should have been prepared in the first place. Stay stocked on strings, batteries, instrument straps, cables, etc. You can buy an affordable instrument case with a pouch that can easily carry all of these things and then some. Here’s a list of things you should ALWAYS have on hand:
Here are some other ideas that may be specific to your instrument:
Get A Book For Your Songs
A lot of musicians find themselves in different places at different times; times and places that spontaneous inspiration doesn’t take into account. Ideas or hooks can hit you at any given moment, and I’ve often found myself reaching for the closest napkin and pen in sight to write something down before I can forget. I’ve also lost said napkin after the fact and forgotten entirely what was on it. Don’t make this mistake, because it’s one that could rob a great song of the chance at being great.
A common screw-up I’ve fallen prey to more than once is writing a song out on a spare piece of paper and stuffing it into my pocket. Inevitably, it’s going to wind up in a drawer somewhere underneath an old copy of a book I forgot to read. Sometimes you have no choice but to use what’s at your disposal, but always remember to copy/transfer it over into where you keep the rest of your songs in.
Some people write on their laptops, some go with a good old-fashioned composition notebook. As long as it keeps your ideas organized and easily accessible, it doesn’t matter (much like the calendar).
Get A Calendar
This may seem like a simple one, but its the simple details that often get lost in the frantic buzz. If you stay active like you should, you’re going to have a hefty handful of events that you’ll need to attend. It could be a co-write, a writer’s round, or something entirely non-music related, but you’d be surprised how often you find yourself thumbing through old text conversations trying to find the exact time and place of where that one guy told you to be on that one day.
Seriously, just save yourself the trouble and get ahead of it. A calendar is something you can refer to when you’re unsure about a specific detail. It’s also visually structured which helps. It can be a tangible one to hang on your wall or the one on your phone. As long as you can make changes, notes, etc., it doesn’t matter. Again, a seemingly small notion, but it could be the difference between you showing up at the right or wrong time – or showing up at all.
If you can stay organized, you might just be able to stay sane in an otherwise insane business.