Picture this – you’re on a stage in front of thousands, playing your music to roaring thunderous screams and applause. You’re making a living off of touring the world and playing your music and you couldn’t be happier. So where are you right now? You’re in your bedroom, trying to get your music accepted by a label or a popular Soundcloud repost channel. How do you bridge this gap? I’m going to share several project management tools for musicians that will help you get organized, streamline your artistic process, and make it to that stage.
TREAT YOUR PROJECT AS A BUSINESS
There’s no way around it, the only way that you’re going to earn a living doing what you love is if you get organized and treat it as a business. This is a hard thing to do for musicians and artists in general as we are so busy being creative we have trouble getting more analytical, and organizing our creative explosion into a tightly run machine that supports our lives through our passions.
The reason for this is that the act of creating is a divergent one.
“Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. – Wikipedia
Integrating project management methodologies and software will increase your focus and ensure consistent output which is vital for building and maintaining an audience for your project. I’m going to walk you through solutions that I use, and present to you several case-studies and workflows of successful creative projects and the tools they use.
THE REAL SECRET
My father was an incredible manager. He managed large multi-million dollar companies with scores of employees and stakeholders and he had a very simple yet effective secret he passed on to me. “Write everything down.”
He would literally refuse to speak to me sometimes unless I had a pen and a paper in hand. It was annoying yes, but now I realize the genius in it. There is no way to hold yourself or anyone else accountable to the tasks you and they are responsible for unless you have a written record. All project management tools are basically ways to extensively write down and track different aspects of your projects. Carry a pad around, use an app on your phone, hell, I don’t care if you like using voice memos, just carry something with you to track all your to-dos at any given moment. It will turn could-be’s into tangible actions that WILL BE.
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
A tool should work for you, not the other way around so it’s important to try new tools or combinations of tools and find a workflow that serves your unique purposes. Do you collaborate with a large team? Do you work with many multimedia file types? What are your usage habits? Are you agile on your mobile device? Do you need a keyboard and big screen to keep track of things. These questions will help you identify what needs you have to meet.
I had to try several solutions before settling on my current one, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. These preferences are important to integrating project management into your life. That brings me to my next point. Project management is a life-style change. It is a discipline that can take some time to pick up but it’s rewards are well worth the effort.
WHAT I USE
I am a project manager for Gravitas Create, I assist with coordinating licensing for Gravitas Recordings, I am ½ of the duo Bassline Drift. There was a time where I felt I was literally drowning in my tasks and I never want to go back to that state of mind again. I have been able to take the reigns is thanks to a few separate tools and methodologies out there, mainly the Kanban methodology.
1. TASKS – KAN BAN
I use it differently for each project which is one of the reasons why it’s so useful. It is extremely agile and can adapt to whatever your workflow is. There are different manifestations of the actual interface ranging from a physical whiteboard to an online digital board.
Kan Ban is basically an analog computer processor for your tasks. You brainstorm tasks/items/products/songs and move them from left to right depending on their completion. Since you can only do so many things at once, this system helps you get your tasks done, on time, consistently.
For my musical project I use it to keep track of WIPs. My musical partner and I have a problem with writing way too much music, and not finishing it. We often forget about demos, using kanban keeps us accountable to the music we’ve started. I can add notes, deadlines, and links to external media files. This helps us stay on the same page with where our songs are at, and ensures that we can visualize our release timeline and re-prioritize effectively. I will use one color to identify these WIPs, and I’ll use a color like red to highlight meetings and tasks with hard deadlines.
For an introduction on how to use this system, this video is incredible, delivered by the lead project manager for XBOX Live. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKWvmiY7f_g
2. FINANCES/ADMINISTRATIVE – GOOGLE DRIVE
We use a google spreadsheet to keep track of finances and logins and passwords. For all administrative tasks drive is an easy way to share real-time collaborative documents so we don’t get bogged down in endless versions of contracts and other documents.
3. SHARING FILES – DROPBOX
The next step for us is integrating a single system to keep track of our WIPs and Demos. Dropbox is our go-to. Any file I drop into my dropbox folder is automatically on my music partner’s computer, my studio computer, and our phones. This allows us to give feedback on in-progress songs, as well as send stems to each other. In the beginning we just used gmail file attachments – this was a nightmare and I regret it often, not only is it hard to keep track of the files, but it uses up your gmail storage limit. Drive is a good option but we prefer the interface of Dropbox.
4. COMMUNICATIONS – BASECAMP & SLACK
Basecamp is basically a forum, and it allows a container for all communications related to a specific project. It’s clearer to read an entire conversation thread unlike emails, and allows you to assign to-dos to specific people. You can also upload files here. You can have different projects with different collaborators. This is how Gravitas Recordings manages it’s album releases.
Slack is basically a chatroom but with advanced features. The ability to tag people, edit messages, create hashtags for later organization makes this a great way to quickly hash out decisions and come to a consensus without adding unnecessary bulk to your basecamp threads, or email.
I don’t want to bullshit you, of course your music has to be killer, and no mechanical process, or set of tools can make up for that. Success is a moving target, and you will always have more work to do, more growth, and new goals. Doing what you love will make you happy, and it will make you passionate, and if you have passion, patience, and perseverance, implementing these methods will help you make leaps and bounds in your career. In the end, everyone functions differently, I’ve just shared my personal experiences in the hopes they can be of service to you and your projects.
What are some tools/methods you’ve found useful in your life and work? Comment below and spread the knowledge!