Most Creatives Aren’t Aware of This One Thing
Last week I was talking with a musician friend who just wrapped up a local tour, she’s been making music for a few years and looking to move up to the next level in her career - I hope she does because she makes some seriously good music. We were catching up and she was telling me how well everything is going, I love hearing that my friends are making ripples in their industry, piquing interest and turning heads, but she’s still figuring out her ‘angle’ so to speak. After the introductory formalities she was telling me about how she was late to sound check for one of her shows - nothing too wrong with that, but then it emerged that time keeping; more so time management was a real problem for her. A serious problem.
Seeing as she brought it up as a throw away comment I left that conversation with a smile on my face knowing that she was doing well but my mind kept on coming back to the whole time management issue. It got me thinking, is that something that we’ve come across with Reload Sessions, or even as freelance videographers? I concluded that yes, it was.
But where do young musicians go wrong? Surely that must be a huge can of worms, but I think a really great start to untangling issue comes down to explaining time-management in a different way, a way that directly impacts you, presenting it as logically as possible so that hopefully you or someone you know can learn that it’s a hugely important skill to learn. And so let’s talk about time management, specifically regarding what I like to call socio-professional time-keeping, in other words, how your time keeping as an individual affects you as a brand.
As a starting musician (as with any other profession) if you’re supposed to be somewhere at a certain time, just show up on time. It’s that simple.
“Obviously…” I can imagine you saying, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. A five minute delay leads on to a 20 minute delay and on a bad day it only gets worse and can be a nightmare start to your day.
Of course there will always be delays and problems will keep you from getting to your meeting on time, but if it’s in your power - make sure it happens. It sounds very obvious, but it’s not the best way to enter a meeting of any type, whether that’s a photo shoot, a studio session, a business meeting or anything in between.
Some of you may scoff at this but picture this, you’ve arranged a meeting/rehearsal/gig and set up a time and a place - a few weeks in advance, you may have paid for a service too; studio space, musicians, a film crew, an engineer etc. You then proceed to show up late simply because you weren’t diligent with your time. The exact reason doesn’t matter so much when you’re in a professional environment. People won’t think “Oh he’s late because he had to find food” or “Oh he’s late because there was traffic” they’ll genuinely be only thinking one thing:
“He was late”.
With all of that in mind who will be worse off from tardiness? The people who have agreed a set fee to be paid? The session musicians? The studio bosses who have already made their money? Or you; the paying artist, the face behind the name?
If you plan to treat your music a full time project or as a career then it really helps to take it as seriously as you would for any other professional project. This isn't a social gathering, as friendly as it might be it's still about business. Find the understanding between a hobby and a career, if it’s your passion and you want to go full-steam ahead then act like every opportunity can get you one step closer to your goal.
Being punctual will do wonders for your rep as a musician which is a big part of your brand, or even a manager - believe me. People will enjoy working with you more and be more likely to spread the word around your industry. You’ll be one up on your former self and people will see your name in a positive light.
It’s a simple as 1,2,3. Place, time and show up. That’s how it should be. Your co-workers or the people you’re meeting will appreciate it. It’s just one of those things, no one thanks you for being punctual but when you’re not everybody notices.
Next up is something that we unfortunately see all too often as freelance video producers; under-preparedness. The majority of young musicians that we work with or film are in the early stages of their career, to be blunt this is a phase that doesn’t see too much financial pay-off.
But you’re smart, and understand you need to spend money to make money right? So you book a video shoot, either for your own use or on a collaborative channel like Reload Sessions. You have an opportunity to present yourself on a platform to present to your peers - the next piece of advice will blow your mind. Know what you're performing.
Yes! Again another simple one (both of these points are super simple but I promise, they both make a world of difference in terms of your brand). It happens all too often that musicians will book us to film their performance for their YouTube channel or Facebook/website etc and what happens after we’ve set up? The musician/performer doesn’t know what they’re playing. They’ve not made their mind up, or they don’t know the lyrics or they aren’t sure how to end the piece or whether to change the key or a plethora of other reasons.
I feel bad for these kind of artists, because more often than not they're nice guys but it comes across as though they’re in too deep and haven’t gotten to grips yet with the formal side of the creative industry. But why? What is the best excuse you can think of for not knowing these things? Sure nerves are a real thing, but it’s one thing to be nervous and another to not know what you’re playing!
I don’t want you to think this is me having a moan - it's far from it, it’s more about showing you as a musician that a lot more planning goes into projects than you might think and I hate to say it but you need to see that your unpreparedness won’t make you any friends in your industry. You can be the nicest guy on the planet and have the greatest talent, but if you don’t maximise the time to perform at your very best then how or why is it worth going to the effort and having everyone go work towards a common goal if you’re knowingly presenting yourself at 60% of your current potential? How does that come across? Maybe your content is good, but imagine how amazing it would've been if you had been prepared or ready? Taking time to plan goes a long way and will do wonders for the way people will want to engage with you in the future - we all know you'll need a team of people to go far.
Being ready and well prepared will only come off as professional and people will talk about you in a positive way. Of all the musicians I’ve ever worked with in the past, those who were well prepared and performed confidently are the ones I'd want to work with again and again.
Now imagine you’re in a shoot which has a time-frame of 60 minutes (this is your shoot by the way, that you’ve had in the calendar about for a few weeks). You come to the shoot-space late - mistake number one - and then in front of everyone, you take 20 minutes to rehearse the piece as you say you don’t know it too well - mistake number two.
That’s your time that you've paid for and you’re doing something that you could’ve done in your bedroom or your home-studio. Why are you allowing your unprepared self to knock back and dethrone your passionate self? It’s you vs you here. You've just scored an own goal. Quit working against yourself and take your creative-self along with your business-minded-self and get them working together on the same page, moving forwards together.
Here’s one of my favourite quotes which sums this up nicely. Prepare first and take action second.
A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”
But there's no need to despair, this isn’t you. It’s a common mistake made by others, but it’s not you. You’re better, you’re smart and you know that going into a meeting in the most positive way possible can only be good for your career, your name and your brand. You think of the bigger picture. After all, this is something you plan to do as an earner, and build a name off of it right? So why wouldn’t you want to treat it seriously? Why wouldn't you want to look as self-respecting as possible and put your strongest foot forward each time. My point exactly.
It's so simple folks, but so easily overlooked, most artists will rock up 10 or so minutes late but they're not doing themselves any favours. Draw the line between hobby and profession and if you're in it for the long run then dig your heels in and maximise every opportunity.
Tl;dr Be punctual and know what you’re doing.