The first step toward being productive as a music composer is creating an environment and a mindset that keeps you focused and motivated
This post originally appeared on DIY Music Biz. Reposted with permission.
As a music composer, musician, or artist today, you’re equipped with everything needed for creating music: Pro Tools (or whatever DAW), tons of plug-ins, instruments, MIDI controllers, records, laptops, apps, time, etc. Heck, there’s even video tutorials that show you how to use what you have.
With all this high-end technology and “Johnny-on-the-spot” training at our finger tips, how do you avoid information overload? How can you stay productive, achieve your music career goals, and actually get some work done?
In my opinion, it all starts with preparation and lots of discipline. Here’s how I stay productive – use it, modify it, take it with a grain of salt… Do whatever you like except ignore it!
1. A Nice Hot Beverage: Tea
This is my drug of choice. For many a music composer, it’s coffee, alcohol, comfort food, or maybe even some sort of recreational drug(s). With me, it’s tea, and I drink several cups throughout my sessions.
I like tea because It doesn’t get me all hopped up or make me feel lethargic. Tea balances and relaxes me and overall, helps set the mood. I’m not sure if this all in my head, but it sure does the trick. My grandmother rattled on for years about the health benefits tea offers, she was all about herbal beverages and what not. I won’t go into that here – unless you’re interested of course…
2. Clean Work Environment (Workstation)
I’ve always found it hard to create when my music workspace was a mess. I think this stems back to my childhood. I never got over the “me, my, and mine” phase. “Greg this house is MESS!” … “Em, uh, my room is clean.” Even in relationships, I’m the same way. The whole place could be a mess, but my workspace, gaming area, and other areas where I create are clean.
The same goes for my computer’s desktop: if it’s cluttered, I wont be getting any work done.
3. No Internet Connection
First off, I love the Internet – I don’t know what I’d do without it. Right now, roughly 95% of my business is conducted via the interwebs. All the negotiating, contracts, file delivery and payment processing, all of that happens online.
When it comes to creating music, it’s a different story: the Internet becomes my worst enemy. Instead of working as a music composer, I could easily spend hours checking emails, studying analytics on my websites, doing research, and all sorts of unnecessary business work. It’s madness, so the only way for me to be productive is to stay clear of the Internet when I’m trying to work.
4. Comfortable Clothing
Really? Yea, gotta dress appropriately for my environment and I have to be comfortable at the same time. If I’m working from home, it’s pjs, and if I’m heading off to a recording studio, it’s jeans (or khakis), a short sleeved shirt, and Chuck Taylors. I’m very simple.
I’ve tried the whole business look, it doesn’t work for me. In fact, it’s hard for me to connect with music industry professionals who wear business suits and ties. I don’t know what it is, just feels like I’m conversing with a facade.
I expect this attire at a record label, law firm, etc., but c’mon, you don’t need to go out in the field or recording studio like that. Just my opinion: short rant over.
5. Mind Mapping, Plans, Ideas, and Goals
I’m a firm believer in goal setting and, I don’t mean just writing them down, I mean breaking the goal(s) down systematically.
Anyone can voice or write down a goal, but without the proper layout/plan of action, nothing gets done. I normally start out with sticky notes, one idea per note, and onto my computer monitor it goes (around the edges). Once my monitor gets cluttered (usually eight sticky notes or so), I take the notes one by one, and start building my mind map. One idea per note, one note per map. Once the mind mapping is complete, I take action, one section at a time until the project or idea is complete, and then I move onto the next one.
6. Setting Deadlines
I thought about adding this under “Goal Setting,” but decided not to because it needs special attention.
Studies show that people without deadlines get the least amount of work done vs. people who do. Where is study? I have no idea, just sounds cool to say. Truth is most people are procrastinators and they generally don’t get anything done unless there’s a deadline attached to it. I’m one of these people and it’s the reason why I give myself 30 minutes to complete a track. It’s not because I pride myself in it or think it’s better to push tracks quickly. It’s because it keeps me disciplined and I know if I give myself 5 hours I wont actually start working until an hour or two before the deadline.
That’s three or four hours wasted! When a company gives me a project, I always short the deadline. Give me two weeks, I’ll send the project back in 10 days, one week, four days, etc. I chart everything on my spreadsheet with an earlier deadline. I’ve been me for damn near 30 years and, I know how I operate best.
Not to mention, it’s a lot easier to commit 30 minutes vs. “X” amount of hours. Call it a mind hack, self manipulation, a kick starter, whatever – it works.
When I’m done with my 30 minute idea dumps, I’m full of creative juices as well as more music and ideas to pull from when push comes to shove and a project is due.
What are some things you do to stay organized and productive?
Music workspace image via ShutterStock.com.
Greg Savage is an entrepreneur from California who makes a living producing music and sound designing for various companies without the use of a record label or manager. He started DIY Music Biz because he wanted to create a reliable resource for musicians, producers, composers, and artists that would be useful regardless of their success or skill level. Topics covered on DIY Music Biz include: Marketing Music, Music Licensing, Sound Design, Gear Reviews, Personal Experiences, Income Generation, Case Studies, and much more.
Get Clear On Your Music Career Goals