business of music

Online tools to help you manage the business of music

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Read on for introductions to software and online tools that can help you better organize and manage the business of music, giving you peace of mind and more time to invest in your music.

For many indie musicians, having a career in music means being a business person one minute and an artist the next. It can be a challenging duality — especially if all you want to do is focus on your music — but in many cases, it’s a necessary one. Luckily, there are a variety of tools available that can make the business of music significantly less painful.

Social media management software

Don’t have time to craft thoughtful and engaging tweets to engage your fan base on a daily basis? Tools exist to make the whole process easier.

With the help of utilities like HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Sprout Social, you can write and schedule all of your social media posts for the next week, month, or longer in a single sitting. Got an off day on the road? Spend a couple hours in a coffee shop composing tweets and status updates and your social media promotion could be done for the rest of your tour.

To get started, check out the following articles, which detail some of the top social media management tools:
The Best Social Media Management Tools
The 17 Best Social Media Management Tools
New social media tools for the smart musician

Email marketing software

Whether you’re launching a new single or spreading word on a last-minute show, email blasts to your fans can be a great tool to get downloads flowing and audience members in the door. That said, pasting hundreds of email addresses into the “bcc” field of your email program can be a time-consuming and headache-inducing pain. Luckily there are other ways to get your announcements where they need to be.

Programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to group your fans into different lists — fans in Alabama, fans in the entire southern United States, and fans across the entire country, for example — and build and send emails only to the lists you want to target at any given point. Plus, you can schedule emails far in advance, so you don’t have stay up until dawn after a show on tour, prepping your email reminder for the next day’s performance.

CRM software

Consider the following scenarios:

1.You’re getting ready to tour and want to fill every venue you’re playing with fans. To that end, you want to send personalized invitations to everyone who saw you in concert the last time you played in Phoenix, Arizona and other cities you’ll be visiting.

2. You’re getting ready to release a new album and want to send hand-written pre-sale offers only to people who purchased your last album within the first week it came out.

In both situations, and many others, investing the time to get a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system working for you can pay you back in dividends.

CRMs are normally used by corporations, sales professionals, and small companies to keep track of their customers in detail. When used correctly and diligently, CRMs can be of great value to indie musicians as well.

The concept is simple: Every time you meet a new fan or friend, enter that person’s info your CRM software, along with any pertinent and interesting info — what shows they attended, which albums they bought, what songs they told you they liked, and so on. Later on, when it comes time for the next album or visit to your fans’ city, that information can help you reach out in just the right way to continue building the relationship.

If the thought of using a CRM makes your eyes glaze over, you’re not alone. But before you rule it out completely, understand that CRMs need not be complicated, time consuming, or expensive. In fact there are many basic CRMs that are free to download and intuitive to learn and use. Check out the following lists for starters and see if you can find a CRM that feels good to you:

The 10 Best Free and Open Source CRM Software Solutions
The 25 Best Free CRM Apps

Task manager software

If you’re an active musician, chances are you’ve had situations where you felt like your head was going to explode with “to dos.” Whether it’s organizing gear, transportation, gig listings, bookings for an extended tour, or lining up the players and engineers for a session in the studio, taking your music out of your head and putting it into the ears of your fans can be a complicated, multi-step process.

If piles of post-It notes or mental checklists leave you feeling confused and disorganized, consider using a task manager program. Lots of free and easy-to-use programs exist that let you get the lists out of your brain, and onto your laptop and smartphone in a quick and painless way.

As a personal note, I’ve started using MeisterTask to help me get organized for gigs and sessions and have been very happy with the results. Below are lists to help you investigate further and see if there’s a task manager that’s right for you. As with any sort of tool mentioned in this article, trial and error is key — spend a few minutes or hours playing around with different task managers and find the one that feels the smoothest, easiest, and most intuitive for you. There are no right answers here, just options that can hopefully help you clear your mind of business details and make space for more brilliant musical ideas.

The Top 6 Free Task Management Software
Top Task Management Software Products
Five Best To-Do List Managers

Accounting software

If you’re like many musicians, you want to make your art and not worry about the finances. Unfortunately, money is something artists nearly always have to think about. Again, there are tools that can make such tasks smoother and less painful with a few button clicks.

Check out the links below for suggestions for free and simple-to-use accounting apps. With tools like these, you can easily track your expenses so you’re not left high and dry come tax time, scrambling through piles of receipts. Tools like these can also help you track budgets for big projects like recording sessions and tours — and help you keep track of who owes you money as well.

Top Accounting Software Products
Wave Review: Best Free Accounting Software for Businesses
Best free accounting software: 8 programs we recommend

Do you have any favorite software tools that help you spend less time on business details and more time making music? Tell us in the comments below!

Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download through iTunes, jam along with the new JamBandit app, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow Michael on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.

The 90-Day Album Release Planner

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