Balancing creativity and business can seem like a tall order, but it’s not only possible, it’s actually very advantageous to approach business from a creative perspective.
As a musician in today’s music industry, you often have to wear multiple hats. Of course, you play the role of the creative: writing, experimenting, playing, practicing, and creating are part of your core being.
But there’s another hat: the business hat. More and more musicians are coming to terms with the fact that by building their career, they are in fact creating a small business — a business for which they are the CEO. That means you need to be thinking strategically. You need to gather information about your audience to influence your decisions, you need to think long-term and create a plan for yourself, you need to consider your revenue streams and come up with ideas to grow and bring in more money, and you need to figure out how you will communicate your message to fans and potential fans.
So how do you find a balance and find time for two seemingly opposite things? How do you go from thinking creatively to thinking strategically without missing a beat? Here are a few ideas.
Create separate spaces
One of the easiest things you can do to help create balance in your career is to literally separate the two roles you play. In other words, have a different physical space for your creative tasks and your business tasks.
Even if you can’t afford fully separate spaces, you can create separate work environments in your home. Maybe you have a desk with your computer and music gear set up. This is your creative space. And maybe a laptop on your kitchen table could be your business space. No matter how tempting it may be, avoid checking your email or working on business tasks in your creative space.
It seems simple enough, but most creatives and creative entrepreneurs swear by this. Why does it work?
Well for one, it keeps you away from distractions, allowing you to focus 100 percent on the task at hand — there’s nothing more detrimental to creativity than having Facebook notifications from your artist page constantly popping up. And second, the mind is very influenced by routine. Over time your brain will begin associating your creative workspace with creativity and it will be much easier to snap into that mindset (and visa versa).
Block out your time
For some musicians, the creative process is something that cannot be interrupted. They need to dig into an idea with their whole being. If they get distracted, the idea and inspiration can fizzle out.
If you work like this, multitasking between creative and business tasks will most likely just slow you down. Instead of trying to do everything all the time, try designating multi-hour blocks or even full days on your calendar exclusively for creativity. Turn off your phone, shut down your email programs, and use this time to dive deep into writing, recording, brainstorming creative ideas, making videos, or whatever else your muse inspires you to do.
Choose how much “creative” time you need each week and use the remaining hours to take care of business. Schedule your calls and meetings outside your creative time blocks. Use this time to draft your social media posts, respond to emails and comments, write emails for your mailing list, and plan promotions and events.
It is up to you to stay consistent. It’s very easy to let something slide and check your social media notifications or agree to take a call during your creative time block. And from there, things can just snowball until you lose all separation of creativity and business.
Jack Conte is one musician who follows a blocking schedule. Between running Patreon and creating his own personal music, he has a very full schedule that could quite easily become overwhelming. In order to make sure his music gets the time it needs, he chooses to block out full days on his calendar for interruption-free creative time.
Business can be creative
A lot of musicians I’ve talked to have a deep aversion to the business side of their careers. They say, “We’re musicians, we can’t do business!” But that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you keep telling yourself that, you’re just going to be holding yourself back.
Business is not just boring numbers, data, and writing. It’s a creative process in and of itself. A good businessperson thinks outside the box and comes up with creative solutions for the problem at hand.
There’s lots of room for innovation and new ideas in business, especially in the music industry. It’s the creative indie musicians who are coming up with game-changing ideas like house concerts and fan patronage that fuel the music industry of tomorrow. And the more creative you can be in your marketing and business approach, the more your music will stand out from the masses of artists out there.
So don’t be afraid to harness your creative energy towards the business side of your career and come up with new ideas for releasing music, connecting with your fans, or monetizing your art.
Have a plan
Even if you implement all these tips, it is possible for your business and your creativity to get out of sync. You might find yourself in a state where you’re running with one creative idea or another but don’t see the results or momentum you’re looking for. Or you find yourself going off in a completely different direction. It’s very easy to get carried away during those times of creative inspiration.
In these cases, it’s important to take a step back and look at your goals. Does the direction you’re heading in coincide with your goals? Do you need to rethink and adapt your goals in order to run with this new creative opportunity?
Once you have your goals defined, make time to reflect on them every so often to make sure your passion projects are still in line with your big-picture vision for your music — and make adjustments if you need to.
Balancing creativity and business can seem like a tall order, but it’s not only possible, it’s actually very advantageous to approach business from a creative perspective. The most successful entrepreneurs out there are also highly creative, so harness your superpower.
If you haven’t taken the time to really think about long-term goals for your music career, do it now. I have a free worksheet for you right here that will walk you through setting up specific, actionable, and achievable goals.
Blending creativity and business is one of the main concepts behind the New Artist Model Music Business Accelerator course. In the online program, we teach you how to be a musical entrepreneur, setting up a business that allows you to follow your creative vision.
Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.
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