The DIY Musician — How do you manage it all?

The DIY Musician — How do you manage it all?

Practice, Preparation, Publicity – these are all very time-consuming jobs that you have to do to have a successful performing career. In addition, you most likely have to make a living and maybe take care of children, elderly parents at the like. How do you manage it all?

It would be nice to lounge around the pool all day and have nothing to do but practice and plan for your nightly gig.  I got to do that for exactly seven months one year when I had my hotel gig at the Oriental Hotel, Bangkok.  I also got driven home in a limousine every night (sigh).  But for most of us most of the time that’s just not reality.  

There were also years and years when I worked a day job and had to fit in practice, performing, and publicizing my gigs into an already full schedule.  Now I manage it all along with multiple teaching commitments. Luckily, I’ve come up with some strategies over the years that have helped me, and I’m sharing them with you so that you never have to use the excuse of being “too busy” to turn down a gig — or not be at your best!

Keep a consistent practice schedule. My practice regime used to look like a roller coaster. I would neglect my vocal technique for days or weeks and then start practicing frantically before a gig – putting myself in a panic and not having great results. Now – though I’m certainly not perfect – I try to do a fairly consistent 20 -30 minutes of vocal technique about every other day. I kick it up a notch when I’m preparing for an important gig. This has helped me to eliminate a lot of last-minute stress and have a more consistent sound. Plus, you never know when something unexpected might come up, and you want to be ready!

Be creative about practice time. Some tasks, such as memorization, can be done while commuting on the T or in your car (drive safe!). Use a recording to go over lyrics. You can practice your vocal technique  while doing dishes or in the shower. The most important preparation is often mental, and can be accomplished whenever you have some quiet time, even in bed when you’re getting ready to sleep or first thing in the morning. Try visualizing yourself at your performance, go over your song order, lyrics, or anything else you’re unsure of.

Get Organized. Make a checklist of everything that you have to take to your gigs: clothes, equipment, CDs to sell, etc. Make a gig bag and keep inventory of what goes in it. If you are publicizing your own gigs, make a timeline or calendar of exactly what tasks need to be done when. Make a list of what parts of your repertoire need extra practice and check them off when you have worked through them.

Delegate. There are many inexpensive or free ways to get people to help with publicity or maybe delegate a household chore that will free you up for some needed practice time. You could hire a high school student to do some errands for you, or get a friend or fan to put up flyers.  You can cheaply hire a designer through Fiverr to put together a flyer or design a web page for you. 

Stay Calm and Carry On! It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you stay centered. Take time every day to do something that relaxes you – whether that’s taking walk in nature, practicing yoga, or working out at the gym. It’s easy to drop these things out when we get busy but that’s just when we need them the most. You’ll go back to your busy life with much more focus and energy. And above all, keep breathing!

I’d love to hear your strategies for managing a busy DIY music career!


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