A Day in the Life of a Full-time Musician
Posted by Joy Ike on Jul 25, 2016 in: Music Career Advice
If you ask any full-time artist, they’ll probably admit that their daily schedule is an ever changing, overwhelming wild beast that can’t be tamed.
As someone who has been living as a full-time artist for the last 8 years, I’ve established somewhat of a routine, but it’s constantly changing based on outside factors, how I feel, or a last-minute gig opportunity that completely derails my to-do list for the day.
For the most part I’ve determined that I personally have 3 types of schedules:
- The On-Tour Schedule
2) The Administrative Schedule
- The Album-recording Schedule
But to be honest, each of these bleeds into the other. And notice that I didn’t devote a schedule to writing and creativity. That’s because, in an ideal world, you’re always working on your craft – sometimes intentionally and sometimes by inspiration.
For all intents and purposes, I’m going to focus on talking about the administrative week. Potentially the most boring of the three, but also the most involved, most demanding, and most essential (in my opinion).
“I ask myself: what am I posting today?”
The day always begins with social media. I ask myself: what am I posting today? How do I share information uniquely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. How do I best engage my audience? What shows do I have coming up this week and what does my fanbase need to be reminded about this week?
Sometimes, depending on how busy my show schedule is, I loosely plan social media promo several days in advance. Sometimes the night before. On a slow week, I take my liberties.
“I treat my daytime like office-hours”
Email rules my life. On a typical administrative day I spend at least 5-7 hours in front of my laptop and most of that involves reading and responding to emails.
Email communication involves sending out booking emails to venues while planning a tour, communicating with band members on load-in-times for our next gig, sending someone a W9 form, going back and forth with a friend on a show idea, responding to incoming booking requests from people who want to host me for a house concert, or have me play their wedding, or need music for their company’s private event.
I could be emailing my Screenprinter to re-order T-shirts, or confirming load-in, sound-check, and set-length times with this weekend’s show organizer. The list goes on and on and on. I treat my daytime like office-hours and often joke that being a musician means having a glorified desk job.
Play Some Music
“… I can sometimes go days without touching my keyboard”
I try to split up that 5-7hr laptop time with a few things. Playing music is one of them. I’m currently almost done writing for my next album, so my time at the keyboard involves finishing partial songs, refining existing songs, and getting comfortable performing tunes that are fresh and still feel awkward to play out.
Playing music should be the easiest part of all of this, but I often get so caught up in show booking and promoting, that I can sometimes go days without touching my keyboard.
“Research happens throughout the day, whenever something catches my eye or ear.”
Research is actually what I call it. It’s the part of my day where I keep my eyes wide open and exhaust all my tour options.
A friend posts on Facebook that they are playing Zanzabar (a venue I’m making up for the sake of this example), but I’ve never heard of Zanzabar before, so I go to Zanzabar ‘s website, check out the type of artists that play there, scope out their booking page, see if I can find some pictures of the space, and decide whether or not it’s a venue I want to play at some point. If it is, I bookmark the page and wait for a time when I will be touring through Zanzabar’s city.
I follow this same approach for artists too. Research happens throughout the day, whenever something catches my eye or ear. It’s the best way I know to build my database of venues I want to play and artists I want to split bills with.
”..when I keep my website and social media presence up to date with information and fresh artwork, my fans stay engaged. ”
I spend a lot of time in Photoshop too: creating posters, show artwork, Facebook banners, business cards, Instagram art, special art for my website, and the list goes on and on.
One of the advantages of being an independent artist is that your branding is completely and totally in your hands. This can also be a burden if you hate that stuff. But I’ve found that when I keep my website and social media presence up to date with information and fresh artwork, my fans stay engaged. It also makes me look more professional and on top of things. And don’t worry, you don’t have to use Photoshop. There are ton of free online tools and apps these days.
“I make sure my calendar has the most up to date information”
I update my website once a week- usually on Monday or Tuesday. I take last weekend’s shows off the homepage and replace them with next weekend’s shows. I make sure my calendar has the most up to date information – show times, other artists on the bill, ticket price, and any information that the average show-goer would want to know.
The tour schedule is really the only thing that needs to change weekly. But on occasion, I switch out photos with newer ones, write a blog post, and/or add a video to the media page.
Getting Out of the House
“Give yourself breaks and new environments whenever you need to”
As someone who works from home when I’m not on the road, it’s absolutely essential for me to leave my pad when I get the itch.
This might mean a jog to the post office to mail a CD order, a walk down the street to work out of my local coffee shop, hitting up an open mic to test out a new song, or going to some non-music related social activity.
It might be strange to include this as part of my daily routine, but it is. Being an artist, or writer, or even just a self-employed entrepreneur (of any profession) can be isolating and soul sucking. Give yourself breaks and new environments whenever you need to.
“I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than handle spreadsheets … But it’s gotta be done. So I do it.”
Last but not least, I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than handle spreadsheets, tracking my expenses, keeping track of my income, and compiling mileage, receipts, and tolls. But it’s gotta be done. So I do it.
“At the end of the day, a full-time artists job is not just to make music, but to handle the business of making music. ”
As a working artist, I wear so many different hats – some I like, some I don’t. Each day is different, but filled with most or all of the above in some form or another. Days on the road involve shifting out of administrative gear and spending hours driving from point A to point
- Days in the studio are a whole ‘nother beast.
At the end of the day, a full-time artists job is not just to make music, but to handle the business of making music.
Joy Ike is a full-time singer/songwriter based out of Philadelphia, PA. She is also the founder and primary writer for Grassrootsy, one of the most-read music business biogs on the internet. She believes the greatest tragedy in the world is having a talent and keeping it to yourself.