Smart Decisions – What Musicians Need To Know Part 1

How to make better decisions as a musicianIf you ask me, what I'm going to talk about today can help you separate greatness from failure, playing small from going big, and unhappiness from joy. What's more, it has nothing to do with knowledge, technical skills, or personality!

Note: Part two in this guide on making better choices in the music industry is out now. Read part one first though.

When it comes to the reason why some people get what they want from life, I found just one answer: better decision-making.

While some struggle with procrastination, indecisiveness and get stuck in the same old game (although they don’t really enjoy it), others decide to better accelerate their progress and solve one problem after another. For them, it’s a piece of cake.

As an artist of the digital era, you are prompted to make a series of decisions in order to achieve your goals and live a happy life. As a common denominator, we’ll agree that the artists I’m referring to:

  • Have a passion and love making art.
  • Aim to make a living out of their music (or already do).
  • Are ready not to stick to the default decision and conform.
  • Have a vision in mind and want to stand out.

With these in mind, let’s go through a set of common decision each musician will sooner-or-later have to make. You can also get a downloadable version of this report if you prefer.

But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:

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1. Time

So, as musicians we want to increase productivity. Nobody has more than 24 hours per day, so let’s start from there. Also, there’s no creative person I know that wants to be ‘busy’ for no reason. That is unproductive time management, procrastination etc. Every creative person would love to spend more time creating and expressing themselves than doing ‘stuff’. Living my life as a full-time musician, it soon became obvious that time-related decisions are vital for a career in arts. Here are some decisions that could save you time.

  • Filter your tasks in 3 categories: what you can do and want to do, what you can’t do but could learn how to, what you can’t do and wouldn’t like to. Delegate the last category to professionals you trust. Spend time learning the skills required for the middle column, and keep enjoying the tasks of the first column (if they’re of creative nature) or automate them and make them your habits (if they are non-creative stuff).
  • Clarify your vision and set goals. Do you aim to achieve a state of independence, money, fame, legacy or something else? Choose what the most important thing for you is and make it the default standard for each decision. Every time you’re prompted to decide, think whether it gets you closer to the vision and follows your main goal. If yes, consider deciding positively and see how it corresponds with the rest of your priorities.
  • Creating is lovely, but some less than ideal tasks need to get done anyway, in order to keep you and your creative business in operation. It’s better to spend one day doing the ‘boring chores’ than doing 1 or 2 hours of them each day. Get them out of the way and stay focused on your creations the rest of the days.

Think: time is valuable. Saving time by avoiding unnecessary decisions and action is essential and brings balance.

2. Creation

Creating is your life. It's mine too. There's a weird satisfaction that springs out of every new creation, whether you find it perfect or plain stupid. All creations have one thing in common: they are results of ‘doing’.

You decide to invest time in pursuing an intangible visualization that’s in your brain, with the intention of entertaining people. You can help them relate and find themselves; storytelling has a remarkable effect on people.

Creativity and decision-making have a lot of things in common. Here’s what we can learn:

  • The more you create, the better you become in creating. Decision-making becomes better the same way.
  • You would never create something in order to hate it – then why decide with the potential negative results in mind? You could create a commissioned piece of art that you don’t completely love, in order to create a new money revenue and keep fueling your artistic vision – that’s why it won’t hurt to make a wrong decision, if you have the end vision in mind. Enjoy the making of music rather than just the final outcome, although passion about the outcome of your decisions is essential to get you motivated for action. Most of the times your creations are made for the sake of creation, without taking into regard other people’s expectations, because you enjoy the process and it brings interesting results that help you explore the world. That’s why you should think of decision-making as an intrinsically enjoyable process that brings joy to you, the people around you and, ultimately, the universe, making the world a more interesting place.

Think: creating brings joy, it is a medium for connection and helps discover interesting things about life. Proper decisions have exactly the same utility.

3. Business

This post follows the premise that every artist is a business (a Musicpreneur) who is willing to use necessary tools. Art and commerce are inextricably connected, help each other, and should not be separate. Like every business, a music business is based upon the right decisions.

Despite their creativity when it comes to decision-making in life, most musicians are really conventional when it comes to deciding about their business. Here are some basic points that will create a foundational layer to build your business upon.

  • Most artists are not natural salesmen. The statement is true about myself, too. How did I overcome the fear of ‘selling my art’? I make sure that every creation I make available for sale is made with the intention of bringing pure value and joy to the recipient (whoever they might be). This builds a strong foundation of quality and authenticity upon my work and also minimizes my regrets when letting people know I sell something. I don’t shove it down people’s throat in a salesy way. “This creation will bring value in your life and here it is, it’s available for purchase.” People can smell the confidence that accompanies genuine intentions.
  • If you believe it’s totally not about money, then you probably won’t make a living. If you anticipate sustaining a living with art, then one of the observable outcomes is indeed ‘make money’. I’m sure you’ve visualized it many times before. If the last two arguments are true, then you should be relentless when you think about it: it IS also about money. Make it part of your intention (but not the sole intention).
  • I’m pretty sure most musicians follow the pricing systems that others decided for them. Not you. A price is a useful mechanism that sets an exchange standard for the market value of your creations. It also sets an expectation for the potential buyers and also defines the perceived value of what you create. The subjective value of your art is different for each person (hardcore fans would happily pay more for what you do, while strangers would rather get it for free and give it a couple of listens before they engage economically with you). Then why set the same price for everyone and preclude this from happening? One of the best decisions you’ll make is to open up your pricing model and offer pricing tiers for each level of fandom, along with different offers. Conduct a survey, see what people would happily pay for and how much, get creative ideas from others and experiment as a true artist that you are. When you offer one art product with one fixed price, sets the question: “buy or leave?”. Most people will go for the default: not decide at all. Pricing tiers sets a different question: “which one would you like to buy?” See the difference?
  • Conduct business as if you don’t need the money and you have only pure value to offer. Feeling confident that people will see the value and will pay for it is going to be reflected in the way you communicate the business message around. Such a mindset shows clearly that you care more about people and are not desperate for a sale. Before you shoot off your next message, think ‘would I do it this way, if I had already achieved the sales I wanted?’ It will transform your business.

Think: conducting business is conducting an exchange. You exchange value. Be proud to make proper business decisions.


Note: this is the first part of the whitepaper ‘Smart Decisions – What Artists Need To Know’. I had to split it in two parts because it would be too lengthy for a single post and, hopefully, this way it can stir up more conversation. You can see the second part here now. It includes ‘Priorities’, ‘Humans’, ‘Conduct’ and ‘Vision’.

If you can't wait, you can download the PDF of the whitepaper here.

My question for you: What kind of decisions are you struggling with in your music life? Discuss.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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