Today we’re going to look at 7 top tools for musicians and those in the music business. This guide should be useful for all musicpreneurs.
But before we do that, we need to ask: what is a musicpreneur? At a surface level the term is pretty self explanatory: it’s a combination of a musician and an entrepreneur. However, I really appreciate Tommy Darker’s definition:
“An independent, polymath musician who takes care of both their artistic and entrepreneurial aspect of their music career, creating business models and revenue streams.”
Think Beyond The Band: The Rise of the Musicpreneur
As rewarding as it is, becoming a musicpreneur requires a huge commitment of time and energy. Both to gain the necessary skills and knowledge, and to maintain and grow the venture. Maybe you’re ready to, or are preparing to make the dive into becoming a full-time musicpreneur. Or maybe you are already there and are feeling overwhelmed by how massive the workload is and how fast it piles up.
A good idea is to use tools that improve your business, enhance your workflow and allow you to grow. These tools should be simple to learn and save you time.
Here are 7 online tools that I use every single day to help manage my musicpreneur business. All of them are either free or very inexpensive. All of them are easy to learn and use. All of them help me save time, grow my business faster, and make more money.
1. PayPal For Sending And Receiving Payments
Ok, so let’s start with a basic one you should already be using: PayPal! I remember once upon a time PayPal had a pretty messy and confusing user interface, but they’ve really made strides to clean up shop in that department. Nowadays you can set up a PayPal account, learn it’s uses and interface, all for free and in a matter of minutes. Why wouldn’t you? If you’re regularly transferring money online (sending or receiving) then you need a PayPal account.
There are plenty of alternatives to PayPal like the rising Google Wallet, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with checking them out. But at the end of the day PayPal is the most common and most established service in this market. I run into scenarios all of the time where PayPal is either the only or the expected tool for transactions online.
2. Mailchimp For Direct Communication With Fans
Hopefully I don’t need to spend any time convincing you that you need to be building and maintaining an email list. Or that you need a strategy in place to funnel traffic from wherever you interact online through a conversion process that increases opt-ins to your email list through an incentivized call to action (like giving away a free single or EP).
There’s a lot of options out there for email management and marketing, with some great platforms targeting the music industry specifically. Companies like Topspin and Bandcamp offer email marketing and management as just one of the many integrated solutions their service includes.
The needs of your specific musicpreneur business model will help you determine the best solution unique to you. Although it’s not built for the music industry exclusively, I’ve found MailChimp to be my favorite after cycling through many alternatives over the years. It has better support and documentation than most competitors. The interface is quick and easy to learn and use. The functionality is extensive. And unless you already have a big email list (over 2,000 subscribers) it’s completely free.
3. Freshbooks As A Bookkeeping Tool For Musicians
Within one day I was able to learn everything I needed to know in order to use FreshBooks to handle all of the bookkeeping for my business. Invoicing, accepting payments from debit/credit cards or PayPal, accounting logs and reports, tracking expenses, clients, vendors, projects, and time – FreshBooks makes all of them quick and easy.
4. WordPress For Your Own Music Website
Having a website (at least one) is essential to being a musicpreneur. How effective that website is will make or break your business. WordPress has a steeper learning curve than a lot of the tools mentioned in this article. But although it can take some time to learn it really is quite simple to use. Shelling out thousands of dollars for expensive custom website developers might not be within your available budget and it’s usually not the best way to invest your money as a starting out musicpreneur.
If you hire the right WordPress specialist with the right set of skills you can get an effective website set up for your musicpreneur business for under a thousand bucks. If you buckle down and gain the skill set yourself you can do it for a fraction of that. Either way, do it right and that website will make you a lot more money than it costs you.
Once you get the hang of the basics, WordPress makes it easy for website owners to update their websites and add/edit content themselves without needing development skills. Although having even some basic web development and coding knowledge greatly expands how much you can do with WordPress, it isn’t required. If you can use Microsoft Word or make a posting on Craigslist you can probably run a website with WordPress.
Plus, WordPress itself is actually free. There are premium options for extending it’s functionality. But honestly the amount of functionality and resources that come free are so massive it’s mind blowing. Especially early on the premium features you need are either non-existent or very inexpensive.
There are some other fairly cheap and easy do-it-yourself options for building a website such as Wix, Squarespace, or Bandzoogle (specifically for musicians). Some of them even offer free options (that mostly aren’t great).
Most of these types of services operate on a subscription basis with monthly and/or annual fees. They are typically even easier to learn than WordPress and might get you up and running with a new website even faster. I see the appeal. But I’ll tell you what, I know a lot of people (I’m one of them) who have used several of these services previously and have since switched to WordPress and have become infinitely more satisfied as a result.
I believe in the long run WordPress is more cost-effective and is better suited to scale with your business and offer the perfect solution no matter how your business grows and changes. Your web strategy should be a long-term one, even if it goes through short-term evolutions. The possibilities with WordPress are endless but the basics to get started are simple enough that anyone can learn them fairly quickly.
5. Feedly For Keeping Up With Relevant Music Business Guides (And More)
There is such a plethora of knowledge and skills required under the umbrella of a musicpreneuer it can be intimidating. A lot of them changing and evolving all of the time, and you have to stay on top of them.
Design, branding, social media marketing, direct response marketing, SEO, content strategy, networking. That’s just a small sect of them that aren’t even specific to the musician part of being a musicpreneur. What about music production, recording, stage presence, merchandising, booking, PR, publishing, distribution. The list goes on.
I recommend figuring out what sources provide the best and most useful content on these subjects and getting a tool to make curating that content fast and easy. Introducing Feedly. Feedly makes aggregating and categorizing content from all of my favorite blogs a breeze, and accessible from one simple to use interface.
I can see titles and descriptions of posts from all of my favorite blogs in an easy to read list separated chronologically, by topic, or both. If I find a new blog I really like that regularly posts great content I can add it to Feedly with one click. Plus, Feedly is completely free. I know there are plenty of alternatives to Feedly, I’ve just never been motivated to try any of them. InoReader looks cool, though.
6. Buffer For Your Social Media Marketing
One mistake I sincerely regret is waiting too long to hop on the social media management bandwagon. As someone who manages multiple accounts on multiple networks I can’t believe I convinced myself for so long that a social media management tool wouldn’t save me that much time. Oh man, all of the time I wasted believing that.
My tool of choice in this department has become Buffer. Competitors like HootSuite are inexpensive for basic accounts and offer a lot more features than Buffer. But, for the most part, Buffer handles everything I need. Not to mention it’s free. (Premium subscription options extend the functionality.)
On top of that, there is practically no learning curve. When it comes to simplicity and ease of use Buffer is the best option by a landslide. You sign up and within 10 minutes you have all of your social accounts connected, you know how to use Buffer, and you’re using it to save you countless hours of time.
7. Google For… Everything Else!
If I broke Google down into individual tools this list would have been comprised of 7 Google tools. So I decided for the sake of avoiding a Google monopoly on this article I would lump all of Google’s tools into one. So many of tools I use to run my business online are provided by Google and the best part is they are all free.
I use Gmail for email. I use Google Drive for almost all of my file management, cloud storage, file sharing, and word processing needs. I use Google Forms for lead generation and questionnaire forms. I use Google Hangouts for video chats and consultations. I use Google Calendar to keep track of my schedule. I use Google+ and YouTube as part of my social media presence and strategy. I use Google Analytics to monitor traffic data about my website. I use Google Webmaster Tools to monitor and improve the SEO of my website. Google is pretty much the only search engine I use to search for things online. Google Chrome is the primary browser I use to access the Internet.
Google might not be quite as entrenched into your business as it is mine. But if you aren’t using at least some of Google’s free tools to run your business online, you probably should be.
I strongly suggest having all 7 of these tools (or alternatives with similar functions) in your tool kit if you want to effectively run a musicpreneur business online. Keep in mind that these are only a handful of tools among many you might need. I tried to stay focused on tools and functions that are necessary for any kind of musicpreneur business.
Are there essential tools in your kit that I didn’t mention? Does an alternative tool work better for you than the one I have listed as my preference? Let me know in the comments.