A successful career in music is about much more than just making great tunes. Although the internet offers plenty of free promotion opportunities, the music industry of today is a tough one.
Management, production, promotion, bookings, graphic design, social media, web development… However good you are, if you want to get noticed, you need to hustle hard. And all that work might just leave you a little too depleted to actually make music.
If you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person, you might enjoy labouring on your own – but if offloading some of the work sounds good, you should build a team. By dividing the workload between members, you’ll get a much better shot at success.
Building a super team for an artist
If team building brings images of corporate cubicles to mind, think about it more in terms of a superheroes assembly. You need people who believe in your potential and are passionate about the industry – as much as you want to make it as a musician, they will want to build careers as managers, marketers, etc.
It’s always tempting to ask friends for favours but the reality is that it rarely works out in the long term. If you’re not at a stage when you can offer money, offer opportunity and mutual gain.
For example, if you need a social media manager, find somebody with plenty of talent but not much experience. If they’re your friend, great, but don’t be afraid to cast your superhero search wider. Working together can be a great stepping stone for all.
Find the right people
Of course, building a team is much easier in the case of bands than solo artists – there’s no rule against being a drummer and a graphic designer at the same time. You might choose for four members of your band to share non-musical responsibilities, or look for collaborators elsewhere.
Your personal social media, university clubs and radio stations, and websites such as UpWork are all great places to start your search. Of course, if you can’t offer money, you can’t be too picky and ask for tons of experience. Instead, search for potential, enthusiasm and a good vibe. And you don’t even need to be in the same place – these days working remotely is all the rage in the music industry!
To check if you like collaborating with your new teammates, set a clear trial period. If somebody’s nice but otherwise a bit useless, you know what to do.
Be a leader
You’ll not only have to assemble a team but also take a place at its helm, dictate the direction of work and approve all major decisions. And don’t forget that the whole point of having a team is to reduce your workload – so don’t be tempted to micromanage.
You need to give your team enough freedom to benefit from their creativity and allow them to grow by making mistakes. By far, the leader’s job is the hardest but don’t worry. Your new booking agent will go from rookie to expert and so will you.
Remember that the shared goal of your team is not to make you successful. The goal is to succeed as a team – and at various stages of your career, this will mean different things. You might be working towards your first unpaid gig, towards your first paid gig, or towards making enough money for all team members to quit their day jobs. Whatever the goal – keep your eyes on the prize and help your team to stay motivated.
Be a musician
While leading a team is a lot of work on its own, your primary role is to develop as an artist and make great music. Do a little research about being a good leader and then let your new manager take over as much as possible.
(If your music generates enough money to employ someone, this is probably the first person to pay – just because their job is so crucial! If you’re building a team from scratch – and with no resources – getting somebody who needs to learn the job is better than getting nobody.)
Clearly assign tasks
The last thing to do before the whole team can slip into their new roles is to clearly assign tasks.
Here’s a great list of jobs and below are a few examples:
- Booking agent
- Web developer
- PR manager
- Social media manager
- Tour crew
The jobs are plentiful but very often one person can do more than one. What’s more, throughout the year some roles will be busier than others.
For example, a web developer may be needed just occasionally after the initial website is ready. A sound engineer will only be needed when you’re recording, etc. It’s very important to make your team scalable – build relationships with individuals who will be able to step in as an when required.
The whole point of this exercise is to make you worry less and make better music. If you feel overwhelmed, take it easy. Team building is meant to allow you to be a musician – not to take you further away from music.
However, the reality of working in a small team with big aspirations is that roles are never set in stone. From musicians to the accountant, everybody must stay flexible. As long as you’re all passionate about your work – yes, accounting can be a passion too – every unexpected challenge will be just another adventure for your superhero team.