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Time Management For Your Debut Album
By Queenie Sataro - 02/23/2004 - 01:02 AM EST

In my previous articles on Being Your Own One-Person Indie Team, I mentioned that creating a self-produced album was a lengthy but doable process for the self-motivated musician. Here is a brief outline of the process of getting and promoting an album:

I. Song creation--a song is born!
A. Song creation and song choice
B. Time management
C. Performance, musicians, and demo making

II. Recording the songs
A. Laying down tracks and vocals
B. Mixing and mastering
C. CD design and duplication

III. Promotion
A. Offering a CD for sale online
B. Creation of an artist website
C. Free web promotion and beyond

In this part of the series, I will discuss Part IB, Time Management. Time Management becomes crucial as you work to complete your first album. You learn both to make time for your music and how to manage your time during future projects. You will develop the attitude and the habits that will help you to not only finish your debut album, but to go on to a lengthier career in making your own music.


Become a musician in your own mind

Have you become a musician in your mind? No matter what your day job is, even if the title of it is "recording artist", you are not a musician until you become one in your mind. Don’t make excuses or explain to others why you feel the need to record a debut album. Just do it. Be ready for grumps who will diss you because they are jealous that you are motivated enough to do what they don’t have the patience for. Be ready for strangers who are enchanted by the glamour of your music and promise financial and other support but never come through after the first few phone calls. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on recording equipment and even more time researching said equipment before you buy. Finally, be prepared to work on your album when you are tired, when you are not feeling very musical, and when you would rather be doing something else. Be a musician in your mind and make yourself think about it all the time. Eat it, breathe it, and sleep it until the album is done.

Create an album notebook

Get a large 3-ring binder or Trapper Keeper. Get some folders and notebook paper that can be held inside. This is your Album Notebook, otherwise known as Command Central for your debut album. In it, you will store all paperwork relevant to the recording of your debut album.

Now the fun starts. Create a Mission Statement for your album. This is a short paragraph where you answer the question: Why do I want to create this album? For my first album, my answer was honestly just to see whether I could pull it off or not. Good enough. The Mission Statement idea may sound cheesy but it has been known to work. When you write down your plan, you are far more likely to accomplish it.

The second page will contain the title or prospective title of the album and the names of the songs. Do not worry if the songs are out of order. Alphabetical order is fine, whatever serves you.
The next pages will contain material needed for the songs themselves, each song area separated by some sort of divider. Labeling is up to you, but each division should have a page of lyrics, a page of ideas for the recording process, and scratch paper to take down production notes. If there are 12 songs on the album, then there will be 12 separate divisions for lyrics and notes.

Finally, label your book very clearly with the name of your album or “DEBUT ALBUM” or “MUSIC PROJECT ONE”. Use color, big bold lettering, etc. Cover it in neon decals. Do what you must so that the book screams “NOTICE ME!” wherever you store it. This is a visual trick to remind yourself to work on the album whenever you see the book.

Making the time

Nowadays, with the advent of digital recording technology, there is almost no reason to deny the urge to create and produce your own music, except for that one thing that always stops me from doing what I really want to do: LACK OF TIME. The tyranny of the daily grind is going to get you. It gets all of us. How does anybody find the time to even BATHE with the demands of a modern day life? Here's the thing.

You don't find the time. You MAKE the time.

You can't rationalize why you need more time for music to anyone. Music is not going to make your life any longer. Unless you are some sort of marketing guru, music won't usually make you richer, at least not right away. Leave the baggage behind and get your first album done.

Music will become your "me" time. Just as suburban ladies use their "me" time getting their faces steamed at fancy spas and guys spend their afternoons getting sunburned on the golf course, you must decide to put a little of yourself into making your debut album every day. You cannot put it off for anyone. Just when is it that you planned on living your dream? After which remodeling/school/day job/family project?

Here is an easy goal. Make one hour of music "me" time for each day, or collectively, 7 hours a week. Pencil it in to your datebook or Palm or computer or whatever you have and commit yourself to it.

By hook or by crook, GET RID of something that is sucking an hour a day from you in order to make the time for music. Whether it means missing a new show on television, turning down the 414th annual P.T.A. Bake Sale, or breaking down and hiring someone to clean your house once a week, do something in order to gain time.

No matter what, make some time for music in your schedule if it is a musician you want to be. As hard-core as I know this sounds, imagine that you are dying from brain cancer and you have got a year to live. Meditate on it. Now, subtract the "spend all my money taking a tropical vacation" element from the equation. What is truly important to you after all?

Spend it wisely

Depending on how much musical equipment you have, the first part of your debut album may be spent in research and shopping. Time spent looking for musical equipment counts as time spent working on your album. You will need to research every piece of new equipment that you buy, from microphones to monitors. Do not be afraid to find an independent artist that you like on say, CDBaby, and email her asking her what equipment she used on a certain album. Indie artists are often glad to share their secrets and talk directly to other artists like yourself. You can also count reading recording magazines as research. So yes, your music “me” time will at first consist of a lot of shopping, whether online or otherwise.

The next thing to do is to make a demo, or a very basic recording of all the songs for the album. My next article will deal with demo-making. If you are ready already, your demo can be done with the world’s worst $10.00 tape recorder from Best Buy. It is merely the artist’s sketch of your songs and will prepare you for the big leagues, recording.

In closing

I hope that this inspires you to put more independent music into the world. I am of the opinion that indie music represents a more thoughtful, soulful trend in song that the world has been lacking for a long time. So I hope that you will make more time for music in your existence and start a plan for your debut album. See you on the other side.

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