Welcome to the third instalment of Monday #MusicMatters as part of the JAMS Canada PRO Series – “Here’s What I Know”.
We caught up with Fraser Hardman to see how his former day job as a Project Manager could offer some transferable skills to musicians.
What is the biggest time waster for musicians?
I would say it is either procrastination or music! Those may seem like flippant or silly answers, but let’s think about it. Many of us have a natural inclination to put things off. This can result in a lot of wasted time, particularly when we are putting off the things that we don’t necessarily want to do or enjoy doing. That is only made worse if there is no deadline attached to those activities.
It can be too easy to spend time on the things that we enjoy doing at the expense of the things that we should be doing, and too often the thing that we want to do is music – hence my second answer! These tendencies can become amplified, given that most musicians are self-employed and tend to work in an unstructured environment (both in the physical sense, and in terms of time management).
The good news is that there are lots of resources available (online, books, seminars) to help overcome our time wasting habits.
Another possible answer is to recognize when we are heading down the wrong path. Again, this is not unique to musicians. Many businesses large and small waste valuable time and resources on projects that will ultimately fail. For a musician this could be chasing the gig that is never going to happen, or continuing to pursue a creative idea that is not working out. We need to recognize as early as possible when these things are happening and move onto something more productive.
What did project management bring to your music career?
Mainly good general business skills and habits. Treat everyone ethically and with respect. Say what you are going to do, and then do it (this is a rarer attribute than we sometimes think – and never assume other people will do this!) Thank everyone and appreciate everyone – and mean it!
More specifically there is a technique in project management called work breakdown. Essentially this is to take a project and break it down into smaller pieces of work that can be measured in terms of time and / or money and / or resources. So, if you have a project, whether it be building a skyscraper or recording an album, break it out into pieces that are small enough for you to accurately estimate how much time, money and other things will be needed to complete it.
Not only will you will finish up with a much more accurate picture of what it will take to get through the project, but also it will help with the roadmap of how to complete it By breaking things down in this way, the project can often become less overwhelming.
What is your advice on balancing the need to create, perform, record and market your music?
Recognize that if you are going to make a career in music, you will need to do all of these things. It would be easy to sit in your basement writing and recording, but never get out to promote your music. Once again, many of us tend to avoid doing the things that we don’t enjoy.
For many musicians that is the “commercial” aspect of selling our product and selling ourselves. Sales is not a profession for the thin-skinned. There will be rejection, and this can be especially hard for creative artists who put so much of themselves into their “product”.
Accept that this will happen, but try not to be discouraged – even the Beatles faced a lot of rejection early in their career. Try to set aside a given amount of time to do those things that you may find more difficult – and “reward” yourself afterwards with time to focus on the things that you enjoy most. But…. all aspects have to be done, and if you do just sit in your basement hoping that opportunity will come knocking, you will likely be waiting for quite a while!
At what point should you delegate some tasks to professionals
The simple answer is: When you can afford to! Hopefully at some point you will find you do not have enough time to do all the things that your career requires. It would be nice to think that by then you will be making sufficient money to be able to buy some professional help doing the things that you don’t enjoy, or you are not particularly good at.
Unfortunately, for many of us, that will not be the case. However, there are some options. Musicians can barter their services – I have a friend who gets free access to a professional studio in return for some music teaching activities and instrument repairs. In the past I have worked with students from a local community college to produce a video for me as a class project at nominal cost. Perhaps you could get a professional photo shoot done in return for playing at a party or house concert. Building a network of contacts in allied fields will always help. And passing on leads to these contacts will often result in them returning the favour.
How are you managing through isolation?
Probably my greatest musical satisfaction comes through playing live – obviously that has ground to a halt and shows no sign of improving any time soon.
However, I have had more focused time to write, and have practiced more than I normally do (although with minimal positive results…. but I am having fun!) Also, I have learned some new technical skills in the area of video and audio recording.
And with one of the bands I play with we have learned a completely new song to performance level complete with harmonies and instrumental arrangement, solely through sharing audio files – we have never been in the same room together and played it! Lastly I have some ideas for a couple of other projects that could be worked on at this time. (However, once again…. see the answer to question #1 … lol) Boredom is one thing that I have definitely not experienced through this self-isolation.
Fraser draws on a broad musical background from both sides of the Atlantic, and enjoys playing an eclectic repertoire of jazz, roots and popular music as well as his own original songs.
Residing in beautiful Prince Edward County, Ontario, Fraser regularly performs throughout the County and surrounding areas.
In demand as a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, electric and upright bass, mandolin, ukelele, keyboards), at any point in time Fraser is usually involved in a variety of different projects.
Find Fraser on Facebook @FraserHardman (you can read his written replies in the NOTES tab) and visit his website: www.fraserhardman.ca
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