I’m a terrible mechanic. I’ve tinkered enough with cars to be dangerous on a couple above average repairs, but I am often tempted to think I know more than I really do. It’s also tempting to justify DIY car repairs just because of the mountains of cash I’m saving. Then one day I got a call from my wife telling me she was stranded because I’d botched a brake job. Realizing that being a terrible mechanic had just made me a terrible husband.
The demands on any entrepreneur are staggering. When that entrepreneur is an artist, it’s easy to understand that much of our favorite music would never have made it into our record collections if the artist weren’t in some altered state of mind. Artists need help. We are not only asked to create and perform, but to manufacture, design, market, network, administrate, manage budgets, manage people, manage managers…basically all of the stuff that makes artists crazy. Maybe it’s saving money, maybe it’s control issues, maybe it’s ambition or even fear; but more often than not artists end up wearing many of these hats themselves…and the art suffers.
You were put here for a reason. I’m not getting cosmic or spiritual on you, but just take a look at your fingerprints. No one has those fingerprints but you. It’s not a great leap of faith to declare that no one else thinks like you, no one loves like you, no one sees the world like you, and no one makes art like you. First you have to believe this, so anything standing in the way of you making that art which NO ONE ELSE can make gets called into question. If booking shows is something that someone else can do, and if it’s standing in the way of your primary goal (making cool stuff) then get someone else to do it. They’ll probably do a better job, too. If you have a pirated copy of Photoshop, don’t use it to save money on album design. Get a designer. It’ll look better, and you’ll be helping someone else do what only THEY can do…make amazing looking things. Win-win.
After you’ve decided that making great music is your priority, and that it’s worth fighting for, there are some practical and creative ways to manage tasks that are better off being delegated. Your album design doesn’t have to cost five grand, and you don’t have to beg favors and use talented friends to get the job done. Find someone who is really good at what you need done, and find a way to make it worth their while to help out. In my case, I couldn’t afford a ‘real’ mechanic, but I do have a mechanic friend who trades me labor for self defense training. I teach him to punch things, he fixes my brakes.
You’ll find that some of the things you farm out will be short term and some long term. Treat every relationship with respect and empathy, no matter how short. Don’t burn bridges. Make a list of things you need to get done and find people who are candidates to help out. Then arrange that list in chronological order. You might find that the same person pops up for more than one task, or that the same person will be involved at the beginning of a recording project as well as at the end of the tour. Really invest in these relationships, because these folks may turn out to be your core team: managers, agents, producers, etc. And you might need a core group of competent professionals around to pick up the phone when you botch a brake job.
Ashley Peacock is a singer / songwriter living in Northern Kentucky, one half of alt-country duo The Chance Brothers, and former frontman of The Times. His songs have been featured in various compilations and on television, including The CW's One Tree Hill. He owns and operates a recording space, Cathedral Studios, in Norwood, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.