5 Must Have Business Tools for Session Musicians
Being a session musician is hard work. It isn’t just about musically performing at your best during recording sessions. If you’re new to being a sessionist, you’ll eventually find that being a successful sessionist involves lots of other skills too.
Think about accounting, churning out estimates & invoices. Managing and following up clients. Keeping track of your to-dos and collaborating with your co-producers.
Let’s get real — Being a successful musician or sessionist is more than just music itself.
Tools are created to make life easier, helping you to be more productive, keeping you on track and automating repetitive tasks. In this post, we’ll cover the top 5 business tools for session musicians or music producers — so that you can do more.
Finance tools for musicians
I’ll make a safe bet that nearly 90% of musicians — actually hate doing finance and accounting.
However, making sure you have a steady income cash flow is a no-brainer, if you want to sustain as a music sessionist or producer. The good news is it isn’t hard to manage your finances with the tools that I’ll introduce you. Let’s get to it.
WaveApps has four cloud apps to combine accounting, invoicing, payments and payroll. Think of it as a software that does everything you need, so you can focus on the music, not the paperwork.
Since it’s a cloud app, all your data is stored securely and accessible from desktop or mobile, all you need is an internet connection. One of the best features of WaveApps is that it enables your clients to pay you easier, using their computer or mobile device.
Best of all, the software is free to use, except where it takes a small commision if you were to accept credit card payments.
Due (A ‘Wave’ Alternative)
Prefer something simpler to use, for the purpose of reminding to follow-up on studio payments and fee collection? Due is an alternative to WaveApps.
If you have been in business for awhile, you’ll know how much time can be wasted, just chasing for payments. Due is a handy tool to help you keep track of clients who still owes you when the deal was struck and helps you collect payments by offering payment solutions such as Paypal, GoCardless and Stripe.
Communication & Workflow
Any successful venture, whether in the music industry or not, will require great communication. Not only between you and your music collaborators, but with your clients as well.
Boomerang for Gmail
You probably already use Gmail to handle your day to day emails. But what you might not have done, is to add super-powers to your Gmail, making it a machine to send auto-emails, schedule emails, set-up pre-canned messages and more.
Boomerang works as a Chrome extension and is designed to add functionalities, as the ones mentioned earlier in your Gmail. Why is this useful you ask?
Well, if you’re a music sessionist, I bet you’ll be sending emails to prospective clients. Because of your busy day-to-day schedule, you are definitely going to have email follow-ups that you missed out. Boomerang is able to help you with that, by sending email bumps to email recipients who did not respond to your email.
After all, if you’re following up with a prospect, studio client or someone you’re trying to reach, it’s been said that a sale transaction only happens after the 5 time you follow-up or make contact with someone.
Another feature in Boomerang, which is worth a mention is ‘Boomerang Respondable’, which is a meter that tells you how likely your recipient might reply, based on the way you write your emails.
Lastly, another neat feature is the ’email tracking feature’, where you can track if someone opens and have read your email. Perfect to ‘stalk’ people who have opened your email to see your invoice but did not respond to you, perhaps?
Most creative professionals I’ve met, music producers included, are not very organized. We jump in and out of the many music tasks without actually writing or planning to-dos. This habit will not cause you much damage, especially if you’re a solo music producer. However, when you begin to work on more projects or with a team, you’ll begin to find yourself missing on to-dos.
A tool that can help is Trello. Trello is a Kanban-based project management tool, that makes it easy to break down your gigs and projects. Think of it as a board pinned with sticky notes and you shift the sticky notes to a different list to know which stage the particular tasks is in.
The premise is simple, first, you create a board. On this board, you have columns for various stages of a workflow and in these columns, you have cards, sub-tasks that move between the columns depending on their stage.
Trello has a couple of handy templates for how a record label and freelancer manage their boards that will give you a good idea of the power within Trello!
This is probably one of the tools that made our team at least 5X times more productive, in the past year.
Slack is a messaging tool for teams, where it’s designed for one purpose – to kill off email. In this technological era we live in, how do you share recordings and communicate with different artists, studio, client or sessionist? Most of the time we pull in a few apps together and use the email as the official mean to send each other information. I mean, that has been the norm for years.
Enter Slack. However, the way we use Slack in the recording studio is a little different. Instead of only having team members inside, we invite our clients as part of the group as well. Then we create different project groups and invite the client in.
This allows our team, wherever they may be located in the world, to quickly send a message, a file or get into a quick audio/video call – with other team members or the client.
Communication this way is faster, as Slack works as an instant messaging tool. Need something? Just launch Slack on your computer or smartphone, and shoot a message across, tagging the person you’d like to reach. This also offers better transparency in your projects and trust me, your client will love it that you’re being attentive to their project.
A word of caution: Because Slack makes it so easy for you and your client to reach other, it’s best to set a certain ground-rule for messaging. For example, set a ground-rule, that you’re not to be disturbed after a certain hour. This again depends on your business or your studio’s working policy.
Slack is free to start, so give it a go and I’d promise you that your productivity will skyrocket.
Graphic Design Tool (Bonus)
A picture tells a thousand words. A video tells a thousand more.
As an artist or creative professional living in the 20th century where everyone is connected digitally via social media, having stunning graphics to accompany your online promotions and marketing is a must.
Poster My Wall
Graphic editor tool on Poster My Wall
As a sessionist, you’re tied up with practice and recording sessions. But just like any other creative individual, you need to spend time marketing yourself as well.
This is where Poster My Wall comes in. Use it to quickly browse thousands of design templates and create your own design pieces – as a poster, social media graphics or even your music album cover. And don’t stop there. What’s amazing is that Poster My Wall even has video templates that you can use to quickly create animations and video content.
To top that, you can do all of this within your browser. No need to download an app on your computer.
Below are some quick links to music-themed graphic templates on Poster My Wall that might be useful for you.
- Band flyers – Collection of more than 10,000 flyer templates for bands and musicians.
- Album Cover Templates – Coming out with an EP or album? Use this and skip paying expensive designer fees.
- Social Media Graphics –Promote your music and work on social media with these music templates.
Bonus #2 – Soundtrap
How does composing, making music & collaborating with other people on your internet browser sound?
Soundtrap is a browser-based DAW that allows you to quickly jot down musical ideas and share them with people across the world. Don’t expect Soundtrap to have the power of a full-fledged DAW, but through the years, it has improved so much that its now widely adopted by mostly students and educators.
For you as an audio professional, the advantage here is that anyone, anywhere can have access to Soundtrap – as long they have a computer or a smartphone, with an internet connection. Gone were the days where you had to use a software that both you and your client has.
Think of Soundtrap as a cloud-based version of Garageband. It’s not the best, but it’s accessible and is good enough to work on musical ideas with someone across the world, on a single project – without having to send large files back and forth.
What do you use as part of your recording business?
The music industry is a tough one, no matter the role you play in it – as a sessionist, artist or music producer.
What tools do you use to manage your daily operations? Share them below so we can all benefit from your experience too.
About the Author
Shree has been drumming for 16 years and is mad about music production. He writes online at Ghostnotes Blog and covers everything from drumming and music gear to band management and music marketing.