For Engineers & Producers: Time Sucks and How to Avoid Them

Salary.com once released a study that found nearly every worker in every industry wastes at least 30 minutes a day while on the job. Sometimes up to three hours! Reading social media, daydreaming, or hanging out by the water cooler, let’s face it, during the normal 8-hour day, people just need to just zone out once in a while.

In creative industries, such as the music-making business, there’s no such thing as a normal 8-hour day. Whether working on your own art or helping others with theirs, there’s no time card to fill out. Audio engineers and music producers work until the work is done.

To get the most out of your time in the studio or with a client, here are a few common time sucks and how to avoid them.

Choose a Path

Perhaps the hardest part of getting into the music industry – apart from actually getting into the music industry – is figuring out what you want to do. This includes what kind of music you want to create, what you want to get out of your career, and becoming proficient with the tools for excelling at both.

Once you’ve made those decisions, STICK WITH IT. We aren’t saying you can’t experiment with a variety of genres, styles, or other creative endeavors when starting out. In some cases, that’s the only way to truly understand what we’re looking for. Once you know your path, don’t stray too far.

Changing direction every few months can have you working in a perpetual circle. Now is the time to forge ahead with your choice and get better every day. Is every day a winner? Of course not. But you’ll have more ups than downs if you stay the course when it comes to producing your music or working with genres and artists that are truly in your wheelhouse.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) offers a wide range of instruments, loops, and presets. So why try to recreate everything from scratch? If you’re looking for a specific sound, chances are you already have one that’s close enough. Take that preset and then tweak for your purposes.

Starting from scratch every time will waste all kinds of time. If you’re in the studio with an artist, DO NOT spend precious time tweaking that sample or hi-hat to death. Your focus should be on working with the artist and having a productive session that gets them creating and feeling good about the work they’re doing. More on that below.

What’s Important?

Learn the difference between “need to know” and “nice to know.” Without a doubt, the music production business is as much a slave to new technology as any other industry. Taking the time to learn new trends and products can be very beneficial.

But spending hours trying to decide how to upgrade the studio when you just updated your equipment two months ago is wasted time. If you have the time to look up mic cords, you have the time to really look at your business and where it can improve.

Lead generation? Client retention? Do rates need to be increased or decreased? Are you reaching the right audience? This is the need to know stuff that can improve your standing in the music production industry. Avoid grappling with the hard truths and you may end up with all kinds of free time.

Does your audio engineering skillset or producer game have a few holes? What do you think will help you the most: Reading every industry mag cover to cover or spending time to grow your skills? Just like the business side of running your studio, you also need to take a good look at yourself. See where you can improve, then make a list and get going at filling in those cracks.

Produce, Produce, Produce

If producing music as a career is the end goal, treat the mission to get there as a job. Set yourself a schedule, work with your DAW and other equipment for at least three to four hours a day. You know what’s realistic for yourself, so set that deadline for a song to be finished and stick to it.

If it sounds good the way it is, stop. This doesn’t necessarily mean a finished project, either. Schedule time for final mixing, mastering, and polishing. Keep track of songs that need more work, need to be started, or even paused. And take the time to put it all on a calendar.

Don’t get too hung up on loop, beat, or sample. You could spend hours fiddling with a sound and still end up going with your first effort. We’ll say it again: If it sounds good, it is good. Get Josh Monroy’s (Ludacris, Justin Bieber, Walla) take on how to make the most of session time with your clients.

Run a Tight Ship

Since this is going to be your business, start treating it like one. There are a wealth of project management apps and software used by businesses around the world. ActiveCollab, Trello, and Asana to name a few. Like DAWs, they will have similar ways of tracking your progress every step of the way.

And don’t waste a bunch of time researching each and every option. That in itself will be a huge time suck. The point here is to keep yourself organized while you produce so time isn’t lost wondering what needs to be worked on. It can also be used to schedule clients, follow leads, and even schedule the occasional day off.

Time Suck or Making Your Own Luck?

For many, social media is a HUGE time suck. However, spending your time posting your content instead of looking at other content does nothing but further promote yourself. If people are picking up what you’re laying down, they’ll want more. Likes, shares, and retweets are free advertising for you so take the time to grow your brand.

The same thing goes for finding clients. If you get a lead through your website (you have one, right?) or a referral or phone call, take the time to reach out. Keep reaching out until you close the deal or get an outright no. This could take a month, 10 e-mails, and three phone calls. But if you close the deal, it was time well spent.

Learn with a Pro, Work like a Pro

By placing you inside a real working studio with a seasoned industry insider as your mentor, Recording Connection will give you a first-hand look at what it takes to run an efficient and effective business. Our Audio Engineering and Music Production Program curriculum is designed to help you learn the business and hone your skills and an audio engineer and music producer.

Looking to get more out of what you already know? The Advanced Audio Engineering and Music Production Program was created to give those who know the foundations an educational boost. Want to know what it takes to elevate your sound from good to great? Want to grow your skills as a producer with top-shelf composition skills? Definitely look into our Advanced if that sounds like you. With our one-on-one programs you can avoid the time sucks and get what it takes to advance in your career. When you’re in the studio with one of our mentors, you’re there to work. Ready to grind? Apply today.

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