“Working on an album” and getting an album done are two completely different things. Remember when Greg was telling you about the new album he was working on? When was that again… 2008? Where’s that album at? Greg is such a liar. There are more Gregs than you want to admit, too. Gregs are always promising albums that they don’t actually finish making. Here are some foolproof methods to make sure that you don’t become a horrible lying Greg.
Don’t Talk About Making An Album
Who died and put me in charge? You’re right. I have no authority to tell you how to live your life. But I can tell you what has worked for me in the past, and what has failed me, and talking about a project before it has been solidified has always left me with egg on my face.
Because I have spent a lot of time around other musicians, I have collected enough data to confidently say that if you see someone talking about their new album, the chances that it will come to full fruition are about 1 in 10. Those aren’t great odds, but I think the main factor at play here is that the types of people who talk about making an album are already getting what they need from this interaction – an excited response. Go back through Greg’s Instagram feed, and you’ll likely find a post about the new material he was working on two years ago. Now go look for the material.
Social media might be mostly to blame for this. We’re all addicted to posting something to see whether people will like it or not – selfies, inspirational quotes, and promises of exciting projects that don’t always get completed. Maybe I’m coming off cynical here, but there’s a really simple solution for this conundrum: Don’t talk about it.
Wait… but don’t I need to start building buzz for a project, so that people are interested in it when it does come out? Yes. You do. So start talking about it after it becomes a real thing.
Commit To A Timeline
Go grab a calendar and open it. I prefer to use a real calendar over a phone app, because I feel like things on my phone aren’t real and are easier to forget about. Your mileage may vary. Now let’s try to estimate a good time period to put out your album. Here are some highly fluid but generally reliable estimates for the album making process:
• Allow for 6-8 months of recording time for a typical full-length album. This depends on a lot of factors, but it’s a good average.
• Try to allow for 3 months of lead time from the time you announce your album until the day people can hold it in their hands. This will give you enough time to promote it online and in real life.
Don’t stress yourself out. Choose a timeline that is actually realistic, and don’t rush the process. You’re making art, not cappuccinos.
Don’t Let Collaborators Get In The Way
You want to work with your friends. You want to let them be a part of the band. It’s more fun that way, right? But it’s important to be aware of when waiting on someone else is holding you up. Is their participation worth putting off completing your project? Of course, it depends on how crucial their involvement is, but be careful of letting other people’s availabilities hold you up. Most of us have busy lives, so trying to line up your free time with someone else’s can drive you crazy, and some people are chronic Gregs, who will hold you up forever. Who are you waiting for?
Weigh Your Motives
In a conversation with a friend a few years back, I mentioned to her that I was currently stressing out about trying to write songs for a new album that just didn’t seem to be coming together. In a devastatingly simple sentence, she suddenly had me questioning my stress entirely: “Why do you feel like you need to be writing an album right now?” I stuttered my way through an answer, but I thought about it a lot after that. Why are you beating yourself up over this?
If your motive for making an album is financial stability – best of luck to you. You might want to consider whether it’s wise to risk your ability to pay the rent for an artistic pursuit that is very rarely lucrative.
If your motive for making an album is some kind of self-imposed quota – relax. In the future, when you look back at your album, will you feel good about it if it seems like you rushed your way through just to get it out? Probably not.
Personally, I have to remind myself pretty often that my own motive for making an album is to create something that I think is good (maybe even great, fingers crossed), and something that I will later be proud of having made. That’s really it. Some people like to sketch things in a notebook every day, and some people like to paint things on a canvas every week. I can’t do either one of those things very well, but I can write songs, and if I plan carefully, I can usually write a series of songs that go well together. I’ve chosen to use this as my main creative outlet for many years, and I plan to continue doing that until it doesn’t excite me anymore.
If your motive is different, listen to your instinct. Maybe you don’t need to be putting out an album, but need to be doing something else instead. Only you can answer that, Greg.