“The creative mind is one of the hardest things to manage.”
For many, their creative ideas have been pushed to the side in favor of other priorities. How can we create and produce something meaningful with so much to do in life?
We all need a little help to get our work done. And what better way to give our creative ideas the attention and care they deserve than by giving them an adequately organized system?
I don’t know about you, but I love music. I love listening to it, creating it, and sharing it. And I would LOVE to make more of it. But there is one big problem: the creation process can be difficult, time-consuming, and sometimes uninspired. We all know that we are not meant to be a slave to technology. But most of us don’t have the time to be a master of it.
Remember: your time is your most valuable asset!
There’s a good chance that you’re constantly looking for ways to leverage technology to maximize productivity. You want to find a way to make more music. If so, you need to create your own machine. That’s where this music hack comes in. It’s about using technology to build your own tools to make you more creative.
That’s why I’m so excited to show this to you, my No-Code Music Hack. My name is Kwan (Quang), and I’m a lifelong musician who loves to make music. I followed the most complex genre to master: Electronic Music. It pushed me to the extreme limit to learn everything about the production: _write lyrics, mix vocals, manipulate frequencies, use filters, apply distortion, play with many plugins, design my own sound, and mix/master — _and I love every bit of it. I struggled for many years to stay organized and finish my ideas. And I think this problem also applies to a lot of people.
It took me a while to figure out my process, and it’s been an incredible journey since then. I’d love to share some of my discoveries with you. In this post, we’ll look at how to use no-code technology, such as Airtable to make your life easier while performing the day-to-day tasks required for songwriting and production.
What are the Major Challenges for Modern Artists?
I have always felt that artists are the first to feel the pinch of a market economy because they are so tied to their creativity. There’s no doubt that, in the last decade, artists have been facing some significant challenges in their careers. They’re finding it increasingly difficult to make a living out of making art. The challenges for artists are many: not being paid enough to support oneself and one’s family, lack of access to education, fear of being judged, lack of time, and a sense that it’s all been done before.
If you fear everything has all been done before, worry not. Nothing is original.
*Stop worrying about what’s good and bad *— there’s only stuff worth stealing and stuff that’s not. You are a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences.
Your role as the artist is a collector. Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.
If you feel creative but get stuck when you can’t make time for it, you have to design your own creativity system. Your current process might be messy and unorganized. It can be challenging to maintain the discipline required to produce quality work over a long period. Without a proper system in place, you get burned out quickly. You also need time to improve your craft and practice.
If you think about it, everything is a domino effect.
The true answer is time and patience.
When you have time, you can work on your creativity. Watch some more tutorials to learn and improve your skill, which will make your song sound more professional with higher quality output. When your product is good, you will build your confidence, and you will no longer fear being judged. Your music is your salesman, so the more music you make, your fan base will grow over time.
So how can you get back more time to make arts? The answer lies in no-code technology.
Of course, you can use Excel or Google sheets or multiple apps for your creative process. But there’s a better way to manage your life and career all in one place.
What Is No-Code?
No-code platforms are web-based software solutions that can be used by non-technical users. It’s easy to use and allows you to build your solution quickly and without the need for extensive technical knowledge.
The No-Code movement is the current movement trying to get software development done without coding. In other words, they’re trying to make it easier for non-developers to create applications and, more importantly, to develop effective, maintainable applications. It levels the playing field for ordinary people like us to access the technology and build an excellent solution that fits our needs.
The Advantages of No-Code Technology
Forget about programming languages; they don’t matter to me. As a musician, I like to communicate in frequency, vibration, chords, melody. Music is my universal language. It transcends walls and boundaries of languages.
If you are frustrated by coding languages, you are not alone. Even though I can’t click with the programming language, I can still build the solution that fits my need via no-code technology.
Let’s think it simply. To have your own app, you merely need a database, a user interface, and functionality.
It is vital to have a platform that can manage your data and help you automate the process.
Nowadays, there are a lot of no-code tools that can handle your database and user interface. One of the most well-known platforms used for creating no-code solutions is Airtable. It can take data modeling and organize the information.
At the same time, Integromat is a fantastic no-code tool for handling logic, automation, and connecting with the rest of the Internet. For example, with Integromat, you can build a connection from an email list to a social media profile, from an eCommerce platform to a content management system, and so on.
Why You Need To Use Database?
“Everything is data.”
Hold that thought in for a second.
Data has always existed. Everything that happens creates data — from the sun shining to each keystroke on an individual’s computer.
The human mind interprets the information as data. It enters your mind as data through neural activation when the information is used. While numbers are abstract, humans respond intuitively — and emotionally — to patterns.
Data exists in many formats and can be captured and stored through different approaches. In the past, people had to write down their thoughts on a piece of paper. Nowadays, we can have a way to put all of our ideas and opinions on a computer. You can also find a lot of helpful information that would be beneficial after collecting. Using data to improve the world we live in is a natural thing. We, as humans, have discovered that data can be used to answer previously unanswered questions.
The best place to store their data is in a database. Some use Excel, some Google Sheets, big corporate use SQL, etc. The corporate solution is too hard for ordinary people to get into, while more straightforward solutions like Google Sheets lacks functionality and a modern approach to building relational datasets. With the rise of popularity in the no-code space, Airtable is my preferred choice for my database solution.
Many professionals use the database to help them do their job more efficiently. Many people think that the purpose of databases is to store a bunch of information.
However, there are many ways in which a database is used. It can be used to keep a record of your work or to organize your ideas. You can:
have one or many databases, but they should all be related to the same thing.
- use databases to track your progress.
- track how much time it took you to finish your project.
- track your gears and upcoming/previous shows and plan ahead.
The most important: keep track of your thoughts!. No matter what type of art you are making, you will require a lot of data to keep you going in the right direction.
How to Implement No-Code in Your Artist Workflow
An excellent way to achieve your goals is to set a realistic goal and then work hard to accomplish it. When you’re putting your goal, make sure to develop an achievable plan. Make sure that you have time to complete your goal. If you don’t set a realistic goal, you might not achieve your goal in the future. Write down all of your dreams.
Start with your goal as a first data point and add your goals into a database system like Airtable. And then review them weekly so you don’t forget about your set goal. From Airtable, build the table for “Goals” and keep all your plan notes there. Your music project will link to the tasks to reach the “Goals” database. As time goes on, you will start to see its relation.
Suppose there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a songwriter. It is sometimes you have an excellent idea for a song. However, without any sort of title to accompany it or any lyrics to make it memorable, you’ll still have a hard time selling it. Every track should tell a story.
And it’s essential to have a couple of words for it, even just a little. To maximize the song’s fullest potential, I always try to develop some lyrics for the music, as I am no longer too focused on make heavy sound design or crazy composition. None of them matter without any context. Having a good title of the song or lyrics is essential (like the Youtube title or blog title) since it will be a critical anchor to guide you on the song’s context and development. And there’s also a no-code tool to help you with that. You can use Rhymers Block to write your lyrics, suggesting synonyms and rhymes for your sentences. There’s also Rytr, Jarvis, Lyricstudio, and they are using AI assistant to help you expand the following sentences of your lyrics based on the topic. Pretty crazy!
Create a Database System
As I said previously, your role as the artist is a collector. The more good ideas you collect, the better choices you have to influence.
We all know that a music artist needs a lot of musical ideas and inspiration, and we are all creative people. But people don’t find it easy to collect music ideas. We all have so much music to listen to, and we all have different tastes.
There are two ways to get inspiration to work on your track: listening to other songs or writing your own music. Some people find it easier to listen to different genres, and some find their creativity when creating their own material. But why not do both? You can build processes of each and then link them together!.
The best way to make things easier is to break down your process into small steps. When you break down your procedure, you will see that there’s a lot of optimization that you can do to make the process easier and enjoyable.
You can start a database in Airtable and use it to build a music idea collection. Use it as a way to organize and catalog all your musical tastes. You can label all the tracks you liked once you have them. Some of the most common ones are song ideas, melodies, riffs, chords, tempo, key of the song, etc.
When I collect the ideas, I also have a place to find the inspiration to work on my own track, either for lyrics, melodies, beat, effects, drum, sound design, or song composition. I put some notes on the tracks about why I like them, what part of the song inspired me, and tag them with section, mood, and so on. These tags will help me group all the ideas related to the same category.
When I make the tracks, I break it down to** Draft, In Progress, Mix/Mastering, **Scheduled, and Published. Then I save info of the projects (key, bpm) in Airtable, along with the lyrics of the tracks, and write down all of my thoughts and ideas, how I use them in the production.
Mixing music is enjoyable, but it can also be challenging to do it well. There are many ways to optimize it. We can help ourselves by using good mixdowns to our advantage. I often have a tag for ‘good mixdown’ to filter and get the views of just all the well-engineered songs (based on my ears). I can reference them when I’m in the process of mixing/mastering. I can also find good mixdown tracks per genre. When I have the excellent mixdown collection, I can reference them to the song I’m currently working on so I don’t go off track on my mixing decision. Then I can plan out or add some notes on what I have to fix on the track.
Music production involves various skills and knowledge, and as such, being organized is critical. Being organized can help you stay productive, save time, and enjoy the process more.
Without organization, you’ll never have the time to focus on your music. You can do many things now when you have a foundation in place. Now you can create different views for different purposes. Sort the track by bpm, key, Camelot, energy, the danceability of the track. Add the tags to the track, put some notes in there.
If you are a songwriter, you can find the song by lyrics, by keywords, how it’s been used in the tracks, and how the rhyming scheme is used on other tracks from your music collection.
You can build your set list by sorting it with a Camelot key if you are a DJ. Now, you can find which tracks can be mixed well in key with other tracks and take them as inspiration for making edits or mashups. It also helped save your storage space without downloading too many tracks that you don’t use. When it’s time for the set list, just pick it from the database and download it later.
If you are a playlist curator, you can refer back to your previous year’s collection, how many tracks you liked in that year, what date you liked it. Label the track with genres, and you can group them up to see all of the tracks in that genre in one click.
You will have a place to host and manage your music ideas projects, plan out the releases, create tasks that you have to do for each release, and not forget the ideas you created. I used to keep making new ideas, putting them all into folders, and sometimes I get lost in it and don’t know which songs I should work on first.
Suppose you are a beat-maker and feel uninspired from a blank session. In that case, you can look at your collection and see the tempo and key of the recent favorite tracks that you liked, start your new project with that tempo and key, sort them by bpm. You can find all the inspiration that you can get in the ranges of that tempo. Stuck at the transition section, intro, or outro? Tag and label the tracks with the song composition, which parts interest you, and you can build a view filtering only the tracks with that specific condition. Now you have an unlimited source of ideas to finish your tracks faster.
Suppose you are crazy about being organized like me. In that case, you might as well have a table to collect all of your hardware/gears information about its cost, the receipts, and the date of purchases. I also collect and save all the plugins information that I mostly use in my production, categorizing them into the type and which one is best for the job. Some plugins are mainly for distortion, creating harmonics, while some specialize in Dynamics, Compression, making tones. Some are primarily good for reverb, delays, effects, filters. And some are good for mastering purposes. I can always reference back and check on my notes of how I used them before. If there are plugins that I rarely use, I can always check those off and not install them in my yearly clean-up. I used to clean my system every year (because I used Windows). Still, hopefully with the transition to macOS this year, I won’t have to do it anymore. It also helped me set up my new computer really fast because I saved all of the installation files of the plugins in Dropbox. At the end of the year, I can quickly determine how much I have spent this year on hardware & plugins.
If you have to perform a show, having your gear collection table is an excellent way to keep track and plan out what gears you will bring to the events. You can have a “Events” table and save all of the information regarding the events (date, location, state, payout, gears, etc.). Since it is held in Airtable, you can always reference it and see how many events you have performed this year and last year and track your progress.
You can also create a “Contacts” collection with all of the promoted contact details, label details, promotion blogs email details, and you can make use of your collection list when you release a new track.
The best thing about Airtable is that when you put your ideas down, you affirm them to yourself because now you can always see them there, where they are currently at, and the status of those projects. You can even integrate with Dropbox to have a new folder created for you with the naming convention and move the projects folders along with the changes you make in Airtable.
If you still use Soundcloud, you can create a connection with Soundcloud to upload and schedule the tracks automatically when it’s done. And that’s the next part that we’re going to talk about!
Automate The Process
When you break down your process as data points, it becomes easier to automate specific tasks. This will save you time and energy in the long run. It also gives you the ability to focus on making arts. To me, automation is definitely the most fun part of this process!
You can add the track you liked to your personal playlist on Spotify, then use automation to add that new tracks into your Airtable database automatically. You can use Integromat to connect to Spotify and get the song energy, bpm, and track key. If you want to go the extra mile, you can connect with Musixmatch to grab lyrics of the tracks and add them to Airtable in one go. Now, all that’s left to do is label it and put the genres in there.
If you are a playlist curator, you can also build automation when you have new tracks added to this playlist, add them to different playlists, or remove the tracks from the playlists automatically after a certain amount of time.
Creating a connection with Dropbox is a beautiful combination to organize your files and folder when making music. When you have new ideas finalized and created in Airtable, it can trigger the process of creating a new folder for that project so you can save it in there.
I set the naming convention of my folder to “bpm — the key — name of the track.” Then, if I move the status of the projects, the folder will move to a different sub-folder. I divided my folder structure to 50%, 80%, and FINISHED in Dropbox. So all the new idea projects will be created in the 50% folder. When I change it to the mixing/mastering phase, the folder will be moved to 80%, and when it’s scheduled for release, it will move to the FINISHED folder.
I like to use Dropbox to save all of my music projects because I don’t worry about losing project files. I use Ableton as my DAW, and Ableton has a well-organized folder structure to save all the stems.
Publishing is also a part of the process. You can use Integromat to connect Airtable with Soundcloud. When the status of the track moves to Published, it will trigger the automation to upload the tracks, add album cover, fill in all the info. Schedule to release the day that you set. You can even connect your Facebook Page and Instagram, Twitter and have a place to collect all the assets (images, description of the tweet, posts, download links, credits) and plan out the posting directly from Airtable. They get posted on social media on the scheduling date while you focus on making new music. You can also automate the pre-release and post-release content for the releases ahead of time, and from there, it’s just rinse and repeat.
Honorable mention: Notion and why I don’t use it for this workflow
I’m a big fan of the app Notion. It’s a great tool to organize and manage your notes in a central place. However, there are times when I feel the app isn’t the right tool for what I need to accomplish. I love Notion, and I still use it exclusively for my life operating system. It’s a system that I collected articles and books inspiration and write my journal. But it’s only good as note-taking; the overall user interface is not quite clicked with what I wanted to achieve. Plus, they don’t have as many automation capabilities as Airtable.
As of this writing, Notion can’t create a button in the database. I like to use a button to trigger the automation anytime I want. Notion also doesn’t have internal automation like Airtable to create custom trigger conditions in the database.
You can only add the lyrics in the Notion database item by adding them into the body of the items themselves, which you always have to open in the tab. With Airtable, your long-text field will be opened in the widget, and it doesn’t get in a way in your scrolling view. I wanted to see the whole database like spreadsheets to reference and jump back and forth quickly between my collection.
It is not uncommon for some of us to have difficulty staying focused on our goals. We often find ourselves distracted by all of the distractions and noise of the modern world. However, when you combine this technology with the right approach, you can build something useful and valuable to aid your music career. And the results of that combination are usually a lot more rewarding than you realize, making them a massive opportunity for growth. This music hack for the creative mind can help you stay focused on your goals, help you overcome the challenges of distractions, and stay inspired.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about my music hack, and I hope it was helpful. Feel free to leave a comment or question in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
And also, keep making music! Making music gives you all the freedom the world currently has to offer.