Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Google Tools for the Busy Bassist

Originally published in Canadian Musician magazine for the Sept/Oct 2017 issue. 

In addition to being a professional musician, I'm also an IT guy, so maybe it's second nature, but I really like to use technology when it comes to organization because, like so many musicians, I wasn't blessed with the best natural organizational skills.

I'm also an avid Google user. They do it right. They offer some pretty incredible FREE tools that allow a user to make so many different parts of their life/career/hobby easier. In talking to many colleagues, friends, and family, I find it is an incredibly underused service.

Like most people these days, I use a smartphone, and the phone is smartest when used correctly. Using a tool like Google Calendar, it can remind you of all the stuff you need to do, and I'm not good at remembering those things on my own. I’m not a smartperson, except I know to use my smartphone smartly, so maybe I am a smartperson!

So let’s say I'm at a friend’s house and get a call or email asking if I can do a gig three Wednesdays from now. I have all of my gigs in Google Calendar. All of them. With as much detail as possible.

When I create the calendar entry I make sure I do a few things:


Besides the obvious date of gig, I put the time – more specifically, the time I need to arrive. In the notes field, I'll list the details: load in, soundcheck, gig time, specific gear I may need to bring, specific sheet music, etc., as well as details from the organizer or bandleader: "You can park in back and load through the service entrance," "Meal included," "Please wear pants,” etc. You get the idea.


Use the same keyword in the title for all shows. I use “gig.” This is great for several reasons. First, I know my gig schedule for next two months by just searching the word “gig,” so I know what music to work on, etc. Or say it's tax time. Okay, let's make sure I recorded all of my gig money, plus any expenses related to gigs. Boom. A list of all the gigs you've done. You're rewriting your bio – who did you play with this year? Ah, right…


Add the exact address or Google Maps-recognized name in the location field. Google Now is incredible. I'm sitting on my couch watching Three’s Company reruns and I get a notification. "You need to leave in 30 minutes to reach your destination for ‘Jazz gig with special guest.’” Whoa – I've completely forgotten about a gig. My phone just said if you don't get your butt off the couch, dressed, packed, and on the road in 30 minutes, you're ruining your reputation. Day saved because Google Now will use the addresses in your Calendar entries to calculate the time it takes to get there, assumes you're not a smartperson, and reminds you. Seriously awesome.


I add a default reminder in my Google Calendar settings both 24 hours and 45 minutes ahead – 45 minutes for the above "I totally forgot" scenario and 24 hours for the "I have a gig tomorrow night?!" scenario. If you were supposed to learn tunes, pick up your tux, and shave your back before the gig, this just saved your hairless back.


Have a special someone in your life? Are they tired of you saying, "Oh, I didn't tell you about the gig? Yeah, I'm outta town for a few days. Umm, good luck with the kids..." Invite your better half on all of your calendar items to avoid awkward last-minute conversations. Or, if you're a band-leader, add your bandmates. Or, if you have a day job with a work email address, invite your work self so you're always in the know.

You may think you're not busy enough to need to put your schedule into Google Calendar, but that's the point – it reminds you if you're not playing daily. And of course, to answer the original question, yes! You CAN do that gig three Wednesdays from now because in two minutes, you were able to check your schedule and respond, instead of not knowing, having to check your paper calendar when you get home, forgetting to check, forgetting to respond, and losing a gig because the person got tired of waiting. Do that enough times and you'll be second on the call list next time, or worse.

Bottom line, if you don't have a Google account, do yourself a favour – go get one. If you already have one, stop playing Flappy Bird, try out some of the techniques above, and make it part of your routine.