Monday, March 31, 2014

Time Management Part 1

How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

This is time management at it's core. This post is dedicated to getting your life under control and organizing your precious minutes to make every one of them count. This post is going to be full of cliches so get ready... We can't save time and put it in a bank.

Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right. Time management is all about motivation. When you choose a habit, you choose a result; which is why we want to choose good habits in order to facilitate good results

External deadlines suck, internal deadlines rock. How many times have we all procrastinated on that paper or report that was due the next morning? That's because our motivation came from an external source. If we can somehow switch that motivation to an internal reward system, then we can be less stressed and feel a greater sense of reward. Example, if I finish this paper a day before hand, I won't have to lose sleep that night and can treat myself with video games or reading a novel.

How to you get major projects done? One small step at a time.

1) Give yourself a peptalk
It sounds dumb, but it works. Studies show that repeating a mantra sometimes helps reduce stress induced by clutter and organization issues. I personally put on the show Hoarders and that motivates me to start organizing.

2) Make use of lists
Projects don't consume time, tasks consume time. In order to manage tasks, start using checklists.

In NASA, they have a checklist for everything. Why? So that astronauts don't have to remember every procedure, just how to DO the procedure. This eliminates the possibility of forgetting to do a critical step in the process.

     How to make a project checklist
a. For your project, write down every action step that you will need to do in order to accomplish the project.
b. Now write down every step and resource you will need to accomplish each task.
c.  You now have an action plan and can start chipping away at the project.

I Personally switched all of my notation and lists to Evernote in the fall of 2013. Evernote is a nice elegant way to manage notes and lists across all devices and platforms. It also has a sophisticated search that will bring up related notes and projects from other programs and allow you to cross reference very easily.

3) Keep paper flowing, paper tends to breed like rabbits.
     Use the TRAF system
          Trash, Refer, Act, File

Basically this is a great way to follow up and organize action items immediately. Have separate folders for the TRAF system and then start organizing your papers into
     a. The Trash
     b. A folder in which you will Refer, or hand off the paper to somebody else
     c. An imediate folder in which you will act upon
     d. Important papers to file away or scan

More about TRAF and organization

Clutter = stress

Part two coming shortly

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pre-Production Part 2

Scheduling. Why?


The ability to effectively manage a small group of people is key for any producer or engineer roll. You are a leader in the control room (that's what you wanted right?). So now, it's time to step up. What do leaders in the 21st century do?!


So, in pre-production, it's absolutely ok to over schedule the bejesus out of the project. As we all know, schedules and life changes every second so having a plan for your recording and mixing allows for other people to work their personal schedules around their work schedules. Here is an example of a pre-production schedule I did for a previous project.
As you see here, every date, time, room and task is laid out in order to allow for the band to know who needs to be where. 

Even if this project doesn't go according to plan, you can alter and change if needed. But, people now know what is expected of them in this recording process and the project can move forward with the same time commitment expectations. 

Also, as you see, emails and contact information is on the sheet so once you look at the schedule you can contact somebody in the same time frame. It's just convenience without losing time trying to look up people's information that you could have spent on mixing. 

Time management next!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pre-Production Part 1

So I get a lot of people asking me what exactly "Pre-Production" is for their clients and how they should go about doing "Pre-Production".

Pre-Production: Noun. The most important step of the recording process which takes the most time but reaps the most savings in time, cost and liver damage.

Here is my pre-production process.

1) Meet with the band
My initial meeting with the band usually involves instruments but very little playing. The number 1 goal of any meeting is to make everybody feel comfortable and heard. If they bring instruments, there's an expectation that we will listen to the songs in their live form and really capture how the music is suppose to convey their message.

  • Prep for meeting:
    • Ask band for all lyrics, charts, paper napkins with structure that they can find. If they don't have it, they have to come up with some sort of road map to their music for you. This way we have a common GPS to navigate their music
    • Bring any demos they might have recorded (just to hear what they might be thinking in terms of recording) but tell them that their live performance is much more important. 
    • Start an spread sheet to map out possible input sheets per song
  • At the meeting
    • Always start it exactly on time. This establishes the tone for the entire project. This lets the band know you mean business and that their and your time is valuable and is not to be wasted. 
      • True story. In my corporate life, there was a culture of showing up 5 minutes late to meetings. I started my meetings exactly on time, and sometimes started speaking to nobody in the room.When people finally walked in (after some odd looks) nobody was ever late to one of my meetings again, and they appreciated the fact that I wasn't there to waste anybody's time. 
    • Take copious notes!
      • What is the style (fashion) of the band?
        • Sometimes this can say a lot about the attitude of their music
      • What their coffee order was
      • What their ideas of their music is about
      • What are their influences
      • What do they want to get out of this process
    • Listen to them play live
      • What is the song structure?
      • What is the tone of the music?
        • Agressive?
        • Love song
        • Melancholia?
      • Do you want to reproduce their live sound or go with a more produced sound?
These are just a few things in the pre-production meeting that we look at. This is your opportunity to get to know the band and establish a working relationship with them and deliver your expectations. Remember, you need to be extremely organized in order to give direction and allow the band to just worry about the creativity, not the nuts and bolts of the recording process. 

Next up... scheduling

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Music Business (Part 2)

So let's talk about this being "personable" business...

Mr. Tishler discussed how he once had an intern that was a bit afraid of talking on the phone. He did an exercise with them in practice cold calls where he would be the client and they would be the person requesting to speak with the boss. It's a silly example but practicing that skill got the intern to network and thus future employment.

So how can you be personable and learn to network? Communicate comfortably?

It's a tough question, let me tell you about my experience.

When I was 16, I got a job at a local shoe store selling and fitting shoes. That job wasn't bad and I learned a lot about retail. The biggest thing in that store was customer service and acknowledging people as they walk in the door. My manager at the time Lance always lead by example and showed the staff how to great people and attend to their needs.
It might have been a silly retail job but the biggest thing I got out of it was the ability to walk up to people and immediately learn to read their body language to see if they needed help or not. I got comfortable with being uncomfortable and began to turn it into a game. I started to try to figure out a story about people and try to learn one new thing a day about the customers.
This is networking.

Mr. Tishler and Mr. Chance both stated that they always talk with people, because you never know when down the road you might rely on them for information, jobs or even just a cup of sugar. It's called future human capital and we all need to start collecting it. As the world shrinks due to technology and social networking, we are missing the "social" part of the "networking".

So again, how do we network?

Literally, practice.

Talk with people at the subway, in the grocery store, in the lobby of the hotel, in the bar. Anywhere, just talk. Don't look for something from them, just have conversations for conversation sake. See what works, learn why people might run away from you or gravitate towards you. See if there are certain types of people. What you learn might surprise you.

Try this exercise.

Next time you are at a bar or concert, try to pick out somebody holding a drink towards the front of them. People with open body language tend to be more open to unexpected conversations. Introduce yourself and then ask their opinion of Taylor Swift. Tag that with saying "I am in the music business and am trying to get data on why people like or dislike her brand". THEN, follow up with one question from what they told you.

If the conversation continues, great! If not, now you have the experience (and a little bit of information) and can start chipping away at your insecurities of approaching people. Pretty soon, you will be chatting up a storm and starting to network with similar interested people. Remember, this business we are in... is a communication business.