Music Industry Project Management – Process Groups

The Five Project Management Process Groups for the Music Industry
The Five Project Management Process Groups for the Music Industry

Looking to make sure your next recording project actually ends in a recording?

Want to make your next tour more successful?

Try using the concept of the Five Project Management Process Groups for your next endeavour!

The Five Process Groups are used in project management to help ensure that the project is consistent, to know when the project has met expectations, to help keep the budget in check, and makes sure you don’t spend forever on trying to finalize the details of the project.

The Five Process Groups are:

Initiating

Planning

Executing

Monitoring and Controlling

Closing

1. Initiating – make sure your project has a definite START date. This process includes the idea that you need to make sure you have everything in place, as much as possible, before you start your project.

Questions to answer:

WHY am I doing this project? To make money? To increase sales of my previous releases? To support my new release? To generate interest from a label? Identify who, what when, where, and why before you even start your project, and don’t leave these questions hanging – you may not like the answer you get after you’ve spent time and money on the project.

WHO needs to be involved with this project, and who is impacted by this project?You don’t have to identify each individual person explicitly, but know what kind of people you’ll need to complete this project before you start.

2. Planning – Start setting priorities for your project. What is absolutely necessary, and what can be left out, if needed?

What’s the end-goal of this project? Make concrete, your goals and plans for this project. Do you want a seven-song EP recorded at home, with mixing and mastering being done by other people? Do you want to spend three weeks out on a tour of the midwest, playing at least eighteen gigs in that time, and playing in front of at least 2,500 total people?

3. Executing – This is the actual work in your project. A lot of executing involves managing teams and people. No one is an island in the music industry, and you’re no different. This is where a lot of communication happens, accomplishing your project on time and under budget.

4. Monitoring and Controlling – This process happens throughout the other four processes. You monitor and control because nothing will ever go they you plan it. You planned on using a specific engineer to mix your album, but she’s busy with another project when you need her? Time to take control and change your plans. It takes you twice as long to record the first four songs than you planned? Time to take a look at what you want the outcomes of this project to be (called scope), and either look at adding more money and time to the project, or scaling back on what you want the end product to be.

Monitoring and controlling are continuous processes, controlling the risks you take, addressing on-going time and budget situations, and dealing with other changes to the plan while still making progress toward your goals.

5. Closing – Following through to the end of the project, making sure that all the bills are paid, reviewing the progress that was made with your team, and updating your records. Good project managers also make sure to include evaluations of the project’s performance, so that the NEXT project is even MORE successful.

Project Management for the Music Industry

Let’s face it: A lot of us musicians really aren’t that organized. And that lack of organization can cost us – money, time, opportunities.
How many times have you heard of an artist that had a chance to take advantage of a big opportunity, but missed out on it because they weren’t ready – their demo wasn’t finished, they were “still in the songwriting phase”, or they weren’t happy with the results of their last recording session, and had to go back i and spend more money and time getting what they want?

ALL of these problems can be mitigated via effective project management.

I, as an engineer and music producer, have seen, first-hand, the ill effects of poor (or, usually, no) project management activities inside of projects undertaken by musicians.
Using project management techniques does several things for the musician who uses them:

It will help you spend your time and money more wisely.

The lack of planning and control leads to wasting time and money in the recording studio, whether it be from spending time recording songs that really aren’t ready to be recorded yet, spending time on using the wrong studio or engineer on the session, or not having a clear idea of what you want to get out of the session time you’re paying for (and trust me, studio owners are more than happy to let you waste time in their studio you’re paying for by the hour).

It helps you track your progress towards your end-goals.

Using project management techniques will help you know when you’re meeting your goals as a musician. Is your goal to quit your “day job” and become a musician full-time? Do you want to know when you’re easy to release your next album and go on tour? Proper project management techniques help you define your goals and track progress toward those goals.

The use of project management for your music projects revolves around using techniques that will ultimately:
  1. Decrease the rate of failures with your projects
  2. Decrease the amount of money you need to spend to complete your projects
  3. Increase the quality of your music
  4. Increase the speed at which your projects are complete
I hope this series of blog articles will help improve you music by teaching  you techniques for managing projects in the music industry.
Got a comment for me? Let me know what you think!

Income-Generating Ideas for Studio Owners and Musicians

This post comes as a response to a question from Robin, in a thread that started a while back, regarding a commenter that has a friend with a studio, but the friend is struggling to generate income from the studio.

Generating income from a recording studio is, no doubt, a difficult thing to do. There was a time (I’m told, at least), when a studio could exist, essentially, on its own merits. The space existed, and independent musicians, record labels, music publishers, radio stations, advertising companies, and others that needed something recorded would call the studio, reserve the space, and the owner got paid for the use of the space.

What’s happened is that producers, engineers, and others that provide the services for the studio figured out that they were paying the owners of the studio for use of the space, but, if they had their own space, they could generate more income by charging for the use of their own space, as well as charging for their time as a producer or engineer.

The next generation of producers and engineers came along and, trying to compete in the open market, lowered their prices, seeking to compete with established producer and engineers, which is a tried-and-true technique in competition-based pricing. This lowered the prices people were willing to pay for studio time, and between the  advent of digital recording and the shrinking of record label budgets, things only got worse.

When digital recording became affordable, at least one of the most common barriers to entry – cost of entry- was negated. This, along with a decrease in budgets record labels gave for recording albums (due to any number of factors, not limited to piracy and general market malaise) , turned the recording studio industry into and oligopsony,where there  are many sellers of a similar product, but few buyers.

All this to say, we now find ourselves in a place where, by and large, the recording that happens in the industry is done by people who are also musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers, DJs, and others that not just own the equipment and the space, but also use it creatively to accomplish their tasks.

To that end, we, as those who have paid for this equipment, hardware, and software, need to find ways of getting the most revenue we can out of this situation. And, in many cases, this requires a particularly astute studio owner to find the niches where there’s money to be made.

The obvious choices for generating revenue are fleeting. You don’t just create a website, list your credits, give people a listen to your work, and expect to get any phone calls. If that’s all you do, expect an empty inbox and no voice mails.

ONE of many, many options, is creating library tracks for sale. A lot of the music used in the world doesn’t have to be a specific artist, a specific recording, or even a specific song. Sometimes, people need music for a special purpose, but aren’t really looking for a specific track.

For instance, in my studio, I produce tracks of carillon bell music, and sell those tracks on iTunes and Amazon, and have those tracks available for streaming on Rdio, Spotify, Deezer, and other places. These tracks are not “popular music”, but they apply to a very specific market, looking for music for a specific purpose. These tracks, individually, do not produce a lot of income, but, all the tracks I produce are public domain christian hymns, Christmas tunes, or similar, so there’s no songwriter/publisher with which I need to work. All I need to do is upload the tracks to the online distributor I use, and wait for the payments to come in. And, since these are public domain hymns, Christmas songs, and similar, means that there are huge possibilities for this catalog.

This is something I can produce in the studio’s down time, and there’s no rush to complete any of these tunes, so it’s a perfect studio-time filler.

Things I think are an almost total waste of time include the tracks “beat makers” create and try to sell to people to rap over. There are, literally, hundreds of Twitter accounts that do nothing but promote the selling and leasing of these tracks. I have no clue how you’d police the “lease” of a track to begin with. In either case, there are already a LOT of people doing this, so why be one more in a series of people, trying to convince others your beats are the best? If you ARE a “beat maker”, I’d suggest working with a specific rapper (if you’re not one yourself) to create tracks for, and share in any of the revenue generated from concerts or similar revenue-generating activities.

As far as resources for learning how to do this, those are hard to come by, but I’ll list a few places that may help explain more about what library tracks are:

Sound on Sound – All About Library Music

We All Make Music – How to Write Library Music That Sells

Hope this helps, Robin!

To Save a Studio

If you follow the recording studio industry much, you know that there are lots of ways for studios to fail (competition from home recording, decease in recording budgets for artists, online piracy making music less valuable). Automobile traffic is not one of the typical risks, until now.

This story comes to us via United Sound Systems. Located in Detroit, Michigan, United Sound Systems (USS) has been around for, in recording studio terms, eons. Originally built in 1933, USS has been the birthplace of many great recordings by many great artists, including John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few (not to mention Berry Gordy, Jackie Wilson, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, Issac, Hayes, and Aretha Franklin).

Outside United Sound Systems Studio
United Sound Systems (Courtesy of detroitwiki.org)

But, now, urban expansion is threatening the very building where history has been literally made. The Michigan Department of Transportation is redesigning the exchange between Interstate 94 and Highway 10, and the property where USS sits is slated for purchase and “removal” by the Michigan Department of Transportation. So, if this plan comes to fruition, Unites Sound Systems will be no more

However, don’t think that MDOT is planning on destroying a vibrant, working, integral-to-the-industry (like that exists anymore anyway) studio to begin with. The last time this property was sold (in 2009), it sold for only $20,000, and all accounts point to the studio space has been largely unused since 2008, if not before then.

Not to say that the studio is permanently dark, either. According to reports, the studio is still active, with acts such as Allee Willis and George Clinton recording there recently.

To combat this threat, the current owners of USS are starting to offer tours to showcase the history of the building. It’s possible that, if more people know about the historical significance of the building, this may generate more interest in the studio and lead to a new era of recording at USS.

Efforts to save historical studios have been met with sometimes-successful results it he past. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, a once-great (and possible future great) studio, has had a rocky past few years. After falling into disuse,Noel Webster purchased the studio, who used it as his own personal studio and opened it up for tourists, while making it on the National Register of Historical Places. After running the studio for a few years (and having, at least, some success with it), Webster sold the studio to the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation, who is getting financial support for the studio from Jimmy Iovine at Beats. The future of MSSS is secure, in terms of preserving the building, for now.

However, Muscle Shoals isn’t in any real danger of running out of space for their cars either, like Detroit, apparently is (aren’t people moving away from there anyway?).

What do you think? Are old studios worth saving? If so, under what conditions? Are studios that aren’t actively recording really studios? What’s the measure of when a studio should be “rescued from destruction”, versus letting it slip away into a purely historical context? Should the market decide who live & who dies? Or, should we seek to preserve the history of the music industry? Should we call USS “preserving the history of the music industry” to begin with? If it’s a money-making business that pays its taxes, what difference does that make?

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron
Photo Courtesy Dave Cintron

Recroding music in a tiny space has never been easier.

You know what beats out a great-sounding A/D converter? A great-sounding vocalist, musician, or song.

You know what’s beter than going into a bunch of debt buying a bunch of hardware and software for your recording? Buying the minimal amount of gear and learning how to stretch that gear ot the limits, using every single feature/knob/contol/button on the gear/software.

A small space != small creativity.

Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm?

Read more:  Thinking About Setting Up a Recording Studio in Your Dorm? · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2013/09/13/thinking-about-setting-up-a-recording-studio-in-your-dorm/#ixzz2eoDHlJOD
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Rolling Recording Studio Promotes Music Education In Carlsbad | KPBS.org

Children naturally want to make music. Anything that gets children more interested in music is a good thing.

Rolling Recording Studio Promotes Music Education In Carlsbad | KPBS.org.

I know there are problems with quantifying the positive impact music education has on students (not like there’s a standardized test for this kind of thing), but there’s increasing data to suggest that music education impacts the learning skills & communication abilities of school-age kids.

It’s not hard to get students interested in recording music, either. One of the biggest impediments (in my opinion) is resistance from the educators in charge. Let’s change that.

Research Suggests Positive Impact of Music Education

Support music education!

 

Do You Hear What I Hear?

For you musicians, here’s a question: When you record your performance, do you pay attention to what you’re actually playing, or focus on the way it’s “supposed to sound” according to the performance you have set up in your mind?

Another question: When you listen to your recorded performance, do you actually hear what’s coming from the speakers and judge that performance, or do you “perform” the part again in your head, as the playback is rolling, and focus on that performance you have set up in your head again?

This is pretty much what I asked Robert Woody, a guy that knows how musicians’ minds work. He decided to make an entire article about it on Psychology Today’s website, as well as his personal blog.

A highly recommended, interesting read.  Here’s his personal blog too.

Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: A Production Analysis

Taylor Swift’s song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, written by Taylor Swift, Max Martin & Shellback, and produced by Scott Borchetta, Max Martin & Shellback, provides some interesting production ideas that aspiring (and current) producers can learn from.

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Single Cover

YouTube Official Music Video

One of the most interesting production ideas in the song is the use of changing dynamics to indicate different parts of the song. Of course songs should be dynamic, and good songs push and pull the dynamics to draw the listener in & create interest in the song.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” does this by changing the instrumentation and what the instrumentation is doing throughout the song.  There are no less than eighteen different parts to this song, broken down by instrumentation and dynamics.

  1. Intro – The tune starts with a single acoustic guitar, digitally warped with a few notes reversed & an interesting stereo knock on the guitar’s body to catch the listener’s attention.
  2. Verse 1 – Adds a kick drum. Still simplistic instrumentation to highlight the vocals that are telling the story.
  3. Verse 1, Part 2 – Halfway through the verse, some additional sound is added to the kick. No new instrumentation, but the kick simply has a different sound. Probably by adding another sound to what was originally triggered, or maybe a change in the EQ of the kick drum.
  4. Pre-Chorus – The part with the “Oooohs”. Add a bass playing straight 1/8th notes and hi-hat rhythm, that swells into
  5. Chorus 1 – Add background vocals, a huge snare, and additional guitar parts. The bass part changes from 1/8th notes to longer notes, with lots of space in between, basically the opposite of what you heard in the verse, which slightly swells to
  6. Chorus, Part 2 – Similar to the previous verse, the chorus gets added to in the second half, with additional melodic instrumentation.  This part of the chorus also includes a two-bar change in the rhythm of the song for “You go talk to your friends..”. Back to the original rhythm when you get to “But we are never…”. Probably my favorite part of the song.
  7. Turn Around – After the chorus, there’s a short turn-around of two measures that serves to take the song back to a lower dynamic level for verse 2.
  8. Verse 2 – Starts at the level the second half of verse one started, so it’s not just a repeat of verse 1, by adding the bass (again playing 1/8th notes). This verse is only half the length of the first, so we continue on the the
  9. Pre-Chorus 2 – The “Ooooh” part again, where there’s a hi-hat again, with some addition of delay on some of the vocal tracks, along with additional background vocals, which rises to
  10. Chorus 2 – Similar to chorus 1, but adds additional lead vocal ad libs, which swells (larger than last time) to the interesting
  11. Chorus 2, Part 2 – Two-bar rhythm change, plus some additional lead vocal ab libs. See Chorus 1, Part 2 above.
  12. Turn Around 2 – Actually the pre-chorus in dynamics and instrumentation, but there’s no downturn in  intensity until it swells to the
  13. Bridge – Takes out everything but the vocals, bass, and kick to start with. The acoustic guitar riff comes in with the high frequencies rolled off & phased/filtered, and gets louder/less equalized, and less phasey, until it gets to the
  14. Fall Off – Not really a “part” of a song, but the entire instrumentation falls off so it’s just the spoken “like, ever”. To put a fine point on the concept, which reverse cymbal rises into the climax
  15. Chorus 3 – All instrumentation, additional BGVs, lead vocal ad libs. The climax of the song
  16. Chorus 3/Outro – Adds more instrumentation, but nothing heavy-handed. Adds an almost club/dance snare track leading in tot his final chorus, along with a rhythmic keyboard part.
  17. Last line in Chorus – Climax is over, intensity decreases to just kick, vocals, BGVs, bass, and guitars, which ends the song with
  18. The Very Last Line – “Getting back together”, with no instrumentation.

“Titanium” – David Guetta featuring Sia: A Production Analysis, Part II

Titanium - David Guetta and Sia
Titanium – David Guetta and Sia

Official Video

The Song Doesn’t Need to Continually Build to an End Climax

A lot of songs produced nowadays reach a climax close to the end of the song, then fall off and end pretty much like it started (see my previous posting for “We Are Young” for an example). “Titanium” doesn’t do that.

This song works, and is different, because the song continually builds and falls, from verse to chorus and back.

True, the final pre-chorus/chorus part is even MORE climactic than the others, but the song hits like a Mack truck at 1:16. This effect is emphasized by the keyed compression on the synth track, giving the synthesizer a pulsating rhythm opposite of the kick. This climax happens again at 2:32 and 3:33. There’s no need to continually build throughout the song here, the rising and falling of the track provide an enormous amount of movement for the song.

Give the Song a Break and Give the Song Somewhere to Climax To

Related to the previous concept, you have to come down from the climax of the song at some point. If that climax comes early in the song (as it does here), you have to do something to give the listener’s ears a break. At 1:32, the song returns to the same “level” as it was in verse one. It just falls off, and you’re right back into another verse. It happens again at 2:48, but this time leads right into the bridge. The next fall off, at 3:49, is a hard stop that fades into reverb.

This tune would not work if the intensity level had remained continuous after it reached the first climax at 1:16. The listener needs a break! That much intensity for that long would provide no contrasting dynamics, and the result is that the song would sound “flat” for the rest of the tune.

Similarly, don’t feel the need to go for the knockout punch in the first thirty seconds of the song either. This song doesn’t reach any real climax until 1:16, but that also means that it spends from 0:46 to 1:16 building up to that climax. That’s thirty seconds of build. That’s a long time, in popular music terms, spent leading the listener to that climax. It’s not an automatic increase from the verse, it’s a process of increasing the intensity from low to high.

There’s No Need to Have Continuous Percussion

To help build the climax, Guetta relies on the judicious use of percussion instrumentation in “Titanium”. He doesn’t feel the need to continually use any single piece of percussion, and sometimes drops the percussion altogether (0:46 to 1:01, for example) to help create different levels of intensity and emotion. Same at 2:02 and 2:47. I dare say this song is percusisonless for maybe 25% of the song, and very little percussion for maybe 33% of the tune.

Do NOT feel like you always must have a percussion element keeping the beat in the song.

It’s simply not true, and removing elements of the percussion aids in creating different levels of dynamics and raising or lowering them by adding or subtracting them.