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.

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!

Control – Now I’m All Grown Up

The decentralization of the recording studio industry is in full force now, and musicians are able to do more for themselves than ever before (so we’re told). This mindset trickles down to the studio industry as well. So many studio owners are concerned about the well-being of their studio but also don’t seem to want to do anything to change their business practices.

I was reading this article from The Independent (a U.K. newspaper) about Arcade Fire and the article mentioned the fact the band was a pretty cost-conscious operation:

“they controlled their own rights from day one…[t]hey very cost-effectively made their first album, and then made some strategic deals that would bring in some money for them to buy their own recording studio and be able to be self-sufficient and make their own recordings. They pay for everything themselves and deliver it to their licensees. No label will ever commission anything that they do. Their videos, their artwork, their photographs – they pay for everything. They have complete control.”

I remember the first time I head about a band buying their own equipment with record label money. It was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and it was in the mid 90’s. I’m sure that’s not the first time a band has bought recording equipment, but I do remember that was the first time I thought about the fact that there doesn’t have to be a separation between musician and engineer.

If we want to keep this studio business thriving and want our own studio to stay afloat, don’t forget that the power is in the musicians’ hands. Can they take the equipment that’s available today and make a great-sounding record by themselves? Yes. If we as studio owners understand that fact and work with artists to achieve their musical visions instead of feeling like we have to fend off attacks from the digital home recording world, we may do a lot better than we’ve done in the past.

What are you doing to stay afloat in the studio business?

There are a lot if indicators that point to the fact that the studio business is a tough place to stay alive.

If you read Billboard, Mix, or some of the other professional trades that deal with the studio business, they’ll tell you that studios are closing up shop left and right and those spaces are being turned into condos. Yeowch! Priorities, eh?

Anyway, the recording studio business has never been easy, and it’s being made a lot tougher on studio owners that aren’t very business savvy and those that try to cling on to the way they did business ten or fifteen years ago.

My research shows that at least SOME studio owners are charging less for their services as a way to stay competitive in the marketplace. How bad of an idea is that? With the increased cost of doing business (employee salary/wages, rent) there’s no way you’re going to stay in business if you continually charge LESS money over time. May work in the short term, but that’s not an effective long-term strategy for success. And, once you DO start to charge less money, when you try to increase your rates, all your clients are gonna grumble and complain about how much it costs to record at your facility.

So, my challenge to you is this:

What can we do as an industry to keep ourselves alive (a la Queen)? I think it’s going to take some pretty innovative thinking. It looks like the people that are out there making a real go of it are doing something creative and unique. I’m not sure of the right answer(s), but I have my thoughts… How about you?

J

2008 Recording Studio Survey Quick Facts

Highlights from the 2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey
Most studios are commercial and for-profit. Most studio owners and managers stated that their studio was commercially available to the public (89%) rather than a private facility or one that was closed to the general public.
Studios are used primarily for tracking. Almost half of the studio owners and managers surveyed said that their studio was primarily used for tracking (46%), with mixing being the most popular secondary purpose of the facility owned/managed (40%). Editing (21%) was also a popular secondary function of the studios owned and managed by respondents.
Out of those studios that owned at least one tracking room, most owned more than one (average of 1.92 per facility that owned at least one). Less frequently, respondents owned rooms for editing (average of 1.69 editing rooms for studios that owned at least one), and mixing (average of 1.63 mixing rooms per facility that owned at least one).
The average age of the facilities owned or managed by the respondents is 17.33 years. Additionally, the reported average gross revenue for the previous tax year was $161,772.73.
Country music is still the primary style of music produced at Nashville facilities. Contemporary Christian, Rock, and Gospel music were also popular styles produced at the respondents’ facilities.
Most respondents operate their business as Sole Proprietorships (36%). Respondents also reported operating their businesses as Corporations (25%), Limited Liability Companies (18%), and General Partnerships (14%) as well.
Studios that use interns on a full-time basis use more interns (an average of 2 interns per studio that used full-time interns) than studios that use full-time engineers (average of 1.5 engineers per studio that hired full-time engineers at all).
The primary use of studios in the Nashville area is for music production. Mastering and Sound for Picture work followed in popularity.
Most studio owners and managers (89%) say they offer DAW mutitrack formats at their facility. 57% of studio owners and managers that responded say they offer digital muitltracking, while only a little more than one-third (36%) say they offer 24-track analog multitracking at their facilities.
Overall, most studio owners/managers say that worldwide, conditions for being successful in the recording studio business are getting worse (67%) and not better (11%) this year compared to last year. 18% of owners and managers feel conditions for being successful in Nashville getting better.
The PDF with all of these results can also be found here. More information regarding the Nashville Recording Studio Survey can be found here.

2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey Quick Facts

Highlights from the 2007 Nashville Recording Studio Survey

Most studios are commercial and for profit. Most owners and managers said their studios were
commercial and open to the public (87%) rather than project studios closed to the public (7%) or
private and not-for-profit (7%).

The recent increase in independent record labels in Nashville is seen in clientele. Independent
record labels were the primary client for studio owners and managers in the past year (29%), while
business that aren’t record labels as well as independent artists with no manager account for 21%
each of studios’ primary clients.

Nashville is still home to country music. The most common style of music produced in studios by
owners and managers that responded is country (16%), with rock (13%), contemporary Christian
( 12%), gospel music (11%), and demos (11%) all following close behind.

Studio owners and managers that responded said their studios grossed an average of $125,205 last
tax year.
Additionally, most studio owners and managers either saw an increase in gross revenue or
stayed the same (73%) compared to the previous tax year. 91% of studio owners and managers say
they are experiencing growth or the same amount of gross revenue this tax year compared to last
year. Also, the average length of time studios have been in business in Nashville is 15.55 years.

Engineers are the most common type of employee in a Nashville Studio. Every studio owner and
manager (100%) that responded to the survey that have any full-time employees have at least one
Engineer on their full-time staff. More than half (55%) of studios also hire a full-time Studio
Manager as well.

Studio owners and managers are looking for help from interns more and more. While there were
increases in the number of Engineers (9%) and Studio Managers (11%) hired, Interns saw the
biggest hiring increase (27%). Assistant Engineers and Engineers saw the greatest increases in
independent contractor work (30% and 18% respectively).

Primary use of studios is to track audio. Almost half (47%) of studio owners and managers
surveyed say they use their studio primarily for tracking, while only 13% use their studio primarily
for mixing. Mixing, however, is the largest (57%) secondary use for studios.

6 out of every 7 studios have at least one mixing room. 86% of studios have at least one room
used for mixing, while less (71%) studios have at least one room for tracking.

While 70% of studio owners and managers feel the studio business is getting worse in the
Nashville area
compared to last year, 45% say that their own business is performing better than the
rest of the Nashville
recording studio businesses. Also, while 18% of studio owners and managers
feel optimistic about the future of the studio business in Nashville, over three times as many
(64%) feel optimistic about their own studio’s performance.

The PDF with all of these results can also be found here. More information regarding the Nashville Recording Studio Survey can be found here.