Music Business: Organization vs. Last-Minute Scrambling

My journey in the music industry affords so many real world experiences its hard to make them all fit into the music business courses I teach at Pyramind! This blog is meant to supplement the actual in-class experience by sharing various tips and tricks about the business of music in the 21st century.

I like to fill my plate to the edge when eating at a buffet – I like having it all and all at once. However, this creates a constant need to keep track of what I have to get done in the course of a day as I’m always busy doing my work but not always looking ahead to what’s next. When I was an up-and-coming producer by day and worked/DJed in clubs at night, I would always have time to figure out what needed to happen in the moment but never really put “plan to paper” as they say. in the result was that I was always scrambling to get things done right at the finish line. Since Music Business covers so much territory and requires so much communication across many social and business lines, you cannot afford to be lazy and disorganized.

After spending years on the road with Mix Master Mike I started putting simple systems in place that would keep me organized. I created itineraries that would spell out everything that needed to happen including projected travel times, when Mike had interviews, or we needed to be in another city first thing the next day. This served me well as a tour manager, but once I got back home off tour I would revert to my old ways of not really organizing my time. Old habits do die hard after all.

I started IDC with the understanding that I would have to run every aspect of the company, at least until we grew large enough to hire people. In those early days I would write huge lists on legal (yellow) pads and then scratch things off as I got tasks done. Of course there were computers back in 2004, but I didn’t really ever use them to keep myself organized.

IDC currently represents over 600 labels and artists. I also run a large start-up label for producer Narada Michael Walden and I serve my community as a San Francisco Municipal Committee member. I now have several employees to manage and my plate is so full now that the legal pads simply don’t cut it anymore. I’ve moved to a digital organization system to keep track of it all – I couldn’t be effective without the help of a few very cool (and sometimes free!) tools that are available to anyone.

Here are two of my favorites:

Basecamp – I have used this cloud product for a long time now. It used to contain separate tools like Highrise, which is a contact management database that allows you to schedule, create tasks, and keep all of your contacts in one place but Basecamp now encompasses all tools in one. Basecamp is project management software that allows you to build out every project including a calendar, tasks, milestones, and files, all in one place. There is a demo version of Basecamp available for free on their website.

Google Drive/Google Docs – Really nothing like it ever existed before. The simple fact that you can install Drive on your phone and pull up various docs and spreadsheets from anywhere is an amazing feat of technology. Update on the fly, while having editing capability from anywhere allows you to create a spreadsheet or a text doc and then access the data from anywhere. Don’t know how people lived without this. Oh, and it’s free with your g-mail account.

While tools like Basecamp and Drive offer tremendous help in keeping me organized, they are not enough. To stay on top of my days, it also takes a commitment to being more organized. I wake up every day and spend at least an hour (sometimes 3 or 4) before I leave the house and check and reply to all my pertinent e-mails, read the news headlines, and try to handle anything I can before leaving for the office. This leaves me time to refocus, or “put out fires” when I get into the office. I also try to respond to everything as it happens – once you start pushing things back, you dig a very big hole that’s hard to dig your way out of. Stay organized and you can be really, really effective at anything you set your mind to. You can fill your plate like I do – and actually have time to eat too ☺.

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