If you’ve only known me for the past three or four years, then, you may not really be aware of what I did before Hatched Productions or Inside Home Recording. Well, that is, unless you’ve actually read the front page of my site, or even better, clicked on the link to my resume up there…
This whole post came about through some events and discussions I’ve been having regarding the connection between what I do now (composing, arranging, orchestrating, teaching music/music theory) and what I used to do:
A short primer on my background: In addition to my musical background, I have an MBA from McMaster and spent the first dozen or so years of my ‘career years’ working in various positions that dealt with running projects for a wide number of organizations and subject matter.
It’s odd how some things kind of coincidentally start to happen – like when you find out about some new restaurant or TV show you’ve never heard of before, and all of a sudden, it seems as though everyone is chatting about it or mentioning it when they hadn’t before….
That’s sort of the situation that’s happening right now. A few things have led up to this, but it seems as though I’ve been asked, more frequently of late:
How does composing music and all the other things you do now relate to business or project management?
I’ll admit, that the creative element of creating music and manipulating sound has some tenuous parallels with project management, but I’d be the first to admit, that the creative part is way less than a third of the job. The other parts of the job draw pretty heavily on my business training – the marketing, administration, technology, and, my PM experience.
In VERY simple terms, a Project Manager is essentially responsible for managing the scope, budget and resources of a project – a unique, (usually) non-repeatable scope of work. He or she needs to be able to define all of those elements of a project and then communicate/gain agreement on them so that every one involved in the project has a common understanding of what’s going to be done, when it’s going to be done, who’s going to do it all and how much it’s going to cost.
As the project is progressing, one of the traps that can trip the process up and even cause the project to fail is change. This can be a change in one of the three elements listed above: scope, time or resources. If the change is not managed appropriately (analyzing and communicating how the change impact things and if everyone involved comfortable with signing-off on the consequences of the change), then expectations get out of whack as either the scope can not be delivered, the timeframe is not met or the required resources do not equal what was budgeted.
So, where does this all get connected to music stuff?
Well, believe it or not, all of the disciplines of project management come into play. I’m sure that a lot of my counterparts and colleagues out there practice PM disciplines, but probably aren’t quite aware of it. I’m just an oddity in the fact that I actually am aware of them and actively use them.
When I first get a gig, I cover the three “bases” right up front:
- What is the scope of the work? … essentially: What is the end product going to be in the clients’ mind? What’s it going to sound like? Are there live musicians expected? How much music? etc.
- What is the timeframe? When is the final deliverable due? Are there any interim milestones I need to be aware of?
- And finally, what is the budget?
The “Little” Stuff
There are other things I like to keep in mind when working on a project and I make sure that I document as much as I can – most of this can be covered in an agreement that outlines all of the above, plus a few other things:
- Who’s going to be the decision maker? hint: It’s usually the person with the money. I like to make sure that I’ve documented who makes all the important decisions in writing.
- How are changes to the project going to be handled. What’s the process to request a change and who signs off on them.
- How are payments going to be made – all one lump sum? or, preferably, installments: one up front, some middle payments and one at the final deliverable?
- How is the work going to be approved and how many revisions are expected?
- What else, besides the audio files, is expected to be a deliverable? Is notation expected? Are the mix files included? Are stem mixes required?
- Is there any expectation on splitting or allocating the writers and publishers royalties associated with the project?
And, if there’s anything that’s probably the biggest “habits” I’ve carried over from PM … communicate regularly keeping everyone appraised of what’s going on and document all the decisions!
If you’ve had a casual conversation that contained new information or expectations with respect to the scope, time or budget of the project, follow up with an email that outlines your understanding of what was just discussed. It doesn’t have to be formal, but it should outline all the things that you assume so that there aren’t any assumptions.
In the end, you shouldn’t have to quote the eternal PM proverb:
“ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME”