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Music, Money & Managment

Money, Music & Management

The importance of project management in the music industry to produce an album and the financial impacts.

 Amongst many circles, it is widely accepted that humans beings are creatures of habit. Creatures of habit in work and in play.  Human beings, everywhere they inhabit, create culture with positive and negative attributes.  These positive and negative attributives make themselves known at work and within industry.  Often, these negative and positive attributes manifest in the guise of popular accepted-trends regardless of there specific benefit. In cases of positive attributes, benefits such as a free-form-creative habit can add value to a business objective; and in the cases of negative attributes such as procrastination or the lack of urgency, a poor habit can demolish business value.
 
The music industry provides a frame of reference with examples of both widely accepted positive and negative business habits.  The music industry, as a whole, has gone through many changes within the last decade.  In the last 10 years we have seen the advent of the Internet, music pirating companies like Napster and devices like the Ipod, change the music industry drastically, adding new business and monetary constraints.  These new constraints have exponentially made once widely accepted negative habits become unacceptable.  With the introduction of these new constraints, it has never been as important and financially essential, as it is today, to proactively manage business efficiencies.  Pro-activeness requires many businesses to bring into account, when managing efficiencies, the traits and habits of the human being within a business context, and consider their negative attributes relative to the business’ ‘bottom line.’Upon investigation of these imposing negative habits within a business context, one discovers that the biggest problem with human beings is that human beings are just human.  To be ‘just human’ is to be affected, good and bad, by our biological genetics and cultural memetics; the inheritance of positive and negative attributes through our gene pool and our cultural environment that, within us, creates habitual behavior.  In business, the attempt to override, or at least account for, relatively speaking, negative human tendencies is all but crucial.  The ability to insert the rational ‘point of view’ is an important instrument in managing efficiencies, particularly in ultra-creative fields like the music industry.  In the music industry, the ability to efficiently conceptualize, produce and distribute a creative idea to customers requires both free spirited creativity and a super structured personality.  One of the specific causes of inefficiency in the business of music is album delays.  Album delays can be attributed to the ‘creative space’ required by the artist to create musical magic; but one must understand that ‘creative space’ has to be payed for with hard currency.

The ‘creative space’ versus ‘structure’ scenario is an area for improvement and scrutiny, specifically, in the scheduling of album releases.  In this area of ‘creative space’ without ‘structure’ one can correlate how this scenario can impact and create the infamous album ‘push back.’  We have seen this occur with the recent release of Drake's album,Take Care, which was ‘pushed back’ approximately 2 - 3 weeks for ‘samples clearance’ of last minute song additions to the album.  U2, Leona Lewis and Nicole Scherzinger are a few other ‘heavy weight’ artists that have experienced recent album delays.

So how can a label, through management, mitigate the delay of album releases? The improvement begins with asking obvious questions:  Why can’t ‘heavy weight’ artists get there ‘product’ out to market on schedule?  It isn’t like they are indie artists who do not have access to human and financial resources?  Are we not in the technology age?  Technically speaking, does the music label have to physically mail a song to a mastering engineer across the country?  Again, to investigate these issues one has to look at the human being, their habitual behavior, their connection to the inefficiencies that create album delays, and the resultant financial implications.  

The financial implications when an album is delayed is hard cost.  When a budget of X amount is allotted for an 8 months period, and because of mismanagement, is ‘pushed’ to 10 months; the result is an addition of 2 months salary and studio time to the overall budget.  When an album’s release date has to be ‘pushed back’ to a new release date, one invites the chance of a competing artist to gain preciously earned market share. Album delays can slow creative and market momentum; thus, it would behoove an artist that is considered ‘hot,’ at a particular moment, to release on schedule and ‘strike while the iron is hot.’  Yet another financial implication as a result of continued album delays is the pushing back of promotional tour dates, which, in turn, can create revenue loss due to venue cancellation.  As one can see, the simple notion of ‘pushing back an album’ has financial domino effects.  These examples demonstrate that the creative role is not the only asset in music making; an organized working relationship with a ‘structured typed‘ individual is also essential.

One such ‘structured type’ is the Project Manager.  The general role of the Project Manager is to be organized and disciplined; to have the foresight to anticipate possible problems and to solve those problems when they occur.  The Project Manager helps to produce deliverable(s) in a timely fashion while keeping the product at its maximum achievable quality.  Simply put, a Project Manager helps achieve objectives while honoring the preconceived creative and financial constraints.  In the music industry, the role of the Project Manager is essential in mitigating inefficiencies such as the album ‘push back.’  An artist, with the assistance of a project manger, can allow ‘themself’ the space to create without fear; knowing, with confidence, the manager will keep them on track.  As Scott Belsky stated, Creativity x Organzation = Impact.

Addition:

Recently, we read an article on Young Guru, a music engineer who has worked with many famous artists like Jay-Z.  In his Red Bull interview, Young Guru discusses the importance of his role as an engineer /project manager and the significance of ensuring his various projects are completed on schedule.  He conveyed that his role is ‘To Solve Problems’ which made us smile, being that the  project management role is an unglamorous position that is essential to project completion but is often overlooked by the creative world.  At the end of the day, it’s about getting a quality product to consumers on schedule regardless of the complex components in recording, production, marketing or distribution.  In an ever-changing and dynamic world, where the management of time can make or break a business or a musical career, one should consider the inclusion of that ‘structured’ personality type in the creative process:  The Project Manager.

Posted by Winston Peters and Jey Van-Sharp of MyUberLife

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