- I started testing a new music marketing consultancy package that I plan to unveil next month. The process in a nutshell: I interview the client and audit his or her online assets and overall presentation. I create a report with my initial insights and recommendations, and we get on a call to discuss and brainstorm. I follow this conversation with an expanded, final version of the report containing actionable tasks that the client can immediately implement. We then have a limited email exchange to go over any questions about my recommendations, and I’ll follow-up a month later to check on progress. The client is also welcome to schedule regular brainstorm sessions and audits to keep the process going. The goal is to set the client up for the next stage in his or her music career, whether it’s for an upcoming release, a tour, or just a professional ‘polish’ to become more attractive to the likes of record labels, promoters, or managers. I can work this magic for recording artists or labels — or both, as was the case with the first client to go through this procedure, the talented techno producer Deepak Sharma of Hidden Recordings. I’m excited for what this will bring and the people I’ll be meeting and advising.
- Two new releases I’m assisting with that you should check out: Arthur’s Landing – Spring Collection EP on Buddhist Army; and More Ghost Than Man – The Courage To Lie To A Dying Man on Westerns With The Sound Off. Also, we’ve received vinyl copies of Nirosta Steel’s The Dry Ice Remixes (featuring remixes by Sleazy McQueen), and these should be hitting the cool record stores at the very beginning of May.
- I’m always testing new systems to improve daily productivity. This month I’m trying out Cal Newport’s Daily and Weekly time-blocking scheme. In the past, I attempted time-blocking using a calendar app but found this to be too rigid. For example, there was no room to extend a task ‘on-the-fly’ for a few more minutes when nearly finished, and it was difficult to change a schedule if confronted with the unexpected. These issues, combined with nagging calendar alerts, stressed me out more than increasing effectiveness. Newport’s system allows some ‘float,’ is refreshingly paper-based, and it’s easy to rearrange the calendar if things get out of whack. I also like the idea of a Weekly Plan reminder in my email inbox. It’s become a game to have that reminder email be the only thing in the inbox at the end of the day. The early results are encouraging and, if it continues to work, I’ll do a blog post about this and the rest of my productivity system.
- Great discovery: Kanopy. If you’ve got a local library card (and you should), then chances are you will be able to access this streaming movie service for free. You’re limited to five movies a month, and the selection is strong, including more than a few Criterion classics (French New Wave, Italian Neorealism, those samurai movies I love …) and recent independent offerings.
- What I Read This Month:
- What I Watched This Month:
- What I Listened To This Month:
- A Few Other Things I Enjoyed This Month:
Anil Dash on what it’s like to be a ‘non-celebrity’ with 500,000+ Twitter followers
An interview with the mayor of the curious, Orwerllian town of Scarfolk, UK
Planet Earth as described in the 116 photos aboard the Voyager spacecraft
This video of Brian Eno getting giddy over his Ultra-Harmonizer in 1994
Ten moments in the history of Cocteau Twins … some which were new to this longtime fan
That time Sterling Morrison left the Velvet Underground for an academic life in Texas
Author James Clear recently published an enlightening post about goals vs. systems. He proposes that one can find effectiveness in a project by focusing on systems and jettisoning goals.
The general idea is this: a goal to complete a novel in three months is intimidating, and this looming target often triggers anxiety and procrastination. Regardless, you should have a system planned out to reach that objective, such as ‘write five hundred words each day.’ Clear argues that you may find yourself more productive by not having the goal, but maintaining the system. Just simply write five hundred words a day without the pressure of an end goal. Soon enough you’ll have that novel.
But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.
These sentiments echo the advice that I give to music producers who are stressed about ‘not enough time in a day’ to finish an album project. Take it from me, writing and recording an album is nerve-racking, especially when you’ve put the process in the context of resulting in an album statement.
A simple way to remove the stress and put the fun back into recording is to forget the album. Just record songs. Those songs may show up on an album, but don’t think about that now. Just make a point to write and record every day. Stay consistent, and keep up the practice, and you’ll end up with a bunch of songs. Whether you want to release them individually, as EPs, or as an album will be your choice, rather than a ‘goal’ choosing for you. As a bonus, this will become a habit. You’ll continue to write and record every day even after the ‘album’ is finished.
Not enough time in the day? Forgo watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tonight and instead spend thirty minutes in your DAW. Not inspired? Play around with sounds and loops. Delve into that new soft synth you purchased last week. Waiting for inspiration is for producers who don’t deliver. Chances are once you start messing around inspiration will magically appear.
There’s also the Seinfeld method, which is another great tool for consistency and output. Jerry Seinfeld uses this to make sure he sits down to write every day. Via Lifehacker:
It’s more commonly known as “Don’t Break the Chain,” and the concept is simple: spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and, when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. If you don’t do your specified task on one day, you don’t get an X and that chain is broken. It seems almost too simple to work, but it’s allowed me to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.
I think a trick here is to get a big, bold calendar and hang it where you can’t miss it. Use a thick marker – maybe even bright neon ink – to X out the days. Working on music thirty minutes a day is a good starting point, and let the calendar’s visibility remind you of the task at hand.
Not every day has to be successful or produce the beginning of the next big hit song. The point is to be working at it consistently, and the long-term result (or goal, if you’d like) is that you’ll be so much better at what you do with a large body of work to show. And I’m certain there will be a potential hit in there somewhere.
Co-signing this article found on Raptitude:
The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.
Their selections exploit our negativity bias. We’ve evolved to pay more attention to what’s scary and infuriating, but that doesn’t mean every instance of fear or anger is useful. Once you’ve quit watching, it becomes obvious that it is a primary aim of news reports—not an incidental side-effect—to agitate and dismay the viewer.
Curate your own portfolio. You can get better information about the world from deeper sources, who took more than a half-day to put it together.
I quit watching TV news (and reading the more opinionated news sites) several years ago and I can attest that my life, outlook, and – I truly believe – knowledge of the issues have improved. I used to watch daily news shows that mirrored my liberal preference and thought they were rationally informing me, unlike those ‘other’ news shows. All it took was a month-long media break to clear my head and, upon returning to TV, see these shows for what they were. I was surprised to realize they were just as alarmist, loose with the facts, and conflict-oriented as their conservative counterparts.
How do I stay informed? I subscribe to two fine email newsletters that I read on my lunch break: The Week’s 10 Things You Need To Know Today and Vox’s Vox Sentences. If there are any stories in those that I want to learn more about then I’ll easily find additional articles for a deeper dive. I try not to read news any earlier than the afternoon as my mornings are sacred, dedicated to setting the day’s tone and working undistracted on my most important tasks.
I highly recommend quitting the news.