How to keep your music projects moving forward, successfully.

The Playground
Aug 21, 2020
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As a  software developer, music producer and founder of a music technology startup, there’s been a few things along the way that have allowed me to move projects forward and progress.  I draw parallels and insights from all three of those roles but find it most rewarding to apply the learnings from all three to no matter what creative project I’m working on (music, software and company).


Here’s some thoughts compiled from thinking about my most successful projects and the top points that have allowed me to stay on track.


WHAT’S THE BIG GOAL / VISION?

Small tasks are often related to a bigger goal / vision.  I started Notetracks on a vision of wanting to be a Hit Record Producer.  That was the ultimate goal (and still is ;-)  Along the way I also picked up another goal / vision of being a founder of a successful music technology startup.  These are often growth & career oriented (ex. I want to be the best artist, music producer, mixing engineer, video creative, educator, collaborator, team member, project manager, entrepreneur etc in my industry) but allow you to frame the ‘Why you are doing this?’.  You’ve probably seen this video already on Simon Sinek discussing brands and their Why’s but just in case you haven’t or want to re-see it:


HAVE A REWARDING / INCENTIVIZED OUTCOME


In most cases where I’ve made progress on a project, there’s always been a rewarding / incentivized outcome that I’m working towards.  


Having general goals helps with the overall vision but having a rewarding outcome is a strong incentive to deliver results.  There could be many rewards in completing a creative project 


-being part of a collaborative project

-achieving project success

-showcasing your talents and exposure of work

-building your portfolio

-being the best that you can be and great at what you do

-and last but not least…...$$$ Funds.


BE PUSHED BY [AMAZING] OTHERS

Whether it’s a team counting on you or who you’re delivering the project for, it’s important to have others help you push forward.  In the music world, it could be a label or client and team of artists / producers / engineers you’ve been working with.  An example in the software industry would be launching a project / product with a well known industry partner.  The power that others provide you give you no option of slowing down or turning back.  


Another important note is finding the best team players for the tasks / game.  They say teamwork makes the dream work and that is no lie.  If you’ve got amazing friends, advisors, team members and partners supporting you, you’re in very good hands and have more chances for project success.  

WHEN DOES THIS NEED TO GET DONE BY?

Everything needs to move forward and conclude on a deadline.  If there’s no specific deadline, things can stay in what I like to call “iteration mode” being refined over and over again (sometimes for the wrong reason making things worse).  I’ve seen this in music, software development and business development.     There was a post I read where someone mentioned that Art is never finished, it’s just the time is over for it to be released to the world.


One of the best experiences I ever had creating music for clients and music competitions.  Why?  They involved “making it by this date or losing the opportunity” deadlines that allowed me to focus and complete without thinking I had all the time in the world to perfect it.  On the other hand, when I would create music just for fun, I’d practice, make small snippets and accumulate a ton of unfinished work that went nowhere.


Same goes for software, when there’s a release date (preferably given by someone else like a strong partner giving you a strong incentive), you have no choice to get the things that absolutely need to get done.  


I learned this in fundraising for our startup as well.  We’ve been fortunate to receive Canadian government grants that were deadline based and obviously had strong incentives for the company (building our software, staying afloat, etc).  When it comes to investor talks in the fundraising community, the same rules apply, if you don’t have a deadline, you could be in talks forever without it leading up to anything. Side-note (we’re raising our next round by Sept 1st, 2020 so get in touch at investors@notetracks.com ;-)  Our first investment into the company was done by an accelerator in Nashville, Tennessee. Guess what? They had a deadline to apply.


Deadlines shape the project, eliminate losing track and provide laser sharp focus towards reaching the desired outcome / destination / goal.

WHAT’S THE GAME PLAN / ROADMAP?

Now that you’ve got the “Why”, a good enough “Reason” and a “Date”.  Let’s talk about what you need to get there.  They don’t call it a roadmap or game plan for no reason.  While I feel this can be a project management post on it’s own, I’ll do my best in summarizing the best practices that I’ve experienced.


With a reason and date, certain lingering questions and tasks already start to take shape.  

You need to list / brainstorm all the tasks that need to get done and then prioritize by importance / dependencies (that means one thing can’t be done without another thing happening), delegate (divide them to team members)  and of course execute on them.  What I find works the best is having a project management platform (like an Asana or a Trello board)  to keep track tasks and divide them by weeks leading up to that launch.  It helps bring everyone on the same page.   You can also use simple notes for yourself and communicate with team members however you feel is best.


Here’s a quick example of brainstorming 



Goal/deadline/outcome:  4 weeks to do a marketing video for our new brand


Things to do:


-get a videographer

-shoot date

-find folks to be in the video

-music that need to be in there

-get feedback and review

-publish on a marketing site. 

 -promote it!


And then prioritizing / delegating / executing


Week 1

-find folks to be in the video  (if we don’t have folks, there’s nothing to shoot)

Assigned to Amanda


Week 2

-get a videographer

Assigned to Kam 


Week 3

-shoot date

-music that need to be in there

Assigned to Amanda


Week 4

-music that need to be in there

Assigned to Kam 



Goal/deadline/outcome:  4 weeks to launch software with partner and achieve new customers


Things to do:


-need to get the site ready

-need to prepare marketing materials

-need to test

-need to promote


And then prioritizing / delegating / executing


Week 1

-need to get the site ready (Developers)


Week 2

-need to test (Testers)


Week 3

-need to prepare marketing materials


Week 4

-need to promote


Always have a bit of buffer in the days/weeks of deadlines.  I like to keep my weekly deadlines for Friday so that if any deliverables are late, they can leak into the weekend and be there on Monday.



FOLLOW-UP , FOLLOW-UP, REFINE, REFINE


At whatever stage you’re in, you need to follow up with everyone involved and provide feedback where appropriate.  I’ve seen projects not be as strong as they could have been because of lack of follow-up, communication or feedback.  If one does not know how to improve, one cannot improve.  There’s a ton of communication points I can write about but in short for small back and forth points lots of tools exist (email, slack, text message) that can get the job done.  For more industry specific, best to use the tools tailored for the tasks (ex. InVision for creative image work and of course Notetracks Pro for audio /video)


One important point to mention is that even being a tech entrepreneur / enthusiast / software developer, I still find that certain times require an in person meeting (perhaps not the best time in the world for that), video call (2nd best) or a phone call to touch base on important points where seeing / hearing the reaction in a back / forth is best.  


CONCLUDE 

This goes without saying but just in case, finish up and deliver the project (on time!).


CELEBRATE THE WINS!

One you’ve delivered the project, take a moment to “Celebrate, good times, come one!” // sorry I had to ..


Folks that deliver projects are usually quick to jump to the next after a project is successfully completed (or forget about what they just completed).  I find it’s important to pause and celebrate the achievement as well as thank any team members and stakeholders responsible.  It’ll replenish energies to tackle the next mandate (and keep folks loving to work with you).


On that note, thank you to  Amanda who pushed me to write this post with a strong incentive that it can perhaps have value for our audience.  Also thank you to the amazing friends, advisors, team members, freelancers, contractors and partners that have been supporting our projects from day 1.  I’ll celebrate this post with a fresh new cup of coffee.  

In hopes at least one of these points will allow you to successfully move your creative projects forward.  If I missed anything or you’d like to share your experiences/views, please get in touch with me or write us below!


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