COMING FULL CIRCLE
Wait. It’s not the end of the year. What am I doing writing “Adventures in Audio”?
I started my music career as a musician, more years ago than I care to count. I thought it was the end all, after all, how can you have a music career and not be a musician? That was the narrow focus of my thinking. Circumstances in life placed other priorities in my way, and I found that music is a thing in my life, not the thing of my life. Practicalities made it impossible for me to pursue my “musician side” as much as I wanted.
Another chapter opened up where I went behind the scenes. I made some albums, met a lot of really cool people, started this website, met a few not-so-cool people, worked for a professional baseball organization, started a podcast that is heard around the world, and concentrated on audio engineering.
years later, the old musicians bug starts biting again, this time with the intensity of a chigger attack. (Anyone spending any time in east Texas knows what I am talking about.) It was time to get back into the game as a player. I couldn’t commit myself to another band, but I found the perfect outlet performing in the bands of musicals in the area. That led to me meeting other musicians, in addition to musicians I met when I was recording and engineering in full swing. There were also some attempts at forming bands that for one reason or another never panned out. But the shift is unmistakable. My career is shifting back to the musician side of things.
I’m just going to go with it. I think I can balance performing and engineering. It’ll certainly be an adventure. Tonight I played with a band, an audition. I felt it went well, and I think everyone else was pleased and there was talk about future meetings, but I am still being cautiously optimistic. I had fun and gave it 110%, and whatever happens, happens.
THIS IS GETTING TO BE LIKE A YEARLY UPDATE
I was making some changes to the website and saw that I haven’t made an entry in my “Adventures in Audio.” Not that there hasn’t been any. 2012 was a very busy year, as far as audio adventures go. “Music You Don’t Have, But Should” continued production, although the production schedule got a little spotty due to my involvement in another musical and wrist surgery. Then new commitments began presenting themselves. The regular schedule of a new show the Saturday after the 1st and 15th of the month was amended to accommodate other projects, but “Music You Don’t Have, But Should” remains popular and it’s a joy to do, so the podcast series will continue in 2013. Talks are also going on about another podcast series or at least a series of short PSAs.
So where will South Sound Audio head in 2013? The podcast will continue. There will be more outside music projects, as well as more work at Safeco Field. Massive gear expansion is on the horizon. I’m going to be playing out in 2013 in various bands and doing session work as well. Maybe Lightning In A Bottle will see the light of day. Tough call, that one. Trying to get bootleg tapes to sound less “bootleggy” is a chore. Some possible musical work is in talks or will be soon.
Just keeping the plan nebulous enough to change if they have to.
My friend, colleague and mentor, Willie K., will be retiring this fall which may cause a major change at South Sound Audio. Whatever happens will be for the best, but either way, South Sound Audio will continue.
I notice I haven’t done any album reviews in awhile. My New Year’s resolution is to so at least six new album reviews. And also put up some new files in the Audio section.
In a non-audio part of my life, but nevertheless every bit as important, I started working with veterans in assisting them with finding employment this past year. Besides the audio work, this is the best thing in the world I can be doing. I am very fortunate to be able to work and associate with my heroes— the men and women who honorably served this country— on a daily basis.
Every year keeps getting better and better, and I thank my family, friends, and the people I work with. This is more than I deserve, really.
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
Yes, I know… I’ve been slacking in the “Adventures in Audio” department. Was my last entry really last December 8th? I guess it was.
Instead of harping on things I didn’t do this past year, let’s look at what I did with South Sound Audio this year.
It’s not a big secret that South Sound Audio has made a major shift in the way business is conducted since last year. That has all stemmed from my being choosey about who I work with and the projects I undertake. In the same vein that you wouldn’t undertake projects that won’t take you to the next level, neither will I. I looked at the direction South Sound Audio was going and I didn’t like it. I was pretty much doing the same thing over and over again. If I kept on in the same direction, at the end of ten years, instead of having ten years of experience, I would only have one year of experience, ten times over. Follow me?
I would rather accept fewer jobs with more of a chance of growth and fulfillment, than have lots of jobs that would not profit me, either experientially or financially. That’s the direction I moved in over this past year.
Has it been worth it?
Last April, South Sound Audio began producing “Music You Don’t Have, But Should.” The sole purpose of the show is to introduce original music by independent musicians to a larger audience. No advertisers, no sponsors, no money changing hands, just doing it for the love of music and the relationships I have with hundreds of independent musicians throughout the world now. Some projects that will be profitable in 2012 are springing up from the podcast project.
This is something I couldn't have done a year and a half ago working under the old business model. I was continually pushing my own projects to the rear while I worked on the projects of others, furthering their careers, but doing nothing for my own. 2011 has been a phenomenal year, and “Music You Don’t Have, But Should” has been a big part of that. By jettisoning last year’s dead wood, I’ve had a wonderful podcast, been in a new band, collaborated on new musical projects, and made some awesome contacts in the indie music business.
As 2012 progresses, the podcast will continue and new horizons will become apparent. As I said, I am becoming more picky about who I work with and what projects I take on. I won’t work in any way that I feel violates my own values. Not that I have before, but I’m just stating that for the record.
Life is good…
Thirty years ago this night I was watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell interrupted the proceedings to announce that John Lennon had been shot. I was a high school kid who had purchased a copy of his new album, Double Fantasy, a few weeks earlier. I was a huge fan of the Beatles (still am), and was probably feeling like those of my parents’ generation when Buddy Holly died in February 1959. It was a shock and a tragedy, but thirty years adds a lot of perspective.
Cue the angry e-mail.
Thirty years on, I learned to separate musicians from their human counterparts: Lennon may have been a great songwriter, but on the human side, there would be very little that he and I would agree upon. We are polar opposites, politically, religiously, philosophically— you name it. I don’t think Lennon and I would have been friends. By many accounts, he was distant, bitter, cold, and sarcastic— not the kind I would hang out with. But he made some great music.
The Beatles were larger than the sum of their parts. Not one of them enjoyed the same stature individually as they did together in the Beatles. While I enjoyed some of Lennon’s solo material, I found a lot of it self-pitying, and self-absorbed. This is merely my opinion— your mileage may vary. But some of his music (particularly from the Beatles era) has inspired me in ways. It would have been interesting to see what he would’ve done had he lived. There would almost certainly have been a Beatles reunion somewhere down the road.
I don’t mean to seem harsh. It’s just that my world didn’t revolve around John Lennon, but I am glad that our orbits did cross.
THIS IS WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED…
I am a straight shooter. It has never been my intention to use this blog, online journal, or whatever you want to call it, to self-glorify. I tell the good, bad, and the ugly. A recent event I was involved in had a little bit of all three.
South Sound Audio has always operated as a small, independent unit. Having no debt means that I am not beholden to anyone else as to how I run this business. For the most part, I’ve done pretty well. But I did let something get out of hand, which affected the business. Something had to give. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a CPA who specializes in small businesses. When she heard about some of the business practices I had, she freaked, to put it mildly. I hadn’t been cheating anyone, but instead I had been grossly undercharging for my services. This has stagnated South Sound Audio to the point that it couldn’t grow beyond the point where it is right now. Her question to me was, “If other audio people are charging $X for their services, why in the world would you charge a fraction of that?” To attract and retain business was my feeble reply. WRONG!
In short, I messed myself over good. I was not getting any sort of profit, nor was I able to get capital to maintain the equipment I have or get new equipment.
I never said business was my long suit.
My CPA’s advice: a radical change in the way I do business, as far as what I charge. She said there is no reason why I shouldn’t be charging the same as my colleagues. I shouldn’t worry about any business I might lose by charging a comparable rate. People would take advantage and treat me as a “cut rate” if I continue to charge a “cut rate” rate. If people balk at a professional rate, then pass them by.
She’s right. That’s why she has a big house on an island in the Puget Sound and I don’t.
Then I was working a job and I seriously began questioning if I really wanted to work in audio any more. The job was a “perfect storm” of everything that could go wrong going wrong. To top it off, the person who hired me for the job had another sound engineer (!) there, so I was redundant. It became painfully obvious that my role at this gig was to be the star’s gopher. I had a serious choice to make— swallow my pride and just take it, or have some self respect and walk.
I chose the latter. I would never quit (and have never in the past quit) gig where I was actually doing something useful, but I wasn’t going to act the part of professional sycophant and polish this guy’s crown. I calmly told him I was leaving and did so. No fuss or drama (on my part anyway). I texted him that I was out of the audio business, and I meant it. I was done.
In talking with a buddy of mine a few days later, he reaffirmed that I had done the right thing. I also mentioned the CPA’s advice. He told me that I shouldn’t allow a bad experience to ruin my whole business. I thought seriously about leaving the audio business all together, but many people close to me have persuaded me otherwise. It’s a passion of mine, I love it, and in the long run, I couldn’t give up the audio business any more than I could cut off my arm. Yes, I feel that strongly about it. So I am in it for the long haul. Quit that customer— not the business.
So where does this leave me now? Some clients did balk when I told them about how things are going to be from now on. One berated me by telling me they could do better than me anyway, yet this person had no problem with my work and then wanted extra copies of work I did for him! I politely— ahem— declined. I’ve liquidated a lot of my gear and equipment (as well as some clients who don’t want to pay) in the past week, but am planning to acquire more in the foreseeable future (my CPA has seen to that). That limits me to the services I can currently provide.
But there will be new clients. In the meanwhile, I am working on in-house projects— the musical, new band, new album, possible band album, contracting out to other studios, etc. There are a lot of new things on the horizon, and things are still as bright as they ever were, just different now. This is just a time of restructure (possibly bring in a new business partner), and cutting away the dead wood so that other branches can grow. South Sound Audio is entering it’s fourth year, and by the beginning of its fifth year, South Sound Audio will be better than ever.
To those of you who have supported South Sound Audio, I humbly thank you, and I look forward to working again in the future and accomplishing great things with you. YOU make everything possible and make me want to continue doing what I do. To those of you who feel differently, you still fail to understand that this is a business, not a hobby. As I wouldn’t ask you to perform for me for free, I wouldn’t mix your albums for free. I wish you would reconsider, but if not, I wish you well in your future endeavors.
To end this entry on a high note, I am purchasing new recording software for South Sound Audio soon and some new musical instruments for my new extracurricular musical activities. I am buying the instruments out of necessity, since I need a particular *something* and none of my current gear is doing it for me. Here’s to bigger and better things!