Tag Archives: money

Trying to estimate the cost, part 1

Two years ago, when Hidden Number released our second album, Burn Alive, we wanted to have a bad ass release party. But that meant lining up some good bands, confirming with a good venue, and finishing the record in time. Not so easy, especially considering we were thinking about this before we had finished mixing and mastering. And we didn’t even have artwork. Getting all the moving parts to fit together at the right moment would turn out to be brutal.

We started regular weekly meetings, and we started tracking everything that had to be done to reach the goal. We found an artist, Chris Unruh, who agreed to do an amazing piece of artwork… for free. That meant, he was doing it on his spare time. The best we could do was get a guess from him when the art would be ready, so we doubled that amount of time. Then we worked out how long the album would take to get mixed down. Dean was working tirelessly on the tracks, and so we worked out how long one track took and multiplied that out by the number of songs… and then doubled that number. Both dates aligned. So far so good. Next, we estimated how long it would take to actually raise the funds so we could pay Morphius in time. It seemed doable. Then we worked out when we could schedule mastering, and how long it would take for Morphius to press the records and deliver them. Lastly, we set to work on finding a venue and some bands to play with us.

But there was more. We wanted to sweeten the pot for the pre-orders. So, we decided it was time to release the rules and dice for the Hidden Number board game, which we would include with purchase. More scheduling of how to hand-make the scrolls and dice. And we wanted to include a poster as an insert. Luckily, Calla Donofrio was kind enough to provide a stunning collage. Oh, and we needed to start a mailing list, so that we could have a drawing to give away a free record. Plus, estimate when (and how) to offer up pre-orders with a sample track. Plus, we needed regular updates to the website, on the progress of it all.

Still not enough. How much could we pack into the schedule without going insane? We wanted to give our fans free download codes on purchase of the record. So we called up Morphius yet again, to work out all the custom work to include our inserts and our unique codes. The milestones had to change again. And there were only four of us to manage it all.

Here’s what I’m getting at: All of these costs (of time, money, and resources) were estimated, and there were dependencies. How could we be sure that any of this would work out?

Because we had been practicing. This was our second record release. We already learned the hard lessons of having unknown costs, and so we were paying attention. And when it was something new or unknown, we doubled our estimate. And we checked in weekly on the status of every moving part. Everyone in the band had a job to do.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay attention to the time it is taking you to do the important things in your life, to pay attention to the resources that are required, and to the financial hit. For you will be called upon to make predictions. If you are ever in doubt, make sure to build in checkpoints where you can re-assess everything. And don’t create dependencies until you are sure that your margin of error is low. Practice estimating now, so that you will be good at it when it really matters.

Yeah, it turns out that we goofed on some of our estimate for how long it would take to make the record, but we had already built in padding in the schedule and we knew we should wait a little before booking a venue. And then the night arrived, and we had our records just in the nick of time, and we got to play with Smooth Sailing (who did us a major favor there, by the way) at the Comet, and it was an awesome party. We even had cupcakes.

They won’t teach you how to estimate costs in school. So, you need to get started now, before it’s too late. Your job and your art will depend on it.

Update: This is a popular topic, so I’m going to add a part 2 next week. Stay tuned! Thanks for the discussion!

Update 2: Here’s part 2.

Why you should play the drums

Eleven reasons why you should not play the drums

1. You will not make any money.

Musicians don’t make much money. The vast majority of us supplement our income with a day job. Plus, programmed drums can be cheaper. If you’re lucky, you can be a poor professional who competes with drummers who care more about music than you. The richest drummer is Ringo Starr, who a lot of people seem to mock as if he sucks. Even the richest drummer has a curse.

2. You have to haul stuff.

You spend more time hauling than performing. You must own a car, unless you live in New York. Don’t expect others to haul your stuff–that’s why they are playing another instrument.  You spend 2 hours/day just setting up and breaking down your equipment. You are the only person in the band with a car. Or worse, you don’t have a car, and you’re constantly being kicked out of the band because you’re such a mooch becuase you’re so poor buying equipment.

3. Equipment is expensive.

Drumsticks, Cymbals, Heads. They constantly break, and must be replaced or you can’t play. No, you’re not getting a sponsorship remotely soon. Only superhumans get sponsorships. You need a cymbal bag to store your cymbals, or they will break more quickly. You need a stick bag. You need a freaking car.

4. Playing is hot and sweaty.

You can’t play anywhere without having to change your clothes every time, or else you smell bad.

5. You aren’t the center of attention.

The singer should get all the attention, for a great reason. Everyone likes to sing. People rarely get a drumbeat stuck in their head. They never see you anyway, because there’s always a person or a cymbal in front of you in every direction.

6. You’re loud and annoy people.

Pike Place Market bans percussion for this reason. And you seriously have to go out of your way to play quietly. People would rather just hear a singer/songwriter.

7. It takes a long time to learn, and it’s repetitive.

Stop playing drum fills all over the place because you’re bored. The musicians mostly want someone to lay down a beat. Beat It, by Michael Jackson, is a massively successful song with the simplest possible rock beat for 5 minutes straight. That is what they want.

8. Most people don’t want to hear a drum soloist. If they do, it’s in context of a song.

See rules 5, 6, and 7 for more info. You’re not going to be a solo artist. Everyone hates that person on the street who plays drums on buckets.

9. You probably don’t have a sense of rhythm.

If you don’t constantly tap on things and annoy your parents, then it’s too late. You must practice to a metronome all the time.

10. You take up a lot of space, and usually play in a corner.

You’re trapped behind your drums, while everyone else gets to move around and interact with the audience. If you have to go to the restroom, you need to physically move your hi hat to get out. Or you’re pushed at the back of the stage, and may fall off on your back.

11. You have a bad attitude.

The previous ten rules bum you out, and you complain all the time. No one wants to play with you anyway.

The only reason you should play the drums

Because you know inside your soul, this is what you are meant to do.