The Leader Would Like to File a Complaint
The Stories the CEO’s, Presidents, and Owners Don’t Talk About
It’s 11:12pm on a foggy Saturday night. I’m in the B Room at Penthouse Studios with an engineer finishing up some vocals that a young songstress has just recorded. The deadline is in two weeks and instead of waiting until the last minute I’d rather get all the vocal edits and mixing done tonight. An hour later I’m at Laguardia Airport heading out to LA where I’ll be hosting my first ever listening session. I buy a bottle of water, like I always do, and sit at the gate until my group is called up to board. I scroll through my emails only to see one artist is pissed about a mix I submitted, someone I hired for an advertising job totally went over budget, and I notice that the graphic designer got the time wrong on the flyer that I’ve sent to all my LA connects for the listening session. I let out a deep sigh and put my phone away. I just couldn’t deal with fires that I knew I needed to put out right away. By this time it’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m fighting sleep so I can try to get some rest on the plane ride over. I look at my phone hoping to find someone I could vent to at least for the moment only to discover I don’t.
Moments like this are very common for any entrepreneur in any business. You fight to level up by taking bigger risks to work with bigger artists only to discover that you’ll be taking on a lot more stress. To compensate for the workload you start to hire and build a team to delegate tasks which brings, of course, more stress. There hasn’t been a day since I started this company that I have not been uncomfortable. The relief comes after the projects are done and have been released. Nothing like a satisfied artist. I’m happy that they are happy. However, what they don’t see are the hundreds of other artists I talk to on a daily basis that reject what I offer. At the same time taking on numerous tasks which sometimes require a skill I’ve never learned. I’m constantly asking questions because as I manage different projects I have to know what’s going on. There have even been times where I’m making a beat, while on the phone with someone while texting our engineer notes for vocal edits. I’m busy giving energy to everyone else. However, I have none for myself.
I land at LAX six hours later completely exhausted. Not only do I have to walk to the rental car terminal to pick up a vehicle, I now have to drive 4:30 in the morning, pacific time, to my hotel. Now my body thinks it’s 7:30am and I can’t fall asleep. I start scrolling through my phone looking to find someone I can talk to that does exactly what I do. No luck. I’m in completely uncharted territory amongst my contemporaries. Some run studios, some have an LLC, but none of them have employees, partners, and demanding clients. I’ve also accepted the fact that the way I run my production business isn’t conventional and not too many are going to be able to lend me advice. Negotiating the price on a beat is very different from being in a room with a manager and an artist trying to workout a production deal. It’s the path I’ve chosen but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate a contemporary who truly understands where I’m coming from. I have one mentor that has allowed me to vent but most of the advice he gives me is to raise my prices and find a different business model. Sound advice.
It’s now 10am and the listening session isn’t for another 12 hours. After a hearty breakfast from the Denny’s across the street I find myself back in my hotel room drifting off. Even though the TV is on, the room is quiet. No party, no crew, just me. If the listening session goes well, I’ll be celebrating here by myself. If it fails, no one will know but I will.
I complain about walking this road alone. However, I’m starting to think I like it that way.