Commentary: 5 Project Management Tips For Your Next Album Release

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Some of y’all know I have a pretty cool “regular” job in corporate IT as a project leader and project manager. Basically a project manager (PM) is somebody who makes sure something (i.e. a project) gets done the right way, on time, within budget and in the way folks want it. I was blessed with the opportunity a while ago and since that time, have been the PM on two successful projects. Now I lead a team of PMs and together we work to make sure all of their projects for our customers are done the right way, on time, within budget and in the way folks want it. Our work isn’t always easy, but it can be a lot of fun.

Most of what we do as PMs can be applied to just about any endeavor you can imagine, that has a start, end and goal — baking a cake, planning for a vacation, or putting on an event. Even from the music perspective, some of the basic priniciples of project management can be applied and used for a successful album release.

So for this post I’m going to point out a couple basic project management principles and explain how y’all can use them for your next album (mixtape, EP, etc.) release.

I’m also going to assume two things. One: you have a budget, and two: you have a team. If you’re gearing up to release a music project, I really don’t see how it can be done successfully (the right way, on time, within budget and in the way folks want it) without both of these two important items.

Real talk though, everything I’m going to tell y’all is pretty much basic common sense. Although, my grandma did use to sometimes say “sense ain’t common in everybody”. There have been days when I’ve even asked myself “what in the world I do that for?” Hopefully you can take one or three of these tips, put a fresh spin on what you’re doing today and use it to give you an edge for your next album release.

1. Relationships are everything.

I know this is something y’all have probably heard over and over. It cannot be expressed enough how important relationships are when it comes to releasing a successful project. A good working relationship will get you through tough spots when your skills or talk game isn’t enough. When you’ve established a good relationship with key stakeholders — investors in your brand, business owners who may be sponsoring your album release, etc. — they will be much more apt to understand if, for any reason, your project runs into tough issues.

A good relationship will also get you referrals. A referral could lead to more opportunities, work for which you get paid (performances, appearances) and a stronger network. I could do a whole other blog post on the power of relationships and referrals, which I may just do later.

2. Maintain a task list.

There are tons of project management tools on the market that can help you keep track of key tasks that need to be completed before your album is released. The tools I use most often is a program called Clarity, or I sometimes use Microsoft Project.

But you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on a software program for tracking projects. Applications such as Microsoft Excel or Numbers from Apple iWork will work just as good. What you’ll want to do is any time you create a task that must be done for your album release, is to also include columns for both start date and end date, the responsible person(s) and any dependencies (i.e. it can’t be done until something else is done first).

You can then get fancy and sort tasks in a number of ways: by start date, by end date, etc. You could even chop and screw your task lists further by creating pivot tables in Excel that would show tasks in a graphic, that are due for each person on your team, by end date. Or you can see whose tasks are late in getting completed because of a dependency that didn’t get done either.

A big album release (project) can literally have hundreds of tasks to be done by multiple people that must be completed before your album release. The key to remember with this tip is to check your task lists regulary, mark off items as they get completed and keep an eye out for important items that must be done by a certain date. Watch your timelines and respect deadlines.

3. Know your customers (fans) needs.

The best way to do this is to go where your fans are. Spend time and talk with them. If possible, make it a habit to visit with them several times a month. Now if your fans are spread out geographically, you’ll have to get creative in finding ways to connect with them regularly. But it’s definitely possible.

Knowing your fans gives you a better idea on what they need. You do not want to release an album that no one listens to. Once you know your customers, you can create music based on their tastes (of which lifestyle can play a huge factor), increasing the likelihood that they’ll not only love your product, they’ll pay for it, attend your shows, buy your merchandise and advocate your project to their friends.

4. Communicate.

I know this one seems fairly simple, but it’s way more than just about conveying information to others. Throughout the project and leading up to it’s release, you will always want to tailor your communication based on the recipient.

Some members of your team don’t do well with email and prefer verbal updates during a meeting. Others may want written weekly updates with details about issues regarding the upcoming album release. And yet still, some may only want to hear from you when the project is ready for release.

Whatever your methods of communication, the key to keep in mind is to be concise, never type in all caps and only include information that you know as fact. Do not make stuff up. If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest about it. Tell the person you’ll look into it and get back to them (and actually follow up with them like you said you would).

Oh yeah, always check for grammatical errors before sending out communication and USE SPELL CHECK.

5. Be cool under pressure.

Emotional intelligence is everything. Emotional intelligence is basically knowing yourself good enough to not pop off when things go wrong. It’s also being aware of others’ emotions to the point where you don’t go HAM when they pop off on you. I know that’s not a very scientific definition, but I think y’all catch the gist.

When things start going wrong leading up to your album release (and they inevitabily will–there’s no such thing as a project being 100% problem free) it is absolutely important to keep your cool. If every single body on your team is always going off when things go awry, then tasks will not get done and your project will not move forward.

Not being able to keep your cool when things get tense may also work against you. Unless you’re a big dog (i.e. sponsor, business owner, etc.), no one really wants to work with somebody whose always throwing a temper tantrum or falls to pieces when someone yells at them. It can be counterproductive and puts negative energy into your project team. Your projects’ tasks and timeline (see #2 above) could be at risk, you may not release your album on time and then end up losing a lot of money. Ain’t nobody got time for that

Working on a big project can be daunting. It can be stressful, with multiple deadlines and a bottom line (budget) to stay on top of. Working with different types of people can be like trying to herd cats. However applying some of the above tips may help your album release be successful, done the right way, on time, within budget and in the way folks want it.

Do you have questions or comments about the above tips? Tips of your own that you use for managing your project (album) releases? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below, Tweet me @nancioishiphop or drop an email to nancioishiphop@gmail.com.

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