Join us this week at drummer, producer and multimedia ninja Brian Stephens’ Bonzo Tunes Studio as we talk about the multimedia stuff geeks like us care about. 🙂
Here followeth an actual transcript, for you visual types…maybe with a pic or two…
At Bonzo Tunes Studio
TMN: Hey there. Does it look a little different today?
Brian Stephens: Hi.
TMN: That’s because we’re here with this guy, Mr. Brian Stephens.
BS: Hi, everybody.
— The Multimedia Ninja (@bradfordrogers) June 2, 2017
TMN: Here at studio who’s name I don’t actually know.
BS: This is Bonzo Tunes Studios in Buford — Sugar Hills — Suwanee… We’re in some nebulous area in that general location.
TMN: Yeah, I’m guessing it’s named after a certain drummer.
BS: Yes, whose birthday was yesterday.
TMN: Oh, all right. That would be Keith Moon, right?
BS: Yeah, perfect.
TMN: John Bonham.
BS: John Bonham from Led Zeppelin.
TMN: For you young kids.
BS: Yes. There’s a long story about why even before I played drums, why that name was very important, but we won’t go into it on your podcast.
TMN: I forgot to start my clock so I know when we got to stop.
BS: Oh, okay. Does that mean we have to do all of this over again?
TMN: No, we’re done.
BS: Good. Bye, folks.
TMN: Yeah, we’ll see you.
BS: See you.
TMN: Man, so you’ve got more toys here than anybody in the world.
BS: It’s a fun place to work.
TMN: Yeah, so we took a tour already of the downstairs studio. We are here in the lovely podcasting suite upstairs.
BS: Also known as the room above my garage.
TMN: Yeah. I’ve even got my logo. How cool is that?
BS: Look at that.
TMN: The hospitality is awesome, sir. Thank you.
BS: Yes, yes. I really, over the past … I’ve been in the studio business for about 18 years at this point, and I’ve…
TMN: …since you were 10.
BS: Yeah, exactly, since I was a wee little lad. I really have progressively tried to create an environment for myself where I have not only all the tools that I need at any given time. I have places to work that have the tools that are specific for those places.
When I’m in my control room, everything that I need in that control room at that moment should be there. If it’s not, it should be really, really close. Drum-wise, let’s just say I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a drum sound I could not get.
TMN: Yes, I’m going to post the picture of the 60,000 snares in the first room we saw there.
Here at @brianstephens place for the @faderjocks #podcast 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻@mattstill @garyharrismusic @silenttk @joefitzengineer @tanyachantareed @gamusicpartners @shanisammons @tammyhurt @aaron_meier @timothypgreen @aajmusic @gwenhughesmusic @ishedj @funderbone @theblogmillionaire @thenickwells @bohemten @1tu3foe @dianedurrettmusic @hbombatl @rickhenkle #audio #producerlife #TheMultimediaNinja
BS: Yes. I have a very good alarm system and two huge guard dogs.
TMN: Yes, yes, met them as well.
BS: Yeah, as long as you’re with me, they’re going to love you. If you come unannounced-
TMN: We should point that out. Do not come uninvited.
BS: By appointment only.
BS: No, so if yeah. If there’s a drum sound that I want, I want to be able, or that someone else wants. Let’s clarify that. I’m in the service business. All of this is about being of service to other people.
If someone says, “I’m hearing this particular snare drum sound,” there’s 65 different snare drums I can pick from. If they say, “I want this kick drum sound or these toms,” there are plenty of choices. Cymbals, mics, pres.
Everything is right at my fingertips. If I’m upstairs working on interviewing people, I don’t want to have to up end everything downstairs to be able to come up here and have a conversation that we can record or that we can stream and push out onto the internet.
BS: It really is just about having all the tools I need where I need them at the time that I need them so that I can be creative and as quick as I can possibly be, which quick to me is different than quick to everybody else.
TMN: Right. That leads into sort of today’s topic in a moment, but I did want to mention I like the idea you have that right behind the primary two shot camera there is your office in the office. I feel you when you’re saying that’s where I spend as little time as possible doing the business crap that I don’t want to do-
TMN: -like invoicing and things.
BS: I’m okay at business. I’ve become a better business person over time, but it’s something I hate. From time to time I’ve hired people to try and handle business for me, and they usually fail miserably for a variety of reasons. I’m a benevolent dictator, so-
TMN: Ditto. That’s actually in my first album. It’s in the liner notes.
BS: I have a certain way that I need things done. I like things done a certain way, and I like them done … Let’s just say I like them done when and where and how I like them done.
Business is something I don’t like to spend a lot of time on. I’ve tried to put a lot of systems in place so I can minimize the amount of time, but I’ve also tried to, again, create a space behind that camera where when I sit in that chair,
I can focus on just that. Yesterday was a perfect example. 11am, I sat down in that chair, and I knew that I had a ton of work. That’s the work that I talk about when I talk about work.
I sat down there. 4:30 in the afternoon, I was still sitting there, and hopefully that’s the only time I’ll sit there all week. I just knocked it all out. Just bam, bam, bam. Set up them, knock them down. Totally done.
It allows me not only to focus, but because it’s such a small little desk, everything is kind of cramped, even the chair’s not very comfortable, though the exception of yesterday where I had to play catch up, I spend as little time as I absolutely have to there.
I get it done. I get out of there, and I move onto the stuff that I enjoy.
TMN: Mm-hmm (affirmative). By the way, I had in my notes even, but I may have touched on this with you before, but do you ever use the Pomodoro technique?
BS: I have tried it. It really depends on my mood. Everything is mood for me.
TMN: For our listeners who may not have caught whatever episode I was talking about that stuff, and you should go back and check all of them just to make sure you find that one.
BS: You should listen to every single episode of this podcast.
TMN: Yeah, but the very last, what is probably the immediately previous episode to this one, as my assumption, is the Cuba podcast, and it was freaking killing me. I got back in January … I wanted to do it from Cuba, and I decided it was probably going to be a three parter to do it right, and I got back January 25th. It is now June, and I just put the video version out a couple of days ago.
TMN: It was killing me. A lot of stuff, but finally, I was getting close to the finish line, and I got to tell you for me, this Pomodoro technique is just where you work typically 25 minutes at a time.
You can’t work on more than one thing unless you finish the thing you were checking of next. Then, every 25 minutes, you are required to take a five minute break and do something else, not think about what you were just working on.
If I’m on the boat, I’ll typically be in the nav station down below and every 25 minutes, I’ll hear a little ding, get up, walk around the deck, get some sunshine, and what not, or if I’m at home in the red room, I’ll go out on the porch, on the deck.
The break for me is just long enough to be between gee, I wish I had more time for a break and I’m really if I’m going to get back to work, I’m antsy to do it.
Being antsy to get back to the next segment of 25 minutes, which is just long enough you can really flow, works for me. Then, every four of those segments, you then take a 25 minute break or so. Man, I was knocking out the Pomodoro, so I finally got that sucker out, which you can see at TheMultimediaNinja.com/55. I highly recommend it.
BS: Dot com.
TMN: Yes, dot com. We’ll put in a little sound effect. Yeah, Pomodoro technique works for me, not so much for you, so there you go.
BS: Again, it all depends on my mood. It also depends on what I’m doing. When I’m mixing, I do have a schedule. I do 50 minutes of mixing and 10 minutes of an ear break. It’s the only reason most of my mix days, if I’m just doing mixing, most of my mix days run anywhere from nine hours to 14 hours. It depends on when my deadline is. Again, I try and run with the muse, so the only reason I do the 50 on, 10 off is to make sure that I don’t burn my ears out. I could sit there for five solid hours and mix and be perfectly fine in that chair, but I wouldn’t be able to go nearly as long into the day.
BS: Everything else really has to do with the thread, whatever thread I’m on at that particular point in time. Not to plug anything, but if you get the June issue of Drum Magazine, that’s this, I’ll hold it up right there in my own personal close up there. You’ll notice it is a recording issue, but the guy who is on the cover is Brann Dailor from the band, Mastodon. I spent about a day and a half with those guys in studio while they were working on their new record with Brandon O’Brien. When it came time to write this article, I had started to write this article probably three times.
I got about 15 minutes in, and I’m just like, yeah, the muse is not really hitting me right now. The day that I wrote this article, and it’s about a 3200 word article. It’s the feature piece of the magazine, eight hours from start to finish to write that one article. I might have gotten up, other than maybe for a potty break, because there’s one right around the corner, I might have gotten up twice in eight hours, but that’s because the muse, the muse just said, “All right, I found what I’ve been looking for as the lynch pin for what this article should be.” What it should do. It was just writing feverishly. I worry sometimes in those moments if I interrupt the flow that I’m going to lose the thread.
I just have to stick to it. Now, at the end of that eight hour day, I was completely exhausted. You would think sitting in a chair and writing wouldn’t be a big wear and tear on you, but physically and mentally, I was-
TMN: It’s touch on some parts.
BS: It’s touch on your boo hind, yeah. I have a comfortable chair that I sit in to write, but it was just everything about that level of concentration for that amount of time on that particular kind of thing to stay in that slot mean that I really couldn’t take a whole lot of breaks. Like I said, the small break that I took to run out and run back in just to provide comfort for myself was as short as it could be. It was get up, go, come back. Wash your hands, come back, right back to it. The whole time-
TMN: Glad you clarified.
BS: Yeah, washed my hands and then come back. That whole time that I do that, I’m actually talking. This is the weird thing. If I get on a thread like that for writing, I’m actually talking about the next things that I’m going to be typing. I just keep the thread going and I don’t drop it. It really depends. If I’m doing a drum track, then I definitely have to shorten the length of time. I take more breaks, but yeah. It really is running with the muse.
TMN: Yeah. You raise a good point too. I should have thrown in there that same thing here. I tend to us that pomodoro thing when I’m running into a block to help with the block. If I’m actually in a flow state, then I’ll just not even bother, you know, just go and keep going until the muse says, “I’m done.”
BS: Yeah. That’s not to say that I have really spent a lot of time, especially the past five years, concentrating and spending a lot of time on learning how to learn and learning how also to be more creative, how to be more effective with creative thoughts, so again, there’s the thread. As I see those three threads, even the fact that there’s three directions that I can go, if I don’t just pick one and move, I’ll lose all three threads. You just saw it in real time right there. Why it’s so important for me that when I hit the thread, if there’s anything, inspiration, you can work from two places. Here’s one of the threads I would have gone down.
I can work from two places. I can work from the disciplined role of … Like I do with my morning pages. It’s 9am, I’m going to sit for 30 minutes and write these three pages. Usually the first page is garbage. It’s just whatever’s happening. By the third page, whatever needed to happen that day, whatever I needed to commit to paper is there on the page. That comes from the discipline of it. There’s some great work that you can do if you’re disciplined. Song writers, if you don’t have this period of time that you sit down every day to write songs, they may not be the best songs that you write, but you’re flexing these muscles that when inspiration really does hit you, and that amazing song that you write in 15 minutes shows up at your doorstep, you’re already primed and ready. You don’t have to move things out of the way mentally to be able to just run with that muse and just see it all the way through to the end.
At the same time, you also have to, and this is the hard part about the duality of trying to be a business minded creative person, there are times when I’ll hit that creative … I’m trying to use a word other than thread at this point. When you’re panning for gold and you hit that little chunk-
BS: Yeah, and you go, “Oh wait, there’s something behind this and there’s more gold there,” and you just follow the path of the gold. You don’t really know how much of it there is and how long you’re going to run before it runs out. I really have to try and live a life that allows for both. Just enough structure in my mind and just enough structure in my day that I can tick off the list of the have tos and this has got to be done. This has got to get done. This person needs this thing, but I also have to leave myself enough wiggle room so that if I’m working on something where I have to be creative, if for some reason I really hit on something that just explodes exponentially in my mind about what can be done, what should be done, what needs to be done, then I’ve got enough runway that I can keep following that thing out.
I’ve tried this. I’ve tried scheduling every minute of every day for weeks at a time, but to tell myself I’m going to do this for two hours and then I’m going to get up and do something else because it’s time to do something else, the right thing I might can get it done in 30 minutes, and not need two hours, especially if inspiration really strikes. I get right to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish, but I may get to the end of the two hours, and it’s not just that it’s not finished. It’s that there’s a gap. There’s a gap between my taste and my ability. I’m always trying to close that gap. One of the easiest ways, the best ways, the most reliable ways for me to close the gap is time.
Sometimes I just have to go, “All right, so I spent my two hours on this. I’m not nearly to the level of my taste on the outcome. I need another hour on this.” I’m going to have to stay here. Then, the schedule goes out the window.
TMN: Right. Interesting. I noticed in your podcast, by the way, Fader Jocks, which I encourage people to check out.
TMN: I believe it’s FaderJocks.com.
BS: Dot com.
TMN: Yes, and I didn’t realize you had gone already to episode four, but I had heard episode one with our mutual friend and guest on our show, Mr. Matt Still. Thank you. You were talking about, among many other things, iteration. That’s an interesting thing I’m coming to grapple with in more and more you see what comes immediately to mind to me is e-publishing.
You see little sort of bite sized books and things, and a lot of people are not just in that space, but a lot of people are doing preaching in fact, minimum viable product, followed by iteration. To me, as a creative, as a producer, and maybe a little OCD producer, I have trouble grappling with not putting out the perfect thing to begin with.
I do think, too, in terms of certain major label record album or something in that kind of area, you do want to make the best first impression. It can be tough in, like podcasts. That probably should not and cannot be perfect if you’re doing a weekly thing.
That whole idea of minimum viable product and develop iterating and I think you even mentioned it in your first podcast that you said, “I am going to be adding things, changing things, and developing things as we go along,” so it’s a little different process than the major label record album or something-
TMN: -but one that people need to start embracing I think.
BS: Welcome to San Francisco everybody, if you’re on the video. I’m still learning some of the technology around here.
TMN: Iteration. There we go.
BS: Yes, the backdrop for this podcast is still in iteration. Thank you Romaine Guy for your picture of a very nice sunrise or sunset.
TMN: Let’s take that opportunity though, and I wanted to get into our … No, you go ahead.
BS: I was going to say everything for me is about iteration, because if I’m working in the studio and I’m producing an artist, and this is sometimes what’s hard for me to quantify how long it’s going to take for me to work on a particular thing with someone.
There are times when, let’s just say a vocal take. I’ve had times with trained singers that are seasoned and they’ve been on the mic, they know the environment. I do everything I can to create this great environment for them to be able to emote and really give me what I need. They’ll walk in and first or second take sing a take that technically is perfection. I can tell they’ve worked on it. I can tell that they’ve really spent time thinking about every bit of nuance that they wanted to put into this performance-
TMN: But it didn’t have no soul power.
BS: It didn’t. It didn’t have that thing that says, “This is what’s happening to me right this moment.”
TMN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BS: I’ve taken vocalists for another eight hours past the perfect take.
TMN: Wow, and they loved you at the time.
BS: Oh yeah. Yeah. No.
TMN: I want to kill you.
BS: But ones that I’ve worked with I’ve got one that’s coming from L.A. in a few weeks to work with me, because she’s been working in L.A. and doing some things, and she’s kind of worked in a lot of different places. L.A. was where most of her contacts are. She’s coming back here to record vocals because of that process. The first time we did it, the first session we did it was kind of frustrating, but she immediately went, “Oh, I see what he’s trying to do here,” and she heard the difference. That’s really, after that first session with anyone where we do that, where I have them unlock these doors that they didn’t even know existed and walk us into rooms they’ve never been into.
Then, all the sudden they get it, and they’re like, “All right. Either I’m going to let him take me there, or I’m going to learn how to access that. I’m going to learn how he’s getting me there and the next time we work together, I’m going to give him the perfect take one or two in just to get warmed up, and we’re going to know that okay, well, we got some good stuff we can comp. If that notes a little off, we can just comp that instead of hitting it hard with the auto tune.
TMN: That doesn’t happen.
BS: I’ve noticed, in not just vocalists, but I work with a lot of vocalists, hence the example, once they learn that process and they learn how to access that part of themselves, we get there so much quicker. What might take eight hours the first time, the next time it might take two hours. In that two hours, not only did we get a couple of good perfect takes. We get a couple of really saucy, emotive takes that it really becomes a question of which one? They’re both so good. Let’s just go through and we’ll decide in the comping part of it which one is the base for everything and then maybe there’s a line here or there that we company in from some other thing. In that case, iteration is the pathway to something.
It’s a pass through point. There are a lot of times as I’m working on … I’ve been working on new drum promo videos for two years. Part of the reason I’ve put none of it out, I’ve got hard drives in the closet full of Brian playing drums, but again, there’s a gap between the result of my labor and my taste. The gap was wide enough that I thought, “You know, it’s important for me to get it right.”
TMN: See, and that’s where a lot of the folks, as you know, are saying, “Put it out there. Put out that minimum viable product and then come back later and you’ll do a next version two or something.” That can be hard if you’re … You may just say, “No, I don’t want to do that.”
BS: The question I had to answer for myself was is putting out the minimum viable product going to get me the kind of work that I want? Work is not a problem. I can fill up the calendar. I can make enough calls. I can get in touch with enough people. I can find work. It’s not about getting work and paying the mortgage. It’s about getting the kind of work that I want with the level of talent that I want to work with and a level of the industry that I want to move into. To do that, I’ve got some templates that I’ve looked at that develop my taste for what I’d like to see. Some of it is the actual ability. I’ve taken lessons and practiced and done things. I’ve done a lot of things over the past two years to make me a better player.
Then, part of it is what it looks like, how it sounds. This whole process of shoot the thing, put it together, look at it, and try and find out where it’s short. Is it short because of my ability? Good. All right. If it is a mission critical problem, let’s fix it, and this is the problem I have. I’m going to go deep on you with this one. Social media and people putting things out, especially creative people doing what they do, there are far too many people that are putting things in front of the public that are not very good, because they’re thinking, “If I just get it out there and I do enough of it, eventually …” Well, unfortunately now there’s so much chatter and so many people throwing out this minimum viable product that you may only get the first look and the first listen.
You may only get that … I hear all the time about YouTube videos and how they need to be under three minutes because people’s attention spans are so short. If people’s attention spans are that short and you put out a really bad video of you doing something, you will always be that person to them. They probably will not come back later on. Now, if there’s something in about it or something educational or I put out a video in my blog a few years ago where I purposefully put out a video of me playing bad. It was a blog post called game tapes. I wrote about how I record most of my practice sessions. I record almost all of the gigs that I play and some of the recording sessions that I do, because I go back and I look at those things and I’m, again, trying to close the gap.
I put out some little snippets of those game tapes to say, “Here’s what I see in my playing that doesn’t meet up to the lull of my taste.” I’m using these game tapes to close that gap and get better. I’m going to let you see what they are.
BS: In the video itself and then the piece I wrote for it, I was very clear. I tried to make sure that if I only got someone for 15 seconds, they knew. Here’s not, “Hey, look at Brian play. Hey, look at him do what he does.” No, this was look at Brian not do this thing as well as he should be able to for the purpose of specifically getting better at that thing. The people … I didn’t have any-
TMN: Disclaimer. Disclaimer.
BS: I didn’t have anybody. I didn’t lose any work from it. My reputation wasn’t hit because of it, whatever reputation I built over the past 20 some odd years, because people got it. They’re like, “Oh, he’s not showing me this because he wants to show off, because none of this is impressive. In fact, these things kind of … Yeah, he missed it. He totally missed it there.” He’s showing me this so that I can understand that even someone that operates at the level that he operates at, isn’t where he wants to be, and here’s one tool he uses to get closer to that level of his own taste.
In that case, iteration’s fine publicly. Iteration really is the way that you get to what should be the thing that you put in front of people. I think you have to ask yourself at the beginning of the process, not what’s the minimum viable product, but what’s the level of excellence, the minimum level of excellence, that I will allow myself to call passing? What is my passing grade? Not what’s my A+ valedictorian grade. What’s my passing grade.
BS: Sometimes you do. You have to put out the passing grade with podcast episodes. Could I have asked better questions than those first four interviews? Sure.
TMN: Oh, certainly not.
BS: Could I responded, could I have listened better? Of course. In every one of those, I could take you through and I could point to things, but what I did do met the minimum passing grade for me, and I thought okay, it doesn’t meet the level of my taste, but I’ll put that against any of the people that I am modeling after on their medium day.
BS: Maybe not their best day. None of those are Brian Coppleman interviews. He’s one of my guys I look at. It’s an amazing interviewer. None of them are to that level, but on Brian’s ah, yeah, he did pretty good day, I’m at least there. Okay, I’m cool with that. I got there, now we can put this thing out. Now, of course, one of the reasons what? Talking about the Fader Jocks podcast. If you haven’t gone and listened to it, faderjocks.com. There are four episodes there.
TMN: Applause. Applause.
BS: Yes. It’s been more than six months since I’ve done another episode, and I have a few that are already in the can I haven’t put out yet. Other reasons that I haven’t put them out, one of the things I’ve done in the past six months is I’ve really taken the time to dig into people that I thought were great interviewers. I tried to go in and make a case study out of some of these people that were great interviewers so that I would be able to, for the next round, really take that game to a much higher level and deliver something for the purpose, solely for this purpose, to deliver something that I didn’t think is being currently offered in that niche.
TMN: You know what I find for me though is for me, the actual learning can be, and I’m not the only person, but the learning and research can actually be its own little rabbit hole, which I’ve Ireland during this last podcast, the Cuba one, and many previous, but during this last one I’m particular, I finally, and I’ve got a blog post on it, why you have to work … I’m not sure the title of it, but the gist is why you have to work from the top down or work strategically, because I will find myself in adobe premiere or something … In fact, even in this last case, and I just got the red giant universe plug ins there.
Let me try this transition here. That would go perfect here. Let me see how that looks. Let me tweak it a minute. Then, the thing is next day you might say, “You know what, that footage was terrible. I’m cutting this whole thing out. I just wasted that time,” so I’ve had to discipline my … Like certain things with audio, with transitions, I finally said, “You know, I need to get just all the camera cuts in there and make sure that I’m using them and that they line up with what the final program needs to be before I do any fancy stuff.
I can also get, instead of just going into the documentation to see how to do x that I can’t figure out at the moment, I’ll go, “I’d really like to know some cool keyboard shortcuts, which those are helpful, but then 30 minutes later, I’m like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t made the next camera cut yet.” The research and education can be its own good. In some cases, it can be if you’re in the middle of production, I guess that’s the break point between if you’re in the middle of production, you may need to discipline yourself to put that later. If you’re not in the middle of production, that’s probably a better time to be doing that.
BS: Well, especially with certain kinds of projects. Especially I’m sure you’re like me. Your in house projects are your training ground, and sometimes-
TMN: Right, the playground.
BS: Yeah. That’s better than training ground. It’s a playground.
TMN: It’s both. It’s both.
BS: That’s where you really hone your craft so you don’t mind taking the extra time to do it, because the reason why you are doing these pet projects, these vanity projects, whatever adjective you want to use, more than I think sometimes the output itself.
BS: The whole reason for you to do them is the playground, so if you’re spending more time there, if you’re circling the block three or four times to either learn more about how to use a tool or maybe learn the things that are not quite so obvious about the two, then it seems like a winning proposition. I would make three dollars an hour if I did that on the stuff-
TMN: Yeah, client projects.
BS: At that point, yeah, you do. You have to go, “All right, here are the tools I have at my disposal. Here are the talents and the skills that I’ve honed at this point, and here’s the work that’s sitting in front of me, at least as far as what their expectation for the output is. Now, let’s marry all those things together and let’s get it done.” In some cases, maybe there’s something that piques my interest and I spend a little more time, but yeah. For that kind of stuff, I definitely tend to stay more on budget, more on schedule. I tend to be a little bit more dictatorial.
One thing I have not come to the point of doing yet, and you’ve done some of this, at least for your own projects, I haven’t gotten to the point of delegation yet.
TMN: Well, I was delegating, but now I’m not able to. That’s another story.
BS: Well, and one of the problems I have with delegation, again, I have a particular level of … Not level of taste, I have a particular specificity in my taste.
TMN: Benevolent dictator, like you said.
BS: Yeah, very much so. I also understand that for me to be able to communicate to someone else exactly what I need from them, or what my outcome expectation is, I need to know how to do it.
BS: Not everybody’s like that. Some people, you’ve worked, I’ve worked with people. I’ve worked in studio with people that they go, “Yeah, that was great, but I need it to be more like-“
BS: Can you make it more yellow? It’s kind of blue right now. I’d like it a lot more bright and yellow. You’re going, “It’s a drum track. I don’t know. I don’t own yellow drums.”
TMN: Put more sore on it.
BS: Yeah, so there are some people that communicate in those ways, and there are times when I sort of talk around what I mean, especially if I think if it leaves people more a wider birth to be creative, but a lot of times, you get the best out of other people … When I had people that worked for me and I’d delegate things to people, and I do for certain client projects. If I can be as specific as I possibly can and then I equip them with all the information, all the tools that they need to do their job within a very narrow tolerance, I will get what I need, but for me to be able to provide that level of help to somebody else, I need to be able to know how to do the thing.
That can take a lot of time. When you’re trying to learn how to make a particular video look a certain way, it’s not just all right, well here’s a bunch of color grading presets, let me find the one that has the right hue and I can make a couple of things and boom, there we are. No, sometimes you really need to understand what’s under the hood that got those presets there, or if you’re trying to model after something, while we’re talking about video, there’s a particular look in a film that you’re going for in your own thing, you got to go in there and figure out how they did what they did and then find out how your tools, or the tools you can readily have access to, will get you there or pretty close.
All that takes time. Now, my website. I’ve been working on my website for a year and a half. Could I have put up a new website a year and four months ago? Sure. Would it have been the website I wanted? No. Why take so long for something like that? Because part of my process has been eventually I’m going to hand this off to someone else for what will be considered by me as the next iteration. Before I can hand off that to some other person, I need to understand how this works. I need to understand how these things are done.
TMN: Do you know yet? I’d like to know.
BS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. At least for that one thing I do. The platform that I’m on, the tools and all the things that are plugged into it at this point, yeah. Now it’s just a matter of, and again, this is about content. There’s a very specific way that I want the content presented that is unlike anything I’ve done with any of my other websites I’ve ever had and it’s completely different from most every other website I see from at least anyone else in my industry. I actually hired a guy last year to write a bunch of copy for me, about half of which I’m going to use.
The other half of it was, again, a pass through point to get to where I needed to go. I couldn’t do exactly what I needed, so I delegated this to someone else, and I paid the guy to do it. He did an amazing job. The stuff that I, again, trying to find that sweet spot and get as close to my taste as possible. My taste had everything to do with what the impact of that is supposed to be on the person seeing it. About half of what I got back really hit home with it. It’s like perfect. That’s it. The other half was like, “He’s on the right track, but now that I know exactly where I need to go with this, I need to sit with it long enough. I need to go through a few iterations that nobody else sees.”
The hope is that … Now, you can’t simmer on this stuff for years and years at a time.
TMN: Oh, you can.
BS: You can, but for me, in talking about time, there’s also, as I make goals about the trajectory of where my career is going, one of the things that I always factor in, and it took me years to understand this, I have to factor in time, not time to do the work, not time to amass the tools or the skills. Sometimes there are things you want to do with your career that it ain’t time to do them yet.
TMN: That’s an uncommon philosophy these days.
BS: Yeah, everybody’s now … Competition is-
TMN: Oh, I’m a producer. Yeah.
BS: Yeah. There are in roads-
BS: There are in roads that I want to make and things I want to accomplish with my career and ways I want to grow and evolve that the world is not there yet. The in ears I’m using right now that I’ve been working on for the past year, the version that will come out this month … I’ve got a new universal fit in ear monitor that I’m going to bring out as a branded product. I started working on it about a year ago. It’s gone through a lot of iterations. I’ve tested a lot of different things. I’ve tested a lot of different companies, components. The thing that I’ll put out at the end of this month, beginning of next month. Is it the ideal one that I want to do? 95% of the way there, but that five percent is going to cost me exponentially more than it’s going to cost me to just put this out.
My minimum viable product, it’s time to put it out. Not only is it time to put it out, I wanted to do this five years ago. The company that I’m having do some of this stuff, and the modality to work with them, did not exist five years ago. You think about people that are YouTubers now that have made a career out of being YouTubers. 10 years ago? They were doing something completely different. The ability to create a career in that modality did not exist, at least not to the point where it is now. There are some things that I want to do with my own career that I’ve just had to understand.
The world hasn’t developed to the point now where you can do these things. I couldn’t put out these in ears five years ago, because to do it would have been hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s way too much money for that kind of risk. Now, for thousands of dollars, I can do the exact same thing. I can get 95% of the way there, and if it’s a product that people love and they use and a lot of folks buy it, then the money that I’ll need to be able to have the conversations I need to have to get it the next five percent will be there. The product itself, and again, the other question that I have to ask is does the world need this? Do I want to spend $150-200,000 on a product that I don’t know the world needs or do I want to spend $5000 on a product that I don’t exactly know the world needs?
I’ve teased it in social media. I’ve out some pictures up. I’ve said things about it. I’ve given some prototypes to friends that I know. I’ve tried to do all these different things to mitigate my risk, but what I’m really waiting on is I’m waiting on a confluence of events. The way that we acquire products, the price point that I can get for the quantity, the willingness for a company to understand that I’m an artistic person who is very specific about what I want from the outcome, and the modality to be able to market and sell that product effectively and efficiently, all those things are gelling together at this point in time. There’s things I want to do with my drum career that I know we’re still two or three years away from me being able to do them and do them at the level that I want.
That’s why I’m not in a rush to make some things happen, to put some things in front of certain people, to begin certain conversations, because I understand that where I am, where our industry is, and what the opportunities are are still two years out. What am I doing? Instead of waiting two more years to get to the business of doing it, I’m filling the time learning to get the thing I know I’m going to need. In this case marketing materials, get them to the point where before that two year window opens up, everything is there. I’ve done this before. If I get there too early, then I’ve got to sit there and wait for everybody in the world to catch up. Your podcast is going to go a long way, because I’m going to share stories I have not shared.
All right, so I started something with a company-
TMN: We ran out of film like 30 minutes ago.
BS: The film cameras. All right, so here’s a story I had not told anybody. A few people know about this. Back around 2000, when I moved my studio in a commercial facility in Deluth, I started a side business. This is before the internet of today. The side business started with creating content, specifically radio content, to showcase independent artists and do it via the internet. At the time in 2000, there were not a lot of opportunities not only for independent artists to be heard and to be showcased. There just wasn’t a lot of content that was being put out on a regular basis, like a radio show. At the same time, I was trying to create a product, some content, that was educational so that an independent artist could listen to.
Now, you get information on how to put out your own record and how to promote your stuff and how to do … 17 years ago, that stuff didn’t exist nearly like it does now. At the same time, I was trying to build something that … I’ll tell you what it was. It was internet radio. At the time, there were a few radio stations that were doing things, but to have satellite radio programming through an internet modality that you could listen to, say, on a phone. We had a really elaborate business plan. We were talking about 3G wireless connectivity before we had it in the states and how people were going to have these things on their phones, these applications, that they would be able to get programming wirelessly, that they could listen to or watch, and they could be selective. They could select when they wanted to listen to things or what things they wanted to listen to, or even to the point of just the genre they wanted to listen to where you could curate genre, so at the time, we called it Myradio.
I put a ton of money, a ton of effort, and myself and several other business partners, put a ton of effort into something that the world was not going to be ready for for another decade. I learned through that. I mean, I had several people that were really close to me that were pitching venture capitalist, and I just kept getting the same thing back from people. “We don’t understand. What are you talking about? People are going to use their phone and they’re going to bookmark programs? They’re going to … I mean, I know how to get something on my computer. I mean, I know how to make an mp3, but I won’t go to a website and get it?” No, you won’t go to the website. There will be a little application that’ll be on your phone. You’ll be able to either listen to it in real time as it’s being broadcast.
You’ll be able to listen to it on demand, whenever you’d like to. All these different things, and we really, to the point where we were looking at … And this was all with independent music. It was not label based music at all. This was in part of the business plan. We talked about how eventually major labels will not be the source of the line share of music that the world listens to. It’s going to come from independent artists from independent labels, what we call vanity projects in 1999 and 2000, 2001 are going to be the norm in 2015 and 2020. It will be the majority of the listenable saleable music that people plug into. We did all this work to the point of Myradio was going to be you could have my country radio. You could have my rock radio. You could really curate exactly what you wanted to listen to, how you wanted to listen to it, and it was a wonderful idea. We started down the road.
We crashed servers with the first iteration of product we put out. I mean, the guy who was the web developer called me one day in the middle of the day. I interviewed a band and we were playing some of their band new music. He called me. He was like, “You got to shut it down.” Not only have we crashed servers in multiple places, but now people that we were buying the server space from are telling us, “You got to stop this. This goes way beyond your service term agreement for what you said you were going to do with this. You were just going to put some stuff up on a website and people were going to come to it. All the sudden now, stuff’s breaking right and left. All of our other people that are on these servers ,all of their stuff doesn’t work now because of you and the traffic.”
You know, that was one where time, it was a hard lesson to learn, because I lost money. I lost time. I lost momentum because the thing that I had that was great idea that would have been an amazing product was 10 years too early. What I’ve had to learn is sometimes it’s better to be a year behind everybody else. Sometimes it’s better instead of being the early adopter or being the first wave of real power user, sometimes especially if what you have to offer is better than everything else or more unique in certain ways or more valuable. Sometimes what you need to do is simmer and you need to sit on it for awhile and you just need to make sure that it is the best it can be.
If anything, in that time, maybe you make it even better than what you have now. Your iteration that you want to push out right now, if you don’t need to pay the mortgage with it, wait another year. It’s fine.
TMN: Or as I’ve learned, sometimes, which I’m not a big shopper, I don’t like to shop. I don’t like to-
BS: Hold on a moment.
TMN: Oh dope. I hate it when that happens. I don’t like to research too much. I mean, I like learning things kind of research. I don’t like market research so much.
TMN: What that suggests to me, and what I’ve learned from some of my own projects, sometimes the build it and they’ll come model does not fan out. It is wise to do one’s work in advance to determine the need in the market. You have, and now we’re in bonus time, so I don’t know-
TMN: -I want to make sure I get this in. You’ve brought me around to this question. You are a web guy. You are a business man. You are, as most people know, an audio guy, a working drummer, a video editor and producer, and several other. You mentioned the in ear monitor project. You have a couple other top secret things I’m not going to let on to. In your capacity, and I’m particularly in your capacity as a multimedia ninja as it were, what is the biggest challenge you face in your whole … What is the biggest challenge you need to solve in all of this?
BS: It is an issue of time. I have to triage based on a few different criteria. What do I have the tools and the know how and the access to resources to do right now? That’s one of the things I have to look at. I have to look at where does the muse hit me? What am I interested in? I found more often than not if I work on things purely for the paycheck, a lot of times before it’s over with, before I’m done turning in that project or whatever that thing is that I’m doing, I want to quit.
BS: I want to sell everything. I want to go sell dishwashers or something. I want to do something so completely different because I really was not piqued by my passion and the things that I enjoy, but I was rather triggered by oh, okay, so I got a credit card I need to pay off, and wow, that check, if I can get this done in a month, that will pay my credit card off. That’s awesome. For the next month, I hate life. I hate life. I hate being around people. Part of it is my biggest challenge is triaging my time, because there are a lot of things I want to do, not just people’s paying projects, but things that expand me into where I think we’re going to be 10 and 20 years from now as creative professionals. A lot of pet projects, a lot of end products, a lot of in house things that I only have time … I’ve got tons of ideas. I only have so much time to get things done.
TMN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BS: I haven’t won the lottery yet, so until I’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank where I can start paying people and hire qualified people that can really do these jobs really well, and again, I can give them the tools and the information they need to be their best. Until I’m in a place in my life like that, that means that Brian has to do a lot of this stuff, so I have to decide, all right, here’s what my budget is for living. Here’s what my budget is for growing my business. Now, here’s how much money I need to do things like go have some fun a little bit. All right. Now-
TMN: It’s very important. Very important.
BS: Yeah, so all that goes to a number that tells me all right, here’s how much paying work you got to do. Then, I have to look at how much time that’s going to take and then go all these other things that I have sitting in front of me that I really want to accomplish. All right, how much time do I have left for those? Which ones are the world going to accept?
TMN: Do you sleep?
BS: Not as much as I should. Not near as much as I should. One day. There have been projects that I’ve had. I had to erase that white board almost completely, because it was full of projects I wanted to do. I started seeing other people ticking those off. DVD project I wanted to do that was basically, and this was 12 years ago I wanted to do a DVD project of a day in the life of a session drummer. Well, Mark Schulman, five years later, puts out that exact same DVD. Well-
TMN: I hate it when that happens.
BS: Yeah, and I mean, I always line up people to do the project and scheduling things and getting everything five years before his DVD came out. In that five years, in triaging and triaging and triaging, it just kept getting tamped down and pushed down and pushed down. Never happened because there were other things that were more important. Mark puts his DVD out. It wasn’t exactly the DVD I wanted to put out, but it was close enough that all right, well there’s the definitive day in the life of a session drummer DVD. That’s kind of done now. You can cross that one off. Mark took care of that one for you. I hope it was good for him. You did a great job, Mark. If you ever happen to see this, it’s a great DVD.
TMN: Dead, burn it.
BS: Thank you for taking, stealing an idea you didn’t know you were stealing. We all have these great-
TMN: I hate it when that happens.
BS: Ideas are a dime a dozen. My brother calls me every other day with a world changing multi-million dollar idea, but-
BS: It’s the execution. When you’re one person that has a limited budget to work with, I don’t have a blank check on my life, despite what the toys around my facility might say.
TMN: You have more cameras than the multimedia ninja [crosstalk 00:57:29] and far more microphones.
BS: I have no hobbies. I’m the most uninteresting person you’ll ever sit with.
TMN: Yeah right. Right. You can tell that’s not the case.
BS: Yeah, so that’s my biggest challenge. There are far more things I want to accomplish than I have the time to be able to do in the current state of my world. Hopefully at some point, you know, I’ll have the winning lottery ticket and I’ll have a whole bunch of money sitting in the bank and I can just go, “All right, let’s assemble the team, because every one of these is a money maker. Every one of these needs to be in the world. The world’s ready for them or by the time it’s done the world’s ready for them.” Yeah. That’s probably never going to happen.
BS: What do I do? I pick the things that seem like they make the most sense. This podcast suite and the things we’re going to be cranking out the next few years out of it, right now that’s one of the things that makes the most sense. All the things that it locks into are the things that make the most sense. Starting to come out with a line of actual products, not software, but products, not to say that I’m not going to do any teaching packages, but-
TMN: The top secret stuff.
BS: Yeah, not saying I’d never do any kind of online education, on demand education, digital education, but the hard goods. I feel like we’re getting to a point in time in the world where one of the things that, I told you, just break it up in eight parts. I haven’t gotten to talk about this in public. I hope you don’t mind if I take the time to talk about this. I think I’m just going to go ahead and put it out there. I think eventually if you’re a creative professional, whether you’re a singer/songwriter or you’re a producer or you’re a musician for hire, you’re a video person, eventually there are three main income streams that everyone that’s successful is going to make money.
There’s a lot of studies that say, and I’m not talking … I’m quantifying. I shouldn’t quantify. There are a lot of studies that say most millionaires have seven to eight income streams, so not that every creative pros going to become a millionaire eventually in the future, but let’s say you want to make a six figure income every year, I think there are three specific income streams that every creative professional’s going to have to have to be able to get into that six figure really solid six figure income thing. You’re going to have to get paid for what you do.
That’s going to fill up a certain amount of your time. You’re going to have to share with people how you do what you do, teaching. You’re going to have to teach people in some way how you do what you do, because the world is coming up behind you to do more of the thing. Then, you’re going to have to sell the tools. You’re going to have to sell the tools for how you do what you do. That’s going to become a very important income stream going forward for creative professionals. Can you have one of three or two of three and do well? Yeah, but if you want to avoid feast or famine, those are the three very important streams and very necessary streams, and 10 years from now, 15 years from now, the common place streams that any creative professionals going to have, getting paid for what you do, getting paid to show other people how you do what you do, and then selling people the tools that you use to do what you do.
That really is what has taken me in the direction that I’m going. Everything, if you look at all the stuff I’m doing, they all fit into one of those three buckets. I’m either doing something for someone that they’re paying me to use my skills or my facility. I’m teaching people to do things, and now, I’m opening up this third arm which is I’m beginning to put together products that are products that I use. More specifically, products that I wanted that I couldn’t get. Maybe it’s in the case of the ear monitors, I wanted an affordable ear monitor that sounded as good as a not so affordable monitor. I wanted something that your garden variety musician, garden variety person that needs a great sounding in ear monitor could buy and maybe it can be cheap enough that they buy two of them.
TMN: In case ,for example, they leave one on an airplane.
TMN: Aye, aye, aye.
BS: If one’s good, two’s better, right?
TMN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
BS: Always. I wanted to be able to create something that number one, something I would use. That was in mitigating risk. That’s one of the things that I looked at as why … There wasn’t a whole lot of risk in pursuing this as a venture, because if I pay for a whole production run of these ear monitors and nobody buys them, guess what? I’ve got in ear monitors for the rest of my life. I have something that I can personally use. I happen to think they’re going to fly off the shelf. That’s one of those where this is a product that I’ve wanted, something that is a very affordable thing. I’m very hard-
TMN: Scratch your own itch.
BS: Yeah, scratch your own itch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped on a pair of in ear monitors that I paid $300 or $400 for because they happen to end up on a stage floor or the floor of my studio. Yeah, I’m a big guy. If I step on something it’s stepped on.
TMN: It stays stepped on.
BS: It’s probably going in the garbage can. I wanted a product that would be affordable, that if I happened to step on it and break it, not a big deal. I also wanted something that sounded great that was made of high quality products, the materials they used were really good quality, wasn’t some chancy thing. I paid $75 in going through all of this process of making ear monitors. I bought a Tim McGraw signature JBL ear bud thing. It was like $75. It was not better than a $10 one I bought from China. The extra $65 was because Tim McGraw’s name was on there. I thought, you know what? That’s the kind of thing they missed it because they could have taken a lot of that. They could have either made it cheaper, which would have been great. They would have sold more, or they could have made a better product for the same price.
All the sudden, you’ve got something that wouldn’t have disappeared in two years like that one did. Those are the kind of things that I look at in putting a product out like that. I want a great sounding ear monitor. I want anyone that puts them in to go, “Wow, these are how much? I’d pay five times as much for what these sound like.” Then, when you look at all the accessories and things that come with it and what you get for your money, people look at it, and if anything, they go, “I’d pay twice as much as this, or I’d pay five times as much for this. This is really a great product.”
TMN: You’re going to have an affiliate link for me, right?
BS: Of course. Oh yeah, believe me. Mailbox money.
TMN: Waterproof case?
BS: Yes. Waterproof case, at least three different types of ear tips, and the great thing that I’ll talk about when some of the marketing material comes out, is you can kind of mix and match the different ear tips, because I have my left and right ear canals are slightly different. It’s not just a size thing. Now, can I spend 500, 600, $700 and get a set of molded plugs? Yeah, and when I step on those molded plugs, I got to go buy another 500, 600, $700 pair of molded plugs. I wanted something that would allow me to be able to accommodate the weirdness in my ear canals. Yeah, so there’s at least three different kinds of ear tips. There are adapters you normally don’t get when you buy in ear monitors. There are extension cables. The waterproof case. It’s one of the best. I’m going to …
I’m not going to use that word on this. It’s the best case you’ve ever seen for your … I’m not going to … Yeah. Anyway, so it really is just a great package that I think it’s time. The world’s kind of ready for that sort of thing. The confluence of all the things that it takes to put together a product like that. It’s all come together to do it now. Have I talked enough?
TMN: Almost. Almost.
BS: Okay. Let me strap in here.
TMN: Yeah, we are so out of time, like 30 minutes ago, but I want to quickly hit a couple of things.
TMN: First is our segment we like to call what the heck are you doing?
TMN: That’s where we ask our guest, in this case you’re the guest and the host.
TMN: You’re hosting this extra … No, I mean in terms of the location.
TMN: That’s where we ask what piece of hardware, software, that tip, tool, technique, or philosophy, or what have you is rocking hard for you right now?
BS: Wow, okay.
TMN: Not necessarily this second, but today, this week, this year.
BS: All right. One of the things that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to is I don’t want to pay attention to the brand name of things unless it just tells me where I can get it from. For me, especially when it comes to audio, whether it’s playing drums or recording vocals or whatever, to me, what something sounds like trumps everything else. I said I don’t want to say that word. Wow. Sorry, y’all. It is the thing that is more important than anything else. There’s a microphone company out of Canada that not many people know about. I’ve got a set of their fit U87 style large diaphragm condenser hanging over my drum-
TMN: I saw that.
BS: [crosstalk 01:08:03] now. It’s a company called Advanced Audio. The guy who started this company and makes these microphones, I think he used to worked for the Canadian Broadcasting company as some kind of engineer. I guarantee you this. Not only are they all amazing microphones. Do not let the price of these microphones dissuade you from buying them, especially if you’re a working professional. The microphones that I’ve got hanging over my drums right now, I think, might have been $600 or $700 a piece. They sound every bit as good as a $3000 real U87. That’s one of those where I could have, at the time I bought those microphones, I could have spent $6000 and gotten a couple of U87s and been just fine.
Again, because I work on a limited budget, I thought how about I find something that’s just as good that will last just as long, get me the results I’m looking for, and spend a lot less money so I can take those extra assets and put them towards something else? I think it’s advancedaudio.ca or something. Just google advanced audio microphones, and you’ll get right to their website. They’ve got small diaphragm condensers, large diaphragm condensers. I think they may have some dynamic mics. They have an RE20 style mic that’s supposed to be pretty good that’s super cheap. They’ve got two condensers, fet condensers. They’ve got some kind of flavor for everything. Most everything is either labeled after what it was inspired by or they’ll say in the description, “This is kind of like … This is our version of a 414.” Then, like a lot of other companies that do their version of a 414 and it’s not really, there’s is pretty stinking close. I know a fair amount of Advanced Audio microphones, and every one of them are absolutely awesome.
TMN: Great. If I don’t have a senior moment, I’ll put a link in the show notes.
BS: Please do. I don’t have an endorsement deal with them. I literally just like anybody else, I go to the website, I find something I like, and I pay my money for it. This is an unpaid, uncomped … I’m not a brand ambassador for them unlike Waves Plugins, so I will say I cannot do without my waves plugins.
TMN: There you go.
BS: Let me put that in there.
TMN: Cha-ching. That brings me to our last segment, which actually you don’t have to do much in, but it’s winners and losers. Our first winner of the week-