Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Every Beat Must End

I worked 361 days of the preceding twelve months before I resigned from the commercial music, sound and audio identity firm Elias Associates, now named Elias Music.

For the previous two years my typical workday started at 8AM and ended between 10PM and midnight. We were so busy and being a one man production department, it was simply the only way I could singularly produce both day and night shifts. Before that, I spent three years taking a nap at 8pm so that I could return to the studio at 2AM, to learn the technology and work on my own projects.

I had attempted to hire an assistant in the past, but after a training period of about six months, one young woman added up the hours and told me in no uncertain terms, "I don't want your job." –And then she quit!

We had four rooms in the New York office alone, three of them running two back-to-back, 12-hour shifts, resulting in at least one national spot going final every 2 or 3 days, -and one room devoted to early interactive audio projects where sound for games and theme park attractions was created.

It was, as '80's retail icon Crazy Eddie liked to say, "INSANE!"

In retrospect I was extremely lucky to make new strategic relationships and enjoy similarly inspiring working collaborations after my departure from Elias, but if I hadn’t, those few years would have made the rest worth it.

I'm especially proud of having had the opportunity to play an executive leadership role as part of a management team that essentially quadrupled revenues over a three year span, and evolved during my watch from an old economy music production house into the leading U.S. Sonic Branding and Sound Identity firm of its time.

Along the way I established Standard Operating Procedures for both New York and West Coast offices; promoted and managed collaborations with Machine Head, a west coast-based sound design company; repaired and normalized relationships with both the American Federation of Musicians and the Screen Actor's Guild unions; and I played a significant role in the a transformation of the company culture by actively and consciously recruiting new creative talent with contrasting talent and skill sets – developing a new paradigm of talent development within the company.

The result was that instead of a having a staff of composers who worked in relative competitive isolation from one another, as had been the case in the past, the company now enjoyed a sense that each project was open for collaboration.

It felt more like a band than a music house, and the diverse artistic perspectives and processes also contributed to the general development of the company's brand image as a creative solution provider, and not just a jingle factory.

Among the new team I scouted and either recommended for hire, or hired directly, were composers Fritz Doddy, Matt Fletcher, Todd Schietroma, Rich Nappi and Kerry Smith; also sales rep Debra Maniscalco, associate producer Jonathan Nanberg, studio manager Jennifer McGee, recording engineer Mario Piazza, and producer Keith Haluska.

I also developed and forged important external strategic creative relationships with many of New York's hottest upcoming young performers then bubbling up under the radar. Among these relationships, notable mentions for their contributions to our creative output must include: Trumpeter Chris Botti, guitarist Eric Schermerhorn, New York Philharmonic violinist Sandra Park, orchestrators Deniz Hughes and Tony Finno, and newly established vocal management firm, Val's Artist Management (aka VAMNATION).

I eventually found my own replacement in a young producer I had worked with a year or two before on a NEC job. Keith Haluska immediately impressed me with how much he loved music, –and the business of music– and so he struck me as a good fit for the company. He started in June '96, dovetailing my final departure by three months.

I suspect the relatively brief time I spent with Keith didn't actually make his job appreciably easier. One hopes, but you can’t wrap up an old role like a holiday package and give it to someone without part of the puzzle missing. All you can do is give them a few of the pieces, and hope they can make something out of it –their own thing. If you can accomplish that, then I think you can finally move away from the stage, back into the wings, out the back door, and into the street, where life awaits, ready to pick up where you left off, and where hopefully it has remained, waiting patiently to tease you with the next big thing.

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