Perception and Reality

I was having a conversation with my wife yesterday about how I've been feeling that I haven't been as productive this year, from the standpoint of music creation. It's not that I feel like I've been lazy or anything, quite the contrary. I know I've been working as hard but for some reason, in my mind, it feels like I'm "behind schedule" compared to last year. So I spent some time on the subject last night.

I think the impetus for my feelings stem from one particular project from last year when I began writing cues that would end up getting used on the Nate Berkus Show. I worked liked crazy during that project and eventually signed 48 tracks when all was said and done. And then once that project ended, I started another one in which I wrote 17 tracks in the course of a couple of weeks, some of which were used on the new series Proving Ground that debuted earlier this week.

I remember feeling exhausted by the time I made it to the TAXI Road Rally in November but even though I was exhausted, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I'm sure part of that reason was because I was getting placements on the Nate show seemingly every day. So that project really stood out in my mind, not only because of the reward at the end, but because of all the effort I poured into it from the beginning. When I think back to 2010 and my musical achievements, that's one of the top two items that immediately come to mind.

Since I wasn't feeling as productive, I thought I'd do a little research and see if my perception actually lined up with my reality. In doing so I discovered that my perception was not correct at all. Because I spent some time scoring a film this year, I can't do an exact comparison, you know, Red Delicious Apples vs. Red Delicious Apples, though it'll still be close, but more like Red Delicious Apples vs. Green Delicious Apples.

For comparison, I looked at the number of tracks that I composed AND signed to a music library deal on a monthly basis. If a track was composed in one month but signed in another month, I counted it in the month that it was signed. For the entire 2010 year I ended up writing and signing 118 tracks, but for just the first half of 2010, that number was 28. I know I wrote more than that during that period but that's the # that fell within my guidelines noted above.

Then I looked at what I've done so far for 2011 and that number is 45. Now if you add in the cues that I wrote for the film score, that brings the total up to 81. Needless to say, whether I count the cues from the film or not, my perception was WAY off!

As I've thought about it, one of the reasons for the disconnect could be that unlike last year, where I had two major projects that I was writing for, this year has consisted of several smaller ones. I'd write a couple of tracks in one style, then do another couple in another style, etc... So I didn't have the weight of one major project hanging over my head, well, other than the film score of course, but that's a different thing altogether.


So me being the analytical person that I am got to thinking about ways that I could keep my perception lined up with reality. I think I came up with something that's going to work. I've used a spreadsheet to keep up with my time before and it was very helpful. It's truly amazing how productive one can be when you use time management techniques to keep track of your time. But this time I decided to take a slightly different approach and came up with a different spreadsheet that kind of does the same thing but only different... :-)

The short version is this... I put in an entry for every day of the rest of the year and assigned a number to it for the amount of hours that I was going to spend working on music that day. I accounted for holidays, vacations, and days of rest. At the end I had a total number of hours that I was going to spend working on music for the rest of this year. Then I took the number and divided it into the 3 types of tracks I would be working on - guitar based instrumentals, keyboard based instrumentals, and songs - assigned each of them a value as to how much time I wanted to spend on them per track, and then came up with the total number of tracks in each group that I hope to write by the end of the year.

At the end of each day I'll mark down how many hours I spent working on the respective categories and then those numbers will get deducted from the overall total as well as the specific group totals. The next step is to plan out, as much as possible, which projects those tracks are going to be for (ie. existing deals, pitches for TAXI listings, pitches to new libraries, co-writers, etc...).

That last step might be a bit challenging, ya know, trying to predict the future to some extent, but I think it's necessary. By taking that step it will help me to be able to prioritize projects and new opportunities as they come in. After all, there is only so much time that I have available to work on something and I want to make sure that I'm maximizing the potential return on the investment of my time. So if a new project comes up that I think is worthwhile, I'll just take a look at the spreadsheet, figure out which project gets bumped down the priority list, insert the new one it's in place and not have to worry about where I'll find the time to work on it.


Thank you for indulging my geeky side for a minute there. I feel blessed that I enjoy both the technical and the creative sides of life. It definitely comes in handy in these kinds of situations!

Well, that's all for now. I'm starting to cut into my allotted time for the evening! Hope someone might find this post helpful.

Until next time...

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