Book Review: Project Management for Musicians

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Yes, that’s right. It’s a book about project management that is geared specifically for people in the music industry.
It’s also very good.
Jonathan Feist, author Project Management for Musicians, says, “What we can claim we have accomplished is based upon what we finish, and not what we started.” It is easy to set up projects. It is much more difficult to complete them. Our professional history is not our history with started projects. We don’t get credit for works in progress.
It is written in a conversational, pragmatic tone. The book covers all aspects of project management in a practical manner. However, all the examples and case studies are applicable to the music industry. Feist uses the example of a recording studio or teaching studio to help him set up projects.
Other sections provide details about the industry. Chapter 3 is a discussion about the process of creating working documents and using checklists. He also discusses how to create work breakdown structures using modelling and use cases. There are many items that project managers will not have to consider, such as income and funding for tours and CDs. Emily is the example that was used in many chapters.
The book also includes a chapter on copyright, tax, accounting, and intellectual property. These are all important considerations that musicians must consider when managing their work, perhaps more than project managers in other industries.
It is not a light book in any sense of the term – it is a huge 400 page book. It covers PERT and Delphi, network diagrams and trend analysis, as well as information about controlling and monitoring projects.
A fresh take on old topics
While most of his writing is suitable for project managers, there are some quirks that I found to be interesting about music. In the section on team roles, he mentions a role called “content visionary”. This is the creative genius behind the song and the studio tour. I have never worked with a content visionary on a project before. The closest I have come to this is working with subject matter specialists, which doesn’t sound quite as passionate.
Feist also introduces a new approach to RACI resource allocation charts. The ‘Supporting’ role is someone who assists the person who is responsible for doing the work. This could be used to support project coordinators or other admin and support staff regardless of your industry.
The section on risk management covers everything music-related, including how to deal with performers, quality problems, contracts, and so forth. One of the stories about risk management stuck with my attention. Feist describes a film orchestrator who hired three former students to help him convert his notes into copy within a very tight deadline. He only had five days to complete the work, so he gave them three days to complete their sections. This gave him enough time for review and to send it to the client. So far, so good.
Two delivered on the morning of day 3. The third one, sounding tired, said that he was almost done and needed to rest for a few more hours. Five, six, and seven hours passed without any delivery. Exasperated, the orchestrator called him that night but he didn’t answer. He called him again the next day. The distraught mother of the copyist answered the phone and said that her son had died suddenly from a brain aneurism.
The orchestrator did not ask for the files that the student was working on. This is what happened next.
He and the two other copyists recreated all the missing parts, sometimes working until the early hours of the morning, while they grieved the loss. This is not a joke. Lif