BENJAMIN
GROFF
Insider Secrets to Songwriting, Music Publishing, Mindset and Artistic Marketing.
Insider Secrets to Songwriting, Music Publishing, Mindset and Artistic Marketing.

Identifying and Eliminating Bottlenecks aka Unleashing Your Full Productive Potential as a Songwriter

So as some of my close friends know…I’m in a, hmm, what shall we call it…a Secret Society of sorts…that I probably talk about way too much.

Anyway, we had our Wealth and Abundance intensive not too long ago and there was a guy who gave a brilliant 4 hour lecture, Victor Cheng. Absolutely brilliant. Victor is a coach for CEOs, business owners, and more. It was a fascinating talk. One thing that really stuck with me is his view on identifying bottlenecks.

So, what’s a bottleneck and why should you care?

The principle is... no matter how big your flow and output is, it’s always going to be limited by the smallest bottleneck.  In his lecture, Cheng used the San Diego 405 freeway as an example.  It’s 16 lanes wide in some points, which is awesome, but there’s always massive traffic and congestion…guess where?  Of course, at the bottleneck!  The bottleneck is where the freeway goes from 16 lanes to 4 lanes.  So, no matter how big your “through” system and maximum number of “lanes,” it’s always going to be limited by that bottleneck that holds everything else up.

Victor’s solution to this is super brilliant and super simple.  Most companies or individuals focus on increasing those 16 lanes on the highway to 18, 20, 24, etc. in order to get more output in their system.  (HINT: “Output” here for you is interchangeable with “amazing songs.”)  The takeaway is...(spoken like Bill Murray) “It just doesn’t matter!!”

ALL the traffic and momentum is going to get held up where the freeway condenses to 4 lanes!  Victor’s solution is so obvious and simple.  The solution is to throw all your resources, time, money, etc. in solving the 4 lane bottleneck.  Soon that bottleneck will open to 6 lanes, 8 lanes, 12 lanes…16 lanes!  Then you have the entire flow through and output of your system maximized.

Kramer

So, why should you care about this? You might be thinking, ”Well, I’m not a CEO or don't run a small business, this doesn’t matter to me.”  Oh contraire!  You see, you ARE the CEO of you!  And you DO run a small business.  If you’re registered with ASCAP and BMI you probably have a publishing company name or are working under a DBA, an LLC etc…you’re a company!

Important takeaway here: I always say…people who work on Wall Street and Songwriting have one amazing potential in common.  They both have the ability to do $1 Million dollar an hour work…or more!  Think about it.  Lots of the biggest hits were written in an hour or two (or less!).  The potential for your time as a songwriter with a focus of making amazing songs, is friggin’ ENORMOUS!

famous songs written in under 2 hours

So, here’s the takeaway that I really took a look at...and I've done this recently looking at my own work.

”What and Where are the bottlenecks in your system?”

Yeah…you know, your output of AWESOME songwriting!  Or better songs?  Where do things slow down?  Where does the process screech to a halt?

For instance...maybe you’re more of a melody / production writer and lyrics aren’t your thing and it takes you 4 times longer to do a lyric…that’s a bottleneck!

Solution: Put all your resources into finding a great lyricist to co-write.

Maybe you’re a producer and while it takes your top line co-writer a day to come in and write the song with you, it takes you a week to do the demo and production.  Sound familiar?  That’s a bottleneck!

Possible solution: Hire and mentor a junior engineer, vocal producer / competent “comper” / programmer to take your blueprints and ruffs and do all the vocal tuning, vocal comping, additional programming, where you can later come in to put the finishing touches, freeing you up to do your $1 Million Dollar an hour work and make more AWESOME songs!  Or maybe you find a production partner who loves the minutiae and detail of fine tuning things!

I wrote down some things for myself that are my “bottlenecks,” things that slow me down, things I don’t enjoy doing, things that take me away from doing what I do best.  Here are some of those: running writer statements (I love paying my writers but my passion is not accounting), doing long form legal agreements, meetings I “really” don’t need to take, doing taxes and 1099s, doing laundry, getting groceries, running errands, etc. (and yes even proof reading these articles!).

Yeah I said in that previous sentence, even getting groceries is a bottleneck.  You might not think that running errands is a bottleneck (it’s not a huge one for me) but ever since I started using Task Rabbit, I pay someone a nominal fee to pick up my groceries, run errands, do my housekeeping, etc.  Those might only take 2-4 hours per week, but all added up that’s 12 or so hours a month or 144 hours a year.  That’s 6 (YES…SIX!) friggin’ non stop DAYS of doing meaningless tasks…all of that is time that you can open up to work on your core talent … or sometimes as important, to take a vacation or go to the beach and recharge.

Yes, that’s a lot. I mean just think about it.

In other words, bottlenecks…“Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

bottlenecks ain't nobody got time for that

All this might make you feel a bit overwhelmed to just even think about your personal bottlenecks.  So, I thought I would share this as it might be a meditation to sit down for a few hours and think about the bottlenecks and how to solve them.  You should do this right now.  And it’s not an easy exercise.  Like really think about this...because it’s important!

Start with this:

  1. Grab a coffee or something and a clean piece of paper and write down all of the things that take up your time and what you might be able to reduce or eliminate.
  2. Identify the biggest time sucks and bottlenecks and come up with a plan to either decrease them, or ideally eliminate completely.  What’s not serving you?  Warning: this will take a lot of thought and work.

It might take 2-4 hours to really think about this and a plan to execute your plan.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You will need a plan for your plan.  But...IT’S WORTH IT!

I have some ideas in regards to that if you have trouble getting started.  To trigger some ideas, here are some potential bottlenecks that might be out there, as it applies to the songwriter, artist, or producer (some of these mentioned previously):

  • A JR. VERSION OF YOU: Finding someone you can trust who can deal with minutiae of production, vocal comping, etc.
  • COLLABORATION: Finding a key collaborator who can help in creating songs in areas that are not your strengths.
  • TEAM: Finding core people to add to your team, like a publisher or manager, who can take things off your table like: collecting your publishing revenue, filing copyright forms, setting up A&R meetings, pitching you for co-writes, pitching your songs, etc.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA (ARRRGGGH!): Especially if you are an artist, finding someone to take over your social media or a consultant who can help you maximize and fine tune your social plan and maximize what you’re already doing.  And yes, it is really Donald Trump on Twitter, but you’d be surprised how many artists (including indie stars) get extra help to run their socials to manage and maximize all that.  In fact…this takes so much time these days for creative people…creating those assets and posting on the socials, etc…that’s a whole other career (and blog post).  To me…it’s kinda sad and tiring that artists and writers can’t just focus on creating great art and music.  I know a few artists in particular I work with who hate social media.  That's all good!  You can hate the process, just find someone to do it for you or at the least…help you!
  • 80/20 PRINCIPLE: Fact for most people and companies: 80% of your profits or value comes from 20% of your efforts or client base.  So, take a look back at the last year and drop what hasn’t been working.  Decrease or eliminate it.  Maybe you’re a writer and trying to make hip hop tracks and hooks, but your core talent is really country music…and no one is responding to your hip hop joints.  STOP IT! :)  Just Focus on what you’re awesome at.  Or similarly…if you’re a professional songwriter and obsessed with writing a hit “for the charts,” maybe start writing more for yourself and what YOU’RE excited about.  Maybe the charts will follow you?!  And conversely and more important... focus more and put additional energy into what’s working.  This year, besides the United States, my biggest territory for royalties has been Japan (Thanks, Yasu and Shoko)!  I was so surprised to hear that.  Guess where I’m going this year to invest more time and energy?
  • NEW & BETTER GEAR: Here’s one more bottleneck.  This one’s a good one...it's so important and such an easy fix.  Maybe you’re working off some old and outdated gear.  Like a slow computer, old plug ins (or non licensed ones)  that crash your computer, soft synths 5 years old, maybe working on a less ideal programming platform, or you want to have 3 monitors instead of 1.  HINT: probably the best $3,000 I ever spent was advancing some $$$ to a writer/producer to get a new beefed up, supercharged, Mac Pro laptop.  The songs he wrote on that new piece of gear have paid for that $3,000 investment 50x over and put us in the fast lane.  So, don’t be shy…treat yourself to the tools you need.  You deserve it!  A carpenter needs the right tools.  So do you!  Don’t be shy about making that expensive purchase if it’s going to increase the throughput of your system.  And don’t tell me you can’t afford it!!  You can!  Nearly everyone can get a credit card with a $3500 credit limit.  That $3500 “loan” can change your life.  Trust me.

The key here is to identify each and every one of your bottlenecks.  Don’t be afraid of tackling and eliminating them.  Here’s why: The moment you address the bottlenecks you will be well on your way to maximizing you ... remember you’re the CEO of your business and only you can make it grow.

to join the 1% you must do what the 99% won't

Oh, and one other idea.

I got this advice from another speaker at the conference.

Imagine your current flow of work traffic.

Now imagine something awesome happens!  Let’s say you have a #1 smash on the charts and your work flow and demand is now 2x, 3x, 10x of what it was.  You’re a hit songwriter with a #1…every record label wants your music.  Your big day has arrived to maximize the moment!

So, here’s a question.  Are you ready for that?  What is going to break first in your system?

Like you might have a system that’s working fine for you now.  But…!  Imagine your work flow is 5 times what it is now.

Question: Where is your system going to break down…and where are potential new bottlenecks with the new workflow?

The key is to identify and invest in those areas as well.  But I’d say this is only after you eliminate the current bottlenecks on your pathway to the Billboard Hot 100.

Hope you enjoyed this post…feel free to share and see you on the open highway!

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