October 30th, 2011

Three Tools We Use

By Bart

Even as the band’s computer geek, I didn’t join a 20s/30s-inspired jazz band expecting to draw on that knowledge. A linguist with computational interests, I assumed I’d shelve those skills along with my other academic interests while I took some time to focus on music. Yet the problems of managing a band where multiple members are involved on the business side turn out to be very similar to the problems faced by a team of software developers, and one of the more admirable things about programmers is that they like to solve problems. Consequently, we’ve adopted a few geeky tools to help us coordinate and divide the tasks that make the band function. Here’s three of them.

Once upon a time. learning new music meant making copies of a demo CD, printing out copies of lyric and chord sheets, and doing it all over again when the first round were inevitably lost. Dropbox is a way to share files computer-to-computer or person-to-person via each computer’s file system. Now whenever I complete a demo, I add it to our shared folder and it appears on Lyndsy, Zach, and Eric’s computers the next time they connect to the internet. We now have access to everything related to the band, from finance statements to poster art, wherever we take our laptops (which is everywhere). This has been useful on the road for set lists and contracts.

(Now if only Dropbox for iOS would implement an Open Document reader.)

The name disguises an excellent list-making tool that’s hard to describe. So here’s a 45 second video.

We use Workflowy for a dozen tasks small and large, from basic to-do lists (press kits to mail, gear to buy, stuff to do at practice) to a fairly detailed calendar where we note cities and venues we’d like to play, when to do it, and who we’ve already contacted. We’ve actually divided up a lot of tasks so that each person is doing a small, easy-to-manage chunk. Workflowy lets each of us concentrate on just our part without being overwhelmed by how complicated the entire business of running a band actually is. We probably wouldn’t be able to run as smoothly as we do now if  we returned to bouncing emails back-and-forth.

Google Calendar
Once a show is confirmed, the details go into our Google calendar which syncs with my phone’s calendar. We know a number of other bands use Calendar to note days they have other commitments or to power their website’s tour schedule. We used to do both, but found we prefer Workflowy for the former (despite the lack of native calendar) and wrote our own code for the second. Still, pulling up the day in my phone’s calendar and being able to click on the address or phone number of the venue is incredibly useful and certainly scales up better than a paper daily planner.

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