There is a saying I have that I conveyed to people when the situation warrants and I have told this to my kids over the years.
“There is bullshit in every job.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s the dream job that you always wanted, the one you dreamed about as a child, a teenager, an adult.
Any job that is going to be rewarding and satisfying is going to have its share of bullshit.
I learned this when I got a chance at what I thought was my dream job at the age of twenty five.
I went to Pittsburgh to work with my good friend in his recording studio.
This is it, I thought. Here I am working with my good friend and mentor at a recording studio, in the music business as a full time job. I think anyone who dreams about working in the music business dreams about working at a studio.
Keep in mind back then you couldn’t just setup a professional sounding recording studio in your basement. You had some major investments to make in time, money and real estate.
But most people who want to be in the music business wanted to hang out at the studio, not WORK at the studio.
The keyword is work.
When you’re at your job whether it’s for yourself or someone else you are expected to produce something for the money you are being paid. You are an investment and your investor is expecting a return on their investment.
So if what you produce doesn’t earn money for the business you are either gone or a charity case. It’s that simple. Businesses with charity cases usually aren’t in business for very long unless you’re the government and I’m not getting into that right now.
The studio was a very small business so charity cases were one thing it could not afford.
So how did I get a job at this small business?
By recognizing the bullshit work no one wanted to do or had time to do but it needed to be done to help the business operate.
One day I noticed every time the engineer was getting ready to start a session he would spend several minutes trying to find the tapes for that session. They weren’t in a folder on his desktop. His desktop was actually the piece of wood on the top of his desk.
Over the few years the studio had been in business they had managed to amass a couple hundred various size reels of tape.
These were all placed in the wall cabinets with no real system to organize them other than by tape and reel size. Even that method was mixed up.
It was bullshit work to come up with a method to organize them. No self respecting artist would utilize his talents for such an unglamorous task. To be fair most artist are a bit unorganized to begin with.
The engineers/owners had enough on their plate and were so caught up in the other activities of the place that they didn’t realize the amount of wasted time they spent looking for tapes.
I saw this need to organize.
I’m one of those exceptions to the rule, an organized musician. I can be anal at times and enjoy that kind of work and the challenge.
Setting out to organize a couple hundred tapes really made it “work”.
I took each tape and gave it a unique sequenced number based on tape and reel size.
As I assigned each tape it’s unique number, I typed up an index card. Remember this was well before PC’s. I was smart when I was in high school and took a typing class. It served me well. Probably the best thing I learned in school.
The index card’s header was the artist’s or band’s name. Next was the project’s name.
In the upper right hand corner was the unique number that was assigned to the tape. This unique number was also typed on a label and attached to the tape. The number also identified the size of the tape and reel.
Then all the cards were filed alphabetically by the artist’s or band’s name followed by the project’s name on a Rolodex. How many of you remember or used one of those? How many of you still do?
All the tapes were filed numerically by size.
The engineer would now go to the Rolodex. Find the artist’s name and project card which then had the unique tape number on it. They would go to the tape’s size section in the cabinets and easily find the tape because they were in numerical order.
The process of finding tapes that took 5 to 15 minutes was now reduced down to seconds.
After the session they would put the tapes in a tray and I would file them that day or the next morning when I came into work.
New tapes were placed in a separate tray and I would assign them a number, make up a card and file them.
I took ownership of the process. At the time I had no idea that was what I was doing.
The owners/engineers loved it.
They saw someone who had a knack for the day to day business end of the operation and gave me a job.
I used the bullshit part of the business to get a job.
There was a ton of other bullshit with that job but the experience and dreams made it all worthwhile to me.
I tell my kids, someone’s got to clean the toilets, its bullshit, but it’s there in every job.
© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.