8 minute read

RECORDING

Production Assistants And Companies: General Manager • Manager

JOB OVERVIEW

At Hamstein Productions, Ginny Johnson oversees the daily operations of the company in its three areas of focus: coordinating projects for producers and artists, managing producers, and developing artists with the goal of landing a major recording contract.

PREREQUISITES

To succeed, you should have an ear for great songs, an understanding of the A&R and recording process, strong contacts within the industry, and people skills. “You have to really listen and be aware of everything that is going on in the industry in general and with your clients. The ability to find great songs is invaluable because that is where the whole process starts. It all starts with the music and in order to be successful, you've got to have hit songs.”

A DAY IN THE LIFE

CAREER TIPS

“You have to be dedicated, work very, very hard, and be willing to work long hours. That is what enabled me to move up as quickly as I did. I put in long days, worked hard, and I always went the extra mile. It paid off for me.”

Read liner notes and learn credits for producers, songwriters, and publishers.

“On Mondays we start the day off with a staff meeting to discuss all of the projects that we're coordinating,” says Johnson. “We go over our signed artists in detail and converse about what needs to be done on their projects. We have an A&R meeting that is solely to listen to songs for our artists. In between meetings I'm constantly on the phone, coordinating various projects, talking to song pluggers, putting songs on hold, and taking them off hold. Because we're always looking for new artists, I'm constantly asking publishers about writer/artists. Throughout the day I talk with label A&R staff and managers about the different projects we're working on. I might be looking for a manager for one of our artists, dropping by a studio to check in on a project, or pitching one of our producers to a label to work with a particular artist. My day starts about 9 a.m. and ends around 9 p.m. every night.”

THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“The accounting and paperwork. When we coordinate albums, we have to track budgets, and even though it's as important as the music, it's not the most fun part.”

THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“What I love most is working with all the people that are involved in this business; they're very interesting, intelligent, artistic, and gifted people. It's fun to be in the studio when their music is going down. It's fun to have the writers come in and play you great songs. Those are fun experiences that you get every day in this business.”

POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH

A position, or internship, in A&R or A&R administration is a great way to gain the skills necessary to manage producers and handle production coordination.

GINNY JOHNSON, GENERAL MANAGER, HAMSTEIN PRODUCTIONS

“I knew I wanted to be in the music business from a young age,” says Ginny Johnson. “I had friends that were in the business; some were artists and some were family members of artists.” Johnson moved to Nashville from High Point, North Carolina when she was 19, entered the music business program at Belmont College, and landed an A&R department internship at Capitol Records. The internship, with label executive vice president Jerry Crutchfield, lasted 18 months and ended when he hired her as his personal assistant. Johnson's duties included managing the A&R department, coordinating the label's videos, and acting as production assistant to her boss. “Jerry was producing eight or nine acts a year. It was a busy time and a great learning process because I was involved in so many different areas.”

Johnson continued her duties through the transition of Capitol Records into Liberty Records and the installation of a new label head. Several years later, when Crutchfield was hired as president of MCA Music Publishing, he took her along as his assistant. Along with coordinating album projects, she was introduced to the many facets of the publishing world. After three years on the job, she decided to go out on her own as an independent production assistant.

After renting an office in 1994, Johnson quickly began working with some of country music's leading producers, among them, Buddy Cannon, Scott Hendricks, Blake Mevis, Billy Joe Walker, Jr., and Paul Worley. In 1998, she met with Bill Hamm and Richard Perna, and three days later was brought in as general manager to set up the project coordination division of Hamstein Productions. Within six weeks, business had grown so much that she hired two staff members.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT • PROJECT COORDINATOR

JOB OVERVIEW

Production assistants and project coordinators work for a record producer and handle the business side of recording. This includes formulating a budget, scheduling the studio, hiring the engineers, musicians, arrangers, and mixers, making arrangement for any necessary travel, tracking the costs, approving and paying bills, and overseeing the project until it is completed.

PREREQUISITES

To succeed, you should have organizational skills, self-motivation, a friendly personality, knowledge of the recording process and administration, and sensitivity.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

CAREER TIPS

“If someone wants to be a project coordinator, they really need to be aware that it's not the creative side of A&R, it's the administrative processing.”

“Print up business cards that say ‘Production Project Coordinator.’ If you see it in writing, whatever it is, you'll believe it and you'll start doing it.”

Study liner notes and learn what musicians played on each track and who produced it. Learn about the recording process and who does what. Try to land an internship in A&R at a record company.

“At the beginning of a project, I may be sitting in front of the computer writing the budget,” says Ivy Skoff. “If it's crazy and there is a lot going on, I'll be writing the budget very, very early in the morning, maybe at 4 a.m., so I can do it before the phones start ringing. There are always AFM contracts to process, budgets to write, billing for reimbursements and billing the client, and other administrative tasks. Then I send my paperwork off to the administrative people at the label. Sometimes there might be an emotional problem with a client. You're sort of a friend and sort of a shrink. Throughout the day you're juggling paper, and there are days I want to throw my computer out my window and light a match to my desk. Some days are crazy and some aren't.”

POINTERS FOR THE JOB SEARCH

Jobs in which you can gain the necessary skills, experience, and contacts are found in the A&R administration department of a record label, and in administration at a publishing company, where the staff processes demo recording paperwork.

IVY SKOFF, PRODUCTION PROJECT COORDINATOR

When Ivy Skoff was laid off from her job as a Girl Friday to Mel Blanc, legendary voice of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters, she quickly found a job at the personal management company next door, as secretary to two of the managers. “I used to run into people from BNB [Associates] in the hallway. One day I saw this man I thought was Sherwin Bash, one of the principals in the company. We talked and he said ‘If you ever need a job, come in.’ When I was laid off, I marched into BNB and told the office manager that Sherwin Bash said that if I ever needed a job I should come in.” Later, Skoff learned it was not Bash she had met in the hall, but another manager. Still, her friendly manner in the hallway led them to offer her a position. “When I started, I didn't even know what a personal manager was, but working in the music industry just felt right. I had found my niche and started learning everything I could about the business.”

THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“The bad part of my job is that when someone hasn't gotten paid, it's my fault. If an airplane is delayed, it's my fault. Anything that goes wrong is the production coordinator's fault.”

THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS JOB:

“The best part of my job is the relationships you build. When you work with somebody for a long time you feel that camaraderie. You feel like you're on the same team. Sometimes I go to my clients’ concerts and I watch them on stage. At the end of the show everyone is applauding and I get choked up and teary-eyed.”

One of the firm's clients was a record producer. Seeing an opportunity to learn more, Skoff began handling the business aspects of recording, and coordinated the project for the producer. Before long, she was earning extra money doing the same for other clients. Never one to admit that she didn't know how to do something, when Skoff was asked if she had completed the AFM contracts, she lied and said, “'Sure!’ Then I walked up to my desk and got on the phone with a friend of mine who was a bass player and said, ‘Help.’ He came over with a stack of AFM contracts and showed me how to do them.”

When heavyweight management firm Fitzgerald Hartley Company was created, Skoff came in as administrative assistant, handled all the company's paperwork and continued to coordinate projects for clients. After six years, she felt that she had reached her potential with the company and was looking for a new challenge. She came up with the title of Production Project Coordinator, had business cards and letterhead printed, and set up her own business.

With referrals from her previous employer and those from record companies, Skoff's client roster quickly grew by word of mouth. Over the years, her resume grew to include work with artist/producers like Baby Face, Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins, Madonna, Manhattan Transfer, Randy Newman, Lionel Richie, TLC, and many more. Skoff also worked on the soundtracks for Waiting to Exhale, Cold Mountain, and The Ladykillers, and served as the music contractor for Dreamgirls.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessRECORDING - Production: Producer • Record Producer, Recording Engineer And Mixer, Engineer • Second Engineer, Mastering Engineer