Manage for Success: Year End Thoughts, Newsletter #56, December 2005


"Manage for Success" is a free monthly newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully. It's published by Keith Holzman of Solutions Unlimited, a management consultant, troubleshooter, and trusted advisor, and is based on his many years as a senior executive in the music industry.


Copyright 2005 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.


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As we approach the year end I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my clients, students, and newsletter subscribers for their business and attention during the previous months. Many have found my annual December newsletter to be very helpful, so here it is once again, with revisions and a few additional thoughts.


The last few weeks of the year is an excellent time to close the books on what you've accomplished during the previous eleven-plus months, but more important, this is a good time to tie up any loose ends and finalize plans for the future. While doing so, try to eliminate or alleviate some of this year’s problems. If you've managed to sail through the year with no difficulties of any sort, however, please email your secret so I can let other readers in on your methods!


For the rest of us mere mortals, start by being sure you’ve thoroughly worked out your strategies for next year’s business. This assumes you’ve designed a comprehensive set of plans for how you want to operate. You’ve decided on what you’ll be releasing -- give or take an addition or two to your artist roster and release schedule. You’ve budgeted the recording costs, and conservatively estimated the potential for sales. You’ve projected marketing costs for each release and have developed a projected profit and loss statement with cash flows and balance sheets.


Assuming you’ve done all of that, take the time to review it and make any updates or corrections you deem necessary. If you haven’t, I think it’s essential that you do. You might want to take a look at how to do this in my newsletter on budgeting from May 2001, which explains the process.

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Now is an excellent time to think back over the current year and determine what you’d like to do differently. It’s quite satisfying to end the year by wiping the slate clean, starting all over with full knowledge of how you'll go about making things better.


It’s also the time to review staff and consider any changes you might want to make. Contemplate promoting anyone who’s really contributed to the benefit of the label, and replace any person whose performance is not up to your expectations. Think about whether you need to add to any critical department, such as marketing. Will adding staff increase the label’s efficiency, and result in sufficient income to cover the cost of new hires?


This is also the time to project a need for such equipment as computers, printers, phone systems and other office essentials. If you know you’re going to add to the staff, be sure you’ve budgeted for additional furniture and gear.


Do you have an inventory of all office equipment with serial numbers and location? If not, construct one. It can be a simple list in a spreadsheet, or a more elaborate database.


Sort through your files and consider weeding out any that are obsolete. You might be able to shred or toss them, but consult first with your attorney to be sure you’re not violating any laws. If they must be kept, and if you’re tight for space, they can me moved to an outside storage facility, or can be microfilmed.


The same holds true for old computer files, but rather than completely destroying them, consider copying them to DVD-R or CD-R disks and file them in a safe place. That keeps the data available, but frees up space on crowded hard drives.


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Need a last minute stocking stuffer for a music-business colleague? Consider a gift of my book, "The Complete Guide To Starting A Record Company" which can be ordered as a downloadable eBook (in Adobe Acrobat® PDF form) at $29.95, or as a printed, spiral-bound book at $44.95. You can read the complete Table of Contents and download the Introduction for free at            <http://www.recordcompanystartup.com/>.


It makes a great present!


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Get a handle on the whereabouts of your recorded multi-track and master tapes or hard drives. Be sure they’ve been removed from recording studios and have been properly logged in your masters database. You do have one, don’t you? Then see that they're safely stored in a secure, climate-controlled off-site facility designed for that purpose.


At the end of the year, obtain a count of your inventory at pressing plants and duplicators. If you own the product at your distributors -- it may be there on consignment -- be sure to get a complete tally from them as well. And then count what you're storing in your office or any outside warehouse you may be using. It's a lot of work, but it's extremely important to know what you own, and your accountant will be grateful.


Review the methods and procedures used during the past year. Are they working smoothly and efficiently? If not, the coming year is an excellent time to make changes. If you need advice in this area, I might be able to help. I counsel record industry executives on how to manage their businesses more effectively. I've been doing it successfully for my clients for many years, so enlist my support if you need guidance in management or administrative matters. As a trusted advisor to many companies, I treat all clients and all assignments confidentially. Call me to see how I might be able to help you manage your label for success.


Most important, review your online marketing policies and digital recording activities. A lot has changed during the past year. Sales of CDs have been in rapid decline (at least for the major multi-nationals) while sales of individual downloaded tracks have shown a marked increase. Are you properly positioned to take advantage of the profusion of legal downloading websites?


Check the integrity of your computer network. Do you have a functioning firewall that's able to keep intruders from trashing your computers and files? And do all of your computers have virus protection software? If not, install them as soon as possible.


Are your backup systems functioning properly? I'm assuming you've taken my advice in previous newsletters and instituted a comprehensive backup program? If not, start one right away!


Review your artist agreements. Conceivably they could be simpler and more artist-friendly in tone, and in fact.


Take a look at your pricing policy to see if it needs revision.


Are you reaping all the extra income possible as a result of licensing your music to films, television, and commercials?


Have you protected your valuable property by filing SR Forms with the Register of Copyrights for all of the year's releases? If not, get them in right away.


Take a good look at your web site. Is it completely up to date with lots of information about all of your releases? If not, make it so.


Finally, let me take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year.


Until next month,

Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited

Helping Record Labels Manage for Success.


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Copyright 2005 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.