Mike Large

The Stanley Cup came to Lively, Ontario…

…thanks to the hard work and perseverance of local boy Andrew Desjardins and the rest of the Chicago Black Hawks. To get to such an elite level of competition isn’t easy and Andrew talks about it in the blog he posted shortly after they clinched Lord Stanley’s Cup. He also mentioned something else that I felt is crucial to surviving the game and succeeding at a high level. When remarking about the core group of players who’ve won the cup before he explains “They made sure we kept the highs and lows perfectly even the whole way, and I think that went a long way.” You could take that remark and apply to entrepreneurialism as well.

Starting a business and succeeding isn’t easy. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into it and because of that one can’t help but get really low during the tough times or super high when everything is falling into place. The problem with these two extreme reactions is that if you’re too hard on yourself when it doesn’t go your way you can spiral down and potentially never recover. Too high and one can get complacent and over confident. Andrew’s quote can also be used to describe an entrepreneurs approach to selling their business to others. You have to be even keel. If you over sell and sound far too confident people can get turned off or worse, you can appear to underachieve on a project which can directly affect receiving more work from that client in the future. The opposite is true as well. If you sound like you don’t believe in yourself others won’t believe in you either.

Steady Eddie wins the race if you ask me but it’s easier said than done. Entrepreneurs are supposed to have swagger and because it’s a personal venture they can’t help but get knocked down during the tough times. There are wins and losses in sport and business. How you are able to manage the two and stay focussed and balanced will directly affect your success.

Andrew Desjardin’s Blog for NHL.COM


Just When I Think I’m Done with Music…

…it pulls me back in. Most of my frustration with music is a product of my age. I understand the changes and stay current but so much of the new industry still bugs me. And then a song, a band, a performance or a business move will happen to make me sit straight up in my seat and breathe life back into my outlook on music. This past weekend was one of those eye openers. The Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards (NOMFA) is an absolutely vital cog in the wheel of the local music scene. After a brief hiatus it came back this past weekend and it was glorious. A perfect mesh of both artists and industry that creates so many opportunities for those who take part. One artist in particular has totally grabbed hold of the opportunities available through NOMFA and put them to good use.

His name? Kalle Mattson. What should you do? Look him up online. Listen to his music. Buy his music so that he can keep creating. He will be recognized as a music superstar someday and most of the world won’t care that he’s from Sault Ste. Marie but we will. He was introduced to the NOMFA’s in 2009 and he impressed many of the industry folks who were brought up to the event to share their knowledge with our budding stars. He networked with them and impressed them beyond his performance. Not only was he talented he was smart. He impressed people with his vision of who he wanted to be as an artist and his drive to succeed. Where are those industry folks today? Some of them are working with him! They are part of his team and together they are making headway in the Canadian music landscape. His performance at the Awards was that one performance that woke me from my slumber and I thank him for that.

And beyond giving me a good slap upside the head Kalle is a perfect case study of how NOMFA works. A perfect case study for all musicians and bands. The Awards Conference brings the industry to our artists and gives them the opportunity to impress. Making it in music goes beyond the creative. You have to work the product. Your entire career, but especially so early in your career, you are a salesman. You need to sell your product (you) in order to create believers (them). Without believers it’s a long road to hoe. Without selling yourself the proverbial road in question will be short.

I honestly think that it’s a musicians market right now and the world is their oyster so long as they work it on all levels. Kalle Matteson is doing just that. If he keeps his direction true there will be no stopping the number of believers he creates.

Having Faith

This time last year I planted flower bulbs in my yard. I got them on sale because they were hold overs from the summer before. There was still a light dusting of snow on the ground but of course it was not the right time to plant them. They didn’t sprout and I was super disappointed. Every time I voiced my disappointment that they didn’t sprout my lovely colleague Tara would just look at me and say “Don’t worry about it. This time next year after they experience the winter they will sprout. Trust me.” I didn’t believe her and tended to side with Dennis who would remark about my premature planting by uttering “You. Stupid. Dummy.”

It turns out that I should have had more faith in Tara…I know…shocker. The snow has melted away from my house and guess what’s there? Sprouts! Crocuses! Lifting up through the dirt. I am beyond excited! Don’t judge me. I am really beside myself in anticipation for the rest of the snow to melt so I can see what else is peeking through the dirt.

The interesting thing is, much like these bulbs I planted a year ago, some things we do here at Copperworks revolve around planting seeds and having faith. We work hard and much of the time that work is focused on brainstorming, workshopping ideas, planning and most of the time we don’t see the fruits of our labour right away. The one difference is we never doubt what we do but sometimes it takes a sprout, or in this case an opportunity, to remind us that we are on the right track. That moment where we look at each other and say “See. All that work we did…it’s paying off.”

It’s Melting!

The weather this week has been awesome and although I know Old Man Winter has yet to pull all of his rabbits out of his hat it has been a nice change. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed though. The last month has been ferociously cold to the point of nearly crippling the city. I mean it’s one thing for me and my wife to brave the cold but the little one? Heck, I can count the number of outdoor recesses she had at school in February on two hands because their cut off point for outdoor fun is -26 C. We are winter lovers. We normally get outside during the beautiful white months to take full advantage of what this season has to offer but since the end of Christmas break our outdoor fun has been limited.

So with that said, even for this winter lover, I say let’s shut this winter down and bring on the transition to Spring! Bring on the dirty melting snowbanks exposing their hidden treasures of garbage and trash. Bring on the stink and the smell of spring thaw, soakers and sand covered doorways. Bring on high risk sidewalk walking dodging tidal waves of water displaced by salt covered cars, trucks and busses. Bring on the morning coat debate that inevitably ends with you being too warm or too cold. Bring on the overnight incessant sounds of backup alarm beeping from city trucks removing overburdened snow banks in residential areas because really, who needs sleep when the sun feels this damn good.

I think it’s safe to say that we are all on the better part of done with winter this year. This seasonal transition to warmer temperatures isn’t pretty but we’ll take it.

Musicians! Getting ready for the studio?

Recording music is more than just booking the studio and slapping down some tracks. In an era where indie artists have less money to spend on recordings there are a few things that you can do, that you may not have thought of, to maximize the limited studio time you have that will help the overall sound of your recording. And yes, I do understand that in many cases it’s a Lo Fi era out there, but even Lo Fi should never sound crappy.

·         Research: You’ve scraped and scrounged for every last dime to record so why just settle for any studio. Research studios in and around your area to make sure that you like the vibe and the people you will be working with. You have to be comfortable. Choose a studio that makes you happy. If studio X is the cheapest but you don’t like the engineer, the room or the gear the studio that you absolutely love, even though slightly more costly, would be the way to go.

·         Rehearse: I know you’re excited to lay down the tracks but save yourself hours of wasted time and rehearse until your fingers bleed so that you know everyone is fully prepared to capitalize on the small amount of time you may have. BUT, don’t rehearse for 7 days straight and then jump into the studio on the 8th day. The idea is to memorize the songs and work out the bugs during the lead up to the recording but in the end your songs can actually sound over rehearsed and stale. Once you know everyone has their parts down and you’ve done enough tweaking then make sure you put your instruments down for a few days before entering the studio. This brief time off will help to make the songs sound alive and energized on the recording because you and the band will be excited to play them again after the break.

·         Gear Maintenance: Music gear and instruments have a lot of moving/working parts that need maintenance. Make sure you debug your gear to avoid studio delays. So before you even hear a click track or a count in make sure your guitars are intonated, you replace old strings (but get rid of the ‘new string stretch’), your drum skins get replaced (get rid of the ‘new skin stretch by playing them during sound check) and polish your cymbals (may not be something for everyone but I feel polished cymbals get picked up by the mic’s a lot better). You should also give your amps, pedals etc. a once over to make sure you’re good to go.

·         Put your singer through his/her paces: Immediately prior to your singer laying down their vocal tracks jam with them in one of the studio rooms. This will help them get a feel for breathing, phrasing and other last minute tweaks. Jamming fleshes out that vocal tone, if they have any sort of rasp it will accentuate that more on track. It also helps the singer to feel the push and approach of when they sing live with the band thus getting their mindset ready for carrying that live vocal approach to the recorded version. This is something that often gets lost on recordings.

·         Record dry runs and warm ups; always!: If the engineer tells you it’s a waste of time tell him/her to stuff it and record them always. You’d probably be surprised to hear how many classic recordings that you have been listening to for years were actually warm up takes that were undeniably amazing.

·         Break bread together: Eat as a team before you record and if at all possible use some of the band money to pay for it so that the artists aren’t forking out money from their own pockets to cover it. Everyone loves a free lunch and the great mood that it puts them in will show on the recording. Feel free to include the engineer and producer on this. Yes they are getting paid already for their time but the comradery they feel will help them want to give more to the project either through suggestions and/or extra time.

·         Pack snacks: As crazy as it sounds someone always gets hungry when things just get rolling. Most of the time they understand the urgency of getting the recording done and will push through but they’ll push through with such a cranky piss poor attitude that it will bring down the other people working on the album. If you think emotion or feeling of that type doesn’t show on recordings then you shouldn’t be recording at all.

·         Group Meeting: Once the gear has been loaded into the studio, but before you actually start setting up, sit in one room with the band and the engineer and the producer (if you have one) to talk about what you want to accomplish and how. The reason you do this before gear set up is because this conversation may give the engineer and producer ideas on gear set up, mic placements etc. Make sure everyone is on the same page and trying to achieve the same final product. There is no time for confusion in the studio. Confusion costs money and creates frustration which then ends up affecting the final recording.

·         Detach from the real world: I know this might drive some people crazy but cell phones and laptops etc. should be left at home (and so should your boyfriends/girlfriends, family members, friends and pets). This recording is integral to the advancement of your career. Having your face buried into your phone or laptop or giggling in the corner with your ‘bae’ takes your mind off of the task at hand. Everyone needs to be listening, supporting and helping. Distractions are not welcome. (See me contradict myself in the next point)

·         Feed the Social Media Monkey: I know, I know, I know. I told you to leave the cell phone at home. I still stand by that statement BUT you also have to feed your social media platforms with great content and what better content than actual studio footage and posts. Do this sparingly but consistently and when you aren’t using your phone for this purpose go outside and put it in your car or lock it in your guitar case. Don’t let your phone become a distraction for no good reason.

·         Reserve Budget: I know it was tough getting the budget together for this recording but you should always have a reserve budget that can pay for two additional days if needed. So many things can happen in the studio to derail progress. You and your pals invested too much love, money and talent to this recording only to have to dump 10 hours of recording into 2 hours of complete craptitude. Contingency planning is vital.

This is by no means a full list but you get the idea. Studio time is expensive. Be prepared and if you and the band have prepped everything on your end then the recording will show nothing but the best the band has to offer.