project: Marah

project management for the things that really matter

A Music Festival – project management style

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Last weekend I had the good fortune to experience a 3 day multi-venue music event in Asbury Park NJ. Facilitated by All Tomorrow’s Parties, I’ll Be Your Mirror was curated by Portishead and Jeff Magnum.  I’m sure a lot of rather excellent words reviewing the event can be found via NPR, Rolling Stone, etc, etc.

I’m not here to talk (specifically) about the music.  Nor am I here to talk about what a huge task it is to pull off such an enormous feat of collaboration and coordination.  I’m here to talk about how a Project Manager who grew up on Willie Nelson, AM radio and some PBS gets through 3 days, 3 + venues,  40 musical and spoken word artists, almost 20 films from Criterion, a bonfire, and another music/art event on the other side of town featuring local and not so local artists, like Vernon Reid, as well as a rather juicy Radiohead rumor floating around.

So… when you know you won’t see it all, what do you choose to see and how and why do choose what you choose?

This is a common quandary not just for festival event attendees, but a general life question – why do we do what we do… and specifically to this blog… how can project management help?  I decided to employ an approach I’ve learned through an entrepreneurship class I took at Babson University called CreAction.  Creation + Action.

1) Act Quickly with the Means at Hand

The first thing I did was gather information and research.

So I  waded through the extensive ATP artists mini websites, created my own pandora channel, surfed around musicplasma, and tried to bone up on all this musical culture that was about to happen.  I also employed principle #3) Enroll Others in your creation  through sending  the scheduled musicians list to a few more knowledgeable friends of mine. They responded with their  opinions, which I threw into the mix, creating a mini schedule weighted with reviews/opportunity/my own gut feeling.  (there’s a side rant brewing here about how scheduling in project management is an art and a science)

I digress.

2) Manage Acceptable Loss.

Entrepreneurs do this all the time –  Acceptable Loss isn’t just about Time or Money, it’s also about social capital, opportunity costs, etc, etc.  In this case, the ticket was already paid for, with the event was on a weekend, practically in my backyard.  There wasn’t much to loose… Until Sunday Night.  After 2 amazing days of breathtaking musical experiences (an entire theater singing together, that same venue practically vibrating apart from a noise band)… and more grilled cheese sandwiches than I care to admit to, a rather juicy rumor floated my way over lunch.  I heard  Radiohead was going to play Sunday night.  That the 2 hour time slot given to Public Enemy was just a front.  It was going to be a “secret show’.  yada yada yada.  There were band member sightings, and lots of knowing looks around the table.

So, normally, I’d just stick around and see what happens, but a friend of mine was curating a separate event at a coffee shop across town featuring Vernon Reid from In Living Color.

Choices Choices.

I returned to CreAction principle #1 – Act quickly with the means at hand.   Twitter to the rescue. Scanning multiple hashtags over pizza on the boardwalk (which is kinda like grilled cheese, but different) I noticed lots of ATP rumors floating about.   The weather threatened rain at every turn, and honestly at this point my concert buddy and I only wanted hot chocolate.   Off to Cafe Volan we went, keeping an eye on the smartphone.    After all, armed with CreAction principle #2 – manage acceptable loss (and the cache of a secret radiohead show was pretty cool)… but the knowledge that I would get to experience Vernon’s new work in a space basically about the size of my living room was too much not to turn down.

At the end of the day, there was no secret show.  There was a 30+minute soundcheck by Public Enemy in a very large venue (that I missed) and a very intimate and insightful Vernon Reid performance (that I experienced).

The entire weekend was well worth my time and the ticket price. I met artists (like Shepard Fairey who was in town to create murals for the event), made friends, got to listen to a diverse set of artists – from the brutally loud and cathartic Swans to the also physical and transcendent saxophonist Colin Stetson.

I don’t know what my weekend would have been like without applying CreAction skills and principles, but I’m awfully glad I did.

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Written by marahrosenberg

10 October 2011 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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