When I first started producing video mashups back in 2007/8 I treated the creative process much like I did with my music, when it was done, it was done! Very seldom would I invite others into the creative process outside of a few close personal friends who already knew what my dirty laundry smelled like. I had the confidence to take a small concept and build it to a creative finality, and subsequently live with the consequences whether it became a hit, or a dud. This was a process that worked pretty well for me but I was introduced to a whole new way of working after releasing “Press Hop” in the spring of ’09.
I got a call from Goodby Silverstein & Partners (The NBA’s primary creative agency at the time) requesting to see some demo’s of what I could do with the NBA’s content. I was blown away to have such an opportunity within just 2 months of releasing “Press Hop”. I had a chance to potentially produce commercials for the NBA (I had always loved their commercials as a kid) and expand upon an emerging art form that I had been tinkering with. I quickly jumped on it and produced 4 demos based off the themes the agency provided me. I was soon on my way to San Francisco to work with an incredible creative team at Goodby Silverstein as my 4 demos had been approved to become the first 4 broadcast commercials for the NBA’s 2010 “Where Amazing Happens” campaign.
Coming from a guy who wishes he collaborated a little bit more with his underground dance music comrades, it was awesome visiting a full fledged creative agency for the first time. Collaboration is the name of the game at these agencies, there may be 2 or 3 art directors and/or creative directors on one campaign, all with the same goal of producing the best advertising possible. You have to be ultra-amenable in this environment and willing to divorce yourself from ideas that you truly feel are your best. It’s not always a perfect process as there are many cooks in the kitchen, but it really does strengthen one’s ability to rapidly move onto the next best idea without remaining stuck trying to wrestle something just-decent into something amazing.
Working with a creative agency can spoil you in that you be come accustomed to a deeply collaborative process, one of which timely first drafts, no matter how rough, are appreciated because just about everybody is working against a deadline. It’s also pretty awesome to be able to submit initial ideas for review and have several project milestones along the way before you consider something final. This saves a lot of anguish in the case that you labor over something intensely all for it to be shot down in the nicest way possible. One of my first tasks when I got to Goodby in SF was to produce a new demo called “Clutch”. I remember distinctly the amount of courage it took to produce the rough-cut in a couple of hours, and subsequently have five of their top creative’s give me in-person group feedback on the cut. It is scary to let people into your creative process so quickly, but it really was an element I grew to enjoy.
It was indeed these spoils of working for major agencies and the mainstream media that provided me the biggest lesson I’ve learned since deciding to produce original music again. The creative process does not always work the other way around. Typically you do not invite 10 cooks into the kitchen when you’re working on original music. Organic music is something best baked from start to finish. I had to learn this the hard way as I assumed I could start auditioning my music demos around and invite everybody for a round of feedback. Generally people in the music world aren’t comfortable with this, there are very few people outside of the aforementioned “dirty laundry friends” that are comfortable commenting on how you bake your bread. They know better, they know the music has to come 100% from you.
Realizing the differences between finishing a mainstream media project and finishing an original piece of music has been a valuable lesson, if not an embarrassing one. The differences are quite stark especially considering people in general are not always comfortable delivering feedback no matter what industry they are in. Sending people your half-finished music feels a bit like sending unsolicited and unflattering nude photos. The irony here is, it’s those early nude pics that are exactly what a creative agency wants to see.
At least from a personal level, it’s nice to reach the conclusion that not all creative processes are interchangeable. I really do love both the collaborative draft process as much as I do creating organic music. If anything, all this has driven home what my friends and I have been preaching for years when it comes to music making… Just Finish It.