Transitioning between jobs is never easy, especially when it entails leaving a major label with hundreds of coworkers for an innovative start-up with 15 employees. My first few days here at Stem opened my eyes to the plethora of organizational applications that I now could never imagine living without. The rigid structure in my day-to-day work life assisting with A&R at a corporate company has been replaced with an open door of new applications and tools to help increase my (and the company’s) productivity. Not only am I allowed to explore new programs to streamline my workload — I’m encouraged.
Out of all the apps available for growing companies like Stem, there are some (many even for free) that cut through the clutter and make it easier to manage day-to-day operations. Whether you’re in a position like me where you’re settling into a role at a new company, or you’re just looking to optimize how you get sh*t done, you absolutely cannot live without these five tools that helped me transition from major label to start-up.
A huge aspect of A&R is finding and pursuing new artists; it’s vital to ensure they trust you and believe you’re the person who can help their work reach its highest potential. The smallest things can scare an artist away from a label, especially disorganization. While having a team of A&R reps can be very productive (more eyes and ears out there, searching for the next big thing), a lack of communication can result in multiple people from one company reaching out to express interest when a new, exciting artist comes up. This doesn’t look great to the artist — who wants to sign their artistry to a company that can’t even communicate internally?
Even further down the line, once the artist is signed, the creative process cannot be rushed; it can take months or years before a release actually happens, and keeping everyone on the same page during that time can be a headache. When an executive asks, “What’s going on with this artist? When are we getting music?” you can only say “Soon! They’re in the studio,” so many times.
Enter Trello, the ultimate task management software. Trello makes it easy to create boards to track pursuits and show the movement of clients and processes. Beyond pursuits, you can even keep track of your current roster and the status of their upcoming projects and releases. Not only does Trello make it easy to hold team members accountable for deliverables and making progress, but it helps make your days more productive; since updates are visible to all team members, less time is spent on chasing people for updates and more time is spent on moving the company forward.
Assisting music executives means staying on top of things so that they don’t have to, including carrying out the operations of their day-to-day life so that they can spend more time in the creative world. Managing your own logins and passwords is hard enough to begin with — managing passwords for yourself and a high-level executive is nearly impossible.
To stay organized, I maintained a three-page document of my boss’ credentials, ranging from credit card numbers and frequent flier logins all the way down to blood type (I don’t even know mine). Keeping a word document meant I had to constantly update, save, and re-copy & paste into my phone contacts so I could have it remotely. Too many times I had forgotten to update the information in my phone & gave the wrong credentials, resulting in the most unproductive text chain of login trial and error.
Fast forward to startup life and enter 1Password, a secure master-password-locked vault of every login, password, account number and protected note you could ever imagine. All pertinent info is hidden and able to be copied and pasted for easy access, and you can even create vaults for teams to share. Plus, not only can you access your vault via web, but also via an app on your phone. This is the ultimate tool for anyone who needs to keep track of passwords, especially assistants and executives. I can’t tell you enough how much this platform changed my life.
A big part of running an executive’s operations at any company is staying on top of things they need to do, listen to or act on. An assistant’s jobs is to maintain their executive’s mental to-do list, and for me, this meant emailing them a list at the top of every day with questions, reminders, links and deliverables. Typically, these lists would be printed and reviewed whenever there was an available second (which was rare).
Now, instead of sending lists over email and risking them getting lost in the shuffle, I’m committed to a game-changing app called Wunderlist. It’s simply an app that allows you to create to-do lists on your computer or phone. Not only can you assign due dates to action items, but you can assign the tasks to different team members, receive email reminders and mark items as completed (and their notification chimes are the best). Wunderlist not only has kept me more organized, but I am able to assign to-dos to executives that they can access on all their devices with notes, information and easy usability.
One of the most widely-used communication platforms for businesses has unsurprisingly changed the game for me. When I first signed up for Slack at Stem, I loved seeing how our teams used it to do everything from share music, discuss new releases, offer creator support and even store files. A&R departments would benefit from a tool like Slack because it allows teammates to chat & share ideas about new & existing clients without cluttering up their inboxes.
At first glance, Slack’s sell as a messaging app seems too basic, but it has way more hidden talents than your ordinary message window. I created a personal assistant Slackbot (yup, it’s THAT customizable) that gives me reminders and even acts as my always-accessible notepad. Plus, you can send direct messages, create new channels to chat with different teams, search through chat history and easily upload attachments. Also, let’s not forget the all-too-important comic relief of Slack’s brilliant Giphy integration. /giphy for the win
(I bet some corporate folks are scratching their heads at that last line).
Most major labels are located in big, corporate buildings, resulting in security running very tightly. The process of signing in guests and notifying whomever they were visiting in the building at my previous employer was utterly terrible. Each morning, assistants sent their boss’ outside meetings to a collective email alias, which security guards would then add to a calendar. When a meeting arrived, security called the assistant to alert them the guest had arrived.
Simple, right? Wrong.
The mishaps I had with trying to get guests into the building led to me nearly losing my mind. Sometimes security would call from the parking lot, then again when the guest was actually in the lobby. The majority of the time, the visitor’s name was forgotten, they were lost somewhere inside the building (this actually happened a lot), the alert call would never take place or the visitor would be turned away by security. Since everyday life (and L.A. traffic) can result in meetings getting moved, having to cooperate with an inflexible security made it difficult to coordinate with my boss’ schedule.
This is why I love Envoy — a simple app that can be used on an iPad in the front lobby of a business. Envoy makes it easy for guests to sign in with their name, email and who they’re visiting, and then a note automatically gets sent to the meeting host letting them know their guest had arrived. Envoy completely removes the possibility of human error, meaning security guards are no longer held accountable for deciding who’s just a random walk-in trying to get a label deal (it happens), and who’s actually who they say they are.
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