Diversified Skill Set
By Martin Atkins Diversified skill set #1 – Language, skills, being more productive and the Montreal Canadiens I have a whole lecture about diversified skill sets – or you could call it transferrable skill set – either way – here's the deal. Back in my Granddad's day – and maybe not as long ago as that, people were trained to be good at ONE THING and to, pretty much, do that thing all of their lives – that's what my Granddad did – got the retirement gold watch and everything – when he'd see me in the middle of my A.D.D. creative jags – drumming, making posters, designing scenery, running the label writing for Boston Rock magazine etc etc (et F@#king cetera!) he'd always say "jack of all trades…master of none!" further re-enforcing this single minded approach. The fact is, this approach doesn't work anymore – the new Mission Impossible movie doesn't show Tom Cruise carefully picking his team like they used to (the movie is already 30 mins too long!) ……. But if I was putting together a band from scratch – ideally I'd want a guitarist – that can shoot and edit video, a bass player that can screen print, a drummer who has a van and a singer who can charm the pants off a person who has been vaccinated with an anti pant charming lead singer antidote ……that band is going to get better results than a better band with better songs but no other skills……..really. they just are. PLUS, the hard working band with multiple skills will keep working to acquire more skills AND get better at song craft, audience craft everything craft – whereas the band with the amazing songs can often be a little bit self centered and believe that all you need is great songs (o worse ONE great song)…. there's a smug complacency that can often go along with that. I'm reminded of my 'add a language' strategy today. I first mentioned it when Jon Fryer who produced the first Nine Inch Nails album Pretty Hate Machine told me that he had become one of the busiest engineer/producers in New York City not just because he 's really GOOD – but because he also has a little bit of Japanese! – not a 4-year degree course in Japanese – but a day and a halves worth of 'studio' Japanese Just enough to get through a session with a nervous, non-English speaking band. He became the engineer of choice for a bunch of Japanese labels. KAPOW!!! That's an unfair advantage right – and, if I had to choose between a good engineer that could speak a little Japanese and an amazing engineer that didn't – I'm probably going to choose the one with the multiple skill set – because the chances are he'll also take some pics, shoot a little video on his Go-Pro and post some stuff on the web and generally make things smoother and cooler. Today I just read about the sports-cross over version of this – the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team have a new temporary manager who is doing a great job – only problem is – he doesn't speak French. He doesn't technically need to – all of the players and staff speak English – it's just the general opinion of the older population of Montreal that he should. So – this one factor has become MORE important than choosing the best guy for the job…. it needs to be the best guy for the job that also speaks French. More and more opportunities are going to be this way – either for cultural reasons – or simply because of budget cuts. Next time I go on the road am I going to take four support crew – sound guy, tour manager, keyboard tech and lighting guy – or two – a lighting guy that tour manages and a sound guy that sets up the keyboards?? Exactement. Au revoir!