I bet you never wonder how 3 people with full-time jobs manage to shoe-horn in the creation of a shared rehearsal space for Fort Collins in their “spare” time. If you’ve been following us, you might wonder why I would brag about our ridiculously productive meetings for Cohere Bandwidth when we’ve been at this for almost 2 years. If you must know, most of that 2 years was spent waiting on real estate with very few DONES getting checked off of our TO-DOS. Skip below to the COMPLETION step if you are skimming.
But now that the space is REAL and under construction we spend every Friday going from Oh Fuck! to Hell Yes! Here is our extremely effective meeting process:
- AGENDA: Anyone can create or add to the agenda. We do this in a shared google doc that everyone can edit. The doc contains ALL of the agendas with the most recent at the top. The agenda is usually created the night before or the morning of each meeting. We’re agile and quick so it wouldn’t make sense to create an agenda further in advance than that.
- SCHEDULE: Meetings are always at 10am on Fridays at Cohere and last 1.5 hours. The person who is late has to get coffee for everyone else.
- AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: At the start of each meeting we get our feelings out. Yep, you read that right. If anyone is frustrated or flabbergasted or just plain giddy, we talk it out BEFORE we task. This step is key. Due to the nature of our structure, we can’t be together or even talk every day so it’s important to make a real connection to one another before we start doling out chores.
- ORDER: We go through the agenda in order. Always. We rarely add anything to the agenda during the meeting.
- TIME: Never, ever, ever put an estimated time for discussion on an agenda item. This makes no sense.
- COMPLETION: We complete any tasks that come up IN THE MEETING. Example, if Julie needs to email someone about a radio interview then Shane and I talk about a graphic design task or similar. This allows everyone to be productive during the entire meeting, which is something I never got to experience in corporate life.
- DELEGATE: If any tasks remain, they are completed directly after the meeting ends or get shifted to me (Angel) if possible since I have the most spare time to complete things. Shane will often do heavy duty graphic design tasks outside of the meeting as it’s part of his creative process.
So there. Now you know how we make the most out of our 12 hours/month together.
Does your team have an unconventional meeting process? Tell us all about it so we can steal your tips for our next meeting.
Cohere Bandwidth has been a little radio silent since my live music excursion. I wasn’t recovering from the bar scene but rather completely unsure what we should do next. I rallied Julie and Ian over donuts one morning to figure out how on earth we’re going to pay for shared rehearsal space for musicians in Fort Collins.
We’ve basically landed on corporate sponsors for everything from rent to extension cords. In the meantime we want to test our concept in a temporary space in order to get the musicians introduced to the most basic version of Cohere Bandwidth. We’re calling it Cohere Dial-up in the meantime. It’ll be a dialed down, less ideal version of the finished product. It’ll have all the basics but likely with limited hours and amenities.
Most of my friends know I’m not particularly religious although I have been trying my hand at Quakerism and being quiet and being more helpful to strangers. I’ve tried hard. I also believe that you’ve really got to tell the Universe what you need otherwise you get a bunch of random stuff that makes no sense. So, here ya go, Universe.
We believe that Cohere Bandwidth should be free for musicians. Did you know that musicians might make $75 total to split between them after a live show at a venue in town? How can we possibly ask them to pay us. How?! So here’s what we need.
We need a donated standalone industrial building for about 6 months that has a bathroom, great power and climate control. It needs to be secure-able and have a room or two for equipment storage and a decent sized rehearsal area. The landlord needs to be cool and helpful and is possibly in his/her own band or understands that letting their building sit vacant for years is silly when we could drive traffic and awareness to their location.
We need someone to donate paint so we can at least make the interior minimally attractive. I imagine one 5 gallon bucket of Dolphin Cove blue or Whisper grey would do the trick.
We need Century Link or Comcast to donate 6 months of internet connection.
We need 1 wifi router.
We need 12 power strips.
We need 100 rolls of toilet paper and 75 rolls of paper towels.
We need help spreading the word about Cohere Bandwidth and Cohere Dial-up to anyone who will listen.
Thanks for listening.
I’m continually surprised at how much I learn with each band research field trip. On Wednesday Julie and I trekked out to the industrial area of Fort Collins to examine Post Paradise in pre-paradise practice conditions. Julie and I arrived a smidge early since we didn’t know where we were going. We decided that a band would likely load-in via the back door so drove around the building to the large garage doors. We were a little confused when loud mariachi music was playing out of the unit we were to be visiting. A minute later Nick, Amy, Mark and Chris showed up and quickly realized that their practice space had been double booked. *big frowny faces*
So, a 6 pack was shared while listening to a Christian mariachi’s practice for about an hour. At 9:30pm Post Paradise rushed in and set up a surprisingly complex system with full light show in about 12 minutes. Julie and I peppered them with 3 year old style rapid fire questions while they unpacked, plugged in and tuned up:
- How often does a scheduling mishap happen?
- Why are you laying out rugs on the floor?
- How long does this usually take?
- Why do you set up your full lights for practice?
- Are you comfortable leaving your equipment here and sharing with a band you don’t know?
- Do you have insurance?
- What’s a Direct Support band at a show?
- Why is your light making that funny sound?
- Why do you have so many pedals?
- Where’s the bathroom?
- How long can you rehearse before diminishing returns set in?
We were able to stay for 2 songs before I had to get back home to the babysitter. The mariachis had also stayed behind to observe, they’re mouths agape at the incredible musicality to which they were being treated.
Julie and I make for an odd band groupie couple as we bury ourselves in our iphones to document our experience. Julie tweets, I take notes, Julie takes a picture, I upload a video to Facebook, Julie and I bow heads together to discuss how easy it would be for a band to file LLC paperwork and so on and so forth.
Julie and I drive back to Cohere and sit in the car while it’s running. It feels a little like the end of a good date. We know we have to part but don’t want to so we stall by talking about the business concerns of baby Cohere Bandwidth by the light of my headlights reflecting off the building. I kind of want to make out with her–like in a I love my friend so much kind of way.
My day to day life in modern housewifery is often painfully boring and filled with tedious hours over a high chair or reading the same 4 books over and over again so when we brainstormed the idea of the “Tune Truck/Breaking Band” portable RV/sound studio I got really excited as a solution for shared rehearsal space in Fort Collins. Too excited it turns out. After a brief marination period, Ian sent Julie and I the following email:
So after our meeting last Friday, I felt inspired and excited about the idea of the Tune Truck. A few hours later I began feeling like this, in itself, is almost a completely separate business idea and am wondering the following:
- How much is it going to cost to do this properly? (Alot)
- How are we going to receive a return on this investment and what parameters are we measuring? Probably not $$, perhaps awareness. Is it worth it?
- Who is going to operate it and how much will that cost? (Both for a driver and an audio engineer)
- What musicians are going to actually feel comfortable enough to use it? I know many musicians prepare for weeks or months before they record, and the likelihood of finding enough people on the street to record on the spot seems fairly slim. Not to mention, the recording process for many of us is a somewhat private (and revealing) endeavor.
- Other costs to consider: Insurance, gas, a computer, mics, cables, sound baffling, a power supply that does not create noise, security, instruments, monitors(speakers) or headphones etc…
So I’ll elaborate on what I meant about a separate business idea. If we were to retrofit an RV and turn it into a recording studio, then drive it to peoples houses and charge them to record in it – that would seem like a potentially “sound” investment. Just my humble opinion, but if we were to raise money for something, perhaps that money should go toward the actual space for the following reasons:
- We know we can charge people
- All of our research is based off of that idea (not on musician acceptance to on-the-spot-recording/
- We could probably use all of the money we can get. Although, I doubt we can ask for a grant from the city to start a business… I am sure you two know all about this.
OK, sorry for the lengthy email but I wanted to express my concerns in order to be transparent. If I am being a wiener about this, please tell me to shut up and I’ll move forward. I feel that having a “collaborative space” within our rehearsal space building would potentially be both easier and much cheaper but also comes with some concerns. I know this is my fault because I lit the fuze on this collaborative recording idea, so sorry for the wishywashiness.
To which we replied to him, “thank GAWD we have you and no, you are not a weiner.” It’s nice to know we have a more linear thinker AND a musician on our team who can bring Julie and I back from the clouds–where we often find ourselves due to our tendency to “ideate all over people” and ya know, “store documents and stuff up there.”
During a mini-coworking reunion last night Julie and I met to get the idea pendulum swinging back the other direction and member Kevin suggested we keep the location of Cohere Bandwidth a secret in order to gain maximum security. We thought this was clever so we are keeping that as a feasible idea for when we finally DO get a location–which we don’t have yet–which has been very confusing for people. We DON’T have a location for Cohere Bandwidth yet. Stay tuned, though we might not tell you where it’s located.
So. We met with the musicians. We conducted two focus groups. We consumed approximately 7 pizzas, collectively (and fewer beers than you might imagine in a band session – serious business was afoot). We listened. We wrote on some giant sticky notes. We asked a lot of questions. In the end, it all boiled down to one more question: now what?
Well. Having heard from the musicians about what a successful rehearsal space would look like to them, we did our best to use our imaginations (that was fun!) and dream about what *could* be . But we needed to know more. We needed to SEE what they were dealing with NOW. Angel and I figured there was only one logical next step for us, and so … for the first time since we were teenage first-chair woodwind superstars: we were headed to band practice.
Luckily, our trusty colleague Ian is in a band . We asked him if he would mind if we visited during their next practice – after all, they’re used to the media being all up in their (Wire) Faces. He said yes.
Now keep in mind that Wire Faces is among the many bands in Fort Collins currently without a permanent rehearsal space to call home. Their story, while a little more blatantly terrible than most (they moved out of their last practice space last winter after having ALL their equipment stolen) is unfortunately not that unusual. They’re currently shuffling their stuff between two makeshift practice spaces: the back of the store where their drummer (Shane) works, and (Menyus) their bass player’s living room.
The store owner had to use his space this particular evening, so we got to experience a living room rehearsal. Angel picked me up (me: “fun, this feels like high school!” her: “I know, I wondered what I should wear, but then I remembered, I’m married – it doesn’t matter.”). When we pulled up to the house we knew which one it was because, well, we could hear the music — a common concern for ALL the musicians who talked to us about home practice spaces. “Sometimes our drummer doesn’t even want to practice at all, because he’s afraid he’ll piss the neighbors off,” one of the focus group musicians told us. Oddly, because Menyus lives on a fairly busy street, the noise level from outside the house is not as bad as it could be – the traffic provides a natural sound buffer for passersby. Still, the band let the neighbors know that they’d be practicing tonight (“no problem”, they were told; but, Shane says, “we don’t do this very often”). When they practice in the back of the store, they use headphones, both for recording purposes and because “there are people around – we don’t want to draw a lot of attention to ourselves.”
What we were treated to, mind you, was super-stripped down Wire Faces, with Ian and Shane using about half their equipment (Shane is minus a floor tom and all his cymbals and has no vocal microphone, or even his regular drum sticks; Ian’s using a little battery powered amp and is missing all his effects pedals. Menyus is fully equipped because it’s his living room and his stuff lives here, too). Still — Angel and I leave the house after an hour or so feeling just a little bit deaf.
The band was gracious enough to allow us to observe, and live tweet (#coherebw) and blog from their practice and take photos and shoot video and they still managed to keep some semblance of normalcy, from what we can tell.
What we learned (or had reinforced):
- Musicians are incredibly adaptable. Shane, for example, kept pausing between songs to fortify a “drumstick” he had fashioned out of packing tape, for sound dampening purposes
- Coworking (with freelancers) and – as a friend called it – “coplaying” (with musicians) share some striking similarities. Intervals of introspection interspersed with conversation within the group are evident in their work process. A moment was taken to stop and nerd out a little about software (in this case, the benefits of Logic vs. Pro Tools). And a fiercely independent sensibility – how you can learn to make something on your own and figure things out and iterate and create and try again over and over, because you’re a little obsessed about it? Reeealll familiar territory.
- Sound and all its nuances: super important. Power – also important. Security and accessibility? Yes, please. Trust remains the watchword as we continue down this path with the bands.
So, still: now what? We think we’d like to observe a few more band practices in different spaces as nothing really beats getting a window into how musicians work and what they need (also: about halfway through, Angel realized an added benefit – we were essentially at a VIP private concert; Menyus even offered us snacks!) We’re going to continue the process of putting the people before the place[js8] . And we’re going to allow things to unfold a little more, because Angel says this feels just like what happened with the creation of Cohere. Sometimes you have to get comfortable in the fog. Because, counter-intuitive as it is, everybody knows that when you get scared and turn the brights on, you only impair your visibility.
One final note from Julie: I tried to write this in a fairly objective and clinical way because, hey, we’re analyzing. But I can say that watching these guys just cope with conditions is both profoundly inspiring and rather distressing. The band says – and I’m sure it’s true – that the constraints motivate them to get creative. I felt a little like I was bearing witness to the unbouncing of Tigger. Ugh. That feeling makes me want to work even harder to make something awesome, though, so … perhaps they have a point.
I asked Ian to write us a blog post on trust this week because we feel the topic is critical to our process/progress with Cohere Bandwidth and the larger Fort Collins music community. Nothing frustrates me more than a newb bursting on to the scene and then wondering why no one wants to hang out in their “awesome new thing.” Trust has been abused so often by theft in all its forms that we’re finding it takes awhile to gain a musician’s trust and when we do we’ll guard it closely—much like we will your equipment when we finally get our space!
By Ian Haygood
Song: Truth by Alexander Ebert
“You Can’t Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist”
So said the late Indira Gandhi, third Prime Minister of India. Her words resonate for me specifically because of my experiences as a musician. Typically, trust is not at the forefront of a musician’s mind during the preliminary stages of creative collaboration. Instead, the quest to concoct a unique, compelling mix of creativity and talent acts as a catalyst for progress. Subsequently, many of us get burned. More often than not, young musicians are very trusting, even naïve at times; especially when it comes to things like contracts or parking the van on the wrong street. This mindset can act as a “blinder” from a variety of threats: both internal and external. On the other hand, more experienced, touring musicians have had enough negative experiences to fuel a sense of distrust. Many of us have been ripped off by a club owner, some of us have been robbed by even our closest friends or bandmates, and don’t get me started on what I like to call interband copulation.
So why do we keep putting ourselves in these potentially vulnerable situations? I am sure it is partially due to our innate love of “the ride”, but mostly we are searching for truth. That is why I have chosen Truth by Alexander to accompany this post. It is very difficult to shake our past experiences, for they have become an integral part of our personalities. Although this is somewhat inevitable, we continue to search for truth in each other, in words, in the past, present and future. Music, to some of us, is the only truth. Which is why we feel we’ve found it while we are creating it. At this point everything else becomes secondary or tertiary. However, trust is the foundation of relationships and therefore the foundation of a band’s success (not everyone can get by with a Pete Doherty in the band). Moreover, a band’s success is dependent on the support of said band’s local community. If you don’t think so, I am afraid you may be mistaken. Even the Beatles needed it. As the great Cesar Chavez once said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community…Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
Unfortunately, we cannot predict if someone is untrustworthy, we can only surmise a group or individual’s intentions based on shared experience, hearsay or “gut feel”. This process is done on an individual level. So you tell us. How do you know you can trust someone? How can you know someone is trustworthy until you trust him or her first? How do we progress as individuals and as a community without trust?
It’s hard to pick a song of the week when you don’t have audio on your computer! I picked this song by Post Paradise purely off of the title, lyrics and this line in particular, “If I’ve got strings and I’ve got friends then I’ve got means to all my ends.” <—that pretty much sums up how we feel about Cohere Bandwidth. We’ll continue to collect people and ideas (and maybe some instruments) until it becomes clear what we should do.
We STILL haven’t been able to do a detailed analysis of the focus group info partially owing to the fact that we just completed one last night at the horrifyingly (to me) late hour of 9pm. What we do have is these awesome thank you cards that the musicians signed for all of our pizza sponsors. We also found out that Krazy Karl’s has AMAZE-BALLS pizza for a great price. After buying 8 large pizzas and 2 cinnamon breads we still have some sponsor money leftover for our next social event; a “Photo Band Reunion” where we all bring a picture of ourselves from band in Jr. High or High School. Braces anyone? Stay tuned for that.
I would also like to share an excerpt from an email that we wrote to help clarify our direction. We got a little lost in our first focus group and got too focused on WHAT IS rather than what COULD BE regarding shared space for musicians.
We’re overwhelmed with the amount of info we gathered at our first focus group for Cohere Bandwidth Shared Rehearsal Space so we need a little bit of time to process and condense that for you.
We got so excited about the first focus group last night that we all forgot about the “to-do” to take photos. Whoopsies. Luckily Julie has footage of almost everyone so please enjoy these photos of some of our awesome local musicians who attended.
James Yearling and Mike Desantis of Better Than Bacon Photo credit: Chris Surface
We’re sad that we don’t have photos of Mike Sherry, bass player and Mikus, bass player for 20×111 but 20X111’s song is above for your listening pleasure.
We have another focus group on Wednesday, May 8th from 7p-9p. If you want to join us email Ian now. Free pizza and beer!
The survey is closed and we had a great response from the community. I’m going to channel my inner grad-student and go all scholarly on you. Hang on to your vintage hats.
ONE BILLION people were asked to complete a survey about their current conditions and preferences for potential shared rehearsal space in Fort Collins, Colorado. Responses were requested via email, Facebook and Twitter. We requested that respondents be “in a band” or “a musician” in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The goal of the survey was to find out the current reality for musicians and their rehearsal spaces including satisfaction and cost. We also wanted to gather preliminary data on importance of common rehearsal space amenities, location and to find people to participate in focus groups.
63 musicians completed the online survey. Click on any of the graphs to see larger images.
The average age of those who took the survey was 32 years. The youngest was 18, the oldest; 52.
Surprisingly, the majority of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied (32 total) with their current rehearsal space. Based on our initial talks with band members, we assumed that there would be FAR more unsatisfied rehearse-ers. 20 respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their current space.
We also really need to know how much people are paying for their rehearsal space. The vast majority pay NOTHING. We assume that this means they are rehearsing at home. <—-this sounds familiar. Freelancers, anyone? A shortcoming of our research is that we can’t correlate satisfaction with how much they pay. Right now we assume that those who pay the most are the most satisfied but this is an excellent focus group topic to find out more.
We never want to assume that people want to share. Especially when thousands of dollars of band equipment is in the equation. So we asked. To our delight, 78% of the musicians we surveyed are willing to share. Sharing FTW.
It’s often not terribly important to get hung up on physical amenities this early in the process BUT with the recent thefts of band equipment we knew we needed to at least ask about security. We also heard that many people rehearse without a bathroom (yikes), heat (brrrr) or soundproofing (sorry neighbors). We researched a bunch of other shared rehearsal spaces online and tossed in some of their common amenities (vending machines) just to see what would happen.
Security, clean electrical, cost and locked storage won. Vending machines failed miserably as did discounts to business services and having an included PA in the space. We’ll dig more in to these things in the focus groups.
It was important to communicate how different the price of real estate is in different parts of our town. We indicated this in our survey by using dollar signs. The Mulberry/Industrial area is the most affordable and this got the majority of responses followed by the Old Town as the most expensive area. This leads me to believe that we might have two very different groups of musicians in our group. It will be important to delve further in to this topic at the focus groups.
Conclusion: we are stoked. The focus groups are set up and Ian is taking RSVPs from those survey respondents who expressed interest. BTW, 60% of people who took the survey gave us their email addresses which we think is very, very neat.
And another shout out to our awesome and generous focus group pizza sponsors. Visit their websites today. Did I mention that they are all Independent business owners in our town? Yeah. They’re cool like that. Oh, they are ALL either current or alumni members of Cohere. How fucking sweet is that?!
Amanda Miller, The Place Setting Company
Molly Hoff, The Freelance Bean Counter