Managing a Band with Basecamp

24 Oct

Band Management with Basecamp

I’ve been playing music for years and most of those have involved playing with an amazing group of musicians who make me sound better, provide support, ideas, brotherly love and a constant source of inspiration. Now, being in a band is inspiring and loads of fun but can be hellish to organize. When we were younger, getting people together for rehearsals, scheduling gigs, going on tour and just staying in touch was easy but with members getting married, having kids and spreading our talents around in different musical projects, keeping everyone on the same page can be difficult.

Now, many of you know this already, but I’m a huge nerd and if there’s something based in technology I can use that will make life easier, I’m all for it. Since I started working for the wonderful Filament Creative 5 years ago I’ve learned to love using Basecamp by 37 Signals. I thought, if it could work to manage clients of all sizes, it could certainly work to help manage five guys in a band.  I was looking for a way to take care of everything from song writing to gigs and rehearsals but due to the lack of calendar functionality I originally opted for their less-expensive option – Backpack. It had everything I needed for the time-being like shared calendars, messaging and writeboards, but the limitations on users and storage kept me coming back to Basecamp, staring longingly at the feature list hoping for some sort of calendaring function. Until recently, I just couldn’t justify the expense.

Enter Calendars. Released in June. The final piece of the puzzle – or so I thought. Backpack was great in that it allowed me to import users calendar feeds, much like a google group calendar but the Basecamp calendar, it turns out doesn’t necessarily make it easy for users to manage their calendars since the subscriptions can only be downloaded from Basecamp and not added to it from an existing feed. The vision for me was to make things as easy as possible; create the path of least resistance for the guys to keep everyone updated. Not so much with the calendaring function.

The bottom line is that Basecamp is a great way to keep band communication in one place. It’s great for sharing song ideas, getting input on lyrics, managing tasks that need doing for a tour or recording session but unfortunately, it’s lacking in the ways of full band management. Scheduling is a huge part of any project and it’s especially imperative when you’re trying to carve out and match up time from five busy schedules.

Though I do realize that there’s other services catering specifically to bands such as Bandize, even they haven’t mastered the two-way calendar. The interim solution (until 37 Signals decided to give Basecamp the same group calendars as Backpack) is a shared Google group for calendars and Basecamp for everything else. I don’t see that changing any time soon, but one can always hope.


Six Months and Ten Countries Later – Travelling with the iPad

22 Jun

Great for Travel, not-so-great for designers.

Before my wife and I left on our ’round-the-world’ adventure, I did a lot of research on what tech items it would be a good idea to have with us. Now, I’ve already mentioned our camera choice on this blog (which was incredible by the way) but a big decision was whether or not to take a laptop. I had to decide whether or not it was worth trucking the laptop around or if we were to just rely on potentially shoddy internet cafés. Because of what I do and because I’m a huge nerd when it comes to my computer platforms I wanted something that was familiar, reliable and at the end of the day, mine. Enter iPad.

Naturally, from the beginning I was a big fan of the idea (since it was a convenient excuse to get one) but my wife had her reservations. Well, after six months of trucking it around in the now decrepit padded envelope I was carrying it in, both my wife and I have a new found appreciation for this magical tablet. I should add that I was always a fan, but am now more so because it’s made my wife a believer.

For those of you thinking of traveling with the iPad, I’d highly recommend it but I there are certainly limitations. Here are some of the things I loved and didn’t love so much about it while we were on the road.

1. It’s great for photos

The iPad is a photographer’s dream. With the Camera Connection Kit it was easy to import pics from our camera, edit the ones we wanted to use for the blog and send the rest up into the cloud as backup (when we had reliable wifi).

After trial and error, I found that a lot of the photo apps for iPad leave a lot to be desired. They either didn’t function the way I wanted them to or they didn’t play nicely with my overall photo plan. I went through about 10 different ones before I found the right combo that worked for me. For editing, I love using the awesome Photogene but it took a few tries to find an app that would allow you to batch-upload to Flickr. I finally settled on FlickrStudio which has some incredible features including the ability to batch upload and edit your photos. I should mention that FlickStackr is also quite good but it didn’t have the ability to batch-edit pics at the time (it does now) which I was looking for.

2. It’s great for blogging

Throughout or trip, we kept a blog so that our friends and family back home could follow our route and see some of the incredible things we were seeing. Finding things to write about and doing so on the iPad was easy. We used Tumbleroo as our primary blogging tool and it’s fantastic. Simple, reliable and a pleasure to use. On the road, I also kept a music blog for the Matt York fans in the house but since that blog is on the WordPress platform I used a different app called Blogpress. It was pretty good but the Tumblr community has really one-upped any current offering for WP and delivered functional and beautiful applications. On either platform, it was great to use the iPad as a blogging command centre and if your job revolves around writing then you’re set.

3. It’s great for passing the time.

On a couple of nights where we had a good wifi connection we rented movies to watch on the iPad and it was awesome. We mostly took advantage of this at airports where wifi was free and spare time was plentiful.

4. It’s great for work, depending on your job.

I had this discussion with a good friend when I returned. Fortunately, there was no work planned for my vacation but for some of us that’s not always the case. Depending on your job, you could easily use the iPad as a replacement laptop if you were traveling. If you needed to write, manipulate pictures, check out spreadsheets and manage docs on the road you most certainly could. As a designer, forget about it. Sure, you can do mockups, make presentations and have some very engaging client meetings but to actually do work it’s very difficult. It’s not that you *couldn’t* but it would be exponentially harder than using a computer.

5. It’s versatile

Whether you have the new iPad 2 or the first generation like I do, it’s a great tool. Now that I’m home I admit that I wish I could find reasons to use it more but as a travel companion it’s light, versatile and a pleasure to use on the road. I find that I’m slowly converting mine to a music/news machine with apps like Garageband (awesome) and Tweetmag but on the road it was a blogging/photo editing monster. With so many apps, you can make it fill whatever need you might have from composing music to film editing to Sunday morning Instapapering (not a word…). Do you need one? Probably not. Are there more than 90,000 excuses to get one – for sure.

For those of you about to hit the road – good luck. Enjoy every moment and remember to lift your head up from the iPad once in a while to take in what’s around you.