The Right Size for a Project / by Simeon Smith

So, capitalism, eh? 

Totally broken. So fucked up. Look at the growing inequality between the richest and poorest in the developed world and you’ll see that capitalism has flaws as vast as those of communism, or any other system for that matter. I don’t have the answers, I’m not here to preach, but recently in my work I’ve had questions. Questions about the right size for projects, for businesses, for life. 

Only a few decades ago businesses weren’t just about making money. They were as much about making things, serving needs. Look at big supermarkets. They’re not grocers anymore. They’re not shops. They’re doing whatever makes them cash. Where I buy baked beans also sells car insurance and credit cards, there’s an opticians in there and a pharmacy, and a photography studio to boot. It’s crazy. 

But if you look at smaller, successful companies, they’re often focussed on the product, not the bottom line. I love Huit Jean’s ethos of “do one thing well”. For years Monome made machines in tiny runs, and always sold out during pre-orders. Both these companies have great customer service, and neither are paying me to tell you this. 

So this year I’ve published a book, released a synth module, and now my new album is coming out on Friday. 

One of the hardest things to decide for each of these projects is how big they should. 

With the Eurorack module I totally undershot. I made 10 thinking they might sell over the next 3 months or so. They sold out in 90 minutes. My bad. That project was too small. I could have made double the number of modules for little extra work. I could have reduced the end price, or increased my profit margin. Could’ve, should’ve. 

With the book, I had it a bit easier. I crowdfunded the thing. I set a reasonable goal. That goal was literally how much it’d cost me to do the minimum print run. I met the funding goal in 4hrs, but then went on to fund the project over 4 times over. This was a great way for me to know how many books to print, how much effort to put into the post-crowdfunding campaign, and a way of grabbing people’s attention. 

Now I face another question, about my new album. Few people are making money from music these days, luckily digital distribution is cheap as chips. I’ve decided not to do a physical run of CDs, cassettes or vinyl. If people really want my music in a physical format they can buy a one-off dub plate. As for marketing, a lot of it is either free, or just takes my time. Sending my music places for review / airtime, social media, video content. But other things, things I won’t be doing this time around, cost serious cash. Will not investing as much in the marketing for this album be a mistake? Have I undershot on my goals for the album? Should I be taking these projects more seriously, putting more effort into fewer projects? 

I’ve no idea. 

I guess my current ethos is to try winning the lottery by buying lots of tickets. Figuratively, obvs. 

Scroobius Pip said, “Throw enough shit at the wall, and some of it’ll stick…

… but make no mistake, your wall’s still covered in shit.” 

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