You can always find the time and energy for something if you really love it.
Some creative people have one good idea and stick with it throughout their career – others, like my friend Andy, who is a designer and also runs a local mini-record label, seem to have too many ideas and projects to fit in to the average lifetime. As you can see from the questions below, Andy’s been a very busy boy.
Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
I’m Andy Lobban. I’m a designer at Storm ID by day. In my spare time I do a few things. I co-run Gerry Loves Records, a tiny little vinyl and cassette record label concentrating mostly on local grass roots artists. I help organise Refresh Edinburgh which is a get together for internerds.
I co-created Off The Beaten Tracks, a music video site where we took bands out into unusual places to play sessions. There will only be one or two more of them though. I recently built The Shy Retirers which aggregates Scottish music blogs. It’s at a very early stage and there is a lot I’d like to find the time to do with it. I’ve released a few web things and done some writing over at Nonimage. And I have a wee blog too.
Edinburgh band Meursault take part in an Off The Beaten Tracks session.
Phew! A fair bit then. Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
A bit of both. When I was at school I was guided down a path of going to university and doing a degree that would get me a ‘proper’ job. To be fair, it was partly down to my own laziness that I allowed it to happen.
So after a few months of Engineering at university I realised that it wasn’t for me, and that actually all this stuff that I was really interested in as hobbies could be something I could pursue as a career. Even then I shifted focus a few times until I really settled on web design. I might do again, I don’t know.
In terms of decided what to focus on, I don’t think I’ve ever really made that decision! I focus on what interests me at the time, and see where that leads me. It’s not a decision, it just happens. I’m like a 5 year old in that way.
Well you’re always involved in interesting projects. For example, I first met you through your club night Black Tape which allowed any random idiot to have a go at DJing (including me). You also co-founded the excellent Off the Beaten Tracks and now co-run the “boutique” record label Gerry Loves Records. I have two questions for you about this.
(a) How do you find the time and energy?
I have no idea. A lot of these projects got off the ground when I was either a student or working as a freelancer, which helped in terms of time. Again, I’m like a 5 year old when I find something I love. I just throw myself into it completely for a while. I can be a bit obsessive.
I think that people who can’t find time to do that thing they’ve always wanted to do are either scared or they don’t actually want it that much. You always find time for the things you truly love, regardless of other commitments.
(b) What is the most important thing involved in getting a new project off the ground in your experience?
Love. As I said, you can always find the time and energy for something if you really love it. If you are doing something because you really love not and it makes you happy and not because you think you should, it’s much easier to get it off the ground.
Your projects also tend to be partnerships. What for you are the advantages of this and what are the ingredients of a successful team effort?
Working with someone almost always produces better results in my experience. You filter each other’s bad ideas and encourage the good ones. You keep each other going when you’re folding sleeves or rendering video at 3am.
Practically too, I’m not sure how I could have done Gerry Loves Records events or Off The Beaten Tracks sessions on my own. There is only so much help you can ask for from friends and family.
The ingredients of a successful team effort? I don’t know! A good combination of skills and personalities. People who respect each other so you can have constructive discussions and not blazing arguments. Mostly it just takes two (or more) people who are doing it for the same reasons, with the same goals.
Footage from the Gerry Loves Xmas gig 2010.
You and I have a had a couple of extremely interesting discussions (though my wife seems less interested in this) about how a creative person can best organise and showcase their creative work and social networking content on their own site.
What is your recommendation to someone who’s either been online a while and feels that they have created a bit of a mess (yes that’s me) or someone who’s just starting out and doesn’t want to make any really bad moves that could be difficult to fix later?
I think the web is all about trial and error so throw yourself into it and see what works for you. I just think that most people these days don’t think about the fact that they are putting so much content into systems created by companies. Companies with their own changing agendas and fragility. Companies that could shut down tomorrow, or decided they don’t want your content in their system any more.
If you put all your important stuff on Tumblr or Blogger or Facebook, be prepared for it to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s a pretty big problem if that content is a big part of how you make a living. I wrote a post about this a year ago, if you’re interested, but Jeremy Keith said it all much more intelligently:
I use a lot of tricks to pull all the content I post to various networks into my own site, but that’s not practical for most people. What I would suggest is that if you’re starting a blog for your work, seriously consider paying a little bit a month for some hosting which has a one-click install for WordPress. Anyone can do this, and it means you have control of all your content, and backups etc.
Also, if you’re going to really go all out on the online persona and personal brand stuff, set up a site under the name you are going to use, and make sure it links to all your stuff all over the web. Bands are the worst for this. It used to be that a band would have a Myspace account. Now they have Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Tumblr, Blogger and more, and a lot of them don’t have a central place to find all the info about them.
At the end of the day though, I realise most people don’t care about this stuff that much. It’s only the web. Just do what you want and don’t worry about it.
Finally, I’ve been making a bit of a song and dance about my current status as a freelancer, but you recently went from being freelance to being a full-time employee again. Is it really that bad?
Not at all. I really enjoyed freelancing, but I’m not a great businessman. The networking and admin sides of it got me down a little and a job came along at the right time. I work for a great company and love my job. If I didn’t, I’d be back freelancing by now. Good luck with it. It’s an eye-opener.
Cheers Andy you’ve been really generous with your time, and expertise. If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please check out the Gerry Loves Records website. Their releases are always great, and they put the most care and attention into their releases of any label I know.
Oh, and feel free to say hi in the comments!