|Making of an Album: Circling Trailways
(submitted by Jun Sekiya to meet the requirement of Management)
In 8th grade, my friend Adam and I started a hip hop duo called V.I.B.E., an acronym for Vigorous Ice Blue Eyes. After he left Yokohama International School at the end of the year, we kept making music through Skype, and visited each other (he moved to Ohio in the U.S.) at least once a year, filming music videos when we did. As 10th grade came around, we were in the process of making our first CD, and it neatly coincided with another project.
In my Business Studies class of 2012, we were given an assignment at the beginning of the year that ran through the entire school year: starting a small business and managing it to try and make the most profit in the class.I knew immediately what I wanted to do for my small business project, and I knew I didn’t want to just burn a couple ten CDs, print out some art on flimsy printer paper and pass it off as a mixtape amateur demo sort of thing. I wanted it to look and feel like a real record label CD.
I got in touch with my cousin Alex Jimenez who works in CD distribution, and he told me my best bet would be to go through a site called www.cdbaby.com, a site that specialized in making professional looking albums for indie artists. The sound would be up to us, but by this time after 2 years of experience, we were relatively good at recording and mastering. I also wanted to have the album done and on sale at school and on iTunes by the beginning of winter vacation at school, which was right after a student talent show we have at our school called Studentainment, where I was going to perform with my friends.
So with the plan to go through CDBaby to make the album, and do it in a time frame of 3 months, I began assembling the small team who would help me make and sell the CD, since Adam was in Ohio and we (Adam and I) specifically were still focusing on making the actual songs for the CD.
The first person I enlisted to help me was, Riki Shirayama, my friend who had also been a close collaborator in making music videos since 7th Grade. I knew he was a wiz with graphics and using Adobe Illustrator, which we would need to use to format the CD art. He also would do the inside CD case art, shown right below:
I also approached my friend Tadashi Beddie who I had worked before on some short films before. He knew many people in school and out of school (having been to many international schools in the Tokyo-Yokohama region) and was a good salesperson since he was very outgoing and friendly. My friend Keisuke Ozeki was the final addition to our team, as we knew he was meticulous as well as being a very good critic and would be invaluable to our team. With each of us contributing 20,000 yen starting money to the business, we started the business with 80,000 yen in the company treasury, with myself elected C.E.O.
We focused on creating promotional t-shirts initially, as the songs for the CD were still in the making and so we could not order the CDs yet. We enlisted the help of one of Adam’s friend in Ohio who was an excellent artist, and he drew up the album art (click it to expand it into an even dimension):
Our proactivity in the first month of the project paid off, when we received our shipment of 45 t-shirts. We sold many shirts (1000 yen each; cost 600 yen to make) on the first, second and third day, nearly selling out. Below is a picture of our first sale to our Business Studies teacher Mr. MacDonald (I needed a hair cut. My excuse was I was working so hard on the album I had no time. In retrospect, it was not good enough of an excuse):
Meanwhile, Adam and I were finishing the last songs for the album. With only two weeks to go before the deadline of Studentainment, Adam and Riki and I kicked production into overdrive, with JPEGs and WAVs flying back and forth all over the web as we worked well past midnight to get the album finished in time. It was a learning process, my first time using the website CDbaby.com to make a physical CD, and I made many errors, not having the songs in the right file format and having the CD art in the wrong borders. Ultimately, I uploaded all the necessary files, filled out the specifications for the CD, and ordered it, with an estimated arrival time that was in the range of coming a day before the last week before Studentainment, or after Studentainment. Below is a clip summing up those last nights:
After placing the order, we waited apprehensively for the next couple of weeks, but the weekend before Studentainment, we received the CDs (100 units), in a very satisfying moment of my high school career when all those nights not going out partying were justified:
…and so when the final week of school rolled in, we began sale of the CD (1000 yen each; cost 300 yen to make), doing well as we had several pre-sales before. We sold the CDs and remaining t-shirts by setting up a booth in the school foyer, and by the end of Studentainment and the start of winter break, we had sold about 60 copies.
We had also gotten our album onto iTunes, as well as about ten other online sites such as Amazon, and if you are interested in buying the album, check out one of these links:
When we came back from winter break, we made probably our biggest mistake, and ordered 15 more t-shirts to our remaining stock of 4, as we needed to buy 5 large t-shirts to send to Adam, and we figured we might as well buy in more bulk as it would be more cheap, thinking we could sell all of the t-shirts. We ended up with 11 t-shirts left, and this was a major contributing factor to not having our maximum predicted profit of 80,000.
After Winter break, our selling rate slowed. We had a period of complacency and did not work as hard to sell our product, figuring that our lead was sufficient. As the other groups began to catch up with our profit, we realized we had to do something or risk losing the top spot in profits.
I realized we needed a change in strategy, and that we would have to become more forward and selective with the selling. I drew up a list of teachers, then asked my team for suggestions of who would be a good customer. After getting a list of teachers, we approached each teacher as a team and made a 5 minute pitch, having a song sample of the CD ready at hand. With this strategy, we were able to sell the remaining CDs until we had a stock of 10, which I wanted to keep for future selling outside of YIS. After this, we liquidated our profits (63,881 yen) and split it amongst ourselves proportionately.
If I were to do one thing over, I would not have decided for our team to order the second batch of t-shirts, and come up with a better plan to sell the CD to people outside of YIS.
All in all, it was a huge learning experience, not just the business aspect of it, with targeted sales, over-saturating a market, negotiating dividends, but also the technical aspect of making a CD, from the music side of it to the formatting of the album art, working towards a deadline while still trying to be creative, and how to put your music digitally online on sites such as iTunes and Amazon.
It is really the colossal joint effort of a group of really passionate people that makes something like this happen, and finally having that little packaged square in my hands cheering over Skype with my awesome friend living thousands of miles away was, wait for it– LEGENDARY 😀
I was going to make this whole post really short just so I had proof that I actually made an album with my friends, for the whole GCD thingum, but it ended up becoming sort of a scrapbook I wanted to throw in all the screenshots and pictures and memories I had from this experience (and believe me, I did not post a quarter of them).
So future Jun in 2 years, 6 years, 10, no matter what sort of awesomesauce awesome thing you’re doing now, remember that you had a pretty banging time and accomplishment with this here old album made on an indie CD site.
(Note: Future Jun, if you are unemployed or otherwise in a bout of depression then I sincerely apologize for the insensitive comments above and recommend you take a hot shower, because that is all we can truly do at the end of the day*)
Managing the HS Girls Soccer Team
With an unexpected ACL knee injury in January, I was not able to participate for field hockey and soccer. This news came to me as a shock and frustration. Relying on crutches and being left behind the sidelines with nothing but my voice to cheer on the team made me feel helpless and uninvolved.
To turn things around, I thought about another possible way to remain as a part of the team so that returning as a player next year wouldn’t be as difficult. Mr.Tracey, our activities director, gave me an opportunity to be the manager for HS Girls Soccer Team. I wasn’t quite sure what tasks I wold be responsible for but remained happy nonetheless about being able to support the team.
First few weeks of training was some what of a disaster. I guess I took the job of a manager lightly. The team has to ride taxis to travel to the nearest soccer field pitch and one of my main responsibilities was getting the taxis ready and sent with exactly four players per taxi. However, I miscalculated how many taxis were necessary and ended up sending a few with less than four players. At the end, two people including me were not able to get a ride. Thankfully, Mr.Noon, our coach had his bicycle so he cycled to the field and I decided to head home.
This incidence of failure was embarrassing and left me with a sense of guilt for being so careless. But at the end of the day, the coaches understood and I definitely learnt my lesson to be precise with everything. It was in perfect timing before our two nights three days tournament in Kobe. The team had fun, I made no mistakes while scheduling transportations and restaurants to eat and most importantly, got to bond with the players and getting appreciated for my assistance.
Mainly throughout the season and tournaments, my task was treating players with injury, taking photos for the yearbook, informing players about upcoming games and also communicating with the coaches about the status of players. To be honest, I sometimes felt distant and being a manger didn’t give me the same sense of achievement as being a goal keeper did. But when the coaches and players started to thank me for the work I did and gave me more responsibilities, I was happy and felt lucky that the injury allowed me to try new things.
This experience was difficult as I had never done anything like managing an entire sports team before. But I have learnt organization skills and communication skills that is required when managing a large crowd which will help for numerous other school activities I am involved with (such as MUN and Student council). Also, the lessons of always staying positive, and trying to do the best at whatever situation you are in is something I have also learned to cherish.
In 11th Grade I took part in the “Cambodia Trip.” This trip involved a number of students traveling to Cambodia, building a school and interacting with locals. Before the actual experience of travel and interaction in the country, we were obligated to fundraise and approximate of 50,000 ¥ (505$). With 30 students raising 50,000 ¥ or more the final budget was 1.5 million ¥ ! This money was invested to finance the building of a school in suburban Cambodia.
I undertook various projects to raise 60,000 ¥ total. Not surprisingly I participated in various bake sales. Towards the end I urned a total of 30,000 ¥ just from selling my famous Triple Oreo Cupcakes. I in fact love backing, which was therefore not a strain to me, but rather a break from homework and other activities. I would place a big Oreo at the bottom of the cupcake and fill in the rest with a chocolate mix with chunks of Oreo in it. On top I would swirl on a sweet icing with more Oreo chunks in it and stick a mini Oreo in at the side. It tastes amazing. It seemed that good presentation of my backing brought in customers.
I also organised a Bag Business with two of my friends. We were discussing to make use of the YIS Food Fair. I had visited Berlin the previous summer and realised that eco bags were the new fashion. Each of them would have fun/interesting images or quotes on them. So why not bring some of that to Japan? We then reserved a table, ordered eco friendly bags, designed our own images, spray painted them on and sold them. In total each individual earned 20,000 ¥. I was delighted that my initiated business was a success. I see several students use the bags for PE class now.
The remaining 10,000 ¥ I earned through another project my friends and I put together. We organised the schools “Candy Gram Exchange” for Halloween and Christmas. Individuals could order for small packs of chocolate and candies to be delivered to friends and loved ones before Autumn or Christmas break. For organisational purposes we offered the ordering online via. google docs, but also in the foyer of the school.
I was quite pleased to raise 60,000 ¥ total. The process was however not always smooth and fun. The cupcakes took a lot of my time and caused me to procrastinate. In addition, the Oreos themselves cost a lot. I had to raise the prices and it took me a while to finally break even. The bag business was also quite difficult to organise. We had to estimate what images or quotes certain age groups would be interested in and drawing the patterns on the bags also took a lot of my time. And as for the Candy Grams – they were quite unorganised. We had not put enough thought into communication, since some grams never seemed to reach their desired receiver on time. We had to personally track certain people down to hand them their order. It was disastrous. Now we know at least what not to do, which was to sell the grams in the foyer. A lot of people would come rushing to the table, making their orders and paying. It was irritating to remember and enter all their names and classes into a table. The second time we let the students order online, which was much more successful!
Generally, managing my own fundraising activities was a lot of fun! ~
Arts for Life
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