Some tips on making stuff with others

I’ve been running Brave Wave for the past 18 months and I get questions from people all the time, friends and strangers. I can’t tell you how I get things done because it feels obvious to me, but I understand it’s not really obvious for outsiders trying to sneak a peek.

I compiled the following points in the past few months, and they’re mostly vague tips about doing work. I don’t know how to guide you, but I can share what I usually practice day-to-day with the artists I work with.

Be yourself. When I made World 1-2, I told the participating artists that it was a small EP I’m doing for my now-defunct Arabic gaming blog with the same name. I didn’t twist the facts and say it’s something huge and big and extraordinary. I honestly felt it was just that: a compact EP, and that’s how I wanted the people I work with to perceive it. Other people will tell you to work hard on selling yourself, on shaping your image, on perfecting your pitch…and all that is important. But I’m still honest and straightforward, and that’s how I’m getting work done on personal projects and with clients.

Be yourself. Yes, again, in case it didn’t stick with you up there. My emails — even to first-timers — don’t have any business sense to them; always brutally honest and mostly fun. If I want to work with someone, I tell them straight up why I want to do that, what work I enjoyed the most from them, why I appreciate their art. It’s never a business opportunity to work with someone, so everything needs to come from the heart. Write like you’re in front of them. Write normally, personally, from the heart. I’ve gotten comments, directly and indirectly, about my fanboyish approach to working with people, and it’s funny to me because I got to work with every single musician this way, including Tim McCord, the bassist of Grammy-winners Evanescence which happen to be my all-time favorite band. Both Manami Matsumae and Keiji Yamagishi joined the label (well before forming it as a real company) because they saw passion, not business sense. Showing heart goes a long way because you’re dealing with humans, and you yourself are a human. Show that. Learn from others, but don’t let “industry experts” get into your head. You’re independent for a reason.

Pay people. I regret the few times I accepted to work people for free, because they busted their ass off and it’s never good to abuse a relationship like this. Yes, you can be good friends with the people you work with, and I mean honest-to-heart good — but don’t abuse them. They’re kind and generous, and you should be too. Always offer to pay; they deserve it.

Pay people on time. This is self-explanatory but important. These are your friends and you don’t want to leave your friends hanging dry. They’re shy to remind you — put up a reminder for that.

No one owes you anything. Ever. You might be the greatest artist on the planet and no one would owe you anything still. Yes, it’s sad to make something amazing and have the press turn you away for it because it doesn’t bring them any hits. Yes, that’s shitty journalism. No, you can’t do anything about it. Keep working, that’s the only way to get recognition and respect. The Verge wrote about World 1-2because Andrew Webster thought it was an interesting project and he felt he wanted to write about it. When people show genuine interest in your things, cherish that. It’s easy to lose yourself in the game, obsessing about being written up on your favorite websites, but don’t forget why you’re doing this, why you’re chasing your dream. No one said it was easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it. Seriously: you’re amazing, even if your art doesn’t make it to headlines. You’re showing up and doing real work. You’re running while most people are sitting. That’s enough of a good reason to keep on pushing on.

Strive to be pleasant to work with. I disagree with my colleagues from time to time; it doesn’t have to be a bloody battle. Design is making decisions, and everyone got an opinion. Listen.

Don’t strive to be comfortable to work with. You’re not a shoe.

Work with people smarter than you. How did we decide to change the name Koopa Soundworks to Brave Wave? It’s because Alex confronted me about it while I was in Japan. I absolutely hated it at first — I didn’t even want to discuss it with him, and the rest is history. Who came up with the name Brave WaveMarco Guardia, after a whole month of daily struggles. What about bringing Saori Kobayashi to work on In Flux, and ultimately signing to release two albums with us? Alex. Choosing the photography theme for In Flux? Marco. See, Brave Wave isn’t just me; it’s the whole team stepping up whenever they have something to share. I love them because they make me look good.

If you can afford it, hire people to do your D-rated tasks so you can focus on your A-rated skills. It’s always worth it.

Share the love. Tell someone on your team that you love them and appreciate their existence. Life is tough; let’s make it a little bit easier with love. Sounds corny, but it does wonders. Really.

Perfection is tiring and boring. I know. But the world is filled up with crap and you really, really don’t want to raise the stock of mediocrity. Between releasing something okay-ish and releasing nothing, I prefer the latter. Many others will tell you to release stuff periodically, but I’m against this. Experiment your heart out! Just don’t release anything you’re not proud of. Now I understand why my favorite band takes 5 years between each album (though you don’t have to be this extreme).

To perfect is to change often. I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

I hope something from this list sticks with you. Write some of your own and share it with me.

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