The Domino Effect: When Things Fall Apart

The Domino Effect: When Things Fall Apart

By the time you hold a copy of DRUM! Magazine in your hands, it should be easy to read and attractive to the eye. You should never get a hint of the hoop jumping and plate spinning that goes on behind the scenes just to put another issue to bed. But in fact, every issue is a byproduct of a complex series of events that culminates in that moment when you first break the binding on your new copy of DRUM!

A story begins life as a bullet point in an outline of the issue’s contents, and then winds its way through the hands of writers, copyeditors, and proofreaders who incrementally tighten up the copy. Working remotely, music transcribers compose lessons and transcriptions that bring life to the musical concepts discussed in those same stories, while our design team fleshes out the issue by finding or commissioning photography and illustrators. As long as everybody does his or her job correctly and on schedule, the various pieces finally marry together with relative ease, and we ship the files to our printer on time.

That’s what we strive for — a production cycle that unwinds like clockwork — but you can’t always be perfect. In fact, a wise editor will prepare for at least one player to drop the ball during every deadline. Sometimes it’s more than one, and whenever this happens the entire staff feels the consequences. For example, when a freelance writer turns in a story late, it slows down the progress in every other step of the production cycle. Editors and graphic designers have to work on weekends to take up the slack, when we would much rather just go to the movies or something.

I do whatever I can to avoid being the person who throws a wrench into the machinery, and try to impress upon everybody that we all must rely upon each other. But this isn’t true only of the publishing biz. It also applies to drumming (of course!).

Here’s an example. For a little more than a year, I’ve played in a club on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco two or three times a month. It’s been a great gig with enthusiastic audiences and good pay. My bandleader is an incredible guitarist who, like most musicians, has to diversify his revenue streams. Over the past few years he has developed a nice roster of students, which represents a sizeable chunk of his income. Neither he nor I had to depend on the money we made from playing gigs, so the light schedule was just about perfect for both of us and the extra bucks were gravy.

Then something happened. We forgot to put the microphones away at our last gig, which is something we’ve done a million times before. I know — big deal, right? All we needed to do was apologize to the club owner and promise to never forget again. I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but I suspect my bandleaders was having a bad day and used … let’s say … certain language that didn’t sit very well with the club owner, who subsequently cancelled all of our gigs for the rest of the year.

Oh, there are plenty of possible morals to this story. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and don’t argue with the person who signs your paycheck — those come to mind. But this tale also shows how the domino effect works within the context of a band, when one person’s actions impact everybody else in the group.

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