Chris Schlarb uses Basecamp to run his independent record label, Sounds are Active, and work on audio/video projects for clients. He's also got a solo album coming out on December 4th on Sufjan Stevens' record label Asthmatic Kitty and he's using Basecamp now to coordinate the press and promotional campaign for the album. Chris talked with us about how Basecamp helps him coordinate his projects.
How do you use Basecamp and why do you like it?
Sounds Are Active is an independent record label based in Long Beach, California. I personally handle everything from recording and production to art direction to marketing and press mail out. I began using Basecamp two years ago and in that time I have coordinated twenty releases including the critically acclaimed documentary film 40 BANDS/80 MINUTES!
The group of people that might work on any given project are contributing from Los Angeles, Calgary, Indianapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Buenos Aires. It's hard to imagine going back to strict email correspondence with them all. The ease of communication in Basecamp allows for efficient delegation and a sense of personal responsibility for everyone working on a project. When you have all of the information in front of you it's easier to chart a course of action.
Which features do you use most?
I use Writeboard on every project to collaborate on press releases and promotional copy. Then I use Milestones and To-Do lists for simple goal and time oriented tasks. After we mail out press materials it's incredibly easy to keep track of all reviews, interviews and activity by simply creating a message and adding a "reviews" category. I've booked three US tours using similar combinations within Basecamp.
What did you use before and why did you switch?
I was using Microsoft's Entourage program to incorporate project management, email and contacts before I jumped in to Basecamp. Thankfully, I've been able to downsize to Apple Mail and Address Book and I'm much happier. Entourage isn't set up for collaboration whereas the ease of sending someone a Basecamp URL allows for immediate movement on a project.
Get specific. Tell us a story about a project or situation where Basecamp helped you out.
Without paying a publicist, two people using Basecamp were able to take a film from shooting and editing to a nationwide screening tour and reviews in the L.A. Times, New York Times, URB and XLR8R. We planned and coordinated the layout and menu design in Los Angeles, the website in Indianapolis and distribution in Portland.
I'll never forget the other films that were reviewed with 40 BANDS/80 MINUTES! in the L.A. Times were all large team, multi-million dollar productions. We were standing shoulder to shoulder having spent no more than $5,000 on the entire project from start to finish. Not long after that the film was picked up by Netflix and we were able to check another item off our To-Do list.
Any tips or tricks for other customers?
I think Basecamp is a great way to workshop a concept. Get a few people to write down their ideas or opinions on a project and see where it goes. If it doesn't pick up a head of steam, archive it and move on the next thing. I've got six or seven projects sitting in the archives that I might pick up again if time and interest permit.
On December 4th I will be releasing my first solo album, Twilight & Ghost Stories, on Sufjan Stevens' Asthmatic Kitty record label. I worked on the album for almost five years and once I was finished I jumped on Basecamp to organize the release. Twilight & Ghost Stories itself is a massive project that was recorded all over the world with over fifty people contributing to it. Again, a small team will be working on the release through Basecamp and I can't wait to see what we can do.
Chris, thanks for the rundown and good luck with the new record!
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting or noteworthy way? Let us know.