On the Cover: Rose Mann Cherney

Oct 25, 2010 1:54 PM, By Maureen Droney


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New wave rocker Billy Idol (left) and producer Keith Forsey with Rose Mann Cherney

New wave rocker Billy Idol (left) and producer Keith Forsey with Rose Mann Cherney

You’re big on training.
I have rules. I train staff by giving senior guys as much studio time as possible. The older kids train the younger kids. I also have studio etiquette classes. And no distractions allowed for the staff in the studios—they need to be present all the time. No hanging out on the Internet, no books, none of that. They have to be dressed a certain way—no flip flops; they have to be shaven. If they want to have lunch with the client, they can if they are invited, but, especially if they are new, I say to them: “If I were you, I’d be in the studio thinking about what my next step is instead of sitting there having lunch.” I want people who are going to work at keeping their craft up.

I also work with label people. I’ll invite new admin people over for lunch and show them how sessions work. And I’ll advise having their own hard drive for security and labeling. With things so songwriter-based and people working in different locations, it’s not uncommon that people lose track of where their files are. It’s important to control your hard drives during each session. If you don’t, 10 years from now you won’t have to worry about a greatest-hits record because you won’t be able to find anything.

If they take their hard drives home, the studio has no collateral.
There’s no collateral anymore. The last time I had to hold something, it was a huge deal and I just locked up the entire studio with all the gear. But now the only collateral you have is COD. Even with purchase orders you have to follow up. You always have to keep your eye on things and you have to do your follow-up with labels so you know how they do things. You have to pay attention. Paying attention to detail in the recording studio is the most important thing. I keep riders for everybody, even A&R people. Notes on what they like. If you’re not paying attention to detail, you might as well close your doors.

How about the ineffable skills—studio etiquette?
You have to be invisible. With an assistant, you want it to feel like he or she isn’t there until something is needed—then they are totally there. You can tell what kind of assistant someone’s going to be when they’re a runner. The mistakes they make when they’re running are the same ones they’ll make later. That’s why nobody gets into a studio for the first six months except to clean it.

A lot of these kids come out of school and their teachers haven’t taught them what the music business is really like. Many of the studios in town make interns work for free. I only intern a couple of people, but I pay them. After six months they can go, on their own time, and shadow sessions that the senior assistants do, then after that they assist the senior assistants. And the senior assistants can tell me what strengths the new people have. You have to do it that way. You can’t just throw somebody in a room because you’ve known them for a month.

You’ve been doing it so long, don’t you ever get bored?
Never. Some days I look around, and say, “What am I still doing here?” But I still get excited about it. Because the Record Plant is special. I lucked out to have worked for two extraordinary, powerful visionaries who had great senses of humor. Both Chris [Stone] and [current owner] Rick [Stevens] were corporate in their backgrounds, and they are both marketing guys. I learned a lot from them. Chris started me off and Rick fine-tuned gme and has continued to be a great mentor. I have an unorthodox way of working. A lot of it is gut instinct and flying by the seat of my pants, which took a bit of time for Rick to get used to. Eventually, I think I wore him down and he just let me do my thing. I have to give him a lot of credit. We still do our share of head butting, but in the end our styles complement each other.

Do you have a secret weapon you’ll disclose?
I know people who can do things for me. If you have a business like ours, you have to know how to find anything, from a sommelier to an au pair. I like to think there’s almost nothing they can ask me for that I can’t figure out how to get within minutes. We’re in a service business. It’s service with artists, producers, even the labels. People at labels really have it hard now. They have so many less people and so much more work to do. If you go out of your way for them, they’re going to want to work with you again.

The thing is, you have a team where people care. That doesn’t just happen. It has to start with you. You lead, you train and then get out of the way. I want my people to be better than I am. You have to be able to do that with your staff.

Maureen Droney is senior executive director of the Producers & Engineers wing of the Recording Academy.

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