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Becoming a Business, Part 1:  Planning Operations  (May 2019)


Throughout my life, I had given little attention to what might be involved in establishing and running a business.  My decision to elevate my hobby of course changed that.  To come up to speed, I read whatever I could find on the Internet, enrolled in several courses on business topics and the music industry, and attended presentations.  I hired an attorney to ensure I understood all the information I had amassed and proceeded according to her guidance.  You might find this and the next three articles pertinent if you’re considering starting a business.  Please note, however, that these articles are intended to reflect what I encountered and accomplished, not to act as a guide to establishing a business.


Once I began my research, I realized that there would be myriad tasks to track.  As I usually do, I created a spreadsheet to capture and organize actions; note their priorities, statuses, and completion dates; and record comments about their disposition.  I could sort the items by criticality, status, and “cluster” (taxes, advertising, web site, etc.), and this helped me keep tabs on what I needed to do and when things needed to be done.  In all, I accumulated 77 actions, most of which needed to be completed prior to beginning operations.  At the time of this writing, seven remain open, all dealing with developments I’m anticipating for the future.  That list provided the source material for this series of articles.



At the heart of a business is how it performs its work, provides its services, and creates and delivers its products.  Having worked on hundreds of LPs, EPs, 45s, 78s, reel-to-reel tapes, and cassettes, I already had in mind the three-tiered structure of services:  conversion, noise reduction, and waveform editing.  The steps involved in conversion are laid out in What Happens in a Record Conversion Project, and noise reduction is described in What Happens in Noise Reduction for a Record.  (I’ve never gotten around to writing much about waveform editing since it’s highly dependent on what audio issue I’m addressing and can involve waveform segments from a few seconds down to a few milliseconds.)  Splitting an album’s audio file into individual tracks comes with the territory, as do track lists and (optionally) album art for jewel case inserts.  I had focused primarily on creating music CDs for my own use, but I recognized that others would want MP3 or high-resolution audio files instead.  And while most of my customers have sought CDs, some have taken delivery of audio files via the Internet cloud, and files on DVDs or flash drives are other alternatives.


After upgrading my audio equipment from styli to headphones and everything in between, I undertook a few projects for friends.  This afforded me the opportunity to develop a facility with my new audio editing software and establish a “default” order of steps in conversion and noise reduction, as well as to “burn in” the equipment.  Additionally, I kept track of how long each step took, as this time study would prove useful in determining pricing.


Regarding pricing, from the outset I wanted to keep prices low in order to be affordable to customers with restricted discretionary funds.  My market survey (see A Note on Our Prices) and the time study I mentioned above provided the basis for the price structure, and I have kept mark-up low (see Our Prices).


By the time I wrapped up my friends’ projects in late 2016, I had my plan in place for conversion, noise reduction, and waveform editing.  I then designed a script of questions to explore during initial customer meetings, a form to capture the services and products customers wanted and to note possible issues that might become apparent only after conversion, and a second form for estimates and invoices.  With practice behind me and forms in hand, I was ready for my first customer interactions.



Launching a business doesn’t do much if people don’t know about the products and services being offered, and that’s where marketing and advertising enter the picture.  Branding provided me an opportunity to exercise my creativity.  Using my kitchen countertop as a platform, I arranged and photographed several 78s, 45s, and cassettes atop two 78 albums and added text using a slide presentation program (see Figure 1).  The picture and text were later manipulated in an image editing application, and the outcome was used for my business cards.

Draft business card layout.JPG

Figure 1.  Early graphic for business cards.


Usually, a marketing plan is a prerequisite, though in my case, it’s an informal concept:  Start off slowly and, when the time feels right, expand into target areas such as community newsletters and messaging networks, retirement communities, and audio media outlets.  Play It Again, Paul, LLC has a presence on several free business listing sites, but I am deferring paid advertising for the time being.


A web presence is mandatory, and so I undertook to create a comprehensive web site, including all its design, layout, and content.  (You’re looking at part of it now.)  Launching a web site also necessitated choosing a development and web hosting platform, renting the site’s domain name, tailoring a business email account, and even designing the icon you see in your browser.


This blog was a later addition to the web site.  However, I believe that it provides additional information and context about Play It Again, Paul’s services and products, delves beyond general interest into relevant background, and explores topics related to the music industry in general.  And it has been a blast to organize and write!


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