The Back Office

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the back office over the past few weeks.

Every line of work has its front office and back office. The front’s the shiny, sparkly stuff, the reasons people are originally drawn to he job. The back’s the unseen paddling below the waterline which keeps the whole show on the road. Not, in other words, the glamorous end of things, nor even – except in its own specific terms – particularly exciting.

In a musical life, the front stuff would be, of course, performing, recording, writing. Perhaps doing the publicity and interview rounds fall in there as well, along with the social media dance. One doesn’t have to take particular enjoyment out of doing this stuff for it to be front office (it’s all work, after all); but anything which involves the manifestation of The Artist’s Wonderfulness is out there, out front.

In the back office the numbers get crunched and more and more numbers are involved in the business of music. Obviously there’s basic accounting, there’s budgeting, there’s that whole bizarre guesstimate world of projected figures for sales and audience attendance. Usually these days margins are fine. A tour can stand up or fall down entirely based upon one single gig coming through or being cancelled and naturally commitment to a tour has to be made long before every element is in place.

(I haven’t, of course, been buried in tour spreadsheets in this period but they’re an important part of Back Office world….)

When it comes to preparing for records to come out there’s a whole welter of numbers which have to be created, sourced, entered correctly in order for the whole thing to run at all, let alone smoothly. Every song has to have a unique numerical I.D. in itself and another one to signify which physical medium it’s present on. It has to have a similar I.D. in the purely digital world. Any slips here – or in the various barcodes which have to be attached – and the downward slope  beckons.

Most of the work isn’t numerical but simply organisational. Check and recheck – especially necessary with this ageing brain…. And of course – this is the modern world – wait in, seemingly endlessly, for collections and deliveries.

I don’t mean to whinge about this. I’ve been doing it for years and if I hadn’t taken on the responsibility many years ago I simply wouldn’t have had a career at all. It’s also true to say that it’s doing the back office work which leaves me free in the creative, front office one. That wouldn’t be the case if I was beholden to others.

One strange thing though: from time to time one can mess up creatively (in comparative terms) and still, as a rule, come back unscathed. But it only takes one major error of judgement in the Back Office for the whole house to come down, potentially permanently.

In any event, most of my office work is now done. Expect me to be back stage centre in a matter of days, thumping the tub for the upcoming new recordings….

39 Comments on “The Back Office”

  1. ghadeercom says:

    Happy Birthday – in a very few days – Peter!
    All the best,
    Leslie Medford

  2. Anonymous says:

    Back Office? Ha! I can remember in 1983 when at The University of Exeter’s VdGG and Hammill Society, Fremanor’s Sinclair ZX Spectrum exploded. It was a no longer a case of Enter K, simply Cannot Enter Anything! I think it was running on Paradox Drive.


  3. Jacklyn says:

    We love you peter 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    By the way, Peter, the new album is really great. I bought the full box from Burning Shed and am recommending it to my friends. Thanks so much!


  5. Ólafur says:

    Happy New Year Peter.Thanks for the new album.Can´t wait for the new VdGG live album.I saw the concert in Amsterdam .Hope Childlike…is from that one it was unbelievable.

  6. Arentat says:

    Would love to see you performing in Canada., happy birthday peter.

  7. Heidi Cull says:

    hi. i havent really got time to read this but wanted to say hi. following you on twitter. playing “killer” on my radio show thing today. be interested to hear of what you are up to now musically speaking 🙂 xx

  8. Guilermo says:

    Happy birthday peter, i really enjoy your writings.

  9. Alejandro Torres Melo says:

    Thanks, Peter, for a great concert last night here in Mexico City. Hope to see you soon again.

  10. Loyde Lucena says:

    Hi Peter,

    Happy birthday! It’s amazing how you can describe the back office so soft, painful but soft. It is always great to know and feel that you’re unstoppable on the front office. I really admire you.
    Hope see you soon back in Boston! Please don’t forget us!

    From your #1 Brazilian fan in Boston!

  11. Michel E says:

    Happy Birthday Peter!

  12. Ólafur Auðunsson says:

    Happy Birthday Peter.

  13. Simon Wenham says:

    Happy Birthday Peter.

    I have just ordered both the 3CD boxset and the LP (from Burning Shed – so get your pen out :))

  14. Ordered the box set – can’t wait!

    And of course – Happy Birthday Peter.

  15. Andrea says:

    Dear Peter, if doing the front and the back office alone keeps you as the artist I am listening, well, thumbs up and keep up the good work. I understand why and how you keep control of the whole “business” by this post. Hey, what about a branch ( let’s say a lot ! ) of that “front office thing” here in Italy soon !!!
    Regards, Andrea

  16. Anonymous says:

    There’s been a connection with “A Place to Survive”, et. al. and now so too with the front and back office sketch, as a self-employed person. Yes…there’s fun and substance in the front office: doing what we do best; for me, dealing with people; the field, the analysis, the reports. Having the back office makes the whole thing worth it, as long as a greater fulfillment’s found, as Peter has, in the front office. Steve

  17. Anonymous says:

    Happy Birthday – in a very few days – Peter!
    All the best,
    Leslie Medford

  18. Andreas G says:

    Hopefully Los Angeles will figure in one of those tour spreadsheets sometime. I had a ticket for your last show in S.F. and couldn’t attend 😦

  19. Mikayel says:

    Probably this time the Back Office part was too “special” (i.e. difficult, lengthy) to not be shared with the readers. A kind of Catharsis post, maybe?
    Anyway, closer to the end we read: “thumping the tub for the upcoming new recordings….”
    “Ah, he is unstoppable!”
    All the best!

  20. Anonymous says:

    We would like to see you in the front office very soon performing in the UK . Marc Roberts

  21. dpcoffey says:

    What an uplifting and insightful piece, Peter. Glad to not hear of any fracases, be the ‘s’ silent or sibilant. Looking ever forward. Dan

    • Joe McLean says:

      Dan? You’re still around?? Good one!

      The new album’s a joy, by thr way, and particularly liking disc 3.

      • Dan Coffey says:

        Hi Joe! This may be the ONLY place in the online world where the comments are gracious and tolerable. I need to give Disc 3 some more time at bat. —Dan

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