#WFH Diaries: Joel Simon of JSM Music
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the planet, we're checking in with folks in the creative industry to see how they're doing. Here's the word from Joel Simon, CEO and chief creative officer of JSM Music.
Give us a one-line bio of yourself.
Father, husband, tan, 100 percent carb-free golf addict, CEO/CCO of JSM Music.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
Currently holed up in our Old Brookville, New York, home where we have lived for the past 20-plus years with my wife Alli, daughters Nikki and Andi, and PoGo, our impossibly handsome King Charles Spaniel.
What's your work situation like at the moment?
Thankfully, work has been extremely busy. Our entire creative and administrative staffs are 100 percent remotely operational, including our legal and accounting departments. Our writing and creative staff all have built out home facilities that mirror our in-house suites in our core facilities. Many clients are extremely busy getting out relevant messaging and repurposing existing assets. Additionally, we are seeing a lot of animation and stills being assembled, created and utilized for new visual concepts and creative executions.
Many of our clients have opted to renew existing music licenses that they have with us to keep current relevant work on air until new work is produced to eventually replace it.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Emails, texting, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Zoom, even old-school phone calls. Pretty much utilizing every communicative tool available. As a professional Ketel One drinker and virtual sponsor, my socializing strategy has been on brand and on point since my bar mitzvah. Master level 4th degree blackbelt skills.
How are you dealing with childcare?
They have been mostly dealing with me. I've been known to be a bit "moody." I'm working on that. Both of our daughters are here with us. Nikki is 23 and lives in the West Village, and Andi is 20, currently on forced hiatus from her second semester junior year from the University of Miami. It's been awesome having this opportunity to spend such quality time together. As an extremely tight family, this type of situation is actually more of pleasure and a blessing rather than the brutal hell and pain in the ass that for some could end up in total disaster with potential visits by the local authorities. Didn't think it would with us, though. We always hang out, travel together and spend as much time as we possibly can as a family. So no cops, no drama, no mishigas.
Both of our daughters grew up this house. For years, I have been threatening to sell it and "move on." As each daughter went off to college, my wife and I would say, "Well, that's it, we'll all never live in this house the same way again. It was amazing while it lasted, but it will now always be and feel different." I now realize that that was total bullshit. Now that we are all back under the same wonderful roof, all in our original bedrooms, it feels just as wonderful, and just as perfect as it was when Nikki and Andi were little, and Alli and I were a bit younger. I can promise myself and my family this now: This house will never be put up for sale. It's our forever home.
What are you reading?
I read pretty much read everything I lay my eyes on. Not books anymore, per se. Very little patience to simply "curl up" with a good book and warm cup of tea. Def not that guy. I'm too type A for that. Mostly spending time reading creative briefs, concepting scripts, materials online, more current events, catching up on instruction manuals of bullshit items that have been laying around the house that I have neglected for years.
What are you listening to?
I mostly listen to my wife and kids. Then to all the voices in my head. I then focus on the concerns and ideas from my staff, extended family, friends, financial advisors and my rabbi. The news is always on in the background. Music is a given. Music is the greatest gift of all. It choreographs my moods and assists me in how I deal and cope with most situations.
How are you staying fit?
We have a full-on gym in the basement with all the fitness toys we could possibly want. That's an everyday thing for all of us. Alli and the girls are into all different types of workouts, such as Pilates, Bar Method, Boot Camps, Peleton, etc. They arrange for live online classes throughout the days and nights for us and hold them in various rooms in the house. Very strict schedule. We've always been in good shape, but after this, we'll be magazine cover material. Well, they'll be on the cover. I'll be in there somewhere next to the protein bar section, omega-3 or that Nugenix shit that Frank Thomas hocks on commercials. Regardless, hopefully I won't be the "before" guy on anything. You never want to be there before guy. There's always that guy.
Have you taken up a hobby?
No. Never was a hobby guy. Waiting for the weather to improve so I can get there and play golf again, naturally in a responsible socially distant manner with my guys. Golf is my hobby, my therapist, my mistress and my life's greatest teacher—after all the lessons from my father.
Any tips for getting necessities?
Buying them works better than looting. Looting can be stressful. Most of the stores near us are open and stocked as well as can be expected. Cooling it a bit on Amazon and online purchases while preferring to frequent our local businesses as often as possible. We love our local people and stores, and they need us now more than ever.
An awkward moment since all this started.
I don't really find anything awkward about this. For me, it's become the great common denominator. We're all in this together, doing our best to get through it, so we just get on with it. Dogs bark on calls and video conferences, kids make noise as you're in a meeting, and inevitably someone yells "FUCK!" in the background, almost all the time, for any reason. All in all, it's kinda awesome and I enjoy all new levels of raw reality and naked honesty.
Best work email you got since all this started.
The best work email since this started are all the work emails since this started. There's a tremendous spirit of wanting to create great work and a powerful, overwhelming desire to get things done. From clients to staff, there nothing that we don't want to do together. It's like in hockey where we feel we're shorthanded and need to fight that much harder to score with all the pressure on as every player needs to cover more and more ground against the odds. I've always been an extremely competitive guy, so this is this stuff I crave. The type of environment I covet.
An aha! moment since all this started.
Never really had one "aha" moment. They've been happening often. We've been firing on all cylinders since the moment this all began. Personally and professionally. Things continue to fall into place, as if we have been silently preparing for this type of moment to occur and put us to the test. In times of uncertainty, I rely somewhat on a tattoo that I have on my right forearm: "Family, Loyalty, Gratitude." That gives me grounding and order for all aspects for both my personal and professional guidance. Following those three things have become somewhat of a mantra for me.
My immediate family and business survived 9/11, the economic crash of 2008/09 with some clients and agencies going bankrupt owing JSM lots of money, then the SAG strike, Hurricane Sandy, and now this, which we will survive as well. I have always been a survivor. There really is no other acceptable alternative. Through all those many challenges, I never laid off an employee or negatively modified a salary. All bills paid, all the time, at times out of personal savings or with cash hidden under the bed. As a business owner, you are the one who always takes the financial hit if a hit needs to be taken. You take the bullet. And you do it because you always believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That you believe in yourself, your staff and the loyalty and love from your clients. Always. Comes with the territory. An ever-changing territorial landscape.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
We will all certainly be more comfortable and confident getting things done at the highest level without having the need to schlep into the office every day. We'll be able to manage our time better as we balance life and work.
The remote systems in place are incredibly powerful and refined.
I feel that this will end sooner rather than later and we will gradually get back to the way things were just a few weeks ago. I truly miss the personal contact with my staff, clients, musicians and friends. JSM's new facility is only just over a year old and I miss it terribly. It's fucking beautiful. I was there yesterday, alone. Had to check the mail and water my favorite orchid. It was still perfectly healthy.
I miss the in-person creative collaboration and constantly making fun of each other. I miss going to Raoul's, staying over at the Soho Grand a few times a week and hanging with my crews at Il Mulino Prime, Strip House and Delmonico's. I miss falling into a dive bar for a drink surrounded by people I never met before.
I firmly believe that once that all starts to roll out again, I will appreciate everything more than I ever have in the past. I think we all will. I think we all should. And I think that is a very good thing. And something we should all be grateful for.
Stay healthy and safe, and never lose faith.