In general, an important goal for many artists is to share their work with an audience. Seth Godin goes as far as to say that artists need people to see their work and react to it before it can even be considered art. The hope of the artist is that their art resonates. This causes people to talk about the art and spread it.
There is a strange dichotomy; artists need their work to spread to become successful but they must be careful about spending too much time it promoting themselves. The goal must be to promote it to the right people that will cause the art to spread to others.
The most powerful endorsement comes from those that have no vested interest in the artist’s success other than enjoying their creations. When they say something positive about an artist’s work they have no incentive to do so other than to share something they love with others who they think will love it too.
Crowdfunding campaigns that really take off are almost always a result of shifting the burden of promotion from the creator to the fanbase. It’s not about the artist removing themselves from responsibility, it’s about them realizing when they need assistance and activating their fans. It is not a good sign if the artist is talking more about their project than their fans are.
A few steps to move artists in the direction of creating an army of evangelists:
- Create something that people cannot help but share and talk about.
- Start a project that is only fun or exciting if many people are involved in it (example: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir)
- Make something incredibly unique based around a currently popular song. Straight acoustic covers won’t cut it. (example: Stony - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us [Looping Cover])
- Start a crowdfunding project or subscription where there is an accurate value alignment with your fans that causes them to help you reach your goal so they can get your art.
Photo credit: Sweet G - but the photo only covers 1/3 of what’s important!
If you grew up in the United States, that’s the phrase your parents or teachers engrained in your mind when you were learning about crossing the street. It’s also some of the best life advice you can ever be given about interacting with others.
Stop talking. It is admittedly hard for me sometimes. I’m a very enthusiastic and outgoing person and I often talk too much. I now try to let the other person speak without interjecting or giving too many affirmations (nodding my head, etc). Once you stop you will instantly begin to learn more.
What is happening? From their body language can you tell if the person is comfortable? Are they excited? Are they rying to hide their anger? The claim that 93% of communication is nonverbal isn’t true. Having said that, there are plenty of signs that you miss if you are focused on how you will reply or on what the person is saying.
The most important part! Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next or trying to interject, spend time processing what the other person is saying. I still need to work on this. Sometimes I get so into what someone is saying that I practically want to finish their sentences for them! Don’t worry about not thinking of how to reply while they are talking; you will be able to give a much better response once you have fully processed what they were saying.
Continue to use stop, look, and listen when you are crossing the road, but also consider how this same phrase can help improve your day-to-day interactions.
Whether you are a singer-songwriter or a founder of a tech startup, it is very likely that you are your own boss. When you are the one that must make sure you stay on task and accomplish things within a certain timeframe there can be many challenges. If you have friends that don’t understand the lifestyle (hopefully, like me, you have at least a handful) it can prove very difficult to achieve a work/life balance. Here are a few things I’ve found immensely helpful when it comes to being my own boss and maintaining a (somewhat) healthy lifestyle. Some are related to health and others are related to time management and expanding your mind. I hope you find at least a few of these to be useful.
Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning
This cannot be emphasized enough. Regardless of what time you wake up you must drink a glass of water immediately. Most of us don’t realize how incredibly dehydrated we become overnight. I live in Boston and, like many other residents of this fine city, have no control of the heat in my apartment. When I wake up in the morning that glass of water does more than anything to get me moving in the right direction for a productive day.
I love reading blogs because they talk about the here and now but books are under-appreciated by too many people that lead a digital lifestyle. Reading makes you a better writer and an even better thinker. Sit down and completely immerse yourself in a book every day. If you like keeping track of your progress sign up for GoodReads.
Plan ahead and learn best practices for scheduling
You may not be very busy. You may say to yourself, “I can remember that appointment.” If you are progressing you will undoubtedly begin to have fuller schedule. It’s important not to learn the best way of organizing it once you are scrambling to keep track. My iCal is one of the first things I consult each day and it’s a good habit. Make sure to set alerts so even if you forget to check your calendar you’ll still have an hour to get across town for that meeting.
There are no regular business hours
If you are running your own business you need to be ready to be working late into the night, before normal people wake up and at other times in between. Time off is healthy and needed but it is not something that can be set in stone. If you are your own boss the weekends are not time off. If you really care about your business you need to do the work whenever it needs to be done.
If you have a smartphone there is no excuse
If you have a phone that is connected to the internet and the person you are taking too long to contact knows this it comes off really badly. A friend once told me she doesn’t have a smartphone because she does not want to have to work on her off time. It’s a great idea for someone like her that isn’t their own boss. When you are calling the shots you need to be ready to get to work or put out fires on a moment’s notice.
“I regret that workout,” said no one ever.
Needless to say, I’m not an athlete. Even if you are not one it’s important to train your body and stay in (relatively) good shape in order to succeed. This is not about self image, it’s about the fact that it’s incredibly unhealthy to have fat hanging off of our bodies. I started the couch-to-5k program and it changed my view of training. I am able to do 5k in under 30 minutes which, while nowhere near competition status, would have been a fantasy for me in High School. Find out if working out feels better for you in the morning or at night then do it every day. If you have problems following through I’d suggest GymPact though I’ve never used it personally. The dread of having to pay if you don’t work out is likely a strong motivator for many people.
Have people to talk to.
Running your own business is very fulfilling even if you don’t succeed monetarily. The experiences, however painful or stressful at times, are incredibly valuable and enrich you as a person. You need people to talk to about the things that are bothering you. It could be other co-founders/confidants over coffee every week. It could also be a friend to discuss relationship dilemmas and things not related to your business. You need someone to talk to that will listen and relate to what you are going through. Starting a business is very difficult and keeping the struggles to yourself can be harmful to your health. Make sure you treat those that support you with warmth and show how much you care.
This is just a start. I’ll be posting more thoughts and things I’ve learned about being my own boss as time goes on. Take care of yourselves out there!
If you are in a band it is very likely that you greatly enjoy the genre of music your band plays. This is very valuable because it means you have opinions and ethos that are in alignment with most of your fans and potential audience (read: customers).
Because of this, you should constantly be looking through your “fan lens” as you think about what you do with your band. By that I mean you should look at what you are doing from the perspective of someone that loves the genre of music that your band plays. Do this when deciding on what kind of merch you will be producing, how you will engage with your audience online, etc.
As a fan of punk music would branded shot glasses be something I would like?
As a fan of New Orleans jazz am I usually looking for information on Twitter or artist/venue websites?
New Idea X
When you get excited about new idea x it can sometimes blind you and make it difficult to remember who your audience is and what they actually want. The easiest way to test the viability of any idea is to pause and ask yourself, “is this something that I as a fan of this genre would want/use/buy/watch/enjoy?” You must be honest with yourself in your assessment of x. If you aren’t sure it doesn’t hurt to gather additional data by asking a few fans.
Never lose sight of the fact that your ability to view at your band as a fan of the genre is of incredible value.
The music industry has moved to a place where artists need to do far more than create and perform. They must now engage with their audience in a way that just wasn’t possible even a decade ago. This requires work and time; both of which are finite resources. On top of that they must book their shows, collect emails, get press, and somehow monetize their art so they can continue to make it.
The skill sets required for creating art that resonates and running a successful business are not intrinsically linked. This leads many artists to bring on managers to run certain aspects of their careers that they feel fall outside of their art. This could be a smart move or a very savvy one - it all depends on the responsibility that the artist entrusts their manager with and if they really should be counted on as much as they are.
By bringing on outside management, a singer-songwriter or band is, in theory, reducing the amount of business they must attend to so they can focus their energies on creative endeavors. The artist is responsible for the actions of their management and any mistake by management reflects poorly on the artist that chose them.
As artists we must realize that all actions by the people chosen as our managers will reflect on us directly. Our management missing a deadline equals us missing a deadline. Our management being rude to the sound guy at a show equals us being rude to the sound guy at a show.
It’s not nearly all bad though. Managers can help take us from a great band to a great business which, like it or not, is what we must be in order to keep creating art.
How do we know a great manager when we see one?
- They do less talking and more listening.
- They ask for clarification when needed.
- They are eager to help.
- They are respectful to everyone, not just the artist.
- They are adaptable.
- They are accountable.
- Last-minute changes don’t disturb them.
- They thrive under pressure.
As artists we must remember that we are our own responsibility. When we pass off work to others we are still held accountable when it is done poorly or not at all. Choose wisely.
“I’m so close, please help, just a few more votes!”
Competitions are quickly becoming the go-to strategy for companies to source products and ideas from a large pool of people for far lower costs than ever before. They dangle a prize that ranges from life-altering (record deal, investment, etc) to very appealing for most people (a few thousand dollars) in exchange for a product or idea that they would normally be paying much more for outside of this environment.
Competitions are about tantalizing as many hopeful individuals to enter and vie for the prize as possible. They are about filling the tank with as many fish as possible even though there is only enough food to feed one fish and they know full well the rest will be swimming around searching fruitlessly.
The creators of competitions don’t care if all of the other fish die. They do not care about you in the slightest. They care about the results. They care that they are getting everyone to tread water for them when traditionally the amount they spend on the prize would have been put towards commissioning a single entity to come up with an idea or product. That entity may not have generated something appealing and then process must be repeated.
Competitions are distractions for creators. They are not about promoting us, they are about promoting the brands that sponsor them. From shows like the Voice to numerous examples of online competitions that barely pass the smell test, we have witnessed a culture where the perceived path to mainstream success has been bastardized into a game show-esque competition.
Work tirelessly on your ideas and your creations. When you find your audience, the people that they resonate with, you will have won the real competition.
As pointed out by my friend Kayleigh Mill in her recent post, stealing a physical item has both shared and disimilar implications when contrasted with downloading something illegally. There are morals at play here and laws as well.
The cost of replacing a stolen digital item is free. I feel that this is partially how people that download illegally can (sub)consciously justify the behavior even if they wouldn’t steal the cheap plastic Ray-Ban knockoffs at the gas station.
The cost of replacing the physical good (let’s keep this discussion on topic and stick with a CD sold by the artist rather than a cup of coffee) is higher because it is not as simple as duplicating a file.
Let’s face it, there is also the fear of getting caught that stops many people from stealing physical items. Imagine if everyone knew there was no chance (0%) of getting caught for stealing items in real life. The fact that it is immoral behavior would cause many to refrain but with an absence of any law enforcement it’s clear that some new people would begin stealing.
It has also become quite clear that the “ownership” of a “purchased” digital file is dubious at best. The court’s recent ruling against Redigi, a Cambridge company that allowed users to sell and transfer purchased music, only goes to confirm that ownership of a digital file comes with many more exceptions and strings attached than a physical item.
An interesting conversation just took place at MIT’s Media Lab regarding large companies and if they have a place on crowdfunding websites.
Yancey Strickler, a co-founder of Kickstarter, was very even-tempered as he responded to a somewhat pushy young man working at a “billion dollar company” asking if there was room for big businesses on the platform.
Strickler immediately said no, there is no place on Kickstarter for big corporations. The young man pressed on, saying that large companies bring with them a level of trust that they will make good on the promises to pledges.
Kickstarter currently offers no guarantee that you will ever see what you pledged for. The purpose of Kickstater, as Strickler went on to point out, is for gathering support for projects that would likely not be able to happen otherwise.
Sometimes, even with successful funding and the best intentions, projects will fail. Kickstarter is not meant to be site for pre-purchasing products that will definitely be released no matter what. Sony does not need to put preorders for the Playstation 4 on a crowdfunding site and they shouldn’t because that dilutes the purpose of this kind of platform.
Strickler cited how Etsy had to decide where to draw the line when it came to the types of people they would allow to sell creations. At first they had kept it rather ambiguous and said the items simply needed to be vintage or handmade. As time went on Etsy became more specific and stated that only projects by two or fewer people would be eligible to be listed on the site.
Etsy drew a line in the sand. Kickstarter has yet to do so even though they have discussed this issue internally since very early on. They will likely need to take a public stance soon as larger corporations view the success of Double Fine, Veronica Mars, and other projects that show the scale and support valued projects can receive.
No one cares because you have not yet given them a reason to.
Give them a reason to care. I work on this every day.
Being in a startup is one of the hardest things in the world. You’re in this very intricate relationship with several people (co-founders, first employees, customers, investors and advisors). Everyone’s emotions are involved. Everyone’s fates are tied together. It’s the most personal business to ever exist. It’s a team, it’s a group effort, everyone is pulling in the same direction. If everyone isn’t on the same page then you get nowhere.
To quote Ben Horowitz in his essay, The Struggle:
The Struggle is where greatness comes from.
I agree with that 100%.
Being in a startup is a grind. The tech industry is a grind, as I’ve said many times before. If you’re not prepared for the grind, get the hell out of here.
If you are in a startup, you’re responsible for more than yourself and your own happiness. Being selfish is not tolerable. You give up your rights to be selfish when you’re in a startup. I do so many things that I don’t want to do but know that I have to do them for the sake of the startup (but at the same time I have more fun that many can believe is possible). I’m not tooting my own horn here - I’m being honest. I will always bend over backwards for the people I work with and the startup we care so much for. Ask anyone.