The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

A Whole New Mind January 31, 2010

Filed under: book review — Rebecca Coleman @ 11:44 pm
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I have a running list of books that people have recommended that I read. My friend Trilby Jeeves suggested I read Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, and boy, was I glad I did.

We all know that our brains are comprised of two hemispheres: the left, and the right. The left is responsible for reasoning and deduction, and the right is responsible for emotions, empathy and creativity.

Ever since grade 3, it has been clear to me that I am right-brain dominant. Math has always been my nemesis, and even now, in the day-to-day operation of my business, my Excel spreadsheets come from a place of needing to be in control, rather than a pure joy of numbers and order. I love words, reading, writing and acting, and to be spontaneous and creative.

Here’s the thing about being predominantly right-brained: the kinds of careers that suit us right-brainers; artists and nurses, for example, tend to be of the lesser-paying and (to many) less-prestigious professions, like, say lawyers, accountants, or Bill Gates.

But the world is changing. Work that used to be only done here in North America or in Europe is now being outsourced to well-educated people in emerging countries, like India, because it is way, way cheaper. Also, technology is getting so good, that a computer can often do work that took many brains to do, faster and with less error. Finally, we live in a land of plenty–most people now have enough money to fulfill the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy–food, shelter, safety. It’s for these reasons, Pink says, that the sun is setting on the day of the left-brainer.

It is no longer good enough to be technically adept. My favorite example that Pink uses is that of Doctors. They go to school for many years, and learn how to diagnose and treat medical ailments. This is an incredibly left-brained profession. But think about doctors that you have had interacted with in the past. Which did you prefer: the ones that treated you (even if they were right) in a perfunctory manner, or ones that treated you with empathy, knew your name, and spent a little more time?

Pink doesn’t advocate that doctors give up their professions and become clowns. But what he does maintain is that people who were previously doing really well in left-brained professions need to incorporate some right-brained traits into their jobs to make them better and to be able to survive in this heavily-competitive market.

Pink talks about six new right-brained “senses”: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. What I love the most about his book is the “portfolio” section that follows each of the chapters on the above topics. It gives you great, specific, and tangible ideas to help yourself to get better in each of these areas.

One of the things that Trilby does is teach people (even corporate, left-brained people) a specific kind of clowning called bouffon. That is an incredible way for a right-brained person to make a living in this new, conceptual age.
UPDATE: I just learned that Trilby has also written a blog post on the book: click here to read it.

Whether you are predominantly right-brained, or predominantly left-brained, this is a great book, and I’m certain you will find it helpful and empowering.

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What the TwitCleaner can teach you about being a better Twitterer January 29, 2010

Filed under: Marketing with Twitter,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:05 am
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There’s been a big buzz lately about this new service, The TwitCleaner, so last week, I decided to try it for myself. Basically, it is a service that looks at the people you are following, and grades them, and puts them into categories. It then makes suggestions as to who you should unfollow. Weeding the garden, so to speak, trimming the fat, to make you a lean, mean, Twittering machine.

Enough cliches.

When I got my report, the TwitCleaner had divided my less-that-stellar followers into three categories:

Dodgy Behavior, No Activity in Over a Month, and These Accounts Ignore You. Dodgy Behaviour was further broken down into Nothing but Links, Tweeting the Same Links all the Time and Tweeting Identical Tweets all the Time.

Let’s be clear, here: TwitCleaner is a robot. It can’t judge your twitter followers in the same way you do. I have specific reasons for following people. Some, for example, that the TwitCleaner deemed sub-par, are friends of mine, who, for whatever reason, have joined Twitter, and then abandoned it, or gone off to Bali (Hi, Carla!). I will continue to follow them in the hopes that they pick it back up again. There are people that I follow that I know will never in a million years follow me back (Google, a few celebrities), and I’m totally fine with that. Some people that I follow do twitter nothing but links, but because they are a news source, I’m not going to unfollow them. In fact, that’s why I’m following them.

What is interesting to me about the TwitCleaner is the rules they use to deem someone a lousy twitterer. Twittering all links, all the time. Twittering the same link all the time. Twittering the same tweet all the time. These are all characteristics of pushy and annoying sales tactics. They may work in other worlds, but on Twitter, most people that I know who are hard-core Twitterers, will not put up with those kinds of tactics. You will get unfollowed very quickly.

TwitCleaner is free–try it out. Now, if they could come up with some way of judging your followers based on a set of criteria that you set yourself, then it would be beyond brilliant. @TwitCleaner, are you listening?

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Is E-mail Evil? January 27, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:43 am
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Just before Christmas, I got this in an email from a friend of mine:

I’ve decided, you see, that I’m spending too much of my precious time on this planet staring at screens of one sort or another so I’m attempting a wee bit of a wean.

My friend then listed his contact info: snail mail/address and phone number.

I was also a bit shocked to discover that one of Vancouver’s more prolific Bloggers and Tweeters, Raul Pacheco,              Hummingbird 604, announced that he was going away on holidays from Dec 18 to Jan 3, and was choosing to  disconnect during that time–no email, no texts, no tweets.

This got me to thinking: is e-mail evil? So evil that we have to cut ourselves off from it completely to save our sanity?

The idea seems horrible and foreign to me. Looking beyond the fact that e-mail is basically the main tool I use to make a living, it also is about as ingrained into my life as breathing. I, in fact, have this little automatic timer inside my head that goes off when I haven’t checked my email in a while. I can’t stop it. And I don’t need to–I have a Blackberry, so I can even check my email when I’m not in front of my computer.

I won’t apologize for loving my e-mail. But I do get how people can get burnt out of technology. And I don’t want you to get the wrong impression–I feel like I control my email, not that it controls me. I’m pretty good about leaving it alone on the weekends or when I’m on holiday. I have all the beepy-flashy alerts turned off on my Blackberry, so I check it when I feel like it, instead of when it blinks.

What do you think? Is e-mail evil? Are we too dependent on it? Or is there some way to forge a relationship with our e-mail where we use it as the tool it was meant to be, without it taking over our lives?

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How will you celebrate March 27? January 25, 2010

Filed under: World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:33 am
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March 27 you say? Saturday? What’s the big deal about March 27?

World Theatre Day!!

First a bit of background. As you know,  I am a theatre publicist, and for the past two years, I have done publicity for our local GVPTA WTD celebrations. I have also been blogging for a little over a year. Last year, while we were planning our WTD celebrations, I started thinking “what if we made WTD a truly international celebration? What if there was a place on the internet where people could share their WTD stories, and also get information about WTD, its mandate, and ideas about how to celebrate it in their own communities?”

So, I put the word out through Twitter, and in short order, we assembled an amazing, skilled team of facilitators from all over the world. Some of whom, while they were theatre artists, had never heard of World Theatre Day.

We got the blessing of the ITI, and the World Theatre Day Blog was the result. If you page back, or look at our Tumblog, you’ll see all the amazing and awesome ways that theatre artists from all over the world celebrated March 27, 2009.

My "Standing on Books" meme from last year's WTD

This year, we need your help to make WTD 2010 an even greater success!

Here are some things you can do to celebrate World Theatre Day in your community:

  • Go to a play, and take a friend.
  • Organize a play reading in your community
  • Write, videotape, or record why you love theatre, and email it to
  • Read the World Theatre Day International Address (this year’s has not been published yet, but you can believe the second it is, it’ll be on both blogs!)  prior to curtain at your theatre, or include it as a handout in your theatre’s program. Ask a local favorite actor or dignitary to read it. If you can, record this reading by photos, video or audio, and email it (or the link, if you are uploading it to Flickr, or YouTube) to It will automatically post to the Tumblog.
  • If you have a blog, write a post about what you are doing to celebrate World Theatre Day in your area, then email the URL to We will cross-post your entry on the WTD blog.
  • If you don’t have a blog, please email your story directly to us, and we will post it on the blog.
  • Offer backstage tours of your theatre to the local community
  • Offer open rehearsals to your community
  • Offer discounted or free tickets.
  • Offer open readings to your community.
  • Share photos of your production and photos of your cast and crew with your audience to the World Theatre Day media hub.
  • Distribute theatre-related books, scripts etc. around your part of the world for example, Book Crossings (, ‘release your books’ in a public place – theatre foyers; coffee shops; park benches etc. Put a sticker on the front saying something like, ‘I’m free. Please give me a home. Happy World Theatre Day!’
  • Work up a flash mob. Gather people together in a particular place at a particular time to ‘do’ something theatre-related e.g., everyone gathered reads a sonnet in a supermarket or just freezes at a particular time reading an obviously theatre-related book, then moves on after 1 minute’s freeze. Guaranteed to attract attention! Hurry! the GVPTA’s deadline for Flashmob submissions is this Friday, January 29. Email your submission to For more information, click here.

One new thing we are going to try to facilitate this year is to make connections, via technology, between theatres in different cities, or even countries. If you are planning on having a WTD celebration party, let us know, and we will try to hook you up, via Skype or some other means, with another city who is doing the same thing.

For more information and suggestions, as well as a media release template, download the Getting Started Toolkit.

After all, World Theatre Day is about us celebrating how amazing the work that we do every day is!

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Should you auto-post? January 22, 2010

If you’re on Facebook, you might have noticed Facebook asking if you wanted to connect your Facebook Fan Page automatically to your Twitter account. Here’s how it works: every time you post a status update on your Fan page, that same update will appear (in a shortened 140 character version, of course) on Twitter (assuming you have an account).

Hmm…. could be a useful tool, right? Think of all the time it could save….

Yes. But.

First of all, I love that all of these automatic-posting widgets are popping up. The key to getting people to share your information (ie: retweeting) is to make it really easy for them. If you have a Retweet button on your bog posts, there is a better chance that folks will use it, rather than them having to copy the URL and then link-shorten it and paste it into their Twitter update. I’d encourage you to get one of those, or, at the very least, a ShareThis widget.

And, as I’ve previously shared, I use a service called Networked Blogs to import my blog’s RSS feed onto my personal profile on Facebook. This tool also works with Fan pages. I love Networked Blogs more and more all the time, because I feel like it is introducing my blog to a new audience.

Having said that, I don’t think that it is always a good idea to have your Twitter account automatically connected to your Facebook account and your blog.

Here’s why:

  • If you share fans on both FB and Twitter (and you will), they might get sick of seeing exactly the same thing on both updates. Even if your information is basically the same (ie: a new blog post), try to think of different ways of sharing it with a different audience.
  • You may have a difference audience on Facebook than on Twitter. For me, Facebook is highly personal. Twitter is more business.
  • Automatic posting may lead to complacency: you might think “I’m covered on Twitter and Facebook because I’m auto-posting, I don’t have to do additional tweets, or check in with my Twitter stream.” Dangerous. People could be responding to your Tweets, unaware that they were automatically generated. Or, perhaps they are re-tweeting you, and it is commonly thought to be polite to acknowledge and thank people that retweet your links.

So, while I don’t use auto-posting on my own personal accounts, I do see its use. For example, if you are new to social media, and are feeling really overwhelmed by it, this could be a great way to ease your way into it. On the other end of the spectrum, if you manage a lot of social media (I have set up something like 10 or so Twitter accounts), auto-posting can be a huge time-saver. The recently redesigned Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society website, for example, automatically posts to Twitter every time I upload one of Babz’ new posts.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. And that’s part of what’s so great about social media: it is constantly growing and changing and morphing.

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1,000 True Fans January 20, 2010

Filed under: Business relationships — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:04 am
Tags: , , ,

I recently read this brilliant blog post by Kevin Kelly at The Technium, and felt compelled to share it with you:

One solution is to find 1,000 True Fans. While some artists have discovered this path without calling it that, I think it is worth trying to formalize. The gist of 1,000 True Fans can be stated simply:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

Read the entire post here.

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The Poster Debate January 18, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Marketing Ideas,Posters,Rent — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:41 am
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Last week, I noticed a debate happening on Facebook:

I weighed in on the discussion with my two cents about Posters, and then I emailed Adam, and asked him if he would write a blog post about it, and suggested he interview or collaborate with Ryan Mooney on it. Ryan had what I thought was a brilliant idea for RENT: he put a number on the bottom of the poster, and asked people to text it if they wanted more information. The number was for his own cel phone, and he had a message ready to copy and paste every time he got a request. Low cost, and effective.

Here’s an excerpt from Adam’s blog post:

Now, I’m a graphic designer by trade so when I speak to issues of visual communication, I speak from experience. And I know that while posters need visual impact to succeed, a strong visual without content and meaning behind it is an empty vessel. The primary meaning of even the most beautiful, eye-catching poster is to communicate a message. And while this may be a matter of taste, I tend to find the more abstract and obscure approaches less preferable to one that tangibly represents the themes and reaches out to try and draw in the viewer.

I thought that this whole approach might possibly be due to some kind of resistance to the perceived reductivism of the all-too-familiar movie tagline, perhaps maybe even an aversion to what’s perceived as a populist or even crass approach better suited to a mass-market medium than the (in theory) more rarified world of live performance.

Read the entire post here.

Epilogue: I found out after that the poster Adam was talking about was for a show I am doing publicty for: Scorched. The producers are reprinting the posters with more details, and have offered Adam tickets to opening night, which he accepted.

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Website Makeover: Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society January 15, 2010

In May of last year, I was doing a job for my dear friend Carrie Ruschinski, Dying City. It was being directed by Ben Ratner. One day I got a phone call from Ben, asking if I’d be interested in taking on administrative duties for a society he was president of: The Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists. Things were winding down for the summer, so I agreed to meet with Babz.

For any of you who know Babz, this will come as no surprise, but I fell in love with her the moment I met her. Babz has three different types of Cancer, and a few years back, when she had her first bout with Breast Cancer, this group of friends rallied together to form a society to help pay for her medial bills–specifically, treatments not covered by MSP.

So, I took the job on, but in short order, I stopped asking to be paid. My mother died of Cancer, so helping someone else’s mother beat it seems like reward enough to me.

It became apparent to me pretty quickly that the society needed a new website. Donations had basically stopped trickling in, and the site was very old, static, and simple. There was basically one page, not unattractively designed, but I knew it could be so much more.

In the fall, my sweetie, Dave, who works as an instructor at Capilano University’s Interactive Design program, was teaching a course in Project Management, and asked if I had an non-profit clients that needed a website built. It would be a kind of practicum or internship for his students. Needless to say, the Society jumped at the chance, and we were assigned a team of students: Laura Mason as project manager, Sabrina Franco, and Thomas Matthews.

The goal was to create a site that was more interesting, interactive, and easily updateable. Babz had been blogging about her experience of cancer treatment, but the blog lived in two different places, and we needed an admin person to upload her posts. We also wanted to incorporate video, seeing as Babz is a film actor. Finally, we wanted to be able to let folks know what was going on inside the society: celebrity dinners, fund raising efforts, etc.

Here is the old website:

The new website was created using WordPress, and the team created a custom Theme for us. We now have the blog built right in, as well as information about the Board of Directors, Babz, and I’m able to upload photos and stories. I filmed a video Babz doing a video introduction, and we hope that she will eventually be able to do Vlog posts (when she returns from India). It’s a great site, and I’m very proud.

Go to the website and browse around for yourself.

A very special thanks to Dave Rankin, Laura Mason, Sabrina Franco, and Thomas Matthews, and the Interactive Design Department at Capilano University.

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Okay, I have a Fan page, now what? January 13, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business relationships,Marketing with Facebook — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:09 am

If you have a business, be it a art business or not, and you’re on Facebook (and if you’re not on Facebook, you need to get on!), you need a fan page.

For a while there, I was on the fence: I was telling people that a group might still be a good option for them. But if anyone were to ask me these days, I would say, unequivocally, that a Fan Page is the way to go.

The advantages of having a Fan Page:

  • You can  distance your personal self from your business on Facebook.  Any emails or invites sent from the Fan page will come from the name of your Fan page (ie: your business), and the icon will be whatever image you choose for your Fan page (ie: your logo).
  • Any updates to create on your Fan page will show up in your Fan’s regular feed, the same as any of their friends.
    a Fan page is not limited by the number of fans you can have.
  • Fan pages are indexed by Google (groups are not) and they also have metrics build in, so you can see your page-view stats.
  • You can use Fan pages to create PPC ads
  • You can create events from your Fan Page

How do you create a Fan Page? Click here for a step-by-step tutorial.

All right. I’ve convinced you to get one. You’ve got one. Now what?

You need to populate your page with content. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to have a fan page, an then just let it lie.

The key word in social media, of course, is social, so this is about using Facebook to create a dialogue with your clientele.

Here are some ways you can populate your Fan page:

  • Make sure you fully fill out the “Info” tab. This makes it possible for people to find you off of Facebook: your website, location, etc. Also, it is extremely important to fill out the little section on the left-hand margin that tells folks about you.
  • Photos: create photo albums of your artwork and upload them. If you are a theatre company, upload albums of your past productions. This helps to create a sense of history.
  • Events: got a show coming up? Post it as an event. Encourage your fans to share it.
  • Videos: Upload your own videos, or link to them from YouTube. For ideas about video, read my Flip Cam series.
  • Media coverage: Got a story in the paper? An interview on BlogTalkRadio? Cross-post it here.
  • Discussions: One of the tabs available to you is “Discussions.” Start a discussion with your fans. Poll them: ask them what they’d like from you, or ask them to weigh in on a debate. For example, if you were trying to decide between two plays next season, put it out to your audience.
  • Link-sharing: find a really cool YouTube video in your travels? Is a friend holding a fundraiser? You can share links and promote other peoples’ events and blog posts on your Fan page.
  • Reviews: In this day and age of shrinking media coverage, offering your audience a space to write their own reviews is very powerful. Don’t forget to post this option in a status update, in case some people don’t know it’s there.
  • Blog: You can import your Blog’s RSS feed automatically using Networked Blogs. Click here for a tutorial.
  • Contests: everyone likes getting something for free! Give away something you got for Christmas but can’t use, give an hour of your time, some free tickets, a CD.
  • Share your expertise: before Christmas, one of my clients, The Wellness Show, offered Holiday wellness tips every couple of days through our Fan page.
  • Connect your page to others’ pages: if your company is part of a festival, you can “fan” other people’s Fan pages, and vice-versa. It’s kind of like link-sharing. Click here to see how.

Some final tips:

  • Aim for, on average, three interactions per week. If it helps, get a calendar, and map out what your status updates will be for that week.
  • Once you hit 25 fans, you can trade in your old, long, ugly URL for a vanity URL (ie: Click here for that.
  • You can connect Facebook to your Twitter account, so that every time you post a status update, it gets posted to your Twitter account. (I don’t recommend this to everyone, but if you are just getting started, and are strapped for time, it is a possibilty). Click here for that.

Now, go forth and Facebook!

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What I did for love January 11, 2010

Three or so years ago, I had a business meeting with two old friends. I’ve know Kennedy Goodkey so long, I don’t even remember how we met, and Craig March and I did a really terrible play together many years ago at Havana.

They told me they were making a film, a feature film, and asked if I would come on board as the publicist. They would also offer me a small role in the film. I of course said yes.

On Saturday afternoon, I attended an intimate cast and crew screening of The Beast of Bottomless Lake, the result of, for Kennedy and Craig, about eight years of their lives.

Director Craig March and I at the Cast and Crew screening of the Beast. Photo credit: Kenton Photography

Director Craig March and I at the Cast and Crew screening of the Beast

You see, Kennedy’s best friend way back when was a guy called Keith Provost. Keith grew up in Kelowna, near Lake Okanagan, home to, it is rumored, the Ogopogo, Canada’s answer to the Loch Ness monster. Keith had an idea for a film about the Ogopogo, and pitched it to Kennedy, who brought Craig into the picture.

Then, one day in June of 2001, Keith was riding his bike home and someone opened a car door in his path. The loss of their friend made it too close to home for them, so the project, then tentatively titled The Nightmare Beast of Blood-Lake: A Scientific Overview, was shelved. A few years later, they took out the script, dusted it off, and decided to make the film in Keith’s honour.

We shot the film in May and June of 2007, in multiple locations around Lake Okanagan and in Vancouver. The editing process took nearly two years, but on Saturday, the film was screened for those who participated in and contributed to its making.

In terms of payment, I have received not a cent for this gig, which I have been involved with for three years, and for which, really, my work is just beginning. I do own a share of the film, so if it ever makes a million bucks, I’ll get something. But I’m not doing it for that.

I’m doing it because, first and foremost, I love my friends, and I support their vision. This is a little film with a big heart, that goes all the way back to Keith. And even if I never make a cent, I consider it all worthwhile. As artists, we are so lucky. We get to get up every day and do something we truly love, something we are passionate about. And not everyone gets to do that. Some folks go to work for the cheque or the mortgage or the Beemer. While I will most certainly never own a Beemer, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a job that I love to do. And that I am able to work with friends while I do it.

I wasn’t blogging yet in 2007, but as part of our marketing plan for the film, we blogged our way through production. The two entries below are mine.

A Tale of Two Hats

A Tale of Two Hats (part deux)

For more information on The Beast of Bottomless Lake, check out the website, designed by the lovely and talented Janet Baxter, who, incidentally, was also married to Keith.

UPDATE, JANUARY 14: Photos from the cast/crew screening are now on Facebook. You have to have a Facebook account to view them. Thanks Kenton Photography.

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