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 frabbaurt633@tumblr.com
  • 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 frabbaurt633@tumblr.com. 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 findbex@gmail.com. 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 (http://www.bookcrossing.com), ‘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 info@gvpta.ca. 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
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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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