The Art of the Business

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

How Social Media is turning the arts world upside down March 31, 2010

Once upon at time, if you wanted to “make it” as an artist, you had a fairly-well defined path to follow to success. It usually started with some kind of post-secondary education, and then a few years of struggling while you worked a joe-job and practiced your art. If you were a musician, you were maybe working on your technique, going to jams and open mics, and writing  songs. Eventually, you’d put together a demo of your work, and send it in to a record company. If you were really, really lucky, they’d listen to your demo and like it enough to offer you a contract. Although the reject pile was always higher than those that got the stamp of approval.

The invention of the internet, and, in particular, Web 2.o, has changed all of that. Technology has advanced to such a state that it is now accessible to you and I. If I am a musician, and I want to record an album, I have the power to do that–all I need is a Mac with GarageBand or Logic, and some decent-quality mics. To create a video, all I need is a Mac with IMovie and a video camera. Technology and Social Media has given the individual artist power.

For me, the greatest example of this is Justin Beiber. I know, I know, I’ve mentioned him before. And I’m not a 13-year-old girl, so I’m not even in his demographic. Bieber represents a new kind of way to rise to the top: self-made, self-propelled, and using the internet as a tool. Basically, by the time Bieber met the record company, they would have been crazy to turn him down: he already had a huge marketing machine filled with hundreds of thousands of adoring fans (13-year-old girls have a lot of disposable income and brand loyalty). The machine  consisted of Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and Twitter. Click here to read more.

It’s not just musicians that are benefiting. Aspiring writers art starting blogs, and it’s leading to book deals. Witness the Budget Fashionista. Kathryn Finney started this blog in 2003, and within a couple of years had been offered a publishing deal. How to Be a Budget Fashionista: The Ultimate Guide to Looking Fabulous for Less was published in June, 2006.

Lauren Luke is another interesting example. This self-taught makeup artist started a YouTube channel, and after garnering 43 million views, as well as 230,000 subscribers from 70 countries around the world, now is launching her own makeup line through Sephora.

Welcome to the future, folks.

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E-Newsletters, Part 2 March 29, 2010

A long, long time ago, when I first started my blog, I wrote a post on E-Newsletters. it was a post talking about the basics of e-newsletters: what they do, and what options there are out there. It remains one of the most popular posts on my blog, and I often refer to it.

But, honestly, I’ve kind of been slacking in the e-newsletter department. I don’t have one myself, because I work for so many different people, and most of the people I work for have one. But I recently starting having conversations with Dave Charest, who’s a bit of an e-newsletter expert. So, I interviewed him. This is e-newsletters, level 2-what goes in them, how often to send them, autoresponders–all your questions answered.

RC: So… I have signed myself up for e-newsletter software, and I have a signup box on my website. Now what??

DC: First off congratulations. You’ve taken the first step towards taking advantage of an often overlooked yet very powerful marketing tool. I’m often disappointed at how ineffectively people use e-mail marketing. I’m not sure exactly why that is. But it seems to be a combination of factors: perceived lack of time, lack of knowledge and just copying the old school methods.

So what happens is we just end up using e-mail marketing as a form of advertising that eventually just turns into spam. But in actuality if used correctly email is an extension of the work you do, whether it be your art, your theater, your business or what have you. And as an extension of your work is should be built around your personality, or brand. Precisely how you use your email marketing is going to differ based on your particular goals. But the first step is looking at your approach to email marketing a bit differently. So what we really need to do is stop thinking of email as though it’s some type of spam device, because it’s not.

Whether you’re trying to sell tickets, trying to sell a product or just trying to keep yourself top of mind it’s very, very, very, very – I’ll say it one more time – VERY, important to understand that someone has essentially given you permission to contact them. It’s like getting someone’s number at the bar. There’s a level of commitment there that’s much stronger than someone signing-up for your Facebook page, or somebody reading your Twitter stream or checking out your blog from time to time. The power comes from the fact someone has taken a step to say,  “Yes, I want you to keep in touch.” Which in dating terms means, “I’d like to get to know you better.” So it’s better to move away from this notion of email as a tool to just advertise, but rather as a way to make deeper, personal connections to people who are truly interested in what you do.

In fact, if we follow this dating thread, I would go so far as to say, think of email marketing as a way to make love to your audience. That paints one heckuva picture doesn’t it? But think about how this would change your approach, your tactics and your overall strategy. What if your ultimate goal is to get your audience in bed? Where “in bed” equals buying tickets for your event, donating money, buying a product or taking some type of action that you want to your audience to take. Now it’s really easy to see that if all you’ve been doing is sending ads to your audience, it’s the equivalent of saying, “Hey, sleep with me.” But you haven’t actually worked up to that point in the relationship yet. I’m sure we can agree “Hey, sleep with me,” although it may work a small percentage of the time, is probably not the best place to start, right? But it’s also no secret to the involved parties that eventually that’s where we’d like to end up.

So e-mail marketing, or all marketing for that matter, becomes a dating game where you’re trying to build up to that point in the relationship. So this means you have to start at the beginning. You need  think in terms of getting to know each other and building a certain level of trust. If you work at it from this angle, you’ll find yourself smiling a lot more. =)

RC: How often should I send an email to my list?

DC: It’s best to establish a regular frequency. A frequency based on a couple of factors: 1. What are you able to keep up with? 2. Do you have a project coming up?

1. What are you able to keep up with? At a minimum, once a month is a realistic goal. If you can’t do that, you should at least set a regular frequency. Even if that means every other month. You want to avoid becoming the person who only calls when they want something. That’s a very selfish relationship. You’d rather become a regular fixture in the routine of your audience. You want to offer them something with the e-mail they’ll actually enjoy. Something they’ll look forward to receiving. What that thing is, of course, depends on what you do.

2. Do you have a project coming up? When you have a project coming up you’ll actually want to think about keeping in touch a bit more frequently. You’re trying to build excitement for the event itself. It’s a bit like foreplay. So a regular frequency of at least once a month so you continually build trust is a good place to start. Then you’ll want to keep in touch a little more frequently when you have something coming up.

RC: What are some good things to include in my emails?

DC: There’s basically two types of messages that you want to be thinking about. Many times these messages also overlap. So we’re talking about: 1. Company based messages 2. Project based messages

1.  Company based messages These e-mails reveal things about your business, about your theater company, about your work as a whole. They’re about who you are and why you do what you do. Examples would be: How you got started? Who works with you? How other things you do relate to your work?

2. Project based messages Project specific e-mails people to learn about a particular project you’re working on. This helps create desire and build anticipation while also offering some education. Examples would be: Why you doing this project? What is the purpose of this project? Does this have some type of greater connection to the world as a whole? How can your audience benefit? These types of questions form the basis for e-mails that can help you strengthen the connection with your audience.

RC: Should they be the same every time, or should I vary them? (ie: each month have one tip, one profile of an employee, but have those things be variations on the same theme.)

DC: Variations on the same theme is a good way to look at it. The big thing though is not to put too much in one email. It’s best to keep each email restricted to one topic and one action you’d like your audience to take. Essentially you’d like to start training your audience. You want them to look forward to receiving your e-mails. And you want to get them in the habit of taking an action. Over the long term there’s a patterning that happens. It’s a form of content marketing. Over time you can gain influence with your audience. Also by repeating the same themes others are able to repeat them. Which means they can help share your story. But the first step here is creating content people look forward to opening. If they don’t open, it doesn’t work. In dating terms, would you rather the person take your call or let it go to voicemail?

Again, if used properly email marketing is really powerful and completely overlooked. But if you put in work the payoff is huge. That’s really how you have to look at it.

RC: What’s an autoresponder? How and when is it useful?

DC: Autoresponders are messages you can set up in a sequence at specific intervals. They’re phenomenal for the simple reason that once you write them they last forever. Which means you get the benefit over and over by doing the work once. Autoresponders are perfect for those company based messages. Once someone gets added to your list you can start building that trust right away by sharing information about your company. Ideally, the first message someone receives from you should never ask them to buy tickets. Autoresponders help you build up to that. Remember we want to build up to it. This is all foreplay.

RC: What role should back story or narrative play in your emails?

DC: Again, you definitely want to reveal your history. Other things like,  what you’re doing? What’s the process? But you must reveal this information in a way that’s interesting to the audience. So back story and narrative play a very important role. Email marketing is the show before the show. You can use it at an extension of the story. As a way to prime people for the main event. Stories in general are powerful. It’s the way we communicate. It’s the way people remember things. It’s also great if you can work your audience into the narrative. Or at least give them a sense of what it’s like to see your work or use your product. Think about when you start dating someone new and your friends ask, “What’s he/she like?” You tell the story don’t you?

RC: Should I plan out my emails in advance, say for 6 months or a year?

DC: Ideally, yes. With email marketing you can set things up advance. Which is helpful because you’re often pressed for time. You’re doing multiple things and wearing many hats. But if you spend a bit more time on the front end and you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, reassessing what’s happening each time, it’s going to get easier and easier and faster and faster. You want to work towards a situation where you have a repeatable system.

You can also save yourself time by doing what I call “double duty.” If it’s your business, questions you get asked can become emails. But in the arts there’s a kind of built in magic factor. So you can actually use much of the research your production team is doing. There’s all this work being done that’s just sitting there when it could actually be used for marketing. So those are a couple of ways to take advantage of work you already do to save yourself time.

But also be sure to ask for feedback. Once you open that dialogue with your audience they become more invested and they’ll give you ideas for what to include. The trick is to remember the focus is them not you. So listen and give the audience what they want. What’s more interesting the guy/gal that asks about you or the one who talks about themselves all night?

RC: A lot of my clients use e-newsletter software as an alternative to email. They basically only send out emails when they have something to promote, like a show. What are your thoughts on that?

DC: What’s more important is what happens in those moments when you don’t have something to promote. It’s a lot like that friend who calls you only when they want something. You don’t really look forward to those phone calls do you? You see the number and think,  “great what do they want?” But when you’re giving, sharing and entertaining on a consistent basis, when you’re offering value to your audience, that adds a great strength when it comes time to ask for something back. Overall, the big things to remember are:

Your audience wants to get to know you, what makes you tick and why they should make love to you. =) Want to find out how to make marketing a simple part of your process rather than icky afterthought? Sign-up for Wicked Smaht email updates.

When not acting, playing music, or being a lovin’ husband and Dad – Dave inspires creative people to embrace the human condition in their marketing for better results.

Also, listen to a podcast I made with Dave on managing your time with social media.

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Happy World Theatre Day! March 27, 2010

Filed under: World Theatre Day — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:49 am

Last week, the Entertainment Editor of one of our local daily newspapers, asked me to help her to gather stories of people’s most memorable theatre experiences. I  did, along with the help of the GVPTA, and you can read the results here.

It inspired me to write my own.

A few  years back, a gal with whom I had done some work, Lita, came to me with a play, with the intention of us producing it. The play was Five Women Wearing The Same Dress by Alan Ball. I was deep into a Six Feet Under addiction, and loved American Beauty, so I was intrigued. I read the play, and was immediately entranced by his ability to write characters that reveled themselves in layers, and agreed that the play was fantastic, and must be produced.

I then proceeded to get super busy, and Lita moved to Halifax, so that was the end of that. But I still had it on my brain, so I gave it to another friend of mine, Gillian Morris (now Behnke) who had a production company called Horned Moon. She loved it.

We were about to have our first production meeting, but I had just found out that I was pregnant, so I told her that, in terms of dates, we either had to think about producing it in the next few months, before I began to look really pregnant, or in a year. We both agreed that we could use a year to get this done. I brought on another friend I had been wanting to work with, Sarah Sawatsky, as a third producer.

By the time we went into production at Presentation House, I had a six-month-old baby. One day, in order that my partner could come and see the show, we arraigned to have a girlfriend take care of him at the theatre, so that my partner could sit through a matinee. In the last scene of the first act, a quiet and intense scene between Merideth (played by Mitzi Thaddeus) and Mindy (me), I heard my baby crying outside the theatre. It was my worst nightmare–but somehow I got through the scene and offstage.

I got word to the outside through the stage manager to bring me Michael at the intermission. They brought him in to me, and I hiked up my dress (which was NOT built with breastfeeding in mind!) and proceeded to nurse him. I told the stage manager we’d have to hold the intermission until we were done.

Finally, I handed him to his dad, and stepped into the back stage. A moment later, the lights went out, and I stepped on stage. The next hour was incredibly surreal. It was one of those times on stage that passes like a dream. Time goes and you don’t know where–I felt like someone else was enhabiting my body.

After the show, the stage manager asked me what I had been doing differently. I didn’t think I had done anything differently, but the experience had affected my performance–for the better, or at least, so thought the stage manager.

Beyond that day, that performance, that show, the women that I worked with on that production are still a huge part of my life, six years later. I saw Bronwen Smith yesterday, last summer we celebrated Mitzi’s wedding, and this summer we’ll cry at Sarah’s. Robin moved to Toronto, and is expecting baby number two, but we stay in touch via email. Every couple of months, the three of us that are left in town (and Mitzi, if she’s visiting from London where she now lives) get together and have dinner and talk like the women do in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.


I’ve done a lot of plays, and after they’re over, we all say we’ll stay in touch, etc. But inevitably, life steps in, that’s just how it goes. For me, the greatest legacy of doing that play is the relationships that it created. Bronwen, Sarah, Mitzi, Robin (and Kris, the substitute Robin), I love you!

Happy World Theatre Day!

 

Twitter/Art + Social Media March 26, 2010

Last month, I wrote a post on a new show at the Diane Farris Gallery called Twitter/Art + Social Media. I’m very happy to say that two artists with whom I have done social media work with have been accepted into the show!

Ross Den Otter

I’ve known Ross and his wife Sarolta Dobi for quite some time. In addition to be friends of Simon’s, Ross and Sarolta together are Pink Monkey Studios, and have been doing my headshots (and those of many actors in this town) for quite a few years.

Ross has an interesting process for his work: it starts with a photograph, then he adds some paint, and finally, a thick, shiny topcoat.

Click here to see Ross at work.

In addition to his pieces in the Twitter/Art + Social Media show, Ross will be showing at the Fourth Wall Gallery at Presentation House Theatre from March 25 to April 10.

Ross’ Blog
Ross’ Facebook

Robi Smith

Robi has been to a couple of my and Simon’s Social Media workshops.

"I Am Afraid"

"I Have Secrets"

Here’s her artist statement about the pieces she is showing:

I use social media to share my work with collectors, fans, and all those anonymous people who find me through Google searches. I post to Facebook regularly, update my blog each week, and send out a monthly e-newsletter to close to 400 subscribers. Each communication asks me to reveal myself in different ways and, while I’m always truthful, I do edit myself. I don’t share details about my family life. I talk about what I’m creating and feedback I’ve received, but not how I spend my time every day or my worries. I don’t talk about my fears. I still have secrets. I have a private life I don’t expose to the world.

Robi’s Website
Robi’s Blog

Facebook

I’m very excited to annouce that Kris Krug (Twitter: @KK) and I will be hosting a workshop/panel discussion called Social Media for Visual Artists on Tuesday, April 13 at 4pm at the Diane Farris Gallery. The workshop is free, and all are welcome. Come on by! I’ll also have copies of my book for sale.

Preview the exhibition here.

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My Makeover March 24, 2010

Filed under: Attitude,Musings,Perception of worth,photos,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:17 am
Tags: ,

I have a shameful secret. Because I work from home, and no one sees me when I’m behind my computer, I look like this:

My daily routine is the same: roll out of bed, pull on something made by Lululemon, make coffee, open the computer, get to work. It doesn’t matter what I look like, because no one is going to see me.

Now, when it comes to meeting clients or going out in public, I’m a bit better. I’ll throw on some jeans, or a clean shirt. Or even dress pants and a nice, white blouse. But over all, my dress is casual. I argue I can get away with it, because my business is pretty casual. And it takes a lot of time to do hair, makeup and pull together a nice outfit. And people are hiring me for my brain and my track record, not because of how I look. And sometimes heels are uncomfortable if I have to walk a long way, and I’m just going to pick up Michael at school, anyway….  The rationalizations go on and on.

I’m an avid fan of TLC’s What Not to Wear, and one night when I was watching, Clinton Kelly said “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and despite the advice of my business adviser, am not even looking for corporate clients. If I can make a living in the arts, I’m happy. But I am a business-owner, and maybe it’s time I start dressing the part. And if I do, what will happen? Will new or potential clients look at me and view me as having a higher perception of worth? And how will my own perception of worth change? I feel different about myself when I dress up–more confident–how does a confident attitude affect my work?

I love to shop, but I am also hopeless, and I had no idea where to start. So, I hired Jasjit Rai, who is a stylist and wardrobe consultant. Jasjit says, “as in theatre, it is important to dress the part(s) that you want to play in your life.  Clothing is an easy and immediate way of transforming yourself. This is why uniforms are so important in some professions – once worn, they draw the person into the role. Others immediately respond in return.” She came over to my house and did a wardrobe audit. A bunch of stuff went. Then, she gave me a list of stuff to go shop for, including tear sheets from magazines with photos.

The result?

Photo by Pink Monkey Studios

I’m still trying to get comfortable with this new concept: spending money on clothes still seems a little frivolous to me, and I also feel a bit resentful that people might judge me on how I look. But the reality is, people do make snap judgments when they meet you. I might as well  put my best foot forward. And I’ll let you know if land any high-paying clients, or if my income goes up dramatically.

If you are interested in having your own makeover, I highly reccomend Jasjit’s services.

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Outsourcing March 22, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Cash flow,Finances,Future planning,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:40 am
Tags:

As artists in business, we are a one-person show, and we wear a lot of hats. Not only are responsible for the greatest bulk of our work, namely creating our art, but we are also responsible for the business and marketing of that work.

I talk to so many artists that say “I just want to do my work. I want someone else to handle the business.”

Realistically, you need to know how to manage your business, for a couple of different reasons. First of all, as you are just starting out, you probably don’t generate enough income to be able to pay someone to manage your business. Secondly, even if you did, many, many artists have been ripped off by unscrupulous people who recognize that the artist is willing to hand everything over and fully trust them. In order for you to not be in that kind of a position, you need to know enough about your business, and be involved enough in your business to recognize when something like this might be taking place.

So, certainly you need to have some basic knowledge in legal matters, bookkeeping and accounting, and marketing. However, at some point, you will no doubt want to outsource some of your business.

You’ll know you’re ready for this when:

1. You feel like you are able to do some of the basics, but you know that you’d be over your head if you attempted to go deeper. A good example of this is creating a website: you might have a clear idea about what you want on it and how you want it to look, but you don’t possess the technical skills to build it. Another great example is getting your taxes done by an accountant.
2. You know how to do something, but it takes you longer to do that an expert could do it, and you feel like your time is more valuable spent elsewhere. An example from my business is that I upload information about my client’s shows to certain event websites in Vancouver. Honestly, I hate this task. It’s repetitive and boring, but it’s a part of my contract, so I need to do it. I outsource this task, because my time is better spent contacting and pitching to the media and trying to get my clients preview and review articles.

I would love to hear what kinds of tasks you outsource from your business, and why. Please share!

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What’s your perception of value? Pt 2 March 19, 2010

A few years back, I had an eye-opening experience around money. I had an interview to be hired by a small social-profit corporation to to marketing and PR for them for a summer. I got the interview via my network, so these people didn’t know me at all. I did some research around what I should charge, and when they asked me what my rate was, I said, without hesitation, and with some confidence, “$30 to $50 an hour,” which seemed like a huge sum of money to me at the time. And you know what, they didn’t even blink. I got the job, and it paid for a trip to Europe that fall.

A week ago, I put up a post about how people perceive our value, and more importantly, about how we perceive our own value. I was starting to feel out of my depth, but handily, I have a money coach in my network, so I turned to her.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Shell Tain:

RC: If I’m just getting started, how do I know how much to charge for my work?

ST: Well, if I’m just starting out, how much to charge is partially a math question, but it’s never solely a math question. There is some research to be done about what other people charge who are doing what I want to do, and what is the range of charges for this in my geographic community. That’s the math part. Even more important, whether new to the game or an old hand, is creating enough commitment with the charge that someone really shows up. What is the amount that has the client have something at stake, but not freaked out? I once had a couple of very wealthy clients. My normal fee just wasn’t even the cost of lunch for them. They didn’t show up. Where is that tipping point? You always have to experiment to find it, but it’s worth finding.

On the emotional side, money isn’t just about money, it’s about self worth. Yep, self worth. So, somehow I get tangled in that the client is buying me, and putting a value on me, and gosh what does that bring up? So there we are, tangled up when we are asked how much we charge. Here’s an alternative perspective: they actually aren’t buying you, or even what you do, they are buying the results. They are buying how something will be different, better, or complete once you have done what you do. So that’s worth something to them. And it’s something they can’t easily do themselves, or they would have.

So, here’s the technique.

Once you have figured out what the charge is, get your brain firmly around it so it’s easy to say. Then, when the potential customer asks for the fee, state it, clearly, without back tracking and then, (this is the most important part) SHUT UP! Stop talking. Let the silence be there, awkward as it may be. See what they say. Don’t anticipate; don’t make up objections for them. See what they say. They might actually say something like “fine”. They might say “Gee that’s expensive” to which you could say “yes, and it’s worth it”. They might say “I can’t afford that” to which you say “I understand, and what would it be like for you to have the work done?” What you do not do is discount your fees, collude with them about finding the money to pay for it, or add things on. You want them to understand the value. Pushing back on the fee can mean they don’t see the value. It can also mean they just like to bargain.

RC: But what if I loose the customer entirely, because I wasn’t willing to negotiate the fees?

ST: Let me answer an even more important question than “what if you lose the potential customer”, that is “what if I get the customer by lowering my fees?” What’s the cost of that? Well that hard teacher, Experience, has shown me and many of my clients that the costs of discounting fees are many. One really challenging one is that it diminishes your credibility with the customer. That shows up by them criticizing your choices and micro managing you. Another cost is that by dealing with this customer for less money, you aren’t available to the customer who would pay your full fee. And yet another is that if other potential customers find out you discounted they will either want a discount too, of feel foolish for having paid your full fee. What a tangled web this can be. If the idea of standing firm on your price still just drives you crazy I suggest that you create a “one time” special package for some multiple units of whatever you sell. You can offer this to everyone, and limit how long it goes on.

RC: Last words of advice?

ST: You deserve to be paid well, and if you are underpaid, or worse yet, give away your time and expertise, you will resent it. And if you resent it, you are likely to not do as good a job. All that just creates a never ending cycle. Remember, you do well what they can’t, don’t want to, or find harder to do than you. What a gift you bring.

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