The Art of the Business

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

It’s Jessie Time! May 31, 2010

Filed under: Local Shows,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 3:13 am

I love this time of year: the weather is getting warmer, all my skirts are out from their winter hibernation, and flip-flops are  heavy in the shoe rotation.

And the Jessie nominations are announced!

For those of you not from Vancouver, The Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards are Vancouver’s answer to the Tonys. Or the Toronto Doras. The Jessies celebrate excellence in Vancouver theatre.

This happens to me very rarely, but I actually saw all five shows in one category this year: Performance by a Leading Actress, Small Theatre (this is partly because I did publicity for four of them).

The nominees are:
Diane Brown, A Beautiful View, Ruby Slippers Theatre
Tamara Podemski, The Edward Curtis Project, Presentation House Theatre
Gabrielle Rose, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Blackbird Theatre
Laara Sadiq, Palace of the End, Touchstone Theatre/Felix Culpa/Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre
Christina Schild, A Picasso, Presentation House Theatre

I was really excited to work on A Beautiful View, because, well, Daniel MacIvor has been my hero for a very long time. Diane’s portrayal of the naieve Mitch was super fun. You can see a clip of Diane talking about the show here.

The Edward Curtis Project has been in development for several years, so I was excited to see them honoured with 7 nominations!

When I saw the cast for Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolfe? I knew I had to see it. I very seldom buy tickets to the theatre–I often get offered comps–but I bought tickets to this one, and was not dissapointed. Gabrielle did a great job, and this nomination is well-deserved.

I can honestly say that I have not been emotionally affected by a performance in the theatre like the way I was by Palace of the End, specifically Laara’s, in a long time. I was sobbing throughout her monologue. I think she might be my favorite for this category.

Finally, I’m very happy for Christina Schild. A Picasso was a really great show, and Christina is an emerging artist. Her portrayal of the Nazi administrator with a soft spot for Picasso was nuanced and powerful, with a hint of sexy thrown in.

Congratulations to all the nominees! You can see the full list here. Best of luck on June 21.

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The State of the Internet May 26, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:26 am

The State of The Internet from JESS3 on Vimeo.

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Offline Techniques to Grow Your Online Presence May 24, 2010

Last week, I wrote a post, inspired by a question from Kristi Fuoco:

I was just wondering if you’d ever thought of writing a blog post about promoting social media through print and other methods. Do you think it’s effective, worth it? I’ve just been noticing more and more businesses lately that have been advertising their twitter, facebook etc. on posters, business cards, flyers and have been wondering whether or not to do it and thought you might have some thoughts on this.

Today, I’m offering some specific tips on how to promote your social media presence, offline.

1. Before you start to promote offline, make sure your on-line is solid. That means having a good website or blog (you need to pick something to be the centre of operations, the place that you want your other “arms” to lead back to), a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, and whatever else works for you: LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, etc.. Make sure you are updating all of these on a fairly regular basis, and they are all linked to each other.

2. If you have a physical business, make a sign and put it where folks can see it: in the window, by the cash register, etc. Instead of just saying “Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!” and listing your usernames for those, sweeten the pot: that means offering special “Facebook exclusive” or “Twitter exclusive” discounts or specials. Remember, these specials can act like a coupon code, so they are trackable, which is useful to you.

3. If you have an online business, make sure you have a business card, or some kind of leave behind with your social media information on it. You may want to use a tool like Telnic, which creates a single, simple URL (ie:, which people can go to and find all of your links from there. A couple of other options are, (thanks @shamelesshussy for that one). Again, sweeten the pot by offering exclusive information via these channels.

4. Host a meetup or a tweetup: A tweetup is an off-line, in-person meeting of folks who met through Twitter. Usually, they are tied together by some theme or common interest. For example, here in Vancouver, we have a Vancouver Theatre Tweetup (#yvrttu), and there are a million more. Say for example, you are the owner of a specialty wine shop. You could search for wine tweetups in your city, offer to host one, and maybe even offer some tastings. Go to to see what kind of meetups and tweetups are happening in your city. Niche marketing at its very best!

5. Foursquare promotions: Foursquare is a game/social media interface. Essentially, you sign up for an account, and then every time you go somewhere, a restaurant, school, the library, the gym, you use your phone to “check in.” If you have it connected to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, Foursquare posts to Facebook and Twitter automatically where you are. If you visit one place more than anyone else in that month, you get to be the “mayor” of that place, or you unlock badges for trying new things. One way to use Foursquare for business is to offer discounts and deals to Foursquare users: you will, in essence, be rewarding your best customers. For example, something free each month to the “mayor” of your business, or a discount for every 10 checkins. For more information on how to use Foursquare for business, click here.

6. Tweetup + Foursquare = Swarm: If 50 people on Foursquare check in all at the same place, that’s called a swarm. It comes with its own badges, and the possibilities of using this for theatre, concerts, or other larger-venue events is very interesting.

7. Create a flashmob: Flashmobs may be one of the coolest things to emerge from social media. According to Wikipedia, the definition of a flashmob is:  a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse. Originally, they were created just to bring some fun and surprise into the everyday lives of passers-by, but they have grown into an interesting marketing tool.  This past March 27, World Theatre Day, we created a Footloose Flashmob, which took place in Waterfront Station, a busy bus/train/seabus station in downtown Vancouver. It was both to promote World Theatre Day, and production of Footloose that was currently running. I have heard of folks doing scenes from Shakespeare on public transit, dances, pillow fights, and on and on and on. I’ll leave you with this one from Steppenwolf in Chicago:

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For Babz May 23, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:00 am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about legacies.

You see, on May 7, we lost Babz.

I need to say that I haven’t known Babz for very long: only about a year. A little more than a year ago, I did a gig for my friend Carrie. The play was called Dying City, and it was directed by Ben Ratner. Ben and I got to know each other a bit through working together, and one night he called me up and told me that the current admin person at the Babz Chula Society was leaving, and would I be interested?

I was heading into summer, and wanted as little work as possible, but it didn’t sound like a big job, maybe just a few hours per week. I’d lost my mom to cancer a year previous, and knew Babz from her work. I thought, “my mom’s gone, her fight is over, but maybe I can help this person a little bit.” I was unsure if I could take it on, but agreed to meet Babz.

I met Babz on April 3 last year. We met at Delaney’s, and I remember she had a cinnamon bun and a soy latte. She bemoaned her food choices (trying to avoid sugar is part of an anti-cancer diet), but characteristically enjoyed every bite.

We talked about many things: mutual friends, being an actor, my mom, our kids and the cancer. I spoke the language of cancer, and she was always very forthcoming about the details of her disease. I came away from that meeting knowing that I already loved this amazing, stubborn, vibrant woman, and that I would do whatever I could to help her fight. That was Babz. You loved her the moment you met her. You couldn’t help it.

Over the last year, there’s been many meetings, Thai and Chinese food, a new website, emails, discussions about fundraisers, chemo, and many, many hugs.

I last saw Babz in late December at a Society meeting. Babz was leaving shortly for 6 weeks in India. At the end, I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and how excited I was for her trip, and that I’d see her when she got back.

Shortly after she came back (feeling fabulous, by the way), she took a turn for the worse, and the doctors said the cancer was in her liver, and they were done. We knew it was only a matter of time. I tried many times to get to see her, but between my work and her bad days, I never was able to.

Going through some old emails the other day, I found this one, dated December 14.

Rebecca.  It is early-ish on Monday morning and I’m struck by an
image of you in my apartment last week when you came to make the
video blog.  I want to tell you how much I appreciate you…how
wonderful you are at what you do, certainly, but more than that…the
person you are.  Beyond what you are doing for the Society, it is the
way you do things…the grace and dignity with which you execute all
your actions, and I am so pleased to know you and so very honoured to
have you on my side.

That’s it.  That’s all.  I’m buzzing around here trying to get going
and you kept popping into my head…as you have for days.  I needed
to tell you what I think and I wanted to thank you for everything.
Hope to see you soon at our dinner and if that doesn’t happen, then I
wish you a lovely holiday and I will see you when I return from
the…uh…continent. Ahem.  Love. Really.  Love.   babz chula

That was Babz. Prepping for a trip to India, dealing with chemo, and yet she still had the time to send me a really wonderful email.

Which brings me back to legacies. Babz has left many: the Society, which will continue on in her name, and help others, a remarkable body of work, and many, many people who loved her, of which I am one.

You see, I went into this whole thing hoping that I could help someone out. But I probably got more from Babz than she did from me in the short time we knew each other.

She showed me that, no matter how tough things are, no matter how desperate, there’s always someone else worse off than you. And that person could maybe use a helping hand. And that love, while it can’t cure cancer, can make an impact on your life you never thought possible.

I love you, Babz. You live always in my heart.

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What’s your Facebook Page Worth? May 21, 2010

Yeah, yeah, social media this, social media that. Easy for you to say, right? But does it sell tickets/paintings/CDs?

I still can’t prove the direct correlation all the time. No one can. But I wanted to share with you a new tool that has just come out that puts and actual dollar value on your Facebook page.

Using the valuation of 1 fan=$3.70 in real money, the lovely people at Vitrue created this social media evaluator.

Here’s mine:

My fan page is an asset worth $356 annually, but it has the potential to be worth nearly $1000. You can take some measures to make this happen: adding more fans, and creating more fan interactions, for example.

I was curious to compare my little fan page with one that was really big, so I ran the evaluator on the Sex and the City (come on, May 27!) page. Here is the result:

Interesting, hey?

Try yours.

Caveat: this ONLY works on Fan pages, not groups or personal profiles. Also, your fan page’s settings need to be as open as possible, and not restricted in any way by age or country.

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Social Media Marketing Offline May 19, 2010

I talk a lot about social media marketing: tips, how-tos, etc. But a new and increasingly interesting field of social media marketing is taking place off line, in the real world.

So, I’ve been doing some research on the topic, and here’s what I’m finding out:

Tracking social media hits is really challenging. A great deal of the resistance of businesses, in particular, to starting social media marketing is because it’s hard to prove the ROI. What I mean by that is, “If I have a facebook page, how many tickets will I sell?” It’s hard to prove, because of the ripple effect of social media. If I send out an invitation to a show, I know who that invitation goes to. But any one of those folks could pass it on to their friends, or their friends’ friends, and so the people that actually show up at my theatre may be the 3rd or 4th generation (or more) of that invitation.

This is part of the reason why I love social media so much, but it does make it difficult to track where people are coming from.

Using social media offline can help to track where people are coming from. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I saw an ice cream place on Twitter post a tweet that said they would be offering a 1/2 price discount on ice cream for the first 10 minutes after the Canucks scored a goal. So, if the Canucks score a goal, and someone comes in and asks for 1/2 price ice cream, you know that person is on your Twitter feed.

Another reason why social media marketing offline is starting to catch on is because of the prevalence of smart phones. Nearly everyone I know has an IPhone or a Blackberry these days. If you see a sign like this, for example:

You can immediately go to your smartphone, go on the internet or to your Facebook app, and “like” this business. And people “like” to get exclusive social media offers–which for the business is a win-win, because it offers an option to track where that business came from.

Our smartphones also make it really easy for us to offer immediate reviews. A while ago, when I went to buy a futon, and drove across town to find the store closed, even though I was there within the opening hours clearly posted, I immediately twittered the #fail. The opposite is true for positive reviews: great meals, extra special service, etc.

Online relationships lead to real-life meetings

Last week, I published my very first e-newsletter. In it, I talked about the experience I had at Northern Voice. Briefly, I argued that social media is not killing face-to-face relationships, but, in fact, strengthening them. You see, we get to know people online, and when we meet them in real life, it’s less awkward, and we already know things about each other, so it’s easier to find something to talk about. Many of these online relationships are leading to real-life meetings, or Tweetups. That’s when a bunch of folks who all follow each other on Twitter, and have something in common, meet in real life for coffee or a drink.

Stay tuned… I’m working on a post with tips about how to use social media marketing offline.

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Never Bowl Alone May 17, 2010

Filed under: Business relationships,Future planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:00 am

This came through my in-box last week, and I thought I’d share it. I might go, myself!

Connect with your peers, get informed about community resources, take control of your well-being and go bowling.

A free day-long workshop aimed at developing strategies for staying healthy and happy in times of significant change.

Uncover and share strategies and tools for sustaining a career in the arts today. This expertly facilitated peer-to-peer workshop leverages our greatest resources – powerful imaginations and self-efficacy. Use this half-day session to transform roadblocks into breakthroughs. We’ll explore individual well-being and the revival of community reliance, resources and camaraderie.

Finish the day at the Commodore Bowling lanes for a fun and stress-free end to the day.

Date: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Time: 10:00am – 3:30pm
Location: Vancouver Art Gallery, Heritage Courtroom 302
RSVP to by May 14. Please include your name, organizational affiliation (if applicable), and any dietary restrictions.
This is a free event. Limited space. Preregistration is mandatory.

Presented by: 2010 Legacies Now, Alliance for Arts and Culture, Actsafe, Boca Del Lupo, Canada Council for the Arts Equity Office, Dancer Transition Resource Centre (DTRC), Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, and the Vancouver Art Gallery

Facilitator Bios

Claudia Collins, MA, RCC has spent many years in the non-profit sector as an employment counselor, cross-cultural educator and family therapist. She also worked as an Employee and Family Assistance counselor for 12 years, providing counseling, workplace training, trauma response and organizational consultations.

Suzanne Kenney, MA, RCC has 19 years experience in the Employee and Family Assistance field in multiple roles as a counselor, trainer, and organizational consultant. Suzanne has also taught school and worked in the mental health field as a clinical counselor working with children and families.


Answers to Sound Problems with the Flip Cam May 14, 2010

I love my Flip Cam. It’s no secret. I should have a t-shirt or a tattoo that says “I heart Flip Cam.” But my main beef with the camera is, and always has been, the sound. When I do one-on-one interviews, I can manage, I bump up the sound in IMovie, and usually it’s okay, but last weekend, I was trying to shoot video in an environment where there was a lot of ambient background noise, and the result made my videos basically unusable.

I put out a help tweet. and the answer came from Nikolas Allen. I asked him if I could share it with you, and he said yes, so here it is:

Regarding your recent tweet about minimizing ambient noise when shooting video, YES, Poor sound can kill an otherwise excellent video.

1) The main key is to shoot in a controlled environment.

Of course, the beauty of the new pocket video cams is that you can shoot anywhere, on the go. But, while these cams allow you to thumb your nose at controlled environments, ambient noise WILL be an issue.

A minor fix for that is to get close to the camera. Ditch the Wide shots and go for Med and C/U shots. Then, even if there is ambient noise – she who’s closest to the mic wins!

2) Your next best bet is to have a camera with an external mic jack (unfortunately Flips don’t have this feature, which is the main reason I’ve decided against this otherwise great choice).

An external mic such as a shotgun (uni-directional) mic with a windscreen, or better yet, a wireless lavalier,  will reduce ambient noise considerably.

In addition to an external mic jack, a headphones jack is also a great feature to look for in a camera. The tiny playback speakers on cameras don’t always indicate how much ambient noise you’ve picked up. A good pair of headphones (think DJ-style, not earbuds) will let you know if you’ve got the quality of sound that you need before moving on to the next shot or setup.

3) A third option is to purchase a small, digital audio recorder. Place that close to you when speaking and record audio with that while simultaneously shooting with your Flip cam. When editing, sync up the separate audio track and either ditch or minimize the audio track from the Flip.

TIP for Option 3: While filming and recording, do a handclap before you start talking on each take. This will make it easier, when editing, to align the audio and video tracks (essentially you’re mimicking the clapboard that Hollywood shooters use before each take).

I’m considering the Kodak Zi8 HD pocket cam. It’s under $200, plus it’s got ext. mic jack. Here’s an Amazon link if you wanna check it out.

So, the lesson here, is, if you know you are going to be using your camera to shoot in environments where there will be lots of ambient background noise, the Flip may not be for you. If you already have one (like me) and want to make the best of it, shoot as close as you can to your subject, or try the trick with the digital recorder (which a lot of folks have anyway, these days, for podcasting).

Happy shooting!

Nikolas Allen is a contemporary pop artist currently based in Mt. Shasta, California. His background is in advertising, music and video production. He is passionate about both art and business and is creating an educational program that teaches Branding and Marketing to Ambitious Creatives.
You can find him on Twitter: @nikolas_allen

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Building a Mystery May 12, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Blogging,Business of Arts,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:15 am

I’m writing this post on Sunday morning. This past weekend, I attended Northern Voice, a blogging and social media conference out at UBC. There is much to process from the experience, so there will no doubt be posts to come, but one thing that kept coming up all weekend was the theme of “mystery.” Bryan Alexander talked about it in his Friday morning Keynote, and it came up again in the panel discussion I sat on about Art and Social Media. (thanks to everyone who came out, by the way!)

Darren Barefoot, me, Rachel Chatoor, Sara Genn and Deb Pickman. Photo by Landon Kleis, @landovan

What’s powerful right now about social media, and blogging (or vlogging or podcasting) in particular, is, that it allows you to go behind the scenes. It allows the reader or client to see what’s really going on behind the scenes in your business (be it an art business or otherwise). But here’s the thing: we as artists, are in the creativity business. And we can’t trademark or patent our creativity. This often causes concern amongst artists I talk to: if we blog/podcast/vlog about the process of our work, are we giving away too much? Or, as they referred to it at Northern Voice: lifting the kimono.

Creating a sense of mystery, or teasing our audience, is a powerful way to draw them in. Movies and books do it all the time with foreshadowing. They suck us in with a compelling storyline, and hint of better things to come.

I would argue that “lifting the kimono” is not going too far, and that, in fact, it can help to build a sense of mystery. There is no substitute for a live performance. Watching the ballet live can’t hold a candle to watching it on TV. Being in a tiny, intimate black-box theatre space and seeing a play where I can see the actor’s sweat will never be replaced by that same experience on film, because it can’t. The sense of awe I felt at seeing the Parthenon for real, something I had seen a million photos of, was immense. Seeing art live, for real, is special because it only takes place at that time and space. That exact experience can never be duplicated.

So, teasing our audience a little by blogging about what’s going on backstage, or doing video or audio interviews with the cast or the artist I believe will only help to bring more audience in. The process is fascinating, and people’s passion for their work is contagious.

It’s powerful. Try it for yourself, and see what the results bring.

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How to manage the noise May 10, 2010

I did a workshop on April 17 in Richmond called Art at Work. One of the themes that kept coming up about social media, and Twitter specifically, was how “noisy” it is.

For the beginning user, Twitter can be overwhelming. You have 100s of tweets coming at you every minute, and how do you distinguish between what’s important and what’s not? While I’m a big advocate of not tweeting every thought that passes through your brain, not everyone who’s on Twitter has that attitude, so there can be a lot of dreck to wade through until you get to the good stuff.

Here’s a great graphic from Wikipedia about what’s going on on Twitter:
The top two categories: Pointless babble and Conversations, make up fully 78% of whats going on on Twitter at any given time.

Here are some tips for managing the noise:

  1. Let go of the notion that you need to read every single tweet. If something is really important, the information will find its way to you.
  2. Learn to skim tweets and look for the things you are really interested in.
  3. Use a Twitter platform to manage your Twitter stream. Once you start following more than 200 people, you need a better way of managing your stream than the Twitter website interface (or even interfaces with add-ons, like Power Twitter). The three main platforms that most people use are TweetDeck, HootSuite and Seesmic Desktop.
    What these platforms allow you to do are to group the people you are following into categories that allow you to priortize those folks that are the most important. For example, in mine, I have a group for “Friends,” “Theatre,” “Media,” and “Business.” It allows me to, at a glance, see the latest tweets from those folks that I deem to be the movers and shakers. I can then retweet things that catch my eye, respond to tweets, etc.

I use a Twitter platform called Seesmic Desktop. What I like about this, in addition to being able to categorize my followers, is that it has built-in link shortening, photo and video attachments, and I can manage several Twitter accounts without having to sign out and sign back in again.

But I’d encourage you to ask around, see what recommendations people have for you, and then try out some of the more popular ones yourself to see which one suits you best.

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