The Art of the Business

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

Stand-Out Advertising July 30, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:13 am

I’m reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow right now. I’m about 20 pages in, and it’s making my brain ping off in all directions. It’s brilliant.

Seth talks about what he calls the TV-Industrial Complex. Basically, TV advertising was king. If you had enough dough to be able to afford to buy an ad on TV, then almost no matter what your product was, people would buy it. He gives the example of Cap’n Crunch (a mainstay in my household growing up). Quaker literally created the ad campaign, then they created the cereal.

Those days are over. In order for folks to buy your stuff these days, they have to buy in to who you are. People no longer trust every single thing they see on on TV.

We’re looking for things that stand out: things that are, as Seth terms them, remarkable.

You’ve heard all the hullabaloo about the new Old Spice marketing campagin. What’s brilliant about these ads (and they certainly are very funny and tongue-in-cheek) is that Old Spice spent not one red cent on purchasing TV advertising. They released the ads on the net, an they spread virally. And then they got picked up by TV news stations all over the country. To date, Old Spice reports sales are up 107%.

I recently visited the Rollingdale Winery in Kelowna. Here’s how they’re advertising. Pretty clever.

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Does your book match its cover? July 28, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Perception of worth — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:04 am

Last week, I almost didn’t eat dinner at what is, quite possibly, the best restaurant in Kelowna.

Quick back story: I was in the Okanagan for the premiere of The Beast of Bottomless Lake at the Okanagan Film Festival on Wednesday night. My sweetie and I came up a couple days early both to work and to have some fun–wine tasting on the Naramata bench, hanging out at the beach, that kind of thing.

We got into town after the long drive from Vancouver last evening around 4. We dropped our stuff at the hotel, and headed out to see the town and look for a place to eat dinner. Just down the street is we found a place called The Rotten Grape–recommended to me by a resident here. But it wasn’t open, so we moved on.

I wanted to take a photo of the OIFF banner, and while I was doing that, Dave discovered another restaurant. It was called RauDZ, and honestly, from the outside, it didn’t look like much. But we were hungry, and it seemed like the best option at the time.

So we went in, and were immediately ushered to a cozy little booth in the back. The decor was exposed brick and warm chocolate tones, with a huge blackboard above the kitchen sporting quotes about food. The kitchen was entirely open behind a pane of glass–the ultimate in transparency.

The experience just got better and better. We were informed that the chef, Rob Butters, likes to cook local and seasonal, and that the menu was about 85% organic. They had martinis which they made with a fresh fruit puree of whatever was currently in season. The food was wonderful: I had plump little grilled squids stuffed with a kind of tapenade, served on a salad of the tentacles and cauliflower. Dave had white salmon with gnocchi that were so tasty. Our desert was probably the best part of the meal: a fantastic coffee creme brulee and a chocolate ganache with a cherry/anise sorbet and cherries stuffed with hazelnuts.

There is nothing to not recommend about this restaurant: the drinks, the food, the room, the service were all exceptional.

The problem was, we were confused by the branding.

The signage (cheesy martini glass), the confusing name (“Rod’s”? “Road’s?” “Rawd’s”??) spelled with a mix of capitals and lowercase letters gave me the feeling that the restaurant was something pretty average. But it was pretty special on the inside.

Photo by David McIlvride for RauDZ Regional Table

Photo by David McIlvride for RauDZ Regional Table

Whatever it is that you are trying to sell: paintings, jazz albums, seats at the opera, ballet or theatre, or even martinis, remember: people do judge a book by its cover. Yes, I know, we’re not supposed to, but we do. It takes us less than 10 seconds to form an opinion about something. That dosen’t give you a lot of time. Make sure you do it right.

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Fringe Marketing for Dummies Pt 2 July 26, 2010

Today, we continue our series on how to market your Fringe show! As ever, feel free to share your best Fringe marketing tips in the comments below!

Publicity and PR: Deb Pickman recently offered a workshop on this topic here in Vancouver, and it was well attended. If you couldn’t make it, you can download her notes. The Fringe supplies participants with a media list. Again, the number one thing to keep in mind while crafting your pitch or your media release is to think about what your USP is.

Event Listings: Create a short PSA and send it to the local papers for their event listings, and find event listing websites to upload your listing to. The Fringe does this for “The Fringe,” so it’s possible that event listings editors will see that you are part of the fringe and not print your listing, but it’s worth a shot.

Here’s an example of a listing:

SENSATION OF MAGIC: Vitaly Beckman performs seventy minutes of jaw-dropping, mind-bending magic and illusions. August 17-21, 8 pm. Havana Theatre on 1212 Commercial Drive. $15 (advance) $20 (door), Tix at Highlife Records, 1317 Commercial Dr, Vancouver. Info/Tix: 778.228.5291,

Websites and Social Media:

You need to have a website. If you can afford it, get one professionally done, but if you can’t, I offer some tips on how to build a website in Word Press here. Deb put it so well in her notes that I’m going to quote her on this one, because I couldn’t possibly say it better: Your front-page right hand side should contain buttons for all online social media streams: FaceBook, Twitter, Blog, YouTube, Flicker. A journalist should get everything they need to tell your story without picking up the phone, by reading your website because it includes everything that’s in your press kit.

Social Media: This method of marketing is exploding–fully 500 Million people are on Facebook, and YouTube gets one million hits a day. Here are the top 5 Social Media sites, and how to use them:

Email: If you don’t already have this, get started now building an email list of people that are interested in your work. You can either use an e-newsletter program, or your own, html-formatted email. Send three emails: one about a month before the show, one a week before the show, and one after the show is opened, but before it closes (which incorporates your positive reviews). Include photos and links to make it interesting.

Facebook: if you haven’t already, create a fan page for your company. Then work your butt off to get as many fans as possible. Create an event page off of your fan page for your Fringe Show. Now, populate the page with updates every couple of days: how things are going in rehearsals, media coverage, photos, etc. Connect your page to the Fringe’s page.

Blog: Blogs are all about what goes on behind the scenes, so write about your rehearsal process, your tour, that crazy conversation you had with an audience member after the show. don’t feel like you have to depend upon writing–photos, video or audio are also fun and acceptable. A great example is Jeremy Bank’s Fringetastic blog. I’ll be doing an interview with him in a future post.

YouTube: create videos of yourself in rehearsal, of you talking about your show, etc. Post them on YouTube, then cross-post them on FB, Twitter, your blog, and email. Post them on the Fringe’s YouTube Channel.

Flickr: Get a Flickr account to post photos: not just production photos (ie: your professional ones) but also casual photos from rehearsals. Also connect your account to the Fringe Flickr account.

Twitter: If you are not yet on Twitter, quite honestly now may not be the best time to jump in. Learning how to Twitter is easy, but mastering it takes time. It is, however, a very powerful tool. The Fringe, by the way, is @VancouverFringe, and the hashtag, if you are Twittering, is #VanFringe. Anything that you twitter with that hashtag will likely be ReTweeted by the Fringe Social Media dude, Earl.

The Fringe, by the way, will also have an IPhone app this year.

Guerrilla Marketing/PR Stunts: There are great opportunities for guerrilla marketing at the Fringe. Granville Island is pretty densely populated all the time, so walking around in costume, handing out flyers, or flyering lines is pretty successful. After all, if people are there to see the Fringe, they are your target market, you’re doing them a service by telling them about your show. You can also draw/make signs on the sidewalk and road with chalk, or talk to the Fringe about doing a mini-performance in the bar.

Using other Fringes for marketing collateral: If you have been to other fringes, and have gotten star-ratings or good reviews, it’s important to use that info as much as possible on all of your marketing materials. Here in Vancouver, the way to get a much-coveted preview is to have someone from The Straight see your show in Victoria (which is right before ours) and highlight it in a Fringe preview.

Good luck! Have fun! Share any additional comments or tips below.


Fringe Marketing for Dummies July 23, 2010

Here in Vancouver, there are 86 productions in The Fringe this year. Now, you aren’t going to be competing with every single one of those at any given time, but certainly you will be competing with some. On top of that, you will be competing with whatever else is going on in Vancouver at the time: other theatre, live music, movies, the weather.

If you want your show to be a sell-out, I’m offering up some tasty tips on how to market your production and stand out from the crowd.

Get started early. You’ll need to start getting your stuff together and planning 4-6 weeks before the Fringe.

What makes you unique? The first thing you have to figure out is what it is that makes you unique–what makes you stand out above the crowd. This is called your unique selling point. Your USP should form the basis of all of your marketing: from your poster/postcard image to your press release.

Get a great image. If you have a bit of marketing money to spend, hiring a professional photographer is a good investment. Deb Pickman and I endorse Pink Monkey Studios. But whoever you are using, here are some tips to keep in mind when shooting. Your shot does not have to be a scene from the play. In fact, I think it’s better if it’s NOT a scene from the play. Go back to your unique selling point. Can you create an image that communicates that? Your image should be arresting. The ultimate goal would be to stop people in their tracks as they are walking down the street, if they see your poster on a pole. Here is a blog post that I wrote on the topic:

This is your competition, folks. (photo of Toronto Fringe poster board courtesy of Sue Edworthy)

Marketing Materials:

Posters: 11×14, hire a graphic designer if at all possible, have them printed in colour (they should only cost you about $1/ea), make sure you include star ratings from other fringes or positive reviews. Print around 100-200. Concentrate putting them up on and around Granville Island. There are specific places for Fringe posters, like the Fringe Bar and the Info centre. If you want to put them up beyond, through the rest of the city, call Perry the Poster guy: 604. 874.6828. He charges nearly $1/per poster, but they are put up in places where they will not be taken down.

Postcards/leaflets: Most people go with a scaled-down version of their poster. There are a few places you can leave postcards, but the real value of a postcard is as a “leave-behind.” “Hey–I’m doing a Fringe show–wanna come? Here’s a postcard with all the info.”

Industry Images is currently offering discounts on printing for The Fringe.

Part 2

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Who’s the Boss? July 21, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:59 am

The other day, I was driving down the street, and I saw this woman on the sidewalk wearing the most amazingly put-together outfit: dress, shoes, hose, accessories, she looked like she was straight from the streets of NYC. I remember thinking it was the kind of outfit Carrie Bradshaw would have worn.

But despite her incredible outfit, there was something about this woman that looked not quite right. It took me a while to figure it out: it was as if the outfit was wearing her, rather than the other way around.

I’ve been thinking about my business in this way a lot lately: who’s the boss? Me or my business?

I often bemoan my inability to have vision to the members of my small business group. I often feel like my business is running me, rather than the other way around. Having said that, it’s running pretty well: I have more work than I know what to do with, and I’m taking on an office and expanding in the fall. I’ll be teaching a course on social media for artists at Emily Carr in the fall, and I just got invited to go to Melbourne to do social media workshops with the indie theatre community there.

Maybe it’s enough?

Maybe torturing myself over my lack of a 5-year plan is ridiculous. Maybe I should look at all my successes and be grateful (I am!), and leave it at that, roll with the punches, see what’s over the next hill?

Yes, books like The E-Myth and lots more urge you to have a plan for your business, and I did, when I started out. I guess the advantage of having a business plan is that you have a final goal in mind: you have a vision for what success looks like. And then you create the plan to get you there. But even the best laid plans sometimes need to shift and change sometimes.

So, what do you think? is it enough that I am doing fine, things are going well? Or is it time for me to hire a small business coach? Those of you out there who are running small businesses, do you have a plan?

Photo by Pink Monkey Studios

I already hired a stylist, so watch out Carrie Bradshaw!

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Now is the winter of our discontent July 19, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:52 am
Tags: , , ,

I must confess, motivation to get work done has been a bit of an issue for me lately.

Maybe it’s because it’s summer, and the weather is good, and I’d rather be outdoors than chained to my computer.

Maybe it’s because I had a really busy summer, and am feeling burnt out and like I need a break.

Maybe it’s the 7-yr-old I’m hanging out with.

Whatever it is, it seems like it’s harder to get myself to focus and “put my nose to the grindstone,” as my dad always says. (what kind of an expression is that?? Hmm… research for a future blog post…)

Sometimes lack of motivation can have a deeper meaning. Like, you’re not motivated because  you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, even though you have been passionate about it in the past.

Many creatives will move from one art form to another, or be constantly seeking out new forms of expression. It’s just who we are. We like new challenges, and once we feel like we’ve “been there, done that,” our interest in that topic can wane and we’ll start to look for the next thing. It’s at this point that your motivation drops.

My friend, Carla Reiger, wrote a book that looks at change and reinvention through a work of fiction (it’s a great read, and has it’s origins in a true story, but this isn’t a book review post!). Last week she wrote this great post for her blog, and I wanted to share it with you.

It’s about that transition time in our lives when we are inbetween worlds: with one foot still in our old life (because of finances, for example), and not still entirely in our new life. It’s a tough time: awkward, often painful, but ultimately neseciary, and so rewarding when you emerge on the other side.

People are reinventing themselves at a rate never before seen in history–and it is growing exponentially. As the world changes, the way you belong to the world keeps changing, too. Yet, few of us have had a role model for reinventing ourselves over and over again. Just a generation or two ago people tended to stay in the same job, career, home, and relationship their entire life.

As a result, there exists a huge proportion of people perpetually in transition and entirely challenged about how to deal with it. Transitions are especially uncomfortable when you are between two worlds. You can’t go back to the old, but you haven’t yet found your way with the new. It’s like the winter of change when the old harvest is now gone and the new one needs time before it can manifest.

Carla has developed a tool for helping you to go through this change process, and you can read the rest of the blog post, and find out more information about her Art of Reinvention white paper here.

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Why I love the Aussies July 16, 2010

From an article called Geeks, Tweets, Bums in Seats from The Sydney Herald:

In a Nielsen poll, Australian social media use was deemed to be the highest in the world, ahead of the US, Britain and mainland Europe. Almost a third of arts consumers in Australia now use the internet to research a show or event, buy tickets, view art, listen to music or write blogs and share thoughts on social media, according to a recent report from the Australia Council for the Arts.

And it’s not just young consumers. Worldwide, the average Twitter user is middle-aged. Those aged 45-54 are 36 per cent more likely to visit the Twitter site than the rest of the population, according to a 2009 poll. These are figures the arts industry can’t afford to ignore, although most admit they are still feeling their way.

This really great article goes on to give examples of how artists are using social media (specifically Twitter) to create a buzz about their shows, address concerns and answer questions, and even to create art and plays.

The other reason I really love the Aussies is because they invited me to come to Melbourne and do a couple of Social Media Workshops. As you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked.

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Win a “Go See A Play” T-Shirt! July 15, 2010

Filed under: Local Shows,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:49 am

The folks over at the What You Will Equity Co-op  (currently running Twelfth Night until July 24 at the JAC), in an attempt to promote the theatre industry (not just their own play) got a bunch of shirts printed up with the slogan “Go See a Play.”

Here it is, modeled by the lovely and talented Yurij Kis (who also can rock an eye patch!).

They are $15, and you can pick one up at the Jericho Arts Centre.

OR, you could win one by writing in the Comments section below:

What was the most recent play you saw? OR
What is the next play you want to see?

For the winner, I’ll also see if I can throw in a couple of tickets to the show. I know the publicist. 😉


The Decision Tree July 14, 2010

Filed under: Future planning,interview — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:22 am

Sometimes you have to make decisions about your career and your life that can be really difficult and overwhelming. Today, I talk to Carol Ann Fried, a trainer and coach, about a tool called The Decision Tree.

Click here to download the Priortizing Grid

Click here to download the Decision Tree

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The E-Myth July 12, 2010

Ah, summer’s here. My schedule is slower, I’m only working a couple of hours a day. After that, I am mostly pool- and park-side with my 7-yr-old son. There are certainly worse ways to spend a summer.

While he’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine: and that often means that I’m catching up on my business book reading. This week, I finally finished The E-Myth. More about that in a sec.

In a not-unrelated segue, I also went to Canadian Tire last week to purchase a chair for my patio. It’s one of those ones that folds up into a little bag, so it comes with me to the pool, the park, or camping. While I was in Canadian Tire, a young, clean looking young woman came up to me and asked me if I’d like to collect a boat-load of extra Canadian Tire money, and if I’d like to continue to collect extra money on all my Canadian Tire purchases. It took me maybe about 5 seconds to realize that she was really trying to sell me a Canadian Tire credit card.

I thanked her, told her I already had all the credit cards I need, and went about my business.

But as I walked away, I felt a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bad for that girl. Bad, because I’ve been in University and had to do crappy sales jobs, too. Bad because she was just doing what she was trained to do, and was probably pretty good at it, but it wasn’t working on me (maybe making me feel bad was a sales tactic? I’d apply for a card out of pity?) I also felt a bit angry, which is how I always feel when I’m being “marketed at” either in person, or by phone.

Back to The E-Myth. There’s some good stuff in there.  For example, I really love how Gerber talks about how you should run your business, not have your business run you, and this little gem: “your business is a means rather than an end, a vehicle to enrich your life rather than one that drains the life you have.” I will probably write more about the parts of the book I really enjoyed at a later date, once I’ve had time to digest it all and implement some of the practices Gerber talks about.

Having said that, it has taken me a long time to get through this book, and here is why: Gerber’s model is based on franchising. The whole goal of any business, he says, should be to franchise, OR to build their business to a place where they can sell it and retire. A great idea in theory, but it feels outdated to me.

In the Chapter 18, he talks about selling methods, and guess what? His system is exactly the system that that young woman at Canadian Tire tried to use on me!

Why doesn’t it work?

Franchises and sales strategies are based upon a couple of things: first off, each client should have exactly the same experience. So, if I walk into the Starbucks around the corner from my house, or the one on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I should basically have the same experience in terms of decor, service, and menu. Our young woman’s sales pitch was based on a script that her bosses know will not work the majority of the time. But based on sheer volume, they figure they can get enough profit, anyway.

What’s missing for me, in both of these scenarios, is the personal touch. The individual, getting-to-know-you stage. I can walk into any Starbucks and order an Americano Misto, and know what I’m going to get. But I won’t know the person behind the counter, like I do at the smaller, independently-owned coffee shop on Commercial Drive that I like to frequent (their coffee is also way better than Starbucks, but that’s another post). If that gal knew me better, she’d know that I am a staunch believer in having only 2 credit cards: one personal, and one business. I’m not her target market.

For me, this book felt outdated, and the tone of it, honestly, was a bit condescending. However, there were some good things in it, as well, and I will devote another post to the things about it liked.

In the mean time, feel free to disagree with me….

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