The Art of the Business

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

Barking Spiders August 24, 2010

Last night, I attended a fundraiser for Black Hole Theatre at a local Melbourne theatre, La Mama. It’s a teeny, tiny, ancient black-box theatre. The patrons there were joking about how, if you drilled into the walls, you could tell how old the building was by the layers of paint–just like a tree. The theatre has a working fireplace, and could seat about 30-40. The Loo was an outhouse in the courtyard, which also was the “lobby” and bar. I thought it was all really cool and charming, it reminded me a bit of the Cultch.

There were three perfomances at the fundraiser, and the last was by a theatre company called Barking Spider. Helmed by Penelope Bartlau, who also works at the Auspicious Arts Incubator, they do ‘Visual Theatre.’ The piece they did last night involved a percussionist named Leah Scholes and a pile of books, called Page Turner, and it was playful and really fun. This was a brand-new piece that she is perfoming in Brisbane this weekend, but here is one of thier older pieces, Breakfast Serial.


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.


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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Using a calendar to plan your social media April 14, 2010

Last month I wrote a post where I encouraged you to commit to a blogging schedule and I promised that it would pay off.

Today, I want to share with you how I help people to plan thier social media (I use this method myself!).

First of all, you need to decide which social media you want to participate in. For many people, this, in and of itself, is overwhelming. There are five main ones:

  • E-newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Photosharing (ie: Flickr)

You can decide based on how much time you have to commit to marketing your business with social media. But remember, there will always be a greater time commitment at the beginning, as you get everything set up and working. Blogging takes the greatest amount of time, probably 2-5 hrs/wk, depending on how often you post. Facebook and Twitter can be easily manged in 15 minutes a day. YouTube and Flickr could take more time, because of the editing process.

You can also make this decision based on what’s easiest. Many people begin their foray into social media with Facebook, because it’s the one they are most familiar with, and they are probably already on it with a personal account, and familiar with the interface. I encourage people to take things slow–to not jump into everything at once. Start with one, get comfortable with it, then move on to the next once you feel you’ve conquered it.

Next, get a calendar and create a schedule. Remember, all of your social media should feed into your other social media, and be connected to your website. The whole point is to drive traffic back to your website where people can find out more information about who you are and what you do, and to contact you if they like.

Here is an example of mine:

I set aside a couple of hours every saturday morning to write my blog posts for the week, then I schedule them in. After the post goes up, it automatically is posted to Facebook via Networked Blogs, and I also post it to Twitter (which you could also have done automatically.) On days when I don’t have a blog post going up on Facebook, I try to share a link that I’ve enjoyed on my Facebook fan page, and I like to retweet links on Twitter whenever I find something interesting.

The key to having a social media strategy is to plan out some things you want to post, but to also be flexible about posting things that you discover during your day that you like, and might be interesting to other people.

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How to share your TV footage with the world March 15, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Marketing with YouTube — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:07 am
Tags: ,

Quite often in my work, I get my clients on TV. We have a local cable channel here in Vancouver, Shaw, that has three separate shows, and I often get my clients on those. They’re great, because they reach a wide audience, and repeat heavily. But if you have the right equipment and programs, you can upload that TV footage (that features YOU!) to the web, and share it via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and your blog, extending its reach beyond geographical constraints.

Today, I’m using Biz Books as an example. During Oscar madness a couple of weeks ago, Biz got on TV twice. Here are the steps I used to get their video from TV to YouTube.

1. You need to have a DVD-recorder and recordable DVDs. I got mine refurbished for around $40, so you don’t have to spend a bundle on this. Record the TV show as you normally would. You can, if you’re not going to be home, set the timer, etc, but the closer you are able to start recording to when the story comes on, the easier your job will be.

2. Convert the DVD-file to a file that you can edit on your computer. I use Handbrake. Free, available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux.

  1. Insert the DVD into your drive, and boot up Handbrake. Your computer will likely default to the DVD player when you insert the DVD, so escape that.
  2. In Handbrake, click on “Source.”
  3. This next bit is always a bit of a guessing game, because you’ll be presented with a bunch of file names that mean absolutely nothing. It’s a safe bet to always pick the biggest file, chances are, that’s going to be what you’re looking for. Select it and click “open.”
  4. After it loads that up, you can choose the chapter you wish to convert–again, it’s a bit of guess work, but you can go by the amount of time you were recording for as a guideline.
  5. Because I’m on a Mac, I select the “Apple/universal” preset, and ask it to save the file as an M4V. This means I’ll be able to edit it in IMovie. If you are on a PC, you may need to play around with different formats, although AVI should work for Windows Movie Maker.
  6. Hit the “Start” button. This is going to take some time, depending on how long your video was.

3. After Handbrake is done converting, you now need to edit it to get rid of any footage that took place before or after your clip. I use IMovie for this. I will also usually add a title at the end that states the name of the program and the original air date. Save your project, and then export it. I like to use Quicktime.

4. Upload your movie to your YouTube channel.

5. Share the video on your blog, website, Facebook, Email, Twitter.

And here is the final result:

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How to promote your theatre season on a shoestring budget February 12, 2010

Last summer, I was asked to give a workshop called “How to Promote Your Theatre Season on a Shoestring” at the  Mainstage Conference that’s thrown every year by Theatre BC. I did it, to a fairly small crowd, but everyone seemed happy. Then, the other day, I got this email, and I hope you will forgive me for sharing it with you:

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your workshop at Mainstage. Bard in Your Own Backyard presented “Romeo & Juliet” for our second season of Shakespeare. Last year we did “Twelfth Night” and were pleased with attendance of just over 600 (Cranbrook is a small community). This year, we hoped to crack 700. We did posters in the usual spots in the community, a huge poster in the local mall, and a sandwich board of the huge poster that traveled the community. We did our facebook fan page, got professional photos, professional video that was also posted on YouTube, email, got 3 front page features with accompanying articles in the local paper, community service ads on local radio and regional CBC radio and television interview on our local cable station…all at NO COST. We did not buy any advertising at all (aside from posters). None. The result, total attendance of 1150 this year!!!!
So thank you so much for your expertise. There is much room for improvement, but what a fabulous start. Our director was skeptical to say the least of all this internet “stuff” but he is now a firm believer!!!
Thanks again.
Susan Hanson
Secretary of Bard in Your Own Backyard Productions
and Producer of Romeo & Juliet

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used to give that workshop. Hope you find it useful.

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Are You Connected? Pt 2 February 8, 2010

Last week I wrote a post on how important it is to make sure that your website and all your social media are connected to each other.

I had a few questions after I posted it, mostly along the lines of, “How?”, so today’s post is dedicated to showing you how.

Website: If you have a website, you probably have a contact page. Make sure that your Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media are on that page. Even if you import your Twitter feed to your website, make sure there is some way that people can easily click on a button and go to your Twitter page so they can follow you. A “Follow Me on Twitter” badge works nicely.

Blog: If you are using WordPress, as I am, you can put your contact info in your sidebar. You need to know a bit of HTML code for this, but it’s not too complicated.
You use a simple Anchor tag, which looks like this:

<A HREF="this is the URL of the page you want to link to">the name of the page</A>

So, for example, if I want people to email me, the code would look like this:

<A HREF="">Email Me</A>

It would show up on the page as this:

Email Me

One more example, directing folks to my website:

<A HREF="">My Website</A>

And it would look like this:

My Website

You do all of this via a text widget in your sidebar. Here’s a screen capture of how to do it–including directions to how to use click-able icons instead of text to direct people.

Facebook: Go to your profile and click on the Info tab. If you scroll down, you’ll see “Contact Information.” You can add as many of your websites as you wish. Some social media have widgets that can create buttons that link back to that platform. For example, you can use this widget to create a Linkedin badge for your Facebook profile.

Twitter: If you haven’t yet created a custom background for your Twitter page, a great reason to do so is so that you can post your websites on it. The drawback of Twitter is that you are only allowed to post one hyperlink to your profile, so that should be your main page that you want to funnel people to. You can, however, put your URLs for your blog, website, Facebook, and email on your custom Twitter background. People will have to physically type your address into their browser, but at least the information is there. Creating a custom Twitter Background is the subject of an upcoming future post, but in the mean time, you can use a free service like this.

Aggregators: Because we all have at least half-a-dozen URLs or more, Aggregators are gaining in popularity. What they allow you to do is to post all of your contact information on one page, that has an easy URL, which acts kind of like a digital business card. Some examples of aggregators are Netvibes, Flavors.Me, and one I’ve been using with my BB: Dub.

Create a map of your online presence like I did, and see if you have any gaps, then have some fun with it!

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The Tricky World of Permissions February 5, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, my sweetie, who is a singer/songwriter, got invited with another singer/songwriter friend to perform at an open-mic night. The host was a restaurant. The business-savvy owner wanted to video tape them and put the footage on YouTube.

My sweetie had some pretty big concerns about this: first of all, as with many open-mic sessions, the songs he performed were works-in-progress, so the quality of the songs might not have been at a polished, professional level. Secondly, because they were works-in-progress, they hadn’t been copyrighted in any way, and he was concerned about someone else taking his tunes off of YouTube without permission.

Now, I’m the biggest advocate of using social media to promote your art career. In fact, these days, it’s difficult to get noticed by the big guys unless you already have a built-in fan base of adoring fans. Witness Justin Bieber. Justin is a teenager from Stratford who wanted to be a musician. So, he started his own YouTube channel, and built a fan base. It was only after that, that he got a record deal.

There’s no doubt about it–social media is powerful. So powerful, that you need to be careful with it, sometimes. If my sweetie’s songs had been out on YouTube in their currently unfinished form, it may not have shown his work in the best light. Or worse, someone else could have co-opted his work.

I recently had a conversation with a professor of theatre at a BC University. He was directing a play last year, and the play called for partial nudity. Unsure what to do, he took the question to the students, and the response was, “are you going to confiscate everyone’s phones at the door?” A well-timed photo taken surreptitiously on a phone’s camera cause real damage to that actor if it got out on Facebook.

So here’s a couple of things to bear in mind when you are using other people’s art in social media:

  • Ask permission first–“Is it okay if I use your photo/song/video on my blog post?”
  • Give credit where credit is due: whenever I use photos of a play, I always credit the photographer, even if they were paid for the job.
  • Vet the post past the person before you hit publish: send the person whose work you are using a copy of the blog post before you publish it, to make sure they are okay with what you’ve written.

The bottom line is this: think the golden rule. Wouldn’t you rather be asked if you were okay with someone sharing your stuff before they do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the old website:

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

Go to the website and browse around for yourself.

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

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New PSA from The Alliance for Arts and Culture October 31, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Finances,Marketing with YouTube — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:32 am

I woke up this morning to this email via my Facebook from Kevin Teichroeb, who does some of the technical/website stuff at The Alliance for Arts and Culture.

Hi Rebecca,

We’re excited about a new PSA we’ve just uploaded to YouTube. I just finished it for the Alliance for Arts and Culture with editing wizard, Jenn Strom. It’s a community project that involves the photography – both time lapse and stills – of a few dozen flickr photographers. The force of social media is behind us. 🙂 I hope you like it, and will blog about it because it will give the video a real push. We want to keep expanding our reach farther and farther. If you could send this off to your contacts we would really appreciate it.

Many thanks, Kevin

It’s great. Another excellent example of using video to promote your business and cause. Please pass it on to your own Facebook/Twitter contacts.

Restore Arts Funding Now!

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