I love New York City. I’ve been fortunate enough to be approaching my ten year anniversary this month and the city still amazes me. In that time, I have been able to travel quite a bit, and whenever I leave I return grateful, inspired and with a slightly changed perspective on my work, the people I meet, and the place that I call home.
In 2011, I spent much of the year in Europe in support of several Family Records projects. In 2012, I spent a chunk of time in the beautiful city of New Orleans. After taking a few hits and facing some disappointment towards the end of 2012, I retreated to Park Slope and spent the first half of 2013 re-thinking my life and career goals and what I was doing to get closer to achieving these. One of the outcomes of this process led me to a new multi-purpose travel project that I started last month.
One Week In Ten Creative Cities
I will travel to ten cities in the US with vibrant creative and startup communities, and mostly to cities I’ve never before visited. Once there I will spend a full week immersing myself in these communities, and meet with interesting creatives to learn their story. I use the word “creatives” in the widest sense of the word, and it can mean anything from illustrator to developer, photographer to entrepreneur, producer to writer, designer to bourbon maker etc. I will be capturing some of their stories in the written word and with my camera. These stories will be shared through a variety of outlets, more on that soon.
I will also be working on my own projects remotely, from coffee shops and co-working spaces, and I’ll be staying with locals to get the best feel for each city.
Why am I doing this? I am looking to wander a bit, to be re-energized and inspired by the change of scenery and by meeting new collaborators, to feel less lonely in my pursuits and more connected to a growing community of independent creatives, to find and share these stories with my friends and future friends.
I also think we’re in a pretty special moment of change with regards to the work and career choices people are making. In my own little way, I want to help move this forward by sharing some inspiring stories of people choosing the path (for now) less traveled, opting to co-work, work remotely/collaboratively, etc. These topics will be addressed through some of the aforementioned stories, as a separate project with a few exciting partners. More on these partners soon and their involvement soon.
The First Three Cities- Portland, Seattle and Salt Lake City
Just a few weeks ago, I quietly kicked off this project by visiting the beautiful cities of Seattle (WA) and Portland (OR), and I look forward to sharing stories from these trips in the next few weeks. My next upcoming trip is to Salt Lake City and Park City in Utah, which will take place from October 22-29. If you have tips for places and people to check out in these towns, want to collaborate on a project, or just want to grab a tea, let me know! I’d love to hear from you. The same goes if you have a good suggestion for future cities to visit. Currently the list includes Austin (TX) in November, and Charleston (SC), Savannah (GA), Chicago (IL), Boulder (CO), Omaha (NE), New Orleans (LA), and Nashville (TN) over the next year or so.
Follow along visually through my instagram account.
Update: Cities suggested on twitter: Burlington (VT), Asheville (NC), Richmond (VA).
8 Comments | Creativity | | 10.22.13.
“Most young comedians don’t think about being good, they think about being famous.” – Jeff Garlin
A focus on becoming great at your craft eventually adds value to the lives of others. Adding value to the lives of others is how you turn a passion for your craft into a longterm career.
A focus on becoming famous leads to a temporary high for yourself and your audience. Once the high wears off, you may find your audience has moved on to the next one. You will be chasing that first high, forever more.
A focus on becoming great at your craft is a long-term proposition without a finish line. There aren’t any competitors for becoming the best version of yourself. Those around you are peers, teachers and students. You will live in a win-win world.
A focus on becoming famous is a short-term proposition and a race. Those around you are your competitors and when they win, you will be bitter because it wasn’t you. You live in a win-lose world.
Self-confidence born from an increasing mastery of your craft is hard to rock. Others can’t take away your skill or ability to create beautiful things. You are a rooted tree.
Self-confidence born from fame is fleeting at best. It can be taken away and you will feel anxious and scared. You are a tumbleweed.
A focus on becoming great at your craft includes telling your story and that of your work. It will includes wins, but also losses, so that others can learn and find community.
A focus on becoming famous includes telling a story that’s incomplete. It includes only wins, and possibly some smoke and mirrors to enhance the wins. You will fuel the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, which is destructive to your community.
Would you rather be good, or famous? Take your pick.
1 Comment | Creativity | fame | 06.28.13.
Yesterday I wrote about the new surroundings I am fortunate to find myself in. I am also exploring new ways of helping creatives tell their story and gather an audience. Whether it’s musical artists through Family Records (more news here soon), craftspeople through GNTLMN, or visual artists through a new project with my friends over at WeTransfer.
Starting this month I am curating* WeTransfer’s “Featured Artists” program. I will handpick photographers, illustrators, graphic designers and others^, whose work will be featured as large wallpaper art on WeTransfer for a three week period. The art clicks through to the artist’s website, leading to roughly 1.5K/2K new visitors, per day. It’s my hope that this will lead to new clients, commissions, and a growing audience for the artist.
WeTransfer is an Amsterdam based online file-transferring platform. A simple, secure and free tool to send files from A to B, up to 2GB per file. They’ve been around since 2009 and have 15 million monthly active users, including lots of creatives. Five percent of all wallpaper advertising goes toward supporting the creative community, which amounts to 200 million views per month. They’re putting some numbers on the board.
Note: Incomplete submissions will not be considered.
- A link, not an attachment, to a single JPG image, exact dimensions 2560 x 1600 pixels.
- Your name
- A link to your website.
- Your Twitter handle
- Two recommendations for other artists you are friends with that you think would make good candidates for a feature, for me to check out. Must include their email address, and a website link.
Email: art AT thefamilyrecords dottttcom
Having grown up in an artist household with a photographer father, a painter grandfather and an overall “this weekend we’re going to a museum”-style family, I couldn’t be more thrilled to peruse and select art. Excited to finally be working on a project with my friend Nalden.
^Note that I can also select charities, new startups, and musicians, as long as there is stunning full-screen artwork to do the talking, visually (no sales pitch writing on the art).
* I dislike buzzwords and because of that what the word “curating” has become. If you have a better word for me to use I’ll be glad to hear it!
` If you send me an attachment instead of a link, I will send an army of angry toddlers your way.
The photo on top is by Julia Robbs, one of this week’s featured artists.
No Comments | Business · Creativity | new project, Photography Updates, visual art, wetransfer | 06.12.13.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn
For those of you who follow me on the various social networks, you may have noticed that about four months ago I joined a creative co-working space in Dumbo called Studiomates. Here I am surrounded by photographers, developers, designers, illustrators, writers and all kinds of creatives doing amazing work. So much great stuff happens here that I proposed keeping a monthly tally on projects launched and accolades received, of which the first one was published on Tina Roth Eisenberg’s Swiss Miss blog. Check it out here, and marvel with me.
Previous to moving into Studiomates, I have been fortunate to share offices with all kinds of inspiring and wonderful people, from Spencer Fry and his previous portfolio startup Carbonmade, to Mike and Malcolm founding Skillshare one desk over from mine, to my music friends at Ghostly and Drip.fm, to the incredible digital agency Crush+Lovely, to Sarah who founded community experience studio Loyal CX beside me, and the list goes on.
Being surrounded by people doing amazing, innovative, good things inevitably rubs off on you. Being surrounded by stiffling, negative and scared people does as well. Choose wisely. Choosing who you surround yourself with is a first step in choosing to become the person you want to become, doing the things you want to do, especially for a creative person.
These past four months at Studiomates have truly re-energized me with creativive energy, and I am excited to share some new creative projects with you in the next few weeks. In the mean time, I am stoked to share that after not picking up my camera for a few years, being around photographers like Helena Price and Julia Robbs has inspired me to get back to capturing the amazing people around me. I am posting a few portraits a week on my tumblr, which you can find here.
1 Comment | Creativity | Creativity, Photography Updates, studiomates | 06.11.13.
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to see Seth Godin speak in person for the first time. My friends at Creative Mornings hosted Seth as the speaker for their May event, themed Backwards. As a long-time reader of Seth’s blog and books, my expectations were high, but they were certainly outperformed. The lecture covers a variety of topics, and where I’d usually summarize in bullet points, I really just think you should watch this one in full for yourself.
2013/05 Seth Godin | Backwards from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.
The Q&A section is also uncharacteristically strong.
2013/05 Seth Godin | Q&A from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.
No Comments | Marketing | | 05.20.13.
Ann Friendman wrote an inspired piece called “This is the best moment to be in journalism,” which relates in many ways to what I believe is the case for the music, film and book publishing fields. Ann states:
I’m in a minority of reporters and editors who are genuinely excited to be working at this moment in history and not in the past. Again and again, I found myself playing the role of cheerleader, trying to convince tired and broke journalists to get excited about the future of media.
She lists the wealth of new opportunities for journalists, including increasing ease of communication with subjects, a growing audience that can find your work, and direct access to consumers and their feedback through social media and email. All of these are equally valid when replacing “journalists” with “artists”.
She follows this up with:
Here’s a little secret: Even if I’m wrong and it’s not the best moment, we’d all be well-served to operate as if it is. Because you know what? The old models aren’t coming back. Lamenting the death of classifieds and display advertising and annual subscribers isn’t serving anyone. The sooner journalists start seeing disruption and technology as opportunity, the better off we’ll all be. [...] The old stuff isn’t coming back, but that’s okay.
That last line is what really matters here. Different people are working under that assumption now, while others still lament the loss of the past paradigm. Today Billboard reported that on-demand streams will now count towards RIAA counts for gold and platinum records. Trey Songz’ new style fan club app earns over $50K per month. Artists are jerry-rigging custom music subscription set ups. And the list of optimists keeps going. Ask yourself the question: are you contributing to the new, or complaining about the old?
PS I originally came across Ann’s piece via Doree Shafrir’s tweet.
1 Comment | Music Business | | 05.09.13.
Macklemore, he of Ryan Lewis, wrote a post on the group’s tumblr. It’s titled, simply, “Sam”, after a young fan suffering from Leukemia. Macklemore went to visit Sam in the hospital and reflected in a way that’s rare. It illustrates the difficulty of keeping a clear head on your shoulders as an artist in the spotlight, and avoiding the diva attitude, when your entire life and that of many other revolves around you.
Being a rapper is one of the most narcissistic careers in the world. You are surrounded by yourself: interviews, Twitter, Facebook, Billboard charts, YouTube plays, shows, the crowds, awards etc. Fame suffocates the spirit and consumes you if you let it. You wake up thinking about you, and go to bed thinking about you. That’s not a good place to be.
With over 200 shows booked for the year, I barely get to see my family and spend time with the people that remind me where I come from and what’s really important. Getting outside of myself, even for an hour, and doing something like meeting Sam this afternoon gave me a small opportunity to be of service to someone else. I am able to realize that my problems are NOTHING compared to what him and his family are going through. And hopefully the visit made his day a little better and got him through another 24. That’s what matters in the end.
The challenge of remembering that life is not actually about you, extends beyond the realm of artists. The startup scene has it’s own rockstars, as does the VC world, journalism, sports, etc. Every universe has planets around which many others are satellite. The more satellites surround you, the bigger the chance yes-men will start blocking out those who keep you grounded. Having a strong homebase with people that tell you like it is, is necessary to be able to combine continued success with long-term happiness.
Read Macklemore’s full post, here.
1 Comment | Uncategorized | | 04.29.13.
Earlier today Zach Braff posted a Kickstarter campaign for his movie project “Wish I Was Here” through which he is hoping to raise $2M. We’re a few hours in and 8,719 people have pledged $648,977, while roughly the same amount of people have voiced their displeasure on twitter. A Gawker/Valleywag article summarizes the prevailing mood in it’s headline: “Rich Person Zach Braff Wants the Internet to Pay for His Next Movie”. The second most popular complaint seems to be that people should be allowed to participate in a portion of the movie’s revenues if they’re helping fund it.
The problem I see with both arguments is that Kickstarter is not an investment platform. It’s a funding market place. Looking at a donation as an investment is understandly going to create negative feelings towards a Kickstarter campaign. Instead, look at a Kickstarter donation as a pre-sale with an embedded marketing campaign based around the feeling of community and belonging as identified in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The community aspect is even more important for creative projects like music and film, than it is for product-based Kickstarters like the Pebble Watch. Interestingly, product-based projects don’t seem to bring about nearly as much criticism as creative ones do. This might imply part of the beef is about taste. It’s easy to dislike a Kickstarter campaign for an artist whose work you don’t appreciate.
At this point I should say that Zach could’ve avoided most of the criticism by just including a download or stream of the movie in the rewards. That would’ve made it a very easily identifiable pre-sale for his creative project, and really there’s not much you can complain about at that point. I have a feeling that he probably wouldn’t be able to get this approved by the distributor and studio that will step in once this campaign is funded as it would be seen as threatening to their eventual later-stage investment. And while I get that from their point of view, it reeks a bit of having your cake and eating it too, which invites criticism. Zach should’ve gone all the way and included a stream or download of the movie.
No one is putting a gun to the head of these eager backers*, so it feels a bit silly to protest the success of Braff’s campaign^. At the same time I would propose that future Kickstarter creatives take into account the perception that comes along with fame and wealth, and even out the offerings a bit more to include the actual product that is being funded. Still make it about community, but avoid the perception you are trying to make fans pay twice for the same product. George Constanza will tell you, nobody likes a double dipper.
Update: Some of the higher priced rewards for Braff’s Kickstarter do include a “live online screening with Q&A”, per J. I think including a movie ticket priced reward would have been better.
* While I wrote this paragraph the amount raised has shot up to $701,741 from 9,429 backers.
^ Or the one for Veronica Mars, which has raised $5,702,153 from 91,585 backers.
No Comments | Technology | | 04.24.13.
Joe contributed the following quote to our mutual friend Amrit’s new project “How To Work With Creative People”.
“When I was younger, I was willing to overlook a wide variety of unbecoming characteristics if someone was amazingly talented. More than anything, I wanted geniuses. Now, I realize that – more often than you’d think — the biggest obstacle to good work is ego. I can no longer suffer divas. If you want to be “an Artist,” you should probably go and work in an environment where you don’t have clients. These days, I’ll gladly take a team of dedicated folks who are nice to be around—and if some of them happen to be geniuses, all the better.” – Joe Ippolito, Strategist
It’s hard, if not impossible, to make it on your own, especially in music. Being a focused team player is often more directly correlated to being consistently successful than pure raw talent is. Talent is what gets you noticed, but the ability to work well with others and build lasting relationships is what keeps the success going. And that’s assuming the talent keeps delivering. There are exceptions for the handful of true geniuses humanity has brought forward, but statistically speaking chances are you are not one of them and you will never meet one either. And that’s ok.
It’s been many years since I have, but I certainly had to learn Joe’s lesson the hard way. Those of us who have been there, learn to identify red flags in the behavior of collaborators very early on, and avoid working with people that exhibit them. When I speak with aspiring music business students, one of the first things I’ll say is that it’s never worth dealing with inconsiderate behavior on the part of anyone you work with, however talented they may be. You may feel like it’s ok to excuse certain behavior when charmed by the work or the effect it has on others, but it will wear you down eventually.
When deciding to collaborate with someone, whether that’d be a creative or a business person, treat it like you would the first few dates with a new romantic interest. Try it out for a while first, see how it feels, and make a decision based on what your gut tells you. It’s your brain that will try to justify or rationalize red flags, but your gut will tell you what’s really going on. If you’re being rushed into a business arrangement, walk away. If you notice a lack of respect, even if it’s towards the barista during your coffee shop meeting, walk away. If they don’t keep their word on the little things, walk away. If they make every discussion or decision about their feelings and pride, walk away. Naturally, this applies to both sides.
The collaborative relationship between a creative and a manager can be amazingly fulfilling, as long as you make sure there is mutual respect and clear ongoing communication about individual responsibilities and goals. Hard working, motivated and focused people that play well with others beat out those with more raw creative talent but a bad attitude nine times out of ten. Don’t try to beat the numbers on that, however tempting it might be to try.
Update: my office mate Yoko pointed out how this post reminded her of a Creative Mornings’ talk by our other office mate Larry “MF” Legend. It’s pretty great.
No Comments | Mistake Mondays | | 04.22.13.
This tweet from yesterday from a music consumer showcases the confusing mess the music industry can be at times. It wasn’t even an April Fool’s joke.
- There is clearly no reason why a physical CD should be cheaper than the digitally delivered content on said CD. Especially when the CD comes with the MP3 version.
- This not music business related, but the design stickler in me wonders why the MP3 button is slightly bigger than the CD button.
- These are weird price points. Would the music business benefit from more consistent industry wide pricing? One price point for new releases, one for back catalog, and that’s it. I believe flexibly pricing is confusing and something that adds friction to the purchasing process. Thoughts?
2 Comments | Music Business | | 04.02.13.