Creatives No.5 – The Superstar Effect

Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly. SUBSCRIBE HERE.

This week, I’m adding a Featured Artists section to call out breaking musicians, filmmakers, and more that you should check out. Let me know if you dig it.

Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!

My Posts
streaming

Spotify vs. Beats – Making Sense of The Echo Nest and Topspin Acquisitions

Examining recent moves by Spotify and Beats Music to own the streaming music space. Om Malik called it one of “10 Must-Read Stories.”

Artists of the Week
mark kroos

Mark Kroos – Playing Dueling Banjos by Himself

Mark Kroos won Guitar Player Magazine’s International Guitar Superstar Competition in 2011, and has been touring the US and Canada ever since. In the class of Andy McKee and Jon Butler – young artists making the guitar/banjo do unimaginably beautiful things.

Tatia Pilieva – First Kiss

Gorgeous piece of filmmaking where 20 strangers pair off to share first kisses. Lots of controversy surrounding the video though – Are they models? Yes. Will it be used for an advertisement? Probably. Doesn’t change the impact of Tatia’s work for me, at least.

Creatives Posts
lucian grainge

1. From CEOs to Opera Singers – How to Harness the “Superstar Effect” (Tim Ferriss)

Cal Newport and Tim Ferriss explain why it’s not enough to be better, you need to be different. Being the best is only part of the success story.

2. Can This Man Save the Music Business? (Los Angeles Times)

“Even though many may have written off the recording industry as a casualty of the digital age, Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge is determined to reinvent it.”

3. Business Rules (The Lefsetz Letter)

Great business rules to live by, across any industry.

4. Pono Music – Where Your Soul Rediscovers Music (Kickstarter)

Neil Young and team made a promise to deliver the best possible listening experience for your digital music. They’ve built an HD audio player and are making high-resolution digital albums available for purchase from $14.99-$24.99.

Think it’s bogus or too niche? They’ve already raised $4mm on Kickstarter and have 29 days to go. Worth checking out.

5. The Future of the News Business (Marc Andreessen)

Marc Andreessen, one of the godfathers of the Internet, explains where he believes the news business is headed.

Creatives No. 4 – The Real Story

Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly.

If you dig it, please consider signing up and sharing the newsletter with your friends on Twitter (click to share) or Facebook (click to share).

Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!

My Posts
Tebow Music

What Tim Tebow Taught Me About Playing Music

We’re all working towards goals. But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when you zig instead of zag? Perhaps surprisingly, I think there’s a lot to learn from Tim Tebow.

Hypebot: 8 Steps to A Million YouTube Channel Views

My guest post for Hypebot last week. Hopefully the first of many.

Creatives Posts
blind_and_def_tape

1. The Legend of the Blind MC (Ben Horowitz)

I’m admittedly a Ben Horowitz fanboy. He’s a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, successful entrepreneur, rap enthusiast, and genuinely good dude (from the very few interactions I’ve had with him).

Ben typically writes about the real stories behind building companies. the good, the bad, and the ugly. But this post is a little different. He shares an incredible story about the power of music.

2. Zoe Keating Shares Digital Music Revenue Report (Hypebot)

3. How I’m Marketing My Self-Published Book (Charlie Hoehn)

4. Book Launch Breakdown: Play It Away’s First Month of Sales (Charlie Hoehn)

Few creatives ever reveal real numbers that drive their career. We all talk in generalities about revenue, strategies, and benchmarks. That’s why I really dug these posts from Zoe and Charlie.

Zoe is an indie musician, popular for her work mixing cello and electronic music. Charlie is a writer and marketing strategist for best-selling authors such as Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Tucker Max, and Seth Godin. And they both released fantastic posts on how they’re building their business.

If you’re not a writer, still read Charlie’s posts. If you’re not a musician, still look through Zoe’s breakdown. There’s gold for creatives of any kind.

Three common themes emerged from reading these posts:

– As an independent creative, you need to make your own opportunities. You cannot wait for others to come to you with dollars. Usually that means diversifying your distribution and revenue paths until you find what really works.

– Free is an option, but understand what free gets you. Is it an email address? Promotion? Social cred?

– When looking at distribution, broad social paths are usually too busy to make a difference to your bottom line. Look for smaller, engaged communities – blogs, email lists, etc – they’ll pay bigger dividends.

5. 48 Hours Offline (Hong Quan)

“Family first” is a great motto, but sometimes we forget to live it.

6. Spotify’s Artist-In-Residence Explains His Vision (Digital Music News)

The man, the myth, the legend DA Wallach talks about artist perception and longer-term vision of Spotify. This piece provides additional context to Zoe Keating’s figures above and more.

7. How I Get Ideas (Steven Pressfield)

Ideas are the first step. But don’t fool yourself – it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.

8. Jam of the Week (Facebook)

Jam of the week is a budding Facebook community for musicians. Great examples of simple, weekly videos made by musicians like you. Similarly, Chromatik is pretty cool too.

9. Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel, and The Roots Sing “Let It Go” with Classroom Instruments (YouTube)

I’m a sucker for any video that Jimmy Fallon and The Roots put out with classroom instruments. Especially when it features Adele Dazeem singing “Let It Go.”

Creatives No. 3 – Art or Business?

Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly.

If you dig it, please consider signing up and sharing the newsletter with your friends on Twitter (click to share) or Facebook (click to share).

Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!

1. Art, Not Business (The Lefsetz Letter)

Art and business are conflicting concepts. And at times, it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Read this piece by music industry analyst Bob Lefstez a few times. It’s worth it, I promise.

2. Warner Music’s Shazam Deal: What It Means for Music (Billboard Biz)

3. Lyor Cohen’s 300 To Use Big Data as A&R Early Alert System with Twitter Deal (Hypebot)

What happened to artist development and A&R? Can social media and big data now predict hitmakers? Doubtful. But it can tell you who has a potential platform for distribution.

Major entertainment companies — record labels, book publishers, movie studios — do not invest in artist development anymore. They do not have to. Gatekeepers look for creatives with an existing audience and platform.

In years past, these same gatekeepers prided themselves on finding and developing talent early. But with social media and direct-to-fan platforms at our fingertips, gatekeepers now expect artists to do the work themselves before signing. They are not in the business of artistic risk, they are in the business of financing artistic expansion and distribution.

Success on Twitter and Shazam are simply early indicators of an artist’s platform. Every competent entertainment company now has weekly social media recaps, both for their properties and potential signings. Lyor Cohen and Warner Music are now institutionalizing and marketing that process.

4. The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People (Zen Habits)

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude.” Rollo May

5. What’s It Like to Earn a Living Through Poker? (Salon)

Michael Shinzaki takes us through his life as a professional poker player. The roller coaster of success/failure will resonate with any artist or entrepreneur. And after reading this, I realized that I likely played poker with Michael in college.

6. Publishing 3.0 (The Altucher Confidential)

James Altucher outlines his newly-developed thesis to writing, marketing, and distributing books today. He includes benchmark figures, names, and strategies helpful to any author.

7. Life is a game. This is your strategy guide. (Oliver Emberton)

Real life is the game that – literally – everyone is playing. But it can be tough. So Oliver Emberton gives you a guide, from the perspective of playing a strategy game. Big thanks to Andrew for sending me to Oliver’s blog.

8. Why Actors Act Out (New York Times)

James Franco on Shai LaBeouf and a public professional reclaiming his public persona.

9. Ira Glass on the Creative Process (Get Out the Box)

“This American Life” host Ira Glass has some words of wisdom for those struggling to be exceptional at something. Brilliant and real.

Creatives No. 2 – Fail to Succeed and More

Build Stuff That Matters

Creatives is a weekly newsletter covering the best in music, art, and entertainment. Delivered to your inbox, weekly.

If you dig it, please consider signing up and sharing the newsletter with your friends on Twitter (click to share) or Facebook (click to share).

I’ll send around an email midweek and also post the links here on my blog. Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!

1. 7 Things a Record Deal Teaches You About the Music Industry (Cracked)

Spose, a young hip-hop artist, details his crash course in how the recording industry works. He doesn’t hold any punches or names. Just one person’s perspective, but it’s a great read for those looking to work with record labels, studios, and institutional entertainment companies.

2. Fail to Succeed (Auren Hoffman)

Exploring failure’s role in success.

3. Too Poor for Pop Culture (Salon)

In a world where the latest Kardashian selfie drives mass media consumption, D Watkins talks about information being class-based.

4. I left New York for LA because creativity requires the freedom to fail (The Guardian)

Moby’s take on why New York is “no longer the world’s cultural capital.”

5. Creative Machines (InfoQ)

Addressing the question of whether machines can be creative.

6. The Economics of Girl Talk (Priceonomics)

A discussion about piracy and sampling, in context with one of the world’s top artists, Girl Talk.

7. What Does Pussy Riot Mean Now? (BuzzFeed)

Pussy Riot’s unlikely journey from art-school project to international icon.

8. Slaves of the Red Carpet (Vanity Fair)

Are the top Hollywood stylists cold-eyed dealmakers, or vulnerable freelancers, dependent on the whims of designers and stars?

Creatives No.1

calling-all-creatives

I’m trying something new — a weekly newsletter about the business of creatives.

Musicians, actors, comedians, writers, and artists are trying to find their way in a business that has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. Almost all creatives now experiment with different technology platforms, distribution paths, and ways to grow their art-driven ventures. And that is what I spend the bulk of my day working on at Chromatik and beyond.

So I figured it would be fun to send around my top 11 weekly highlights for creatives. It’s not really meant to be all-encompassing or “breaking news.” Rather, I’m hoping it sparks interesting thoughts around the creative process.

If you dig it, please consider signing up and sharing the newsletter with your friends on Twitter (click to share) or Facebook (click to share).

I’ll send around an email midweek and also post the links here on my blog. Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!

1. At Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie (New York Magazine)

We live in the age of the selfie.

2. The Nerdist Podcast: Paul Williams Returns (Nerdist)

Singer-songwriter Paul Williams joins Chris Hardwick to talk about his upcoming book, Gratitude. He gives an incredible glimpse into Muppets history, addiction, and his thoughts around new music distribution.

3. King Kendrick and the Ivory Tower (Foreign Policy)

What hip-hop can teach academia. Seriously.

4. Neil Gaiman Reads Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham (Open Culture)

Neil Gaiman reads Dr. Seuss. If you haven’t heard the story of Green Eggs and Ham recently, it’s worth it.

5. One Man Has Written Virtually Every Major Pop Song of the Last 20 Years. And You’ve Probably Never Heard His Name. (CelebrityNetWorth)

A look at one of the most influential and powerful musicians in pop music over the past 20 years, Max Martin.

6. Surely They Can’t Be Serious (Grantland)

The unlikely rise of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, Hollywood’s majorly hated, hugely successful kinds of the modern-day spoof.

7. In Conversation: Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels (Vulture)

An inside look at Lorne Michaels. He discusses SNL, diversity, Lassie, and when he actually laughs.

8. Storytelling Lessons from World Wrestling Entertainment (Harvard Business Review)

Pro wrestling is perhaps the only 24/7, 365-day-a-year fictional storytelling machine alive. What can we learn from it?

9. Spotify: How A Busy Songwriter You’ve Never Heard of Makes It Work For Him (The Guardian)

SEO for music, via Spotify. Matt Farley has composed and digital released over 14,000 songs over the past six years. In 2013 alone, he grossed $23,000.

10. Learning to Think Outside the Box (NY Times)

Can creativity become an academic discipline?

11. How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year – The Definitive Resource List and Hot-To-Guide (Tim Ferriss)

The master of lifestyle design walks through what writing a bestselling book today looks like. Challenges, marketing, publishing, and the creative process.

(Header Image Credit: JK Chapman)