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How Can Transparency Work For You?

To what extent do you feel that you are being transparent, open, sharing your needs and wants with your community?

In this Ted Talk covering rogue wave theory, phase alignments, and collaborations given at TedXVictoria, local venue owner, festival producer, and multimedia enthusiast Jason Guille had much to share in a small amount of time.

One of his points that really stood out for me regarded the importance and value of transparency.

During the talk, Jason presents a chart with data he collected from active community leaders, and goes on to show a direct correlation between awareness of needs and action taken to meet those needs. Watch the video below to get a much clearer idea.

So.. What are you trying to accomplish?

Share it actively with your friends, family, other musicians, members of your community, everyone. Think: how are people supposed to support your outcomes if they don’t know about them?

(Or even better..  also find out what others are trying to do, and help them achieve that. This will increase your own success by a magnitude of 10X, guaranteed.)

Watch the talk here:

What do you think? Leave your thoughts or experiences below:

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12(K) Principles

A minimal(istic) electronic record label and mastering house “12K“, based out of NYC and founded in 1997, caught my attention this week. In the about section on their website, they describe how they consciously approach their music and the marketplace. They give us “12 Principles Upon Which 12K was Founded“.

I believe that having intention behind what you’re doing and being able to easily communicate your philosophy helps it spread.

Some of  these ideas may not resonate with you personally (such as 4 or 7 – I understand and appreciate them but may choose different approaches), but there is value to all of these perspectives. I equally  enjoy their music as well as how they tell their story.

“..Trying to create something beautiful, however small, in this oversaturated, violent world that we live in. A small space – a place to breathe.” Taylor Deupree

TWELVE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH 12K WAS FOUNDED:

1. Don’t tell listeners what they want to hear, let them discover that for themselves.

2. Treat your audience as they are: intelligent, passionate lovers of art and sound.

3. Evolve constantly, but slowly.

4. Stay quiet, stay small.

5. Strive for timelessness.

6. Never try to be perfect. Soul is in imperfection.

7. Simplicity. Anti-Design.

8. Never try to innovate, be true to yourself, and innovation may happen.

9. Explore sound as art, as a physical phenomenon – with emotion.

10. Develop community.

11. Be spontaneous.

12. Everything will change.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Thanks to @djfractal for passing this along.

Vital Visual Impact

As a part of the sub|division fam, a group of West-Coast music lovers pushing forward thinking sounds, we are celebrating our two year anniversary this month. 24 months packed with parties, mixes, tracks, and media coverage and the crew is still gaining momentum and further support. For sub|div, 2 years of content also means we’ve needed a lot of graphic work done. A lot. One undeniable aspect of this success is the consistently high quality branding work done by Carlin @ Cab Design. The identifiable logo, color schemes and fonts are a big part of the glue that holds the brand together (Monolithium being the other major ingredient in the adhesive mix!).

Silent Season is a BC based label that imparts a strong visual impact. Their website (perhaps my favorite ever) and every release feature high quality nature images including beautiful Vancouver Island forests. It feels like there photos they use for their website and releases are so much more than just images, they are an integral part of everything they do. It imparts their ethos.

Even if you are doing a free release, I believe it’s 100% worth it to commission some cover art. I’m speaking for myself here but I’m more likely to check out a track or mix if there’s quality cover art. Perhaps it shows that you value your work. High quality posters raise the pervieved value of events. Using great art that is somehow logically connected to each other creates a sense of consistency. Have you noticed in record stores or online that you can often tell what label a release is on before you read it?

I absolutely love Prison Garde’s no-nonsense approach to the visual element (as he also acts as a curator for Catalog Gallery).

On the topic of design. If you are booking me for a show, and the aesthetic for the print material resembles a psychedelic spirit / shaman disguised as a forest animal / has more than on fluo pantone on a primrary color/ has my name written in weed leaves, or any type of budda/shiva/lion of judah icons, I will not post the information about the show. Forgive me, but I place a great deal of importance on visual language, and do not wish to be lumped into things that I find aesthetically offensive.

With that being said, if you are booking me, and want a tight looking flyer, drop an extra 100 bucks on the booking, send me the copy, and let me handle it for you. I will make it pretty, promise.

If you look at Cabfree’s work for sub|division – your subconscious mind (see what I did there) already knows that it’s part of a body of work even before you consciously identify it.

  • Create an impression on your audience before they even listen.
  • Hire someone to do your graphic work (let a pro work for you!)
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency is key.

This post is not so much a “big up” to efforts of friends, but rather to highlight what is working. Consistent visual branding helps tremendously (thank you Carlin). Don’t miss a crucial aspect of music culture. Look good, on purpose.

The Biggest / Best / First Principle.

How would you like a formula to completely dominate the music game in your city, country, or even genre? In his book “The Four Hour Work Week”, Timothy Ferris mentions 3 ways for a business to stand head and shoulders above its competition. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy:

Become perceived as the “biggest”, “best”, or “first” in your chosen market.

Let’s take a closer look and see how this applies to producers and performers.

(note: I use these terms loosely – think of them as philosophical ideals. I encourage you to strive for excellence, but keep in mind that you attract a very different audience with humility than with ego.)

Biggest

Think of “biggest” in terms of how much attention you take up from the consuming public; how many eyes/ears are on you. If everyone is talking about an artist and their content is omnipresent online, there comes a point where they are perceived as “big”, “on fire”, or “a hit” at the moment. There is a change in perception when people start seeing something/someone advertised everywhereHave you ever “liked” an artist page because 100 of your friends do? Group mentality is fascinating; when you gain momentum, people will jump on board simply because others are supporting. Considerable attention can be achieved with a lot of time, effort (or money) and a good promotional campaign can help you garner support strategically.

Although it can be (effective at getting your foot in the door), one of the dangers of working to be the biggest is that people are fickle. The internet helped turn 15 minutes of fame into 15 seconds. Just because you were the biggest at one point does not in any way guarantee that you will maintain this status. Sustainability here comes from consistent high quality output and innovation.

Due to factors such as label support and consistent Beatport charting, Skrillex is an example of a currently prominent artist (though the other two categories elude him). Diplo also comes to mind with his well positioned Major Lazer branding and unrelenting social media hijinx.

Being the biggest unfortunately does not make you the best or first in a category.

Best

I interpret “the best” in this context as two possibilities: the best technically or the best artistically. People may value what you are expressing, or how you are expressing it. It can take dedicated time and effort to stand out as exceptional in an area, so it really helps to invest in it for the sheer love of your craft. Finding a unique angle to your artistry can also be useful in making yourself known. You can (and should) work to become the best version of yourself you can be. Learn to hone your creativity as well as your ability to transmute it into reality.

Personally I consider the avant garde artists Squarepusher and Jacques Greene to be examples of incredibly creative and talented performers. Greene is currently incorporating a live PA performance and becoming recognized worldwide.

Being the best can lead you to be the biggest (if you play your cards right), but does not necessarily make you a first.

 

First

If you are one of the first people to musically branch off into new territory and create your own category you are automatically the biggest and best by default.  Association with the origins of a scene or genre can equate to a certain level of ownership, if it develops a passionate following you will forever be connected to it in the eyes of your supporters.

Even though it has a small audience, Dave Nada essentially owns moombahton; it cannot really be discussed right now without him. Skream will always be associated with the early days of dubstep, Glitch Mob will be tied to glitch, and Aphrodite will forever be known as a drum and bass representative. It appears that such artists will always have incredibly loyal and dedicated fans, and will be able to continue gigging as long as they like. Innovation can be a powerful way to turn heads.

You do not need to be the very first person to dabble in a genre, but merely regarded as a pioneer or innovator for this status.

Becoming a Legend

If you can trail blaze, keep up a high quality output, and market it well then you can become virtually untouchable for a period of time. Think Afrika Bambaataa for hiphop, or Lee “Scratch” Perry for dub reggae – famous for their artistry and involvement at the conceptual stages of their genres. Max Ulis is a great demonstrator of this concept locally; undeniably talented as performer and producer, consistently in the public eye, and regarded as a pioneer. Illegitimate child jokes aside, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Olympus competition at 20 years old catapulted into the #1 of all three categories, and through expanding his influence, (acting, owning gyms, politics) he remains a household name.

Do not be discouraged by thinking that you need to hit either 3 of these purely theoretical marks to have a sense of fulfillment or connect with an audience – you don’t. These are merely concepts to shoot for if you desire to reach a mass market. Remember that success is a marathon, not a sprint.

One of the main keys here is to understand that these concepts work locally too, not merely for internationally recognized artists. All movements started with one or two people. Many of the great artists learned from scratch and without natural talent.  If you are building your skills, developing your branding, or are doing pioneering work you are taking steps towards a greater musical career.

  • Can you think of any other examples of people that fit into these categories?
  • Is there one are that you naturally excel in that you can cultivate?
  • Leave a comment with your thoughts or questions below:

Stories.

If you are a Victoria or Vancouver resident I assume you know about Habit coffee shops. With two bustling, trendy locations they have positioned themselves as a hip urban place to enjoy a hot beverage and some company.

While standing in line, you will see recycled-paper postcards that tell you part of the story of their business.

“Habit was founded on the idea that coffee can be better – not just in terms of a drinkable product, but in terms of every step that coffee takes – from seed to cup. Before building a location, or making a menu, we worked to find partners that share our vision of ethical, responsible, and community-based business practices and a focus on quality in every detail.. ..We believe that coffee isn’t simply about getting a buzz, or enjoying a flavor, we believe it’s about a culture of optimism, exploration, and communication, and we hope you enjoy the fruit of our collective effort. Thank you.”

After reading that – do you feel more compelled to support their business? 

Part of a larger campaign, the card subtly conveys many things, from mastery of their craft to their status as a social hub. Here is more on the intended outcome of the work of their design/marketing team Cargo:

“In advance of opening its first location, Habit Coffee approached (Cargo) to help develop a comprehensive visual identity. To reflect the community-oriented, craft-focused approach to their business (the cafés employ entirely manual equipment, brewing exclusively artisan roasted beans), graphics, typography, and materials were kept deliberately low-fi. To attract a diverse, forward thinking crowd, typography and imagery varies greatly, but each element is infused with a tongue-in-cheek playfulness, and a whimsical reverence for coffee’s connection to contemporary culture.”

As an artist, you tell your story to your audience. You could also think of it as a “picture you paint” for people to view. Where you are from, where you are going, your character and values, your passions, and so much more – are all part of a message that you broadcast to the world. The question is – are you doing it strategically?

The advertising work done for top level celebrities and musicians does not happen by chance. Virtually all the information received by the public is selectively chosen, filtered and amplified to make it as enticing as possible. Take a look through bios, websites, and interviews of high performing producers and performers. Identify the key elements that you connect with personally. What is it in those stories that draws you in? What makes you feel like “Yeah – this guy is like me“?

Take a few moments and consider the story you are telling your audience. Is it unique? Does it draw people in?

(Tip: Getting objective feedback (not from friends or supporters) on your brand can give you valuable insights.)

How can you encourage people to want to be a part of your story?