Technology, The Seventh Kingdom?

Technology is anything invented after you were born. Technology is anything that doesn’t work yet. I love these two half-comic definitions quoted by Kevin Kelly in this TED talk.

Paraphrasing Kelly: The real tricks are exploring the exploration. Technology is about better ways to evolve. The infinite game. A cosmic force begun at the big bang. It’s the expansion of options, possibilities, differences, freedoms. Technology wants a trillion zillion species individuals discovering differences. It’s a way of playing the game by playing all the games.

Every person here has an assignment. Your assignment is to spend your life discovering what your assignment is. That recursive nature is the infinite game. If you play that well, you’ll have other people involved so that that game extends and continues even when you’re gone.

That is the infinite game, and what technology is, is that medium in which we play that infinite game. And so I think we should embrace technology because it is an essential part of finding out who we are.

I love it. What a freeing view of technology. An assignment to discover.

Cracking Obama’s Campaign Communications Code

After trying to crack Obama’s communications code, I’ve broken my philosophy down to the following five principles.

  1. Truly believe in your cause: Nothing is more important than making and sharing great art, song. This year I need to make a great album, site, and share it with Austin (DC, New York, San Diego…) and the world.
  2. Spread the word: I am a songwriter who cares about lyrics and poetry. Non-disposable words and a palette of folk, funk, soul, jazz, latin, rock and reggae. Everyday J making poetry pop.
  3. Make it urgent: Countdown to the next album: 6 months. It’s been 4 years since my last album and I’ve got scads of unrecorded songs. I’ve been in Austin for 13 years and am almost completely unknown beyond my friends. The time is NOW! Make a great album, show, site. Get on the map in Austin, at the very least.
  4. Give the power to the people: Solicit feedback and collaboration on everything I do. Create ways for fans to easily share with their friends. Be accessible to fans, creatively reward. Always offer clear opportunities for engagement.
  5. Report from the front-line: Keep doing cool stuff, trying new things. Don’t sit around. Keep pioneering innovative approaches to writing and playing;  bring your sketchbook, recorder, camera, and guitar and get some good footage for the folks that can’t be there live.

“Nobody fucking cares about your fucking art.”

I saw Hugh MacLeod at a SXSW Interactive panel. He said “Nobody fucking cares about your fucking art.”

millionaire-artists

you’ve got to:
– have killer work ethic
– get up early
– start a newsletter
– love your customers
– work like hell
– marketing is practice
– negotiation/selling is practice

SXSWi 2010 Sketches and Notes

mashup

What did I learn at SXSW Interactive this year? I’ve had a few weeks to think about it, so here are my sketches and notes with some post-conference thoughts and conclusions.

There are lots of great videos at SXSW’s YouTube channel, but the long-tail goldmine is the podcasts of the interactive sessions which are slow to be posted, but which could occupy the entire year catching up on all the great stuff I missed.

sxshipster

To see my sketches and notes by session… Continue reading SXSWi 2010 Sketches and Notes

Sketches From TEDx Austin

McCombs sponsored the live feed of Austin’s first TEDx event and I’m a bit of a TED nut — frequently cueing up a TED talk during lunch or while I bounce the baby — so when I was offered a spot through work I was thrilled. Here below is the info from the TEDxAustin speaker’s page, along with my sketches and a few notes.

To use any of these images, just click the pic to goto Flickr where you’ll find multiple sizes and the embed code to make it easy.

tedx-austin-stage

To see my sketches of all the presenters… Continue reading Sketches From TEDx Austin

News: Mon Jan 25

Roundup of quotes from interesting articles.

It’s about recognizing that the music itself can enhance the value of everything else, whether it’s shows, access or merchandise, and that letting fans share music can help increase the market and create more fans willing to buy compelling offerings. It’s about recognizing that even when the music is shared freely, there are business models that work wonders, without copyright or licensing issues even coming into play.

The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There)

The first “leveling” came with ProTools. Then came non-label distribution. Now social media has emerged and…

We now arrive at a place where musicians/artists are comparable to chefs. All chefs, within reason, have access to the same ingredients…

Being an “artist” today means coming to terms with this leveling. How will you put your ingredients together in a manner that creates attraction and retention. These ingredients go beyond the musical notes, obviously, and relate to all facets of your work: your relationship with your market, your “brand,” etc.

What I think I’m most looking forward to, beyond the emergence of music/art that never would have emerged prior to this Leveling, is the lack of excuses that will exist… Since forever the artists’ fingers have wagged at: the label, the distributor, the publicist, the radio person, the web designer, the booking agent, the management … pretty much everyone but themselves.

The future belongs to those like Thomas Keller, David Chang, Ferran Adrià, Chris Bianco. Artists who use the ingredients that are available to everyone else, but combine them – in an alchemical manner – to create something truly remarkable and unique.

So…no excuses, right?

Coin a Phrase: The Leveling

George, of 9 Giant Steps also thinks VRM is where it’s at:

My hope is that content holders will make it even easier for their customers to engage with their content… VRM is that “Customers are born free and independent of vendors.” Another is, “Customers can assert their own terms of engagement and service.” It would behoove all of us on the supply-side to remember these things.

Tom Asacker warns against outdated concepts of branding:

So what’s next?  Certainly not “branding;” at least not in the conventional sense.  The notion that a marketplace offering is a static, transactional thing that needs the right injection of cosmetics and communication to bring it to life is flawed thinking in today’s environment…

Ours is an era of purpose and action.  What’s next are ideas and creative execution.

Branding Is A Dangerous Concept

"Ignore Everybody" (except Hugh MacLeod)

Hugh MacLeod’s book on being creative and successful is full of frank advice. He never mentions a family but it feels like, having run the marathon of 26 years or so of adulthood trying to make it, and having made it, Hugh is scratching his fatherly itch to pass on what he’s learned.

He’s a cool, cussin’, self-appointed, tell-it-like-it-is dad to all the creative types out there who’ve  got a dream and want to quit their day job knowing that they’ll soon get discovered if they do. But with tough-love, MacLeod delivers the hard but clear advice: don’t quit your art, but don’t quit your day job either. “Getting discovered” isn’t a realistic plan.

I’m lucky to have had a “cast-a-cold-eye” mom who has always supported my art but never minced words about my needing a day job, a backup plan, so I recognize MacLeod’s advice as the tough love that I, thankfully, got. I wasn’t always thankful, but at 37, with a wife and a two-month-old baby and a great day-job, I sure am glad I had someone hammering me in my early, optimistic 20’s, about what else I was going to do but believe in my dream of being a rock-star.

When I arrived in Austin 15 years ago from DC to be the next Guthrie, Dylan, or at least Townes Van Zandt, I met most of my close, lasting friends at the Cactus Cafe’s open mic night. We were bound together by the same talent and dreams.

Many of those friends didn’t have a parent nagging them not to put all their eggs in one basket, and almost all of them have tried to make a living as a musician at one point or another. And they’ve all suffered the dream-crushing burnout that follows. Most are still in the game, but have had to come around to plan B later, when it’s much harder to start a new career or just find a good day-job.

So thank you mom, and thank you Hugh for taking the unpopular position with the wide-eyed dreamers that their dreams are not all they need. We need to hear that, though I’m not sure it’s possible till we’ve tasted enough of reality’s blows.

The book is broken up into 37 rules. Here are seven that stuck with this musician:

1. Ignore everybody.
3. Put the hours in.
7. Keep your day job.
9. Every body has their own pri vate Mount Eve rest they were put on this earth to climb.
22. Nobody cares. Do it for your self.
35. Savor obs cu rity while it lasts.
36. Start blog ging.

Somewhere along the way I modified my dream to what I call the “Willie Nelson model” which boils down to one principle: never quit doing your thing.

UT Social Media Collective (My Sketches And Notes)

Paul Walker, special assistant to the dean on social media, put together a day-long UT Social Media Collaborative event yesterday. Here are some notes from my sketchbook.

S. Craig Watkins
S. Craig Watkins

S. Craig Watkins author of “The Young and the Digital” asks, Has social media made us TOO social?

Continue reading UT Social Media Collective (My Sketches And Notes)

Best Concerts I've Been To

In no particular order.

  • Dizzy Gillespie – Blues Alley, DC
  • George Shearing – Smithsonian, DC
  • Harry Connick Jr., Marcus Roberts, Joey DiFrancesco – Smithsonian, DC
  • Ravi Shankar w/daughter Anushka – Paramount, Austin
  • David Byrne w/Tosca Strings – Backyard, Austin
  • Fugazi – Reno Park, DC
  • Manu Chao – Stubbs, Austin
  • Van Morrison – ACLFest, Austin
  • Femi Kuti – ACL Taping, Austin
  • The Shins – ACLFest, Austin
  • Radiohead – Woodlands Pavilion, Austin
  • B-52s/Bob Dylan – Dublin
  • One World Concert at Obama’s Inauguration (highlight: Stevie Wonder)
  • Pixies/U2 – NJ Stadium
  • Elliott Smith – Steamboat
  • Sea & Cake – Parish

CD Baby Podcast Interview: Bruce Houghton

When they interviewed Bruce Houghton on the CD Baby DIY Music Podcast, I stopped what I was doing many times to take notes.

The old model: A manager works with a record label who does promotion.

The new model: Managers and labels look for artists with the ability to draw at least a hundred people in three or four markets. They ask: Does it have momentum? Do they have a good team? They don’t look at the band, they look at the audience for a niche and ability to bring people out, give them a good time, something to talk about, tell friends.

It’s a new world, and not always an easy one, but Bruce believes (as I do) that the new model provides greater hope of a good middle-class income for artists who can play the new game.

Bruce runs a booking agency, Skyline Music, and blogs about the changing music industry at Hypebot.com.