Professional Blog Advice May Not Work for Artists

Artists bloggingI'm going to use a lot of generalizations here, so if that is your only comment at the end, save it. 

After a profoundly enjoyable evening with a local writer's group, I walked away with a newfound sense of appreciation for artists. I am an artist, though you couldn't tell by my daily production. Duty calls for marketing messages that compel readers to act. But at my center, I am a poet and creative writer. 

And while the tips from Copyblogger, Problogger and dozens of blogging, branding, and marketing experts are invaluable for corporate blogs, the same principles are stifling and unnatural for many strictly creative types. I call all creative types "artists", because anything creative can be art: words, paint, dance, sculpture, song, design, etc. 

I've spent the lion's share of this site's existence on marketing principles recommended by the experts. The danger there is missing the forest for the trees. CultureFeast will be two years old in November. Prior to this, the only writing I showed anyone outside the office was poetry, prose, or journal entries that I felt were worth sharing. 

You have to be careful not to suffocate your art with marketing. It happens all the time. You have something worth sharing, but in order to get the public's attention, you have to walk a fine line balancing marketing and artistic sincerity. 

My advice: read the tips and study effective marketing strategies, but realize that they must not overtake the art. Balance. It's not a fun word. It's not a sexy word. Balance is not a popular concept, because it's one of those responsibilities people don't want to take the time to mess with.

Be true to your art. Look for ways to hone your craft that can make it more successful without losing power. Whether you post words, photos, or video, there are sure-fire ways to improve your presentation without sacrificing content. There are also plenty of opportunities to focus on results rather than the message.

There are enough self-improvement gurus already. Guard your art with your life! If you don't, you'll discover that the purpose of your art has declined from the pleasure of creation to that of recognition. Recognition is wonderful, but it's fickle and fleeting. The first and foremost active ingredient in successful artistry is quality product. Preserve quality at all cost.  

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

TED.comThanks to StumbleUpon, the most enjoyable social media/bookmarking site thus far (and the official choice of ADHD users everywhere), I was introduced to TED.com last month. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED began in 1984, bringing together the best and brightest from those three industries and thought groups. Since the '80s, TED has evolved into an annual invitation only conference where the most influential and/or innovative thinkers present the talk of their lives (limited to 18 minutes). TED.com makes the best of these talks available for free online.  

Once a year, 50 speakers share with more than 1,000 visitors in Monterey, California. Topics cover business, science, the arts, music, and global issues. The best TEDTalks are provided online via streaming video at TED.com.

Granted, the majority of speakers appear to be atheistic proponents of evolution. This is somewhat disappointing, though not entirely surprising. Past speakers have included the likes of Billy Graham, so it's fair to say that the organization is open to most ideas as long as they are presented in the proper fashion.

The recorded TEDTalks are worth watching. Some are more mentally stimulating than others (check out the talks on memes and, surprisingly, Tony Robbins). 137 presentations are currently available online. Additional talks will be released on an ongoing basis. 

TEDGlobal is a conference held every other year at various locations worldwide. The basic format is the same, but these conferences tend to focus more on development.

The TEDPrize is an annual prize awarded to three individuals who receive $100K and the granting of "One Wish to Change the World". The winners unveil their wishes at the annual conference, and the TED community comes together, pooling their resources, to grant each wish. Visit TED.com to learn more about past wishes granted. 

For those of you accustomed to the collegiate Pew / Paideia society or other philosophical and sociological communities, these talks will resonate along the lines of cultural examination of what is, what has been, and what could be.  

The only question remaining is, how does one get invited to TED? Send me an invitation. I'm in. 

Book Review: Stealing Lumby

Stealing Lumby - a novel by Gail FraserGail Fraser's second novel in the Lumby series, Stealing Lumby, is a refreshing change of pace from the original storyline provided in The Lumby Lines. The first story took a good 40 pages or more to set the stage before the reader ever discerns who the main characters are. 

Stealing Lumby jumps right into the action as one of the nation's prized landscape painting, The Barns of Lumby, is stolen from a New York museum, drawing much unwanted attention to the little town where the painting was created. Strange things happen (strange even for Lumby) in the town as it appears that someone is attempting to sabotage one woman's financial future and sense of well being, and she just happens to be the woman who owns the barns that were the inspiration and subject of the stolen painting.

Main characters Mark, Pam, Brooke, Joshua, Brother Matthew, and Hank the flamingo return as the story turns and focuses more on Katie (owner of the barns), Adam Massey (writer/reporter assigned the task of completing an unfinished biography on the famous painter), and Dana Porter (artist who painted The Barns of Lumby some 40 years prior).

The Lumby series thus far has some solid strengths and some unfortunate weaknesses. Strengths revolve around creation of a solid metanarrative and several clever subnarratives that all fit perfectly together. The reader is inevitably impressed by the creativity necessary to create a small town with so many amusing quirks. The quirky events and personality of Lumby are fluid and well fitting, avoiding any sense of artificiality which one might expect from the invention of a realistic town as strange as this one.

The back story of Charlotte and Dana Porter, as told by Charlotte to Katie, gives the reader a solid sense of the connection between artist and town. Sentimental reminiscing effectively builds a sense of historical reality to the story. 

The novel's greatest weakness, as with The Lumby Lines, lies within the dialogue. Every reader won't share this critique, which is why I mention it last. One of the most entertaining and realism enhancing potentials in any given novel is the dialogue. Where the narrative can work overtime to provide enough backdrop and historical significance to set the scene, carefully crafted dialogue can paint a vivid picture in the mind of the reader.

The characters in the Lumby series lack unique voices. Everyone responds to various situations with very unnatural language – much more formal, educated, and literary than any small town uses that I've ever heard of. I expected country colloquialisms, slang, and unique word choices to come from the mouths of various characters, based on their backgrounds. Dana should speak differently than Simon. Mark should speak differently than Dennis. Pam should speak differently than Katie. Everyone shouldn't be using the same diction palette. 

The storyline is worth reading. But the satisfaction level is sub par because most everyone sounds the same. If these books were revised and the characters each given unique sayings, slang terms, and responses to situations, this series could have won awards. 

But don't take my word for it. Pick up a copy of The Lumby Lines today and look for Stealing Lumby soon. 

Stealing Lumby is scheduled to hit the shelves in September 2007. 

Will.I.Am and the Black Eyed Peas Take On the World

will.i.amWill.i.am, leader of the Black Eyed Peas, called in to the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show today. He called from Korea, where the band is on an unbelievably comprehensive Pepsi concert tour. Tour locations include Korea, Kazakhstan, Moscow, Poland, China, India, Ethiopia, Ghana, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico City, and at least ten other countries worldwide. 

During the phone interview, Will discussed the upcoming release of his new album, "Songs About Girls", scheduled for release September 25, 2007. The Peas' new single, "I Got it from my Mama" is now available online.

Will disclosed to Kidd Kraddick that his mentor is Michael Jackson. Will is helping Jackson out on his newest album. Will was the driving force behind Fergie's solo debut album, which they recorded on a bus during the Black Eyed Peas "Monkey Business" tour. 

From a marketer's perspective, it was fascinating to hear Will.i.am's take on the current state of the music industry. Kidd Kraddick asked Will about his goals for the new album, which brought up the subject. While the last album sold some 15 million copies, Will admits that the same standards cannot be held in today's consumer economy. While he didn't outright mention iTunes, it can be assumed that online music stores such as iTunes and free file sharing website applications like BitTorrent and LimeWire have completely transformed the music biz landscape. 

Will says he no longer measures success by the number of albums sold, (since millions of fans will go online and buy singles only or download illegally) but instead he is participating in a new concept gives the fan/user the power to make money off of the Black Eyed Peas new album as an affiliate marketer. 

A new media player will be available for download that each person can place on their favorite social media sites (MySpace, Hi5, Facebook, Blogger, etc). This player will allow visitors to purchase and download the songs directly from the player widget, and the person who posted the player receives a percentage of the sales profits.

It sounds like a brilliant way to take thousands of fans who would normally download for free and turn them into entrepreneurs who will actively seek to help spread the gospel of Will. Of course, with the record will only appeal to a certain demographic, but this could mark a new business proposition for dozens of labels in the future. Imagine if the most popular MySpace profiles sell thousands of music downloads from hundreds of artists. Social media suddenly takes on a new face. The competition would be fierce, and social media marketing efforts would intensify as the average joe enters the fray and attempts to compete for music download dollars.

But Will is the face of the new thing. Put the power of affiliate sales (think Mary Kay) into the hands of the people, and see how far the people can take your business. It is very likely to work only in a limited number of business verticals. Of course, people are already making money from affiliate advertising/sales. But turn the widgets into mini emarkets and you have a million little stores everywhere, all competing for the same market. The oversaturation would eventually be the cause of its demise, but an intelligent marketing strategy could put the power of sales or increased eshop products into the hands of a select few (a thousand or so) successful sellers. Limit the number of people who can sell so that the widgets/players/stores don't become so common that people ignore them just like banner ads.

A lot of potential here. It will be interesting to see how this concept develops, and whether the music industry jumps on board to save itself.  

Sabra Wins: America Gets It Wrong Again

Sabra JohnsonThe So You Think You Can Dance season three finale just concluded, and everyone I know is in shock. Sabra? Seriously? How on earth did she manage to beat Danny?

I wouldn't go so far as to say that this result was fixed by the show's producers, but I would say that they heavily promoted a female to win this year despite the obvious conclusion that Danny was the superior dancer.

Make that two years running that America has gotten it wrong. Last year, despite how charismatic Benji was, he couldn't hold a candle to Travis. Yet somehow America voted for Benji. But that was NOWHERE NEARLY as surprising as this season's finale. Danny was obviously the superior dancer. Neil was obviously the in-house crowd favorite. Lacey is Benji's sister. Sabra is this really talented and surprisingly fresh girl shorter than five feet tall. She's excellent, don't get me wrong. But she didn't deserve this prize.

Danny, Neil, and Lacey could each have won in my estimation. Each possessed a quality the others lacked. Sabra was definitely a ray of sunshine, but that is not the sort of quality you expect to be recognized and appreciated by the masses on a reality show / dance competition. You expect America to vote for the sexiest or the most charismatic. That is the way popularity seems to work. Except here.

You can't really begrudge her the prize. Sabra possesses the most excellent attitude of the final four dancers. She is positive energy wrapped up in an amazingly small package.

I'm amazed that Danny lost. I'm surprised that Lacey lost. I'm disappointed that Neil lost. I have no explanation for Sabra's victory. Perhaps some of you out there can explain this to me.  

Danny Tidwell For America’s Favorite Dancer

Danny TidwellThe final competition of So You Think You Can Dance featured Danny, Neil, Sabra, and Lacey. Each of these four dancers are extraordinarily talented. Sabra, though under 5', dances with intense energy and charisma. She is extremely athletic and able to adapt to almost any dance style (tonight's hip hop routine was a bit weak). Lacey plays the sex card a little too much during her solo acts for my taste, but she definitely exudes stage presence and confidence. Her big surprise was dancing so elegantly with Dannny tonight without a hint of overt sensuality. 

Neil is a gymnast turned dancer/actor. He is a crowd favorite and exudes larger than life presence on the stage. He really enjoys playing angry or devilish roles. Danny is obviously the superior dancer when it comes down to technique and discipline. He can do what no other dancer on the show can do – compete with anyone, anywhere.  

The unfortunate part is that Danny has been largely misunderstood throughout the season. Some of the judges thought him arrogant in the beginning, simply because he was perfect in form and did not express the nervous laughter and insecurity that most contestants do. He is very shy and is learning to unlock his personality throughout the performance. His technique is near flawless, and his willingness to express self is just starting to emerge.

Though Lacey and Neil are likely to be crowd favorites (both exude charisma and confidence), vote for Neil if you get a chance. The phone lines will be open for another hour and a half at least.

To vote for Lacey, dial 1-888-TEMPO-01

To vote for Neil, dial 1-888-TEMPO-02 

To vote for Danny, dial 1-888-TEMPO-03

To vote for Sabra, dial 1-888-TEMPO-04

These are your top four dancers. The winner will be announced Thursday evening. Don't miss it.