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Archive for July, 2008

Yesterday I got a bunch of press kits from a new customer. This is not some inexperienced, “just out of school” musician trying to build a career, but a well seasoned composer with a reasonably well regarded name and reputation in a particular niche of classical music circles. Let’s say he is no Daniel Barenboim in the “fame meter” but he is certainly not an unknown interpreter. So, I was quite shocked with what I saw: badly written releases, a default Word document lay out… you get the idea. The Spanish version of the kit was full of typos, to the point that in one page, they had misspelled the composer’s name (and this was written by his agent, who is a native Spanish speaker). The English one appeared to have been translated by Borat.

I weeped… and then I got to search for some other Classical Music composers and interpreters so that I could send my customer some examples of what his direct competitors were doing. And then I weeped some more.

I checked the top results in Google and what I saw was not just inconsequential text. It was bland, boring and dull beyond belief. Fifteen page press kits packed with text in small fonts (warning all links go to PDF files) or an inane collection of newspaper and magazine clips. Or this other example, where the ego driven agency splashed the entire release with their logo in such prominence that I am unsure weather the soprano in question is Ana de Archuleta or the unfortunate Elizabeth Caballero.

Compare the above press materials with this, this or this, also from the top results but in the pop music category.

Classical Music institutions, programmers, and artists have to struggle with the general perception that the genre is boring, elitist and not worthy of mass consumption. I generally disagree with these statements, but obviously many marketing professionals working in the area are not helping much to dispel these myths. In these visually driven times, how you present your content has become as important as the content itself. I am afraid many cultural institutions could learn a lesson or two from pop culture.

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Sounds & Fury Top 50 Classical Music Blogs: 2nd Quarter 2008

Good and comprehensive list. I’ll certainly be checking many that are new to me.

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Marc van Bree, from Dutch Perspective, is writing a series of posts describing the environment and strategies, tactics and tools that an orchestra would need in order to put together a new media communication plan. Marc’s advice can be applied to any institution, cultural or not, actually. However, I am very interested in what he has to say on the subject, from the perspective of someone who works for one of the best known symphonic orchestras.

He had this to say in the introduction to the series:

The objective is a living document that is specifically designed for orchestras, but can be used by other non-profit and even commercial organizations; a living document that canwill be edited through reader feedback, in the spirit of social media, and will serve as a starting point for a conversation about the role of new media within orchestral organizations“.

Part 1 and Part 2 are already available.

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It happens to the best of us. One day, keeping up with everyone on line, achieving business objectives, maintaining a family life, etc, takes its toll. It just feels overwhelming. A usual first reaction is to take a weekend off from on line activity, a getaway or a break with friends. Upon returning from the break, things appear even more bleak than they were before. And one might find herself asking “Why should I care about all this?”.

I was there a few months ago and it’s taken a while to recover from it. The experience has left me with some advice I can share:

Understand what you are using Social Media for

Is this a tool you are using for work? If so, how many working hours are you devoting to it? Keep a log of your on line interactions (to the minute) and calculate, at the end of the week, how many hours were spent interacting on Social Media sites (Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, etc.). This log will help put into perspective how much productivity hours are spent on fostering your social media relations and at the same time, help you with the next point:

Evaluate your “return of investment”

Ask yourself why you are engaging in social media in the first place. Now that you know how many hours a week you are devoting to Social Media, you need to evaluate if the time spent is giving you anything in return or if it is just an excuse to park yourself in the procrastination zone. Some of the return will not be quantifiable (there is no way to assign value to acquired knowledge, for example), but in general, you should have a clear idea of what all these interactions have left you (sales prospects, business relations, trade event invitations, etc.). If you are not getting anything quantifiable as a result of your Social Media interactions, it’s time for some soul searching regarding the use of your time to achieve business goals.

Identify the essential tools of your trade

You’ve kept the log for at least a week, evaluated your return of investment, now it’s time to identify those applications that are absolutely essential to what you do. Are you in HR? Then probably your must have is LinkedIn . Are you a writer? Probably cannot be without your favorite news feed. Find the one application that is truly indispensable for what you do. Then, move on to the next step:

Strip down

No, not that kind of stripping, which might not be entirely appreciated by those around you. Once you know the time spent on different Social Media applications and the return of investment they’ve brought you, start to get rid of the noise. Become minimalist in your approach. Be sincere here. It might be tempting to keep that Twitter account that wakes you up in the middle of the night with a buzz on your mobile, but remember you are trying to overcome the fatigue caused by these applications in the first place. Don’t be afraid to log out of these applications. Just log out for a few weeks or months if you must. If you are radical enough (I was, and looking back, it wasn’t my best decision), delete the accounts you won’t be checking for a while.

Pick a hobby

Seriously. It may sound like a cliché, but look at the log you’ve kept. How many hours a week were you putting into following feeds from some guy’s gardening project or equally inessential events? That time could be put into something that gives you a new perspective and outlook into your working life. A hobby is one of the best ways to foster the creativity we need to do whatever it is we do best.

And one last point:

After a while, the fatigue will recede and you will feel invigorated and lighter. One day, you will find yourself signing up for that new application everyone is talking about, just remember to be a bit wiser and bit more cautious with the use of your time. After all, you don’t want to burn out again.

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For around a week, I am using Social|Median, a social news network that allows users to share news, set up networks with topics of interest and comment on articles.

Now, around three months ago, when I deleted all but one “social media” account (if you need to know, I kept a Blogger account under an alias), I thought I was absolutely saturated with social networking. I had a burn out. I had just quit my corporate job to start Hyperkinesis and needed a break from “keeping up with the Joneses”. I decided I would maintain a clear mind to see in which direction I wanted to go and exactly what I wanted Hyperkinesis to become.

Fast forward to three months later. I am getting my feet back in the social networking arena and I join Social|Median. My first thought, after a day or two was “How come nobody thought of this before?!”. It’s like Digg meets Google News meets Slashdot (in the sense that Slashdot is made of news entirely submitted by users).

I could think of a couple of things that they would need to add before it becomes the killer app: private discussions (which apparently are already in the making), a spam alert system (ditto), and maybe some tweaking in the mail alert system (currently, news are listed in each network, and that results in the fact that, if you are subscribed to three networks with topics that touch on each other, you get the same news listed three times, one for each network). Other features that could be interesting are a ranking of sorts (top stories “clipped” by the most users) and a search function (news tend to get buried in the pile after a couple of days and sometimes revisiting an article means going through many pages of more recent news).

Still, it’s not even in beta and it has become the go to site where I read news in less than a week! That’s not a minor achievement, considering that there is a pervasive number of social applications competing for a piece of the pie.

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I am absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of tasks to complete while setting up a new company.

We do not have a website yet, we do not have half the things we need, but getting all this done while we work on customer proposals and other business related issues is certainly a challenge. Still, I thought a blog was better than absolutely no presence and while the proper site is developed (currently looking like my 4 year old niece had a go with a box of crayolas), at least I will keep updating this space with some relevant news and commentary.

I am, after all, in agreement with Guy Kawasaki’s advice “GET GOING. Start creating and delivering your product or service. Think soldering irons, compilers, hammers, saws, and AutoCAD—whatever tools you use to build products and services. Donʼt focus on pitching, writing, and planning”. (or at least, his advice sounds very suitable to justify our current strategy).

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