Archive for the 'Creators and Performers' Category

>Changing the Purpose of Commercials

>It’s been quite a while since my last post, but never fear! During my hiatus, I have been exploring ways to travel from where we are to where we need to be—as a culture, as a country, etc. The biggest problem that is weighing on everyone’s mind is the problem of the economy. Some of us propose drastic measures, and some of us have simply given up. Unfortunately, most of us don’t see any path the individual can take that will make a difference. We hope the experts and government officials will come up with something.

This country had long been supported by the work of individuals in small businesses. Then the industrial age brought us the factory, and many people bought into the idea of a weekly paycheck—trading time for dollars. Of course, things changed again. Now there isn’t much growth in time-for-dollar jobs, and there is stiff competition from other countries whose economic situations have them in a desperate enough situation that they can underbid almost all American labor.

With soaring unemployment, more and more people are sitting at home, vegging out on TV. Technology makes it easy for us to entertain our brains so we don’t have to think about the mess we’re in. However, these financially-strapped, debt-laden couch potatoes aren’t the ideal demographic for TV commercials. Those that don’t ignore the ads altogether can’t afford to buy anything anyway, and they can’t afford any more debt either. The consequence of this is that the value of the TV market block is falling. As it falls the revenue for creating shows also falls, and the quality of said shows suffers.

What I have discovered (and I apologize for what sounds like a shameless sales-pitch) is a website called Varolo (learn more and join our “village” here). This site is founded on the very same principles that I have been discussing over the past year on this blog. In essence, it is the embodiment of the first phase of FITmedia’s vision of a media shift. It has the potential to sever the connection between TV commercials and TV shows.

Varolo is a completely free service that allows anyone aged 13 and above to earn a portion of the money its advertisers pay, simply by watching an average of 10 minutes of commercials a day and inviting others to do the same. This is similar to network marketing, except you watch ads instead of buying products. When you watch the introduction video, you will begin to see how this service could attract a lot of advertising money away from traditional ad-driven television.

Initially, this will hurt the old-school networks, and they will be forced to adopt pay-per-view and subscription-based services to stay afloat. The upside is that with ad dollars being returned to individuals—according to Varolo’s moderately lucrative plan—there will be more money for people to spend on entertainment. AND people will likely only spend money on shows or channels that they actually care about, which will increase the quality of the shows the networks choose to air.

It is therefore possible for a well-organized tribe of media geeks to use money earned from Varolo (and other companies that will likely follow suit) to generate capital that they can use to develop high-quality media to fill this need. In other words, überfans of a given TV show (or TV show idea) have a chance to become the mediators between advertising interests and the artistic expression of content creators.

The TV Revolution is beginning…

>The Folly of the Performer

>It is important to understand one's role in any organization and/or endeavor. Some people have a natural inclination to create. Others possess the ability to sell. Both concepts overlap and people sometimes get confused about their abilities and their proper role.

To create and develop a composition is an invisible enterprise. That is, it is often done by one person or a small group of like-minded individuals behind closed doors. It can be created in its entirety and unveiled all at once, or it can be exposed in stages. Either way, the finished product speaks for itself.

At least, this is the ideal. However, the nature of the discovery-creation-unveiling process gives it the weakness of permanence. Once it is written, it is written in stone. It can be updated, recalled, or added to, but the thing still exists in the minds of the audience—and great first impressions are critical.

This is where marketers come in. Once a thing exists, it is the job of these people to perform the task of finding a home for the thing. They can overcome bad first impressions with the strength of their character and proper promoting of the hidden gems within a misunderstood product.

Their proper role is to find a home for the thing, not to reinvent the thing.

This is often the folly of the performer. Because the fate of the product depends upon their ability to relate it to their audience, marketers often think that the product's real form is irrelevant. They fancy themselves creators, and use words and stories to make a product out to be more than it really is.

But a product—even a fictional story or a piece of fine art—is what it is, and not what a skilled performer can make you believe it is. Any marketing materials that are created must be dependent upon the original creation. If not, then they are devoid of value. Every time a performer "gets away with it" he's really only building himself a house of cards, and it doesn't take long before the edifice collapses under its own weight—often without a clear connection to this root cause.

If you want to tell stories, GREAT! Create stories, and hone your craft. If you're trying to sell a product, I'd recommend selling the product, not some trumped-up fiction about the product.

>Ode to the Appreciator

>I think many people get lost in trying to be in a band because they like music. However it isn't necessary to be in a band if you like music, only to help your favorite band succeed. Perhaps a music appreciator would find his fit in the promotion of music rather than in the creation of music.

Part of the problem with the music industry, as I understand it, is that there is a war between the developers and the promoters. (In the lingo of FITmedia, these are the musicians and "studio execs", respectively.) Most artists want both the freedom to do what they do AND the support of a major label. These major labels, however, know how to run a business, and want the freedom to shift their assets accordingly.

As such, they tend to want to micro-manage the artists in their network. As with any large-scale orchestration, it is easy to lose sight of the pieces, and treat unique entities in a generic way. When this happens, greatness—which is often unconventional—becomes undernourished and dies. They manage artists generically, and they get only generic art.

Or worse, they incite a rebellion, which they spread in the name of freedom of expression. I've always found it strange that large media companies perpetuate their own stereotype by spreading art that criticizes the very methods they use to manage their business. Even stranger is that they do not seem to learn from the critiques of their own media content.

The content itself perpetuates this as part of the culture when outside viewers see the critique and perceive the label's actions to be hypocritical though conversely successful. And so, newcomers learn about this struggle, and separate into bipartisan factions: business vs. art. The result is a cancerous spread of venomous themes, which thwarts the dreams of many would-be artists and music promoters.

Instead of destroying the asset that a major label can be to artists, or giving artists unlimited license to lyrically tear down the organization, it seems to me that another asset should be tapped: the Appreciators. More than just fans (even überfans), appreciators are driven by a desire to be productive.

They want to contribute in a big way, but the only way that is apparent is to start a band—to create media. I for one, am an appreciator of music, and toyed with the idea of starting a band several times. However, I soon realized that I would rather get paid to promote the band than to be on stage myself.

Appreciators understand their bands because they are also fans, and so they can much more effectively promote their bands to other potential fans. It is also a two-way street: the appreciators can more effectively communicate business ideas to the bands they are close to. So if a band (or artist) is a small group of developers, then there ought to be a corresponding group of promoters. How these groups interact would be influenced by a larger group of appreciators who would be close enough to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

If major labels incentivize this sort of activity, they can fix the gap of animosity and waste that has been dug between the two sides, and allow the fans to lift the artists they believe in to greatness, while generating a public forum for how to be appreciated. With this information, rookie artists can learn from others' best practices and improve their content until it reaches its highest potential.

>Winning, Losing, or Not Playing

>In success-oriented media, there is a lot of talk of winning and losing. I agree that organizational systems should seek to be “win-win” as opposed to “win-lose”. In a win-win structure, there is some form of transaction whereupon two sides agree to a mutual exchange of value. In a win-lose structure, the goal is to use some form of force or exploitation (however subtle) to “get the better” of the other side.

Strangely, many performance leaders who teach win-win principles still tend to speak in sports analogies, which are always win-lose. By necessity, one team must win and one team must lose. Even a discussion of self-mastery in the individual as a key to team victory goes by way of one team winning and one team losing.

But how can both teams win? They can’t. It is an artificial system of scarcity (there being only one trophy) which is designed to force a display of performance. It neither promotes nor rewards the different ways in which the teams are valuable, it merely applauds the victor. This may be fine for performers, but it is damaging to the psyche of creators.

All this success talk using the words “winners” and “losers” implies that to succeed is to play a game well. This is not the case.

To succeed as a creator, one must master his ability to learn about the world, then subsequently compose an expression of its truths. He cannot lose so long as he does not abandon the learning process. He cannot win, because he is not playing a game. His success cannot be called a “win” any more than exploring a jungle and drafting a map can be called such.

His art is a valuable artifact, measured in quality by a group of people who seek its usefulness. A different group may value a different map—say a topographical rather than geographical one—and would therefore require the efforts of a different creator. These two creators are not in competition, they are not playing. They are merely offering a composition of a truthful perspective to those who seek it.

>"Revenge of the Introvert"

>I just read an interesting article in Psychology Today, entitled “Revenge of the Introvert.” As often happens in the cycle of reading and thinking, this article did not so much inform me of anything I didn’t already know or suspect, as it did give structure and terminology to an already developing idea. In short, it clarified and validated parts of my hypothesis on creators and performers.

As you may already know, personality types are universally divided into extraverts and introverts. I’ll be brief, because the article explains this very well. Extraverts derive their energy from outside sources, and love crowds, noise, and excitement. Introverts derive their energy from internal sources, preferring one-on-one engagements, alone time, and quiet contemplation. What I call “creators” roughly aligns with the introverted personality types. The article points out that while extraverts (which would roughly align with “performers”) seem more prevalent by nature, national studies suggest that it is actually a 50/50 split.

The success culture in the United States is extremely biased toward performance, or “the playing of a prescribed game.” This entails some manner of competition between people or teams, and focuses heavily on sales and marketing. All-in-all this requires skills native predominantly to the extravert. This means that a great number of introverts are being forced or are forcing themselves into roles (particularly at work) that are “counter-dispositional.” Either that, or they settle for mediocrity at work, keeping their passions as hobbies.

With the advent of so much information technology, I believe that a time is coming when marketing will lose its current value, and success culture will have to embrace the more introverted creators, who originate real value. Indeed, this is already beginning.

The reason is that as more and more people learn how to learn—about products, media content, political campaigns, etc.—from the internet and other sources, there will be a greater and greater skepticism toward someone “selling” something. Therefore, the creation of a truly valuable product will become more important, and will, through passive means, market itself through the recommendations of satisfied customers.

The difficulty, of course, is that creation is unpredictable. It is difficult to say when a breakthrough will occur. By contrast, marketing is a simple numbers game. One truly great product can be sold to literally billions of people, and is a simple matter of rapid exposure. The more exposure, the more people will learn, the more they learn, the more they buy.

In a global economy, where Sydney, Australia and Podunk, USA are in the same marketplace, the challenge is how to utilize the natural abilities of introverts to create without having too many products to effectively market. Given the 50/50 split, the ideal would suggest that there be one creator inventing and one performer marketing.

Certainly, this demands further exploration.


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Quotes

"For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

- Kahlil Gibran

"All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?"
- Nicholas Johnson, author:
"We need the media to be presenting pictures of possibility not just continuing to be prophets of doom and gloom."
- Kevin Kelly, Wired

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."

- Adam Smith
"And the science is overwhelming that for creative, conceptual tasks, those if-then rewards rarely work and often do harm."
- Daniel Pink, author: Drive

"I wish we had a Problem-Solver Party because we have very big problems that need solving. And I think a lot of our attention is addressed to the wrong problems."
- David McCullough, author: 1776
"The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen."
- Seth Godin, author: Tribes
"The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events. A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens."
- Stephen Palmer, The Center for Social Leadership
"Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks."
- Robert Harris
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams
"I know no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take the power from them, but to inform them by education."
- Thomas Jefferson
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise--as priests, prophets or philosophers are wise. Specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine."
- Allan Bloom, author: The Closing of the American Mind
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
(Proverbs 13:20)
"If you are not a thinking man, to what purpose are you a man at all."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"I learn a lot from TV. Everytime someone turns one on, I go in the other room and read a book."
- Groucho Marx, comedian: Duck Soup
"There are two freedoms - the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought."
- Charles Kingsley