Artist Promotions – Times They Are A Changing

dont-ever-let-someone-tell-you-that-you-cant-do-somethingRiding the metro in Los Angeles you see talent and some people who are just beggars.  Yes, there is a difference between an artist and a beggar.  An artist doesn’t have to say “we are coming around with a hat and dream” after a performance in public.  An artist does what is necessary to improve their art on a daily basis.  It is not about gaining fame, money, or validation, but about crafting their skill.

This past Tuesday, a violinist and a guitarist were playing on the redline.  From the looks of these two young (20-something) African-American men they had just been riding up and down the redline playing popular songs such as The Fray (How To Save A Life), Michelle Branch (Everywhere), The Beatles (Here Comes The Sun).  Their honesty, conviction, and dedication to their harmonies and musical stylings had the train clapping after each song and numerous train riders giving them donations in their beat-up guitar case.  They didn’t ask for donations after each song; they just continued to play consecutively throughout the 30 minutes I road from the North Hollywood station to the 7th Street Expo Line connection.  This on the ground marketing isn’t a new thing, in fact, it was something that was designed before marketing was even considered a job.

So what is it about artist promotions that really creates a superstar like Taylor Swift?  Selena Gomez?  Mandy Moore?  Travis Wall?  Is it timing?  Is it having talent?  Is it hard work and dedication?  Is it having the right branding, marketing or promotions team? Working in event marketing the last few years, I’ve learned that you need a mix of things to make magic happen.  Here are my top five tips to bring your promotions to the next level:

  1.  Advertise Without Advertising – This goes for everything you do as an individual and as a company.  If you are an individual artist you want to show people why they should watch and pay attention.  You shouldn’t need to give a speech before your performance.  Let your talent speak for itself and let the curiosity of the audience make the choice to stop.  If you are a company promoting an event it should be about the people associated with the event (the talent), the people who have attended and their experiences as well as the business relationships you have with sponsors.  Each of these aspects always draws more attendees because they feel like they are missing out, or a new business who sees their direct competition tearing into another market that they haven’t touch yet.  Fear of missing out is a strong promotional tool and it is vital to show that in an advertising campaign.
  2. Be Active On Your Social Media – Yes posting regularly on your social media is important, but when I say be active on your social media I’m talking about interaction.  Following people or businesses that could increase your promotions on other platforms or bring you to the next level as an artist.  Also, interacting with your followers from Q&As to comments to videos that ask what they want to see from you.  As the saying goes, give the people what they want.
  3. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Lots of promotional photos and videos are important.  It helps to develop marketing strategies, strong branding, and a cohesive platform on who you are and what you do as an artist or company.  Sit down and figure out what you want to show and present to the world and how you want to be represented.  Set-up photo and video shoots to stage promotional materials and constantly have someone dedicated to social media at events to get live shots and reactions from the audience and participants.  This is what is going to develop that concept of “fear of missing out” to drive attendance in the future.   Think about Coachella, LalaPalooza, or any awards show.  Each event has live streaming/broadcasting, they are constantly posting about the people at the shows and the talent that is performing.  It is always about showing someone something that could be their experience.
  4. The Personal You – Society is obsessed with people’s personal drama.  Think about Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor.  The one thing about these types of shows is they help you invest in the people as they are sharing personal aspects of their lives to the audience.  Granted all of it is not real and probably a lot of it is staged, but the point I’m trying to make is let people get to know who you are – what you like (i.e. music, films), your friends and family, your favorite places…etc.  People want to feel connected especially if they are investing time and/or money.  Show them more than just your talent.
  5. Attraction – This may sound a little crazy, but bear with me.  No, I’m not talking about how attractive you are as a person, but what individuals are drawn to.  Think about when you see someone saving an animal that is in danger.  You are attracted to someone’s kindness.  Think about a new headshot with colors that make your features pop.  You are attracted to someone’s beauty.  Think about a big open space with no one around but nature.  You are attracted to the freedom.  Promotions are all about attraction.  What makes your audience tick?  What will get them to see the next show?  What will get your next follower to commit to what you put out?  Your audience is comprised of all different people from all walks of life.  You have to know who your audience is to make the impact you are looking for in this world.

In the words of Chris Gardner (Will Smith’s character in the Pursuit of Happyness), “If you want something, go get it.  Period.”

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Dance Marketing – How to Make A Photo Special

Photo by Haze Kware

Photo by Haze Kware

People say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in dance, a picture is worth a billion words. Dance photographs can make or break a marketing campaign for any dance company. There are three things that are key – a photographer, good lighting, and dancers who can take direction well.

First, you have the photographer. It is important to have a photographer who is great at capturing action shots. When looking

Photo by Rachel Neville

Photo by Rachel Neville

through their portfolio look for shots of music concerts, sporting events, or even dance. Photographers who are famous for modeling shots or stills may not understand how to shoot movement, which could ultimately hurt your campaign in the long run when you go to layout design work for the coming season. Another thing to look for when you are hiring a photographer is variety. You don’t want a photographer who is afraid to take a risk in the art that they create. It could not only give you great pictures to choose from for the future, but give a new twist to your marketing campaign and take you in a new direction.

Secondly, you need fanatic lighting. When setting up a photo shoot you want to make sure you have all the lighting that the

Photo by Rachel Neville

Photo by Rachel Neville

photographer needs to capture the magic through the lens. Bad lighting could kill the shoot, which means your pictures could turn out dark and unusable and would put you back at square one for your marketing campaign. When you see pictures that come out too dark it is difficult to lighten it. When you try to lighten the photo it becomes grainy. Marketing campaigns need sharp photos with colors that pop. When I say pop, the colors don’t have to be neon. The colors just need to grab people’s attention. Make them take a second look. Also a graphic designer can really give you a color concept and change colors or bring other colors out within the design process.

Finally, you need dancers who take direction well. Every dancer has their own personalities. Some are meant to be choreographers, and others are meant to be the stage presence – have a look, a modeling ability, and be able to repeat a movement many times perfectly till the shot is right. It’s hard to find dancers who can take direction with not only movement, but with a presence or a facial expression.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? You decide.

Check out dance photographers Haze Kware and Rachel Neville.

Keone and Mari Madrid – The Next Hip-Hop Dynamic Duo

Keone and Mari Madrid are called the next NabbyTabs.  It’s wonderful to get compared as an artist to people you admire, but this dynamic duo has a style all their own.  With the caring and kind nature of Keone and the graceful and free spirit of Mari these two are out to change the world of dance through education, choreography and philanthropic efforts.

Keone Madrid’s first love was basketball.  He grew up playing sports and didn’t take his first hip hop class till he was fifteen, where he started with one class a week taught by KJ Gonzales.  Starting dance at such a late age and becoming a successful professional is rare, but he was determined.  After his first class he joined the apprentice crew of Culture Shock San Diego called Future Shock San Diego, which eventually become the director.  After high school his students and mentors encouraged him to pursue his choreographic aspirations and really get out in the world.  He was nervous to post his work online so students started to on his behalf which led to his first international gig in Norway.

Mari Madrid also didn’t start dancing until a late age.  At thirteen years old, she took her first dance class in Boulder, Colorado.  At seventeen she moved to San Francisco and danced with a group called Funkanometry.  Finally, at twenty-three she moved to San Diego to dance with Choreo Cookies.

These two love birds originally met at Urban Legends in Temecula, California where they were both teaching.  They eventually joined the same crew shortly following Choreo Cookies, which they became co-directors in a short time.  These two have choreographed for music artists all over the United States and Asia as well as had a successful commercial career choreographing the 2012 Hyundui commercial and most recently was on So You Think You Can Dance as a choreography duo.  The couple has signed with Go 2 Talent Agency as a choreographic team.  They have also founded Kingdom Made which is an arts charity that sells clothing and accessories to fund its international mission to build homes and offer dance and art workshops for the underprivileged.

When I look at people to admire, I look at no only talent, but are these people truly good people.  The Madrids are beyond good people.  They don’t allow society to run the way they think or their actions.  They play by their own rules as professional dancers and choreographers as well as personally in their beliefs on relationships and importance of getting to know someone deeply before fully committed to a marriage and that marriage actually mean something more than another step in a relationship.  I spent hours watching their work on YouTube and noticed that as individuals they were technically beautiful, but as partners they had an undeniable spirit in the way they moved.

I watched YouTube videos for hours before I came across two that spoke to me personally.  The Madrids created a music video in 2011 called Don’t Stop the Music which was stylized in the 1920s and went from black and white to color.  An energy and connection that was undeniable as they used off rhythms to make the movement flow.  Their style was full of illusion with smooth yet sharp isolations.  They incorporated small changes in their movement like doing arm motions sitting to standing to different camera angles of the same movement that seem different but they are not.  The remix done by Jamie Cullum is revolutionary and drives the piece as Mari is a beast in her heels while maintaining the sweet and lovable side in her dancing.  The other piece I watched was one done at the Urban Dance Camp with music by Sam Smith, Stay With Me.  In this piece they were so in sync with each other that it was undeniable that they were meant to dance together.  A beautiful couple, a perfect choreographic partnership, and two people that are unstoppable.

**All life information about the couple was found at Dance Spirit Magazine article by Ashley Rivers and Go 2 Talent Agency**

Watch their Don’t Stop the Music Video Below!  Their articulate hand and arm choreography is so intertwined that I think I backed up the player more than 10 times.

Artists – The Debacle of Respect

Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world.  Constantly creating the next new thing that everyone has to have.  So, when the announcement of Apple Music was to be launched I was a little surprised that they were so late in the game of streaming, which has undoubtedly continued to grow.  The thought of paying $10 a month to a streaming service and having unlimited access to thousands of songs is appealing, but in my opinion streaming is more of a discovery service than an actual income stream for artists.  The more I look at streaming, I use it to listen to new music to see if I like it.  If I like, I buy it.  So, should music artist really look at it as a revenue stream, or an audience building tool?

An article by Billboard Magazine discussed how in the first three months of its free streaming trial it would not pay artists for their music that was streamed (this is no longer the case).  The business aspect of this was ‘I’m not making money so why should I give you money?’  Needless to say, it created a big upheaval in the music world and Taylor Swift took it upon herself to be the voice of the artists.  She made a statement on her Tumblr – “This is not about me.  This about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for their success.  This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought royalties would get them out of debt.  This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, but will not get paid for a quarter of a years worth of plays on his or her songs.”  Do you think this was all unselfish?  I think everyone, including the superstars in the industry had a right to be mad, but I still stand by my point that it shouldn’t be apart of the revenue budget, more like bonus income.  My question is was this whole thing a publicity stunt by Apple?  A company that is worth billions of dollars worried about paying artists for three months without a source of income from ONE revenue stream when they have numerous other ways to bring in money?

We all look at artists and think that it is a glamour field of money, fortune, and fame, but in reality it is a life struggle that these people had the courage to pursue a career that they loved rather than a career that makes bank.  Artists like Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift are a small percentage that hit it big in the industry.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2014 musicians/ singers made a median range of $23.50 per hour.  Now add in the cost of studio rentals, producers, songwriters, record labels, executives, managers, manufacturing, equipment, and touring and that is not a whole lot of money.  Every revenue stream counts for any artists.

The one thing that frustrates me about this whole debacle and pretty much any artist issue is that musicians are not the only artists out their trying to survive.  Dancers are in just as much struggle as the musician.  They have similar expenses such as studio rentals, tour costs, costumes, shoes, music licensing, management and development teams.  Also, there is only a select group in the public that has a passion for dance, and there isn’t as many revenue streams that can be tapped like the music industry.  Unlike the music industry where there is streaming, buying albums and individual songs.  Many dancers have to rely on a company for income (salary/ stipend for rehearsals and performances), or an agent getting them a temporary job on film, TV, a music tour, or Broadway.  There is also a ticking time bomb when you can no longer perform because your body just can’t.  Many dancers are involved in other revenue avenues like company contract work, select seasons on Broadway, sponsorship opportunities, teaching, and book writing on their endeavors in the industry.  Just like the music industry, there are dancers that are superstars and have made millions of dollars like Derek Hough or Mikhail Baryshnikov, but it took them years to get there.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary a dancer makes is $13.41/ hour or if you are a choreographer $21.28/ hour.   That is less than a musician/ singer.  Many dancers and choreographers are not on an annual salary because they work based on a contract and are only paid for certain aspects of their job such as rehearsals or performances.   Granted, many orchestra musicians are in the same predicament.  The amount of free projects that dancers get involved in is based on trying to network and meet new artists that could potentially hirer them. Isn’t that the same in the music industry?  You send out samples of your music to try and draw an audience, gather a fan base, and gain feedback from people you respect and admire.  I have personally lost count on how many free projects I have done like choreographing a piece for a fundraising event or driving three hours for a rehearsal for weeks on end and then performing it once or twice at a few festivals.  None of these opportunities I got paid.  Some were friends of mine, while others were endeavors that I fully supported like at risk youth and the arts.  Granted I had other sources of income like teaching ballet and working on the administrative side of the arts industry.

I think we all have to ask ourselves some hard questions – why are we creating art?  Why are we creating music?  Why do you dance or choreograph?  Would I feel this way if this was a hobby and not my livelihood?  I think that the general public looks at art as it is owed to them.  I see it constantly working on the administrative side of the business.  Your taxes dollars do not pay the nonprofit employee’s salary, nor does your tax dollars pay to take care of the art work or support the programming that happens in a dance company or art institution.  People have this thought process that the arts are a right not a privilege.  We are privileged that artists feel strongly about their work that they want to share it with us.  I look at artists as superheroes.  They are brave.  Laying everything they have out in the open for the public to be loved and criticized at the same time.  Apple took a risk.  Was it wrong – yes.  Should we respect artists for their work – absolutely.  The next time you hear someone on the subway stop and listen.  If you enjoy it use your Tumblr or Twitter and promote it.  Don’t steal work that belongs to others.  I think if artists want the industry to respect the art and the artist, it needs to start with the public respecting the art first.

“All I’m askin is for just a little respect…”

There is More to Ballet than Swan Lake & The Nutcracker

imageBeing a dancer, I am always curious about what ballets people have seen.  I usually get one of two answers – “We saw Swan Lake” or “We saw the Nutcracker.”  I am not knocking these two ballets because the Nutcracker is where a lot of ballet companies make over half of their revenue for the fiscal year, but there is more to ballet than Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Firstly, there are multiple versions of different types of ballets even the Nutcracker and Swan Lake have multiple versions where choreographers have reworked sections or took out certain parts and did a revamp of the piece.  For example, Swan Lake has been reworked in not only the ballet world, but in contemporary dance.  In 1995 at the Sadler’s Well Theatre in London, choreographer Matthew Bourne had all the traditional female parts danced by men.  At the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine turned Swan Lake into a one act version with a corps of black swans infusing the old story with a whole new heartbreak.  Finally, Swedish dancer/ choreographer Fredrik Rydman created a modern day version where the swans are heroin addicts and prostitutes who are controlled by a pimp.  If you are going to go to a classic check a version that can broaden your mind.

There are so many other ballets that have graced the world.  As anyone who has read my blog I am partial to the New York City Ballet, but like I am telling you to broaden your mind, I am going to spotlight other companies that have done great work.  There are old ballets from the depths of history going back to the late 18th century that companies have revive or are on rotation in there repertoire.  In the 2014/2015 season, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) had La Bayadère in rotation.  A ballet that was considered a classic in Russia, but it wasn’t until Rudolf Nureyev staged it for the Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn as Nikiya in 1963 that it really took hold in Western Europe or the United States.  Then again, how can you not like everything Margot Fonetyn is in?  She is considered one of the greatest classical ballerinas of all time.  I digress, La Bayadère is a love square that ultimately turns to hate, revenge, and murder.  Exciting right?  For those of you living or visiting France, this ballet is in the upcoming season of the Paris Opera Ballet.

If you have studied the history of dance, you know the Rite of Spring.  This ballet is pretty well known in the dance world as being a huge controversy.  It was scandal back in the day, and now is considered one of the greatest ballets and mysteries in the world.  There are pieces of the ballet that were never archived.  Pages missing of the choreography.  Pages that other choreographers have interpreted based on the rest of the piece.  Stravinsky’s musical score and Nijinsky’s choreography started a near riot in the audience in 1913.  But Isn’t that what art is suppose to do?  It’s suppose to invoke some kind of feeling?  Whether it’s comedic, like in La Fille Mal Gardée or just breathing in the beauty like in a story-less Jewels.

It’s not just the stories or the choreography that invokes those feelings; it is the dancers.  The dancers brings the audience into their world; into their circle.  When you are watching ballet, a great dancer will leave you in tear and breathless at the end whether you are suppose to be or not.  Remember you don’t have to have a clue what a ballet is about.  All you need to do is open you eyes and let each dancer in. Don’t be afraid to take a jump and see something other than Swan Lake or The Nutcracker – the dancers will surprise, inspire, and invoke something in you that you never thought possible.