Tag Archives: community building

How Radio Promotion Is Done Right With Jesse Barnett

RelationshipBeing a radio host, I’m plugged into different parts of this industry. I’m connected to radio stations, artists, managers, radio promoters, and listeners alike. I see things from the perspective of a radio station manager, music director, program host, and curator when it comes to music submissions. I do also see things from the perspective of the artists. It might seem like these are two opposing viewpoints, but they’re not.

Not if you look at it the right way.

Jesse Barnett

Jesse Barnett

Jesse Barnett (Right Arm Resource) is one who sees the harmony between the musicians and the media platforms who showcase their work. It’s a team effort, where both sides win when they work together. Look folks, there’s no I in team. We know that. It’s cliched. But how often do you, musicians, look at your music promotions to radio as something that offers a benefit to the station you reach out to other than them “getting to play” your music?

Radio and musicians win when there’s a relationship connection in place. That’s why public, community, indie and college radio continue to be powerhouses in the modern media-rich world. Relationships matter. Make that a focus and you’ll see bigger and better wins in your music promotion.

This podcast episode is about just that: relationships. Jesse is the best in the business of radio promotion because he puts relationships first. He has worked with and represented some big names in indie music including Damien Rice, They Might Be Giants, Cage The Elephant, and others. And he works with smaller indie labels and artists too, quite successfully I might add.

We talk about the power of networking and relationship building a lot in this episode because it’s the real key to achieving anything that lasts. Trust me. Or better yet trust Jesse. We’re both proof of this. Radio is a conduit between people who share interest, love, and stories driven by music. When radio works best is when it builds communities together of people who share these areas. That’s not the same thing as it being a platform that just plays music and has listeners. That’s boring commercial radio, which you’re not listening to.

One other thing that is mentioned a few times in this podcast episode is The DIY Musician’s Radio Handbook, which illustrates the exact things we talk about in a How-To format. Jesse has read it and shares his thoughts on it. It’s easy for me to tell you that you need this book. However, you decide how much you want to succeed. If you want to win, and you want long term wins, go grab the book here.

After you listen to this, if you get just 1 thing out of it (which I know is an understatement because you’ll get way more than that), do your part in the growth farming process and plant a seed with 3 of your music friends (i.e. share the episode). Cultivate it with me here, and let me know what 1 thing you got the most from in this conversation. We’ll talk soon!

Bird Thomas On The DIY Artist Route Podcast

Bird Thomas, Community-Building Maestro

Bird Thomas, Community-Building Maestro

The DIY Artist Route Podcast continues on in 2016 and I’m so excited to present this conversation with you. Bird Thomas is one of my dearest friends who also embodies strengths that I am inspired by regarding connecting with people. To put it simply, Bird is a very uncommon person.

You can generally tell when you encounter someone who changes the way you feel in a moment’s time. Most people want to be associated with folks who make them feel good about who they are, excited about what’s going on, and enthusiastic enough to go out and get others to join in with the movement. That’s one of the things I first noticed about Bird that showed how uncommon and powerful she is as a community builder.

 

A little insight into Bird and why she’s on the latest podcast episode

She is the Curator of Fun Learning Experiences at the Center For Contemporary Arts in downtown Abilene, Tx. That job title is one of the best there is, and it says a lot about her heart towards the arts. She strongly believes in the power of experiences to shape our motives and actions, as well as the power of intention in all we do. These are 2 things we talk about more specifically in this new podcast episode.

When community building first became a realization for me as a creative entrepreneur, and was further inspired from reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, I started going through my Roladex of people I know who do this well. Bird is one of the best people I know. Spend 5 minutes with her and you’ll walk away feeling like the coolest person on the block. Few people have the power to cultivate that kind of impression on a first meeting. It’s something that can be learned, and in this podcast you’ll learn how she empowers others to join in with what she’s doing. This is the essence of community building.

There are so many great nuggets from this conversation. A few of the standout quotes (to go back and listen to again) are:

“If you will learn to just be, moment by moment, you realize that in that particular moment you are ok. Nothing is really threatening you. If you be, as human beings you are meant to do, you realize that everything is fine.”

“The way you achieve things and the way you create things is to first see it in your mind. Everything. Everything begins as a thought. The stronger you build the thought, the faster it becomes a reality.”

“You have to believe that you will achieve whatever you give thought to. You have to believe in yourself.”

If you want to experience what it’s like for the arts community to come alive and involve other members of a community, city or region, venture out here to Art Walk in Abilene. It’s a great way to see a thriving and supportive community in action.

Sometimes When You Need Just A Little Encouragement

Image by Megan Lynette

Image by Megan Lynette

It’s the start of a new year. Most of us are busy setting to work on getting things really going so that we can achieve our New Year’s Resolutions, or more practically that goals we set to build on last year’s victories.

Are you with me on this?

Here’s something that keeps popping up here and there in just the 4 short days of 2016, and I want to focus a little time on it now with you so we can move forward to achieve our shared and individual goals AND enjoy the process.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement.

I’m going to be tempted to get bogged down in details with finding the right THIS or the best THAT to use in employing strategic elements to reach my goals this year. And there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll see someone advertising on Facebook or soliciting on Google that they were able to build, grow and reach millions of new people with tons of new business, all in just 3 weeks (or something ridiculous like that), and I might feel like I missed the mark.

I’m still working on reaching the big goals I set 3 years ago as far as reach and I haven’t made it yet. But I will.

However, I’ll admit to you that I do get a little discouraged at the pace of growth sometimes. You might get discouraged too, right? Do you feel a little bit thrown off like you missed the boat when you see an ad or a pitch for an online course, Ebook, or webinar where someone claims to have done something that you’ve spent months or years working on, and they achieved it in days or weeks? Most of these claims aren’t entirely accurate (experience showed me this unfortunately, but that’s a conversation we can have later) yet the feeling is real.

Sometimes we need just a little encouragement to see that when we keep working, stay focused on our goals, and put to use the insights and ideas that even outside events show us, good things can hapen. We’ll see our dreams come to life, and we’ll celebrate the victories that accomplishing goals brings us.

With the notion that disappointment might try to sneak in and throw off my groove, I’ve been on the lookout for some small pieces of encouragement, and have successfully found a few. I want to share them with you, so that you can grab them when the little antagonizing voice of disappointment or failure comes sneaking up on you and tries to throw off your groove. Then you can punch it in the mouth with this great stuff.

Here we go.

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First, I’m a football fan and being from Houston I celebrate the Texans. Sorry Cowboy fans, it’s been a tough year for you guys. Hopefully something good can happen in the offseason.

The Texans made it to the Playoffs this year for the first time since 2012, beating the Jaguars yesterday 30-6. It was a tremendous game that saw the defense do things that would make for a full season highlight reel. The encouragement I found from this was more than just a victory, and more than just a trip to the playoffs. These guys had been written off as losers and a lost season just 8 weeks ago.

Think about that.

Most teams who start 2-5 don’t end up with winning seasons, and they also don’t make the playoffs. The coaching staff (led by Bill O’Brien) changed the way the team practiced, putting the decisions of game-time flow in the hands of the players instead of telling them what to do during the week. That changed everything. They went on to win 6 of their next 8 games, take the team to the post season and do what the sports world had said wouldn’t happen. That to me is encouraging. It means that when things aren’t working out, I can change something small, or something off the radar and get better results.

Switching from sports to politics might be a little off-kilter but that’s ok too. I don’t want to weigh in on the political race of 2016, because it is a bit of a divisive mess right now. However, it’s interesting to look at some recent news posted on the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont (who is running for the Democratic nomination). Like him or not and regardless of your political views, he should be someone that entrepreneurs, small businesses and especially musicians pay attention to because of his grassroots growth.

Remember that little temptation I mentioned earlier that most of us fall prey to, the one that tells us we’re failing if we don’t grow exponentially in our platform audiences in a short amount of time? Bernie has done something in his campaign that most crowdfunders dream of, let alone small business startups and DIY musicians. He’s raised millions of dollars appealing to people on a personal and real way.

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I took this little pic off of Facebook because it’s the easiest to illustrate. Again, I reference these stats and Bernie’s growth not because of his politics but because of how he’s connecting with real people. On a whole, I’ve talked a lot about the difference between building empires and building communities. I believe community building beats empires over time. It would appear that this is true based on these stats too, regardless of whether he wins the nomination for the Democratic party or not.

The encouragement I get from seeing this little blurb is that when you are real with people, appeal to individuals on a common level and not segregate others out or kick people out because of some jaded belief system, you can build strong and powerful bonds with people of different walks of life, different cultures, different beliefs, but shared values. Isn’t that what makes strong communities vibrant and thriving?

A more little note of encouragement on this piece-note that the average gift to his campaign is less than $30. That’s less than the average contribution to a nonprofit fundraising campaign, a public radio pledge drive, or a crowdfunding campaign for a tech startup. Again, it’s not about the size of the gift but the way that individuals are impacted. I can be encouraged by that. How about you?

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

Me with Iron & Wine in 2010, presenting him a Golden Fork Award trophy (the first ever made)

One final piece of encouragement to start the year off, this time I’ll dive into a different realm in music. I confess to spending absolutely zero time looking at anything involving pop music. I admit to following the latest news with Adele and Taylor Swift only because of the impact of the music licensing royalties with Soundexchange and the new lawsuit against Spotify because it pertains to my work (both in radio and in working with musicians). Their shared impact on music streaming platforms is intriguing as well.

Plus, in an age when music streaming is the standard method of listening for most people, their success highlights the fact that people continue to buy albums. Musicians, make note of this.

I heard a little bit of both Adele and Swift’s albums from 2015. My conclusion? Not really impressed, and it’s not because they’re pop stars. I don’t get the heart, soul and powerful presence from them that I do from the albums by Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell (Sing Into My Mouth), Trevor Hall (who had 2 releases in 2015 and both were stellar) or Brandi Carlile (The Firewatcher’s Daughter). Only Carlile among them got national recognition (via a Grammy nom). Yet despite the lack of national attention, these artists continue to grow their audiences by making great albums, convicted to the notion that real music is found in a full album experience that they deliver time and time again. By the way, they’re all nominated for a big award I do every year and you can hear 2 cuts from their 2015 releases HERE.

In a music world (and industry) that seems to be dictated by flashy imagery and millions of social media imprints, here are 4 musicians who don’t fit the pop culture’s mold of success and yet they continue to write, perform and thrive. That my friend, is inspiring. Here’s the thing though, these are just a very small group of the many MANY musicians out there who are thriving and winning in this constantly changing marketplace for music, one where the industry is panicked. When you connect with real people by giving them a powerful experience, you will win. That’s the way it works.

What experience are you giving?

That’s the question I’m asking myself every week when I sit down to produce The Appetizer Radio Show. What experience am I providing? What experience do I want my audience to have? I think that every musician and every business owner should let that question pass through their brains at some point during every week, at least a few times. In the end, it’s the experience that brings people back to us, that we build community together with, and who help us reach the goals we set out for ourselves.

Did you need a little encouragement to start your week? Good. Now let’s move forward together!

Why Milestones Are How We Reach Our Dreams

Vision. Milestones. Perspective.

Looking forward to the future and doing a combination of goal-setting and forecasting of what lies ahead, taking into account outside influences and things you have absolutely no control over.

Looking at the big picture and the future of what lies ahead, combined with the aforementioned goal setting, is one of my gifts. It’s what helped propel me into the radio industry at the ripe age of 16, into creating a radio/media property at age 21, turning that property into a business and converting a “project” into an entrepreneurial element at age 26, then setting out on my own to take on a new career outside of the radio industry to work as a coach and mentor for folks like me in the creative business space (musicians, entrepreneurs, startups, etc) at age 32.

Today marks not only a new day, but a place on the map of my future vision that will bring a new set of accomplishments of goals and achievements with it.

MeByAbbeyRoadSignI turn 34 today, and I’m writing about that because aging has been something that I look forward to instead of dreading. I want to share with you the fulfillment and successes of my journey up to this point, a few philosophical lessons learned along the way, and tell you what I hope to achieve in the coming year. As you know, community building is the mantra I live by, and as part of not only my community, but our growing group of creative entrepreneurs, I want to open up to you about the steps taken to get to this point, and the ones I want to reach in the coming year.

Call this accountability or transparency. These things matter.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

You’ve heard this phrase before. I used to not pay any attention to it when teachers at school or mentors in my life would say this. It was one of those things I could imagine Mr. Miagi tell Daniel in the Karate Kid or Yoda tell Luke as he trained to be a Jedi, but never really thought it applied to me. However, it doesn’t matter how old you are, the wisdom here is still on point. Yet what if we modified the phrase to have a little more practical application. What about this:

“Life is a series of milestones that lead us the destinations we choose.”

I don’t believe we have to settle for one destination in life. You can choose to have one truly huge, magnificently giant dream and work all of your life to achieve it. However, to reach that big, giant goal you’re going to first reach some milestones along the way. Consider a milestone to be markers that indicate that you’re making progress and give you some direction for how to move forward.

My high school graduation pic. People thought I was 16 until about 4 years ago (I'm in my 30s now)

My high school graduation pic. People thought I was 16 until about 4 years ago (I’m in my 30s now)

I mentioned briefly some of the milestones I’ve had up to this point. At age 16, like any teenager I was excited to get my driver’s license and drive all over town. But looking back that wasn’t the pinnacle achievement of that year. Becoming an on-air DJ on a college radio station while I was still in high school is what I remember as being the pinnacle of age 16. That experience planted seeds in me about what I believed radio had the potential to be, how it could impact the lives of indie and unsigned musicians, and it showed me the skills needed to do radio as a professional. That experience gave me what was needed to become an announcer at public radio station KACU as an incoming freshman at age 18. There hadn’t been a freshman walk in their door with radio experience and a resume that showed on-air and production credit up to that point. I’ll always remember age 16 as reaching that milestone.

TARSLogoTM2014Fast-forward to age 21, which we all have different degrees of fondness for. That was the age I was when I had this seemingly strange idea to make a radio program that played different genres of music from known and unknown artists, all in the same hour. The show wouldn’t follow a format of just rock or just folk music or just jazz. I paired songs that flowed together, or that I thought flowed together. And it stuck. In a little over a year, The Appetizer Radio Show was becoming one of the most talked about programs by the supporters of the station, leading to some positive feedback and later an interview with the Dallas Morning News. That would segue into the start of taking the show to other stations for carriage (syndication). Syndication would lead to turning the show into a business and a myriad of other achievements. It all began with that milestone at age 21.

TARS10thAnnConcert-LindsayKatt-ElliottPark A little over a decade later and a whole lot has happened. The Appetizer celebrated its 10th birthday in 2013 with a live concert at a historic theater in our hometown of Abilene (The Paramount Theater) featuring indie music sensation Lindsay Katt and Billboard #1 songwriter Elliott Park. That was a great milestone for me because I’d never organized and put together a live concert on my own before, but achieved success for all parties involved by utilizing strong community engagement and bringing together a powerful team of people to help make it happen. There were a lot of lessons learned in that process, and it certainly created a platform to do more live events that drew the greater regional community together.

As I enter this new year and transition into casting a vision for what I want for the next several years, the game has changed a lot, not only in regards to media (radio, online, streaming services) and music (both from the standpoint of musicians and the music industry), but also the landscape for how to succeed in the creative marketplace. I came into the world of self-employed coaching from spending over a decade in the nonprofit realm. It’s still an adjustment that I’m getting used to, and there have been a lot of lessons learned in just 2 years. Moving forward I want to achieve two big goals, which will create two big milestones to reach.

One goal is releasing the first in a series of books I’m working on that delves deep into providing a road map and guide into community building, starting with unsigned and DIY musicians (and those on the indie music circuit). Community building is the same as growing your fan base but it includes so much more. It’s the combination of your super fans, your fringe audience, the people who help get your music to other people in other places, and the people who help grow your outreach. It takes a community to succeed, and I’m currently writing a book that not only illustrates the practical steps to achieve this, but highlights some real life musicians who are doing this right now.

I’m going to take that framework and apply it to other books that will show entrepreneurs, startups, and nonprofits how to do the same thing in their fields and regions.

That’s a big vision to have, and some very serious milestones to reach.

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The second big piece of the vision is taking that message to the streets, and doing speaking engagements that teach individuals and groups the key elements they need to not only build strong fan bases, but cultivate powerful communities of support for their music. Again, this is big picture vision casting, and I am sharing this with you because what I’m building will impact your world. I want you to know what I’m working on so that you can benefit the most from everything I have planned.

This is how I’m going to be spending my 34th year.

BoJacksonOn a side note, another reason I’m excited about turning 34 is it was Bo Jackson’s number when he played for the Raiders. Bo is my all-time favorite athlete. We also share a birthday, which makes it extra special. One of these days, I want to be able to meet him. That will be a milestone for a different time, and one that I can’t see clearly at the moment, but believe strongly to be possible.

What are you milestones for this coming year? As we enter the end of our calendar year and have 1 month left in 2015, share with me the milestones you’ve had this year and what you’re wanting to do in 2016. Let me know in the comments below.

Jerzy Jung, The DIY Artist Route And You

JerzyJungAwardJerzy Jung embodies everything you can imagine for a DIY artist. She is a musician, actress, music teacher, and practitioner of the golden rule. Her songwriting is comparable to that of Regina Spektor in how she takes common, everyday elements and pieces them together to tell a much bigger story. Her song Black Dress/White Dress is a prime example of using fashion as a metaphor for how society treats women.

I’ve known Jerzy Jung for several years, first discovering her music in 2009 when I heard her songs on myspace. We ended up doing an interview and have kept in touch since. She’s a regularly featured artist on The Appetizer Radio Show, and was a perfect artist to chat with in the DIY Artist Route podcast series.

Every conversation on the DIY Artist Route podcast has featured some great quotes. Here are just a few of what you can gather from this episode:
“The mindset of ‘pick me pick me and my whole life will change’ hurt me. The student mentality will help you better. Now I’m like ‘what kind I learn and attracting people who may help me’ has been more helpful. I make the best work I can and my focus is there, and on attracting people who can help.”

“This industry we signed into is not easy, it’s mysterious, and it’s not kind. You’re wondering where your road map is and you have this goal and no idea on how to get there.”

“To be a good community member you have to give in the ways that people are asking to give instead of just what you feel like giving.”

Hitrecord is this fantastic online community where artists connect from anywhere in the world. Nothing is too big or too small.”

“I’m concerned with the business side (of music) but I try not to lose that playfulness.”

Lessons from crowdfunding: The fear of doing it is worse than actually starting and doing it.

“Doing the crowdfunder and making the video helped me to clarify why I make art and it felt really good to define it and see it on paper. It was a reminder to myself for why I chose this life.”

“The real test with all this ambiguity and all this disappointment, do you still love it (music) and just have to do it? Even though this life we picked is weird, focusing on gratitude is so important.”

*Note: I did just get the podcast on iTunes, yet there have been intermittent issues with the podcast host site, which is why I included the Podbean player above so you can hear it regardless.

I’m working to get that resolved so that this episode will be included in the iTunes list. Suffice to say, I’m learning from trial and error about podcasting and how it works best. I also am gaining valuable experience on who to use and who to avoid when setting up a podcast. If you have any suggestions or insight into the podcast realm, please share them with me. Thank you!

Learn Community Building From The Beach

Mrs Smith & I In BelizeMy wife and I returned from a much needed vacation recently that took us to the Caribbean. In our hustle-and-bustle of self-employment, we hadn’t taken much time to be with each other and had started to feel the connection that we’ve had lose some of its strength. So, after months of planning, Mrs. Smith and I spent a few days closer to the equator in a tropical paradise. During our stay, we both recharged and regained a connection that was needed. We also had an incredible experience from the people we encountered. That experience is what I want to share with you here, community building lessons from the beach.

Trips like this don’t happen often for us, and had it not been for a really cheap flight deal with Southwest Airlines, we might not have taken the leap. We settled on traveling to Belize on the recommendation of my close friend named Bird. My dream vacation has been Belize since this friend shared with me her stories on the people, the landscape, and the constant awesome temperatures. While the weather shifted into fall here in Texas, it was warm and sunny (for the most part) in Belize.

We booked 3 nights at Ramon’s Resort on the beach, which was the best part of the whole trip, and the people who taught me a lot about what it means to truly deliver an amazing experience that builds community. I talk about this dynamic with entrepreneurs and musicians often. For a business to foster the same principles in a tropical region was truly amazing. Here’s what they did:

Community Building With Customer Service You’ll Facebook, Email, and Write Home To Mom About

Hey Musicians, customer service is something you do too. It’s how you treat and interact with your fan base. For Ramon’s, their customer service came out in every interaction their staff and personnel had with us. We arrived in the evening as the sun was setting. We were met at the airport by a smiling, welcome man named Joe. His first words to us were “Welcome to Paradise.” The folks at the airport had said the same thing, so I assumed it was just a cliche phrase people used. It wasn’t for Joe, and it wasn’t for Ramon’s. It was their mantra.

Joe got us to our room and got us set up. We then went to the indoor/outdoor restaurant connected to the resort, Pineapples Grill. Our server was a funny guy named Jack. Jack sat us at our table and asked where we were from. Upon hearing that we’re from Texas, he went into this monologue about all the facets of Texas, stating our state bird, state tree, state flower, and what we’re known for. It was interesting. As he sat other guests and visitors to the restaurant, he did the same thing, and was brandishing facts and trivia about other states.

Jack (middle) was one of the best memories and teachers on our trip

Jack (middle) was one of the best memories and teachers on our trip

Here is a guy who has probably never been to America, reciting facets about the locations people are from as they come in that even they don’t know. He had the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Then he would tell us to look up Jack-o-pedia online to see more of his awesomeness. The problem, of course, is that he doesn’t really have a website. But his branding and the experience he provided was outstanding. We spent at least 4 of our meal times at Pineapple’s Grill because of Jack and the other wait staff were so courteous, friendly and attentive.

There are tons of hotels and restaurants on the island of San Pedro, where we stayed. Tourism is the #1 revenue stream for the business culture there. Yet in a town full of other hotels, resorts, and restaurants, Ramon’s has built a reputation for being the best. We were recommended staying there from Bird who had a similar experience years ago. Her recommendation proved truthful and consistent after years of time gone by.

Make Your Visitors Remember You By Delivering Beyond Comparison

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.12.54 PMWhen we first checked into our room, which was a cabanna-styled jungle-mini with a bed, linen closet, and bathroom with a hutch roof, we were welcomed with a letter written to us and placed on the bed in a creative fashion of linens and tropical flowers. The letter said that Ramon’s was honored to have us, and that their desire was for us to have a fulfilling and blessed stay. It said that despite the fact that they’re a business, making money isn’t their ultimate objective, but providing an experience unlike anything else is what they wished for us to have. There was a short prayer on the letter wishing us well and blessings.

I’ve traveled all over the US to big and small cities. I’ve stayed in 5-star hotels and small bed-and-breakfasts. I’ve experienced some great service all over the US but nothing that welcomed us like this. It set the mood and the atmosphere for the duration of our time there.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 12.39.55 PMAside from the great food and the tremendous staff who delivered their services, we also had the chance to go out and snorkel for the first time along the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. It was an amazing experience that allowed us to meet a couple from Indiana and another couple from Denmark. We swam with nurse sharks, stingrays, and schools of fish that looked like special features on a National Geographic video.

On that snorkel trip, we learned that Ramon’s will allow their guests to check out snorkel gear from their shop for free to swim around their pier. We took advantage of that and went swimming/snorkeling another 3 or 4 times off the pier, discovering several types of fish and seeing a lot of aquatic life neither Mrs. Smith or I had ever seen in person before.

Follow The Golden Rule To Massive Success With Your Community Building

As you can see, we had a great trip and highly recommend Ramon’s as the dream destination for a vacation in Paradise. We also enjoyed the people of San Pedro, and some of the other eateries like Elvi’s, Blue Water Grill, and The Hurricane Ceviche Bar. Each of these places had great food and provided a unique experience in conversations from their staff. The thing that unified all of the restaurants and service of the entire San Pedro area is that people there practice the Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 12.44.26 PMWe sat along the beach during the day and took long walks on the beach in the morning and in the evening. There were several peddlers who would come by offering their wares. All of them were very friendly, and none of them were pushy. A simple shake of the head or a “no thank you” wasn’t met with bitterness or a bad attitude (like we’re so used to experiencing here in America) but instead was given a smile and a “ok thank you, have a good day.” That kind of uncommon attitude and behavior is so unique in a place that is surrounded by beauty and a constant stream of travelers. Yet in Paradise, people treat others with respect and love.

Action Steps To Make This Kind Of Community Building Work For You

You don’t have to go to the beach to discover community building secrets that really work, though I do recommend it (actually it’s not very expensive if you travel in the non-peak seasons). Aside from the warm weather and the sights, getting away from the day-in and day-out that occupies all of our time, energy and concentration can be incredibly rewarding. It also provides a way to recharge and gain new clarity.

Step One: Make sure you give yourself the time and space to recharge regularly, even if that means getting out and going for a walk.

Step Two: Community building core principles lie in how you value other people. Make practicing the Golden Rule, and choosing to value other people beyond what they may give you as the #1 priority in your outreach objectives. We’re naturally drawn to people who make us feel valued. We inherently want to support people who do this and be a part of what it is that they’re doing. That’s powerful building principles at work and it starts with valuing others.

Step Three: Make executing your unique experience the goal of every engagement you have with people. Since you’re focus and intention is on providing a great experience for people whom you highly value, operating out of the passion of what you do comes naturally, and it impacts the right people to support your work.

One other little note, we did this whole trip for less than $2000. Artists and entrepreneurs alike can take a great trip and not spend a fortune. My wife wrote a blog post today (ironically) on how we did this trip for so cheap and how you can do the same. Read it HERE.

Does this beach experience make you want to grow a more dynamic community around your work and passion? Good! Reach out to me in the comments and let’s talk about how you can have a more thriving connection of supporters of your work.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned In Crowdfunding

Two months ago I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign. It was, to say the least, an adventure. It was also a big learning experience in both communications, outreach, community building and fundraising.

I thought I was pretty good with at least 2 of those 4 categories, and I did learn new things in each of them. Since crowdfunding has become a more common approach to fundraising and project creation for both entrepreneurs, startups, and musicians, I wanted to share the lessons I learned in crowdfunding with you, so that you can have even more success with your projects.

What I’m going to share here in no way makes me an expert on crowdfunding. There are plenty of people who have run campaigns that raised 100s of 1000s of dollars and more. Our campaign was relatively small, but we did fund it successfully, while several similar projects have had a rough go at getting funded. Here is what I learned that you can and lessons you can take with you to make your campaign run successfully.

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  1. Do a lot of research BEFORE you start your campaign.

I did a lot of reading and asked friends who have done crowdfunders before how their campaigns worked, what they did right and what they would do differently if they could do it over again. I also read a ton of articles before we started the campaign. I did a lot of research before I picked which crowdfunding platform to use. Regarding tactics and strategies used, Amanda Palmer is one of my biggest mentors for this by way of her book The Art Of Asking.

I’m a big fan of PledgeMusic (even beyond having interviewed Benji Rogers for a kickass conversation) and what kind of connection-building platform they have, but the project we did was not something that we could necessarily bring our audience into the making of. Our biggest challenge on which crowdfunding platform to use came down to Indiegogo, Go Fund Me or Kickstarter.

Kickstarter has a more robust set of tools and more funders use it, which leads to a greater overall contribution total than all other crowdfunding platforms. However, there’s only 1 way you can raise money and that’s if you raise 100% of your goal. Indiegogo gives you to option to keep a portion of your goal, or whatever you raise. Initially, that was the deciding factor in picking Indiegogo, except that we ended up selecting the Fund All option (more on that in a bit).

2. Get a commitment for 20-30% of your goal total before you launch your campaign.

This was something that came up consistently in the research. Before you kick off your campaign, have some commitment from your fans, followers, audience, email list or family and friends who pledge to fund a portion of your campaign. I got this commitment via email 2-3 weeks before we started the campaign, with suggested pledge levels and a few insights into possible perks.

Suggested contribution amounts in that introductory email are important. Some people will contribute at the suggested level, while others will give a different amount. When we kicked off the campaign, we had a solid first few days where we eclipsed 30% of the goal in no time. It was a great launch to the campaign itself.

3. Be patient with the process.

The solid start led me to a little fear after the first week when we hit this lull and the contributions virtually stopped for a few days. It was agonizing. I mentioned getting a solid commitment from folks via email but there were several people who didn’t respond to the initial email message and I wondered if my message had been lost. The lull in campaign support and the lack of response to messages in those days made me question a lot about my ability to communicate effectively, the value of our project (the creation of The Appetizer Radio App, which will debut before the end of 2015).

Fear is common in fundraising but you have to remember that it is a 30 days process and not something that happens overnight. I was reminded of this fact when we had a final surge towards the end of the campaign and eclipsed our total goal well before the campaign end date.

Crowdfunding isn’t an overnight fundraising event, or even a week long pledge campaign. It takes 30 days (60 if you elect to run that long). My fundraising experience in public radio pledge drives lasted 7 days on end, and there were usually 1-3 days in the middle of those drives where the pledges and contributions were stagnant. I had to recall those experiences in the midst of this crowdfunder as a reminder that the beginning and the end of the campaign is when the majority of your fundraising contributions come int.

4. Crowdfunding is sales and it takes a sales strategy to be successful.

Like I wrote about last week, we are all in sales no matter what industry or career we’re in. Crowdfunding is a sales process too, even though the setup is different. The core sales aspect is that you’re campaigning to get people to buy into your idea, your project, and the benefits that funding the campaign will provide for them. You have to sell people on the campaign, the project, and above all on you. None of the process is a given and nothing is guaranteed (more on that later).

Sales strategy is very much a matter of clear communication, which has to be a commitment from everyone on your team. I had 3 people working with me on our campaign so that it wasn’t all on me to take care of. The other responsibilities included marketing and promotions on our blog and social channels, outreach to new people, followup on contributions, email marketing messages, and updates to the campaign.

I also added videos and images periodically through the campaign to show more of what the value of the project is to existing and new funders. These videos helped to strengthen the connection to the project and provide more incentive to give. The videos were easily produced using iMovie. Production time took about 1 hour per video.

5. Don’t buy the promotion pitches you’ll receive after you start.

This was a big mistake I avoided and am very relieved we did. Almost immediately after the campaign began, we started getting private messages on Twitter and through Indiegogo from all of these companies who claim to be able to put your campaign in front of millions of crowdfunding supporters.

We already had the campaign shared on every social platform a whole lot and had some other media talking about the campaign. We weren’t at a loss of publicity or people talking about it. Chances are you will have a lot of people talking up your campaign too. If you follow my previous advice you’ll be in good shape. None of the contributors to our campaign were from random people who just saw our campaign and thought “Hey that looks cool. I’ll give them $5 to help out.”

That’s not the way crowdfunding works. There are hundreds of campaigns going on at any given time. People don’t part with their money easily. You have to build a connection with them and give them a reason to support your project. The so-called social media promotion companies all charge $25-$150 or more to put your campaign out to their list of people. They will message you throughout your campaign with solicitations to buy their promotions. Save your money and focus your energies on connecting with the people you know and the communities you’re in to get support.

6. Followup is key before and after the campaign ends.

This is one of the biggest lessons you can learn in community building. Followup and strong communication pave the way for better connections and more fruitful collaborations. I’ve seen crowdfunding projects that are funded successfully and then spend months without contacting the supporters to let them know updates or news about the project. How detrimental to your success is that!

We’ve made it a point to not only post updates to our Indiegogo campaign through their site but also email our funder list periodically to inform them on the status of the app, questions about particulars for perk items, deliverables and new connection information. And we’ve made it possible to continue to support the campaign after it ended (what Indiegogo uses is In Demand). These people are not just your funders, they’re your strongest community members. Keep them in the know for ongoing success and connections.

In conclusion

Crowdfunding is not a guaranteed way to fund your next recording project or make up for the money you already invested in your big idea. It is a way to really connect with the people in your community and garner their trust. Crowdfunding is about relationships and networking, and it requires a strong skill set in relationship management to be successful. If you want to just make money, pick a different method. If you want to build connection with your community and expand your network for a project that you don’t have the funds for on your own, consider crowdfunding as a viable option.

If you need any help, tell me how I can serve you.

 

 

Is Real Success In Building A Community Or An Empire

Harmony Or ControlWhich would you rather build, a community OR an empire?

Essentially that’s the distinction you have to determine as you set out to build anything, be it your own business or enterprise, your artistic/musical endeavor, entrepreneurial platform, nonprofit organization or a location of existence (be it church, city council, group, or place of residence).

Yes, even nonprofits and churches can build empires, or attempt to do so. It’s all a matter of your attitude and perspective.

To know whether you are building an empire or building a community, let’s look at the characteristics of what each have, how they operate, and what the end results of each are. Determine for yourself which of the two you have established and operate in, and (more importantly) which end result you truly want.

Separating Communities From Empires

Communities put others first and seek harmony for the collective involved. Empires put one person above everyone else, usually whoever is at the head, who has all authority and control. Control is the highest value in an empire.

Communities are established to create peace among people of different backgrounds, needs, and interests but with a common location, belief, and mission. Empires are established to create caste systems, one set winners and the other losers, or one group perpetually fortunate and the other perpetually with loss.

Communities thrive on harmony. Everyone benefits each other, or at the very least works together to achieve benefits for both individuals and groups within the community.

Empires are the opposite, they thrive on tyranny. Everyone sacrifices to serve and benefit only one (person or elite group). Caste systems and the extreme spectrum of wealth-to-poverty are prevalent in empires because of the “Us vs Them” culture.

Empires create conflict and war out of self-preservation and self-interest. Control has the highest value in an empire, and must be pushed to the furthest boundaries to prolong its legacy.

Communities create opportunities for others to be included and shield themselves only against hate, leaving prolonged conflict outside the gates.

Confrontation is done to the betterment of everyone within a community because tension and imbalance require an addressing of issues for resolution, understanding and peace. Even in difficult circumstances or situations, confrontation can be done in a way that still leaves all parties feeling understood and doesn’t excommunicate individuals from the group unless absolutely necessary for the operation of the whole gathering.

15338308235_014a57c693_zEmpires treat confrontation as acts or declarations of war, with hostility being the main emotion that drives how confrontation is made. The only end result that can happen when empires confront other groups is increased tension and loss to one side. Rarely does peace for all parties come at the hands of an empire confronting another group or entity.

It’s seductive to want to be a part of an empire, but mostly from the vantage point of what leading an empire would present you in terms of power. However, to be on the opposite end of power in an empire is similar to what it is like to be a slave, with no rights or voice, completely at the mercy of whatever power is over you.

Communities don’t create slaves, instead they foster participants and members. Interaction within a community is voluntary, and therefore more engaging and appreciative.

Empires don’t see individuals. They only see masses, and therefore assume that the whole has only one voice, opinion, way of living, and belief system. Racism at its core is driven by an empirical mantra that groups all people into one category and judges them accordingly. This is an extreme example of empiricism that we (unfortunately) still experience far too often.

Communities see individuals and value the unique characteristics of each person as someone who brings something special to the gathering, offering a new way to move everyone forward.

Building a community is no easy task, but being a part of a healthy community is far more appealing than being caught up in the agenda of an empire. Which would you rather be a part of?

As you build your entity, be that a following around your music or an entrepreneurial business, keep in mind which of these mantras is determining your course, whether you are becoming more of an emperor in how you lead or a community builder who sees people for what they can do for others as well as for you. And see what you can do for them. This is harmony lived out loud.

The DIY Artist Route & You Episode 6: Liza Wisner

LizaWisnerThe DIY Artist Route & You series continues with a colleague who I’m becoming better associated and friends with, Liza Wisner. Liza is an amazing and passionate entrepreneur with a heart for helping to build strong communities where education and opportunity are available to everyone.

I first was introduced to Liza as a radio guest when she was a finalist on NBC’s The Apprentice with Donald Trump in 2012. During that time, Liza had established herself as a team player and as a savvy business person in a variety of ways. She ended up finishing 3rd on the show, but the experience helped her to grow her entrepreneurial skills and build new business relationships that continue to help her in her new enterprises.

I wanted to include Liza Wisner in this podcast series for a few reasons. First, the essence of what makes an uncommon artist thrive is your ability to build communities around not only your music but also the people who are most drawn to you. Community building is key to success in the new music industry, because just being known is no longer something only the top performers have. Social media has a lot to do with that, and it’s something Liza and I discuss in this podcast.

Another reason why I wanted Liza on the podcast is because she brings a fresh, entrepreneurial perspective to what growth really looks like, discussing how it’s not a matter of arriving at a certain spot or achieving a certain outcome that creates ultimate success. Instead, success is a journey you are constantly on. Her perspective and take on not only success, but real growth on our different and uncommon paths is very pertinent for where you are as an artist, entrepreneur and creative person.

If you have any questions or want more information on Liza Wisner and her organization PowerUp, you can find out more HERE.

Have you missed any of the DIY Artist Route & You Podcasts, and want to go back to hear (and download) any of them again? Click Here to see the series episodes, download and share them.

The Art Of Asking Is Community Building Manifesto

theartofasking_imageI’ve known the name Amanda Palmer for several years. I’ve known some of the music of Amanda Palmer for about the same amount of time. But after viewing her Ted Talk from 2013, I had to read her book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Helpbecause her talk spoke to my soul in a way very few people have.

Subsequently, I did something I very rarely do. I bought a brand new book from the book store and paid cover price. You can call me cheap, and you’re right. I buy a lot of books (hard copy and paperback, not digital/Kindle) and my preferred sources are Half-Price Books and Goodwill. Amazon on occasion will do for hard to find stuff. It’s important that you know this little facet about me because I don’t buy new books hardly ever. I made an exception in this case and it was one of the best decisions made this year.

The Art Of Asking is billed as a memoir, and it is. But it’s so much more. Palmer is not your typical artist, both musically or visually. And her openness and honesty with her struggles, self-image, and relationship building pave a subliminal pathway to understanding how asking really works. I’ve struggled my entire life with asking for anything, especially for help and for money. Yes, the two things we as humans, as creatives, and as builders need more than anything are these two things and I have spent decades trying to do so much on my own out of fear of asking.

Asking is a fear shared by you and I and (really) everyone else

It turns out that I’m not alone in having this fear. There’s a strong chance you fear or are at least hesitant in asking for something, though it might not be what I am hesitant in asking for.  I can say it’s because of how I was raised or grew up or something or other, but at the end of the day, I’m the common denominator for why I don’t have what I want and why I couldn’t ask for it. And I have to take responsibility for that.

The Art Of Asking was like a blueprint for me in shedding off the old skin that told me that asking for help, or asking for money, or asking for anything was a sign of weakness or failure, that it would annoy and bother people, that I would be perceived as a taker and not a giver, and that the answer would always be NO. Having written and now looking at that last sentence I see how frail my thinking and ideals had been for so long, which is why I’m so thankful for this book.

It turns out that Amanda struggled with asking too, though her reasons were different, and despite being able to ask her fans for nearly everything from promoting a gig to having a place to sleep after a show (couch surfing as she calls it) , there were somethings she struggled with for a long time before she could ask for it. It took nearly losing someone very close to her for that fear to break.

How to build community the Amanda Palmer way

The headline for this article states that The Art Of Asking is a community building manifesto and it certainly is that. From the perspective of audience growth, there are only a few other artists who have done anything close to building the kind of high powered, passionate, loyal and worldwide audience that Amanda Palmer has. She details what her fan growth process was and it mostly involves being WITH people, giving her fans access to her outside of the music stage, having personal and deep conversations with people who are strangers at first and then become something more.

This is how communities are built. Communication, openness and trust are the pillars of what build the communities we are a part of, be those artistic, business, or the locations we live in. Closing ourselves off from people and only giving them a portion of ourselves, or only showing them our gifts but not our faults limits the power of the community and the people who build it. This is not to say that there aren’t methods of safeguarding yourself against people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Amanda does give a few good examples of where openness went too far, and how she dealt with it. But being afraid of everyone in your community being a potential fiend is not how you treat the people who are building with you.

The Art Of Asking could have also been titled The Art Of Vulnerability or The Art Of Loving Completely. There are some very profound and powerful quotes that are still moving around in my brain, like seedlings just starting to grow roots that will sprout into amazing new things. I want to share some of those quotes with you here in the hopes that it will have a similar effect on you at the very least, and even more, lead you to read this book.

“It isn’t what you say to people, it’s more important what you do with them. It’s less important what you do with them that the way you’re with them.”

“If you love them they will give you everything.”

“It’s about finding your people, your listeners, your readers, and making art for and with them. Not for the masses, not for the critics, but for your ever-widening circles of friends. It doesn’t mean you’re protected from criticism. But if your art touches a single heart, strikes a single nerve, you’ll see people quietly heading your way and knocking on your door. Let them in. Them them to bring their friends up. If possible, provide wine.”

Amanda does talk a lot about naysayers, and breaking free from the ideals or criticism of people who consider asking to be the same as “shameless self-promotion.” This is especially hard for artists (or for anyone) who aren’t naturally social. This is what leads many artists to try and find a promoter or label to do the asking for them. At times that’s a good fit, but too often it’s not because the art of connection is the art of communication, and even people who think they lack a social strength still need to engage directly with people in some capacity.

Overcoming the fear of asking for help

All artists and creators face a similar fear: the fear of rejection or the fear of criticism. That’s honestly what kept me plugging away in near isolation building my work for many years. Thankfully I’ve been blessed to have some incredible friends, colleagues, and family who are givers despite my unwillingness to ask. Chances are you have connections with people like this too. What is keeping you from asking? Let me know, I’d love to hear your story and build community with you.

If you want more inspiration, enjoy her Ted Talk that would eventually lead to the writing of her memoir.

*Yes there are affiliate links to Amazon.com in this post for you to buy Amanda’s book should you be so moved by my experience with it and want to have a similar experience yourself. I appreciate you reading and choosing to buy through this page. You can click on this image here to see more details on buying the book on Amazon (which is cheaper than any other bookseller, and free shipping if you’re a Prime member).