Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

The story of Righteous Babe

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Customer Service, Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Interesting Articles, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Risk, The Idea on October 31, 2008 at 7:04 pm

The story of Ani DiFranco and how she and her partner Scot Fisher built Righteous Babe is a wonderful story about building artistry through a sense of community, the creativity to do so, falling in love, breaking up and the re-birth of relationships and the company. This story appeared in INC magazine and was written by Bo Burlingham, editor at large for Inc Magazine, who also wrote a book about companies that choose to be great instead of big called Small Giants. Righteous Babe fits right into this category!

Ani DiFranco is sitting in her dressing room at the Chicago Theater, six hours before a performance, and she wants to set the record straight. Money, she says, had nothing to do with her decision to reject all those offers from major record labels and start her own business. Nor did she turn down the offers out of fear of losing her artistic freedom. So what was it, then? “I didn’t want to participate in what big corporations are doing to society,” she says. “My decision not to work with a major label was not about me. It was about something bigger than me.”

There are, in fact, quite a few things bigger than Ani (pronounced ah-nee) DiFranco. She is, well, diminutive, although she hardly seems that way when she comes charging onto the stage at the start of a performance, her brown dreadlocks flying, her guitar blazing, her body twisting and turning in a blast of energy. Legions of fans can’t get enough of that energy and the music that goes with it. And yet, for all her artistic success, it’s often her commercial ventures that get attention — much to her chagrin. When Ms. focused on her business prowess in citing her as one of “21 feminists for the 21st century,” she fired off a letter of protest to the magazine’s editor: “Imagine how strange it must be for a girl who has spent 10 years fighting as hard as she could against the lure of the corporate carrot and the almighty forces of capital, only to be recognized by the power structure as a business pioneer.”

It is, however, a designation she can’t escape. Her record company, Righteous Babe Records, is one of the few successful artist-created labels around, having sold more than 4 million of DiFranco’s records and put out CDs by more than a dozen other performers. And it’s no ordinary company. In an industry dominated by giant corporations, Righteous Babe has the look, feel, and smell of a small hometown business. Staff members, for example, respond with handwritten notes to the thousands of letters the company gets from its customers, DiFranco’s fans. In return, the company elicits a level of devotion seldom seen in business. Customers go out of their way to protect it, patrolling the Internet and reporting on websites that try to sell unauthorized recordings of DiFranco’s music. Some fans are so passionate about the business that they come from as far away as Australia and Switzerland, not to see DiFranco perform, but to visit the company headquarters in Buffalo. “I’m standing here in total awe,” wrote one visitor from Los Angeles in the guest book.

And it’s not just the fans. Talk to the company’s record distributors, its printers, the manufacturers of its CDs, the concert promoters, not to mention its employees, and you realize that DiFranco and partner Scot Fisher have tapped into one of the most underappreciated forces in business, namely, the power of community. To do that while maintaining great margins is quite an accomplishment — especially for a company whose CEO believes, as DiFranco sang on a recent album, that “capitalism is the devil’s wet dream.”

Scot Fisher is a tall, quiet, somewhat diffident man who works out of a cluttered office at Righteous Babe’s headquarters. At 43, he still dresses like the construction guy he was when he first met DiFranco. Although he is usually referred to as her manager, the term does not do justice to the role he plays in her business life. Besides looking out for her career, he is the chief architect, co-owner, and operating head of Righteous Babe and its six component businesses, including a touring company, a retail operation, a music publisher, a real estate developer, and a foundation, as well as the record label. Together they do about $5 million in sales, mostly from DiFranco’s CDs and her touring. (Profits are harder to figure but probably run a bit less than $1 million a year.) Yet another venture, a concert venue, will open next spring in a restored church down the block, which will also house a jazz club, an art gallery, and the headquarters of Righteous Babe. In addition to complementing the other businesses, the concert hall represents a hedge against the uncertain future that Righteous Babe and all record companies face these days. “I’m in the buggy business, and it’s 1905,” says Fisher. “It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”

“I’m in the buggy business and it’s 1905. It would be insane to count on CDs being here in 10 years.”
He wound up in the business almost by accident. Back in 1988, he was the co-owner of a small construction and housepainting company, and he’d recently moved into an apartment that the girlfriend of one of his partners was sharing with a woman she’d gone to art school with, an 18-year-old folksinger. One evening, he went to see his new housemate perform at a local bar. “It was sort of obligatory,” he says. “Then she started to play.” Nine years her senior, Fisher soon became DiFranco’s confidant and mentor. Along the way, they fell in love. At some point, Righteous Babe entered the picture. “In the beginning, it was more of a joke than a real business,” DiFranco says. “You know, ‘Yeah, uh-huh, I got a record company. You’re looking at it.'”

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that she would gravitate toward entrepreneurship. She’d been figuring out how to make her own way in the world from an early age. At nine, she was spending Saturdays busking at the local farmers’ market. At 12, she was making and selling cards of pressed flowers to earn money for horse camp. At 15, when her parents divorced, she moved out and lived on her own, largely supporting herself. Only once, in 1991, did she come close to signing with an established label, backing out as soon as she read the terms of the contract.

And yet, even without a contract, her fame spread. By the end of 1993, she had released five albums under the Righteous Babe label, and they were setting sales records at the folk festivals where she performed. Thanks to her constant touring, she was developing a loyal following, especially among young women, many of them lesbians who identified with her feminist lyrics and considered her one of their own. But Righteous Babe existed pretty much in name only. It had no structure, no organization, no full-time employees, and no office. DiFranco’s albums were getting very little radio airplay and couldn’t be found in most record stores. On top of that, she’d had a major falling-out with her business manager.

Into the breach stepped Fisher, who had been studying law while DiFranco was working on her music career. “I figured I could always be a lawyer,” he says. “When would I get another chance to manage Ani DiFranco?” DiFranco, for her part, had doubts about having her lover take charge of her business affairs. “In the end,” she says, “he just sort of declared himself my business manager.” Fisher says they had an understanding that he’d step aside if it turned out he was wrong for the job.

There was, in fact, little reason to believe he was right for the job. He lacked experience, credentials, and credibility in the music business. “It took [Ani’s agent] Jim Fleming a couple of years to tell me that the first time I called, he thought, ‘Omigod, it’s the boyfriend.'” Fisher says. “But I knew where I stood. I knew people didn’t respect me. I’m from Buffalo. I’m used to it.”

To read the rest of the article click here

Artistry + The River = An Economic Catalyst

In Art, Cooking & Food, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Networking, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on October 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

What do artists have in common with supporting economic development along our most important and prominent rivers in the United States?

Believe it or not, more than you might think.

Today John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl, myself and members of the American Heritage River Alliance have a meeting in Mayor Daley’s Office to discuss Chicago’s expressed interest in applying for federal funding for the Chicago River in 2009 through the American Heritage River Alliance.

The AHRA, established by President Clinton’s Executive Order #13061 in 1997, is a network of locally-driven partnerships working to restore rivers, promote sustainable development, and improve quality of life. When President Clinton issued this Executive Order, federal funding was given for ten years to fourteen different rivers. Chicago applied ten years ago and was not selected. In 2009 federal funding will become available to six more rivers, for ten years, through an application process.

The first 14 rivers that were originally funded are now being converted into 501c3’s. Each river, through this White House initiative, was originally assigned an Interagency River Navigator– a key person who helps match local needs with their ability to fast track available federal resources for environmental, economic, and cultural/historic preservation efforts.

With the original river navigators still in their original roles, and in need of a new source of funding, the reason the AHRA and several of the key river navigators are in town this week is to promote the marketing potential of supporting this organization at the Chief Responsibility Officer Conference– the newest emerging corporate executive role created in the last few years- this coming Wednesday here in Chicago. Both John and I will be attending the conference to help the AHRA network to advance fundraising initiatives. Did you know that the original 14 rivers, the AHRA is looking for these corporations to financial support, has a marketing reach of over 1/2 of the population in the United States?

So why, you might be thinking, are John Cimino and I involved in this project?

Well, Creative Leaps is currently working on a project in the Hudson River, one of the originally funded 14 rivers through the AHRA, for their Quadricentennial celebration. John is serving as the educational director for a project that the AHRA and Creative Leaps conceived called the Arts-Science Challenge. From this project, which will last through 2009, the AHRA is committing a portion of the 400 million dollar funding it hopes to raise, to development John Cimino’s idea for The Renaissance Center, which the AHRA believes on its own provides an economic engine for the region it is built in.

The Renaissance Center is a center devoted to for Leadership, Innovation and Learning. It will serve as an interdisciplinary center using the arts as a catalyst, to convene business, government, education and sustainable technology sectors together to solve their problems and develop teaching artist consultants to do some of this work in each area it serves.

My interest in the project is to help John place one of these centers in Chicago and to be responsible for its development and involved as a teaching artist in its work- thus a new viable twist on my idea of a Chicago Arts Incubator.

So what do a couple of artists have in common with ecomonic development along the Hudson River and The Chicago River? It appears a lot!

What kind of interesting lense can you bring into binocular view- something paired to your artistry- to make your work more fully integrated into the community in a significant and financially meaningful way?

How to Tell a Great Story

In Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on October 27, 2008 at 5:15 am

Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote this wonderful article for Ode Magazine. Given that some of you will be submitting your story for The Entrepreneurial Artist Competition in the coming days or weeks, you might find this article valuable. Regardless, Seth’s points for marketing you, your products or services through a story are spot on. Stories are one of, if not, the most effective way of selling your work.


Great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences.

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on.

Great stories make a promise. They promise fun, safety or a shortcut. The promise needs to be bold and audacious. It’s either exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.

Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone. People don’t trust the beautiful women ordering vodka at the corner bar (they’re getting paid by the liquor company). People don’t trust the spokespeople on commercials (who exactly is Rula Lenska?). And they certainly don’t trust the companies that make pharmaceuticals (Vioxx, apparently, can kill you). As a result, no marketer succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story.

Great stories are subtle. Surprisingly, the fewer details a marketer spells out, the more powerful the story becomes. Talented marketers understand that allowing people to draw their own conclusions is far more effective than announcing the punch line.

Great stories happen fast. First impressions are far more powerful than we give them credit for.

Great stories don’t always need eight-page color brochures or a face-to-face meeting. Either you are ready to listen or you aren’t.

Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses. Pheromones aren’t a myth. People decide if they like someone after just a sniff.

Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone. Average people are good at ignoring you. Average people have too many different points of view about life and average people are by and large satisfied. If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.

Great stories don’t contradict themselves. If your restaurant is in the right location but had the wrong menu, you lose. If your art gallery carries the right artists but your staff is made up of rejects from a used car lot, you lose. Consumers are clever and they’ll see through your deceit at once.

Most of all, great stories agree with our world view. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

Light Your Ideas On Fire- Today!

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, The Idea on October 24, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Getting your idea on a piece of paper is a very important necessary step towards turning your vision into reality. Congrats if you have come to that realization and are already there or beyond.

But truthfully- this step is not really of much value by itself. It only becomes profoundly valuable and deeply meaningful if you light those ideas on fire by calling others to action daily.

Your script, your piece of music, the outline for your book, and the concept for a business from those ideas, at any stage of execution means little, to anyone except you, without an audience. And so you must first, and every single day from then on, light yourself on fire with the power of your own ideas–enough to get really comfortable with yourself- enough to build, and continue to build, an audience through self promotion.

While we all have days we feel better about ourselves and more able to do this, it is only through effective marketing and promotion that your audience will come. There are plenty of great ideas that never get off the ground, or die on the vine, because there greatness does not alone “will” them into being. What gives them life is the interest- the action- of others.

While some ideas take off with less promotion than others, what are some of the ways a good self promoter triggers and builds the response they are looking for and need?

Here are five quick tips:

#5 Bootstrap. Leverage the strength of your idea by not throwing a lot of money at it. Spending money on your great idea is a sure way to get a taste of the ” rush of freedom” I described in Skydive your Life, but also a sure way to ensure your chute never opens with you when you get to the ground. Have the discipline to start on a shoe string budget and find a grassroots way for your ideas to take hold over and over and over again.

#4 Get online and build a case for your product, service or market niche to buy into and begin to support. Figure out “what’s in it for my audience” and build all the reasons for your audience to “need it” into your work.

#3 Get people talking about you., an on-line 15 million dollar diamond store, usually a product thought to be a hands-on type of experience, found a way to do that by sending bloggers pictures of celebrities wearing designs. Whiteflash publishes 10 to 20 articles on its own website related to fashion and style as well as has a Facebook presence with a fan page where customers can share stories and photos. What does it cost them to do this? Very little and yet there business is growing at 15% a year.

#2 Experiment. Making good decisions and experimenting with different ways you can promote your ideas are more likely to score you a home run than if you only pick one. Get comfortable with trying 101 things because what resonates with your audience about your ideas might not be what you thought would. I will be the first to tell you that blogging is a great way to do this. There are many times I am surprised by which articles are well read, but each time I learn more about who you are and what you want.

#1 Your ideas must have have something clearly in it for me! Self serving self-promotion is not what draws others to you. Providing the essence of what you can share, teach or help another experience is what draws your audience. Make sure to let it shine through.

3 Weeks to Start Up

In BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Entrepreneurial Tool Box on October 23, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Are you wondering how to take your dream- the one you are writing about for the soon to launch Entrepreneurial Artist Contest- and turn it into reality?

You can now fast track your business step by step using Tim Berry and Sabrina Parsons high speed guide to starting a business: 3 Weeks to Start up.

So can you really start a company in 3 weeks you might ask?

According to author Sabrina Parsons, Yes and no.

“You can get your business going very quickly these days. There are tons of tools online that can help you get everything set up and started in 3 weeks with no problems at all. But will you be selling and bringing in revenue in 3 weeks? Maybe. The book helps someone focus on starting the business the right way, without extra cost and time going into the logistics of their business. It was a fun book to focus on and a fun book to write. The internet has provided a new way of getting your business started and has made the process cheaper and faster and we outline all these new ways to get your business started in the book.”

Sabrina said that writing her book was just another way for her to continue to support entreprenuers- keep the love coming Sabrina!

Words of Wisdom from 5 Top Entrepreneurs

In Emotional Intelligence, Employees, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, Money, Risk on October 22, 2008 at 6:51 pm

You’ve got the artistic part down pat, Let us help with the rest*

“Sixteen years ago, we were cold calling and struggling to land our first client, The Port Authority of New York. New Jersey called us by mistake, attempting to contact a company whose name was silmilar to (ours). We kept them on the phone and discussed their IT (informational technology) infrastructure and project needs at length. Needless to say, they became our first client. We still laugh at this.”
Ranjini Poddar, Artech Information Systems LLC, Cedar Knolls, New Jersey
Began:1992 Initial Investment: $200,000 2003 Sales: 2.2 million 2007 Sales: 182.2 million

“The biggest mistake we ever made was undervaluing ourselves. When we started, we were young and hungry and we didn’t give ourselves credit for the amount of value we brought to our clients and strategies. So the lesson learned is: Don’t undervalue yourself and your expertise, and don’t let you size dictate your value.”
Shenan Reed, Morpheus Media, New York City, New York
Began: 2001 Initial Investment: $0 2003 Sales: 2.0 million 2007 Sales: 35 million

“It is important to take an inventory of your strengths and what you like to do. Focus on those things and get help for the others as soon as you can.”
Amy Langer, Salo LLC, Minneapolis, MN
Began: 2002 Initial Investment: $150,000 2003 Sales: 3.4 million 2007 Sales: 42 million

“Be a great juggler. As a woman in business, you will always have lots of balls in the air, including activities of running your business and being strategic in your decisions to grow your business. In many cases, ( you also have) the role of being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a sister. The same traits that make us great in all of these roles are the ones that you will rely on to excel in business.”
Leslie O’Connor, Search Wizards, Atlanta, Georgia
Began: 2000 Initial Investment: $0 2003 Sales: 359,600 2007 Sales: 12.2 million

“Build an atmosphere of trust and respect. You must always respect the (employees and clients) you work with. Believe in your people. Make your word count. In addition, never lose focus on your next challenge.”
Jeni Bogdan, The Saxon Group, Sugar Hill, Georgia
Began: 1995 Initial Investment: $100,000 2003 Sales: 13.4 million 2007 Sales: 81.8 million

*The image at the top of this post is an advertisement for The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), a nonprofit arts and culture service agency dedicated to Northeast Ohio’s success by preserving and advancing its arts and culture sector.

Partner Up, Artists!

In Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Networking, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 21, 2008 at 8:01 pm

From idea to startup to full-fledged business, PartnerUp is an organization that fosters entrepreneurship, helping you with your development. No matter what stage your business is in, PartnerUp’s focus is to help you find the people, resources and information to help you succeed.

Pretty cool business huh?

I am a firm believer in finding others to participate in helping you develop your venture. You need to have a minimum of 3 other mentors involved in your venture at any time and any stage. Look for advisors with complimentary, but different, skill sets than you have and make sure all of your advisors are smarter than you are! If you surround yourself with others who are brighter than you, chances are you will learn and grow faster by doing so.

Through PartnerUp, and their on-line community members, you can network to build relationships with other entrepreneurs and small business owners, find the right people to join your startup as partners, co-founders or other team members, and increase your circle of supporters or mentors. You can also find resources ranging from commercial real estate to accountants and lawyers, if you don’t already have space and accounting and legal advice. (Remember: accountants and attorneys are not a luxury when you start but worth every penny to help you get started the right way.)

A basic membership to PartnerUp is free and you can enroll here.

Delivery Driver By Day, Paper Sculpture Entrepreneur by Night

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Marketing, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Like most of us, Eric Simmon’s love of art began when he was a kid. Eric would spend hours copying drawings of his favorite superheroes out of comic books. With his love of art growing through childhood, it only seemed natural to pursue an artistic career path; which lead Eric to get a degree in graphic arts, graduating for Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan in 1989.

But Eric found that technology was constantly changing. He found himself frequently going back to college, just trying to keep his skills current, to be able to do his creative work in this medium. It just became too much to do. (Maybe even too much of a financial stretch to do too..)

And so for about fifteen years Eric worked for a major photo lab in the Detroit area where he helped produce large scale displays for trade shows and museums. Currently, Eric is a delivery driver for a Detroit based printing company.

“As much as I would love to make a living from my artwork, I have to say that realistically, that will probably never happen. I do keep trying to get my work out there in the public, and I have had a lot of positive responses, but not enough to quit my day job”, says Eric.

Sound familiar?

But Eric’s past does not predict his future. Eric’s paper sculptures and cards are simply incredible. And Eric’s passion shows through in his commitment to blog.

“My paper sculptures started as just a cheap way to decorate, and have now grown into an obsession. Mythology, legends and the natural world are the inspiration for my work. I originally intended to depict mythical characters from various legends from around the world, but I sometimes find myself exploring my own personifications of nature instead”.

Ancient Chinese and Japanese images have strongly influenced Eric’s style. Also the female figure plays a prominent role in his work.

“I started to actually sell my sculptures about 10 years ago at art fairs and galleries. My work has been exhibited at several galleries in the Detroit area, as well as Georgia, Wyoming, Oklahoma, California, Nebraska, Cooperstown, New York; and Boston, Massachusetts. I am always looking for new opportunities to exhibit my work, whether it’s an art fair, gallery or online. I’ve also taught a couple of classes on paper sculpture”.

But with the economy being what it is right now Eric thought it would be wise to come up with some more affordable alternatives to his paper sculptures which resulted in his creating cards. “Most people who buy the cards have no intention of actually sending them off to anyone, instead most tell me they plan on framing them and decorate a small area in their house with them”.

Maybe Eric should consider framing them himself and selling them as original finished artwork for hundreds of dollars since his customers seem to be showing him how important they are to them? Just completing this step for future clients might increase the value of his work alone. What do you think Eric should do to improve his growing paper artistry business? Can you offer a suggestion to help him?

Check out more of Eric’s artwork at

Revitalizing America using the Arts to Cross Boundaries

In Current Events, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 17, 2008 at 9:28 am

What can the arts do to re-shape how our world works? How can we advance global initiatives for alternative energy development? Reduce poverty? Increase global creativity to rescue our sinking world economy? Use the arts to generate economic success and the rebuilding of our value system?

Could there be a better time than right now to develop your thinking skills to do this?

According to a recent post by Linda Naiman, Creativity at work, While the world obsesses about Wall Street, Warren Buffet has managed to boost his wealth by $8 billion to $58 billion in the past month.

It sure seems to me that making this kind of money in this economy takes creativity to do, don’t you?

According to Linda Naiman, Now is the time to get creative and find new opportunities amidst turbulence. Start by developing your ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.

Ah, but drawing new lines outside of the boundaries we know is not always comfortable, is it?
It is a risk, after all, to ” think out of the box” we routinely think ourselves into.

According to scholar Thomas Homer Dixon the “ingenuity gap” – the space between problems that arise and our ability to solve them – is growing today at an alarming rate (in business, scientific research, education, the environment and world affairs).

Author Ken Robinson proclaims we are “Out of Our Minds” to have sidelined creativity and the arts when every layer of American society from elementary education to supply-side economics is starved for more imagination, more original thinking, and more creative intelligence.

On October 27th, John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl is coming to Chicago to speak at Catalyst Ranch about the power, need, purposefulness and innovative potential for a network of Renaissance Centers for Innovation, Learning and Leadership and their significance in bridging knowledge across disciplines.

In particular, he will ask how can such a Renaissance Center best serve the needs of Chicago’s own institutions of higher education, business, commerce, leadership, creativity, the arts and arts-based education reforms in the schools? What kinds of partnerships among institutions, public and private, would be essential? Finally, in addition to addressing the needs of individual sectors, what global and overarching issues important to Chicago should the Renaissance Center address in its cross-disciplinary, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary forums?

I don’t know about you, but I just live for conversations like these. If your in the Chicago area and are interested in attending RSVP me at

Come join John Cimino for an evening of spirited dialogue, creative collaboration and exploration of a new vision for interdisciplinary learning, creativity and leadership.

Monday October 27, 2008, 6 to 8pm, Catalyst Ranch

The Human Trafficking Project

In Art, Current Events, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Health & Wellness, Music, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on October 14, 2008 at 6:09 am

If you live in the United States right now and are feeling squeezed as a result of our economic financial melt down, remember your life could be worse. MUCH WORSE. Imagine losing your freedom and being subjected to modern day slavery known as human trafficking.

Focused on this important social cause, The Human Trafficking Project (HTP), a New York-based non-profit organization, utilizes art, innovation and technology to raise awareness to this form of modern day slavery. Their mission is to connect those working to combat human trafficking, as well as providing support to trafficking survivors.

2009 upcoming projects include a hip-hop album, a documentary and a photography project. The goal is to provide a multimedia body of work that will convey the facts, emotions and complexity of human trafficking to bring the issue into mainstream consciousness. The HTP website is in the process of developing featured trafficking facts, downloadable songs, streamable video, photographs, links to relevant news stories, and original articles and insights on the problem.

So what exactly is human trafficking?

Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, sexual exploitation, peonage, debt bondage, slavery, or other forms of exploitation. Human trafficking is the third most profitable organized crime/business, just after drug and arms trafficking. According to the United Nations, it generates an estimated 32 billion dollars annually in revenue.

And if you think that human trafficking does not occur in the United States- think again- an estimated 17,000 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. According to the U.S. State Department up to 800,000 people are trafficked around the world annually. Free the Slaves, a Washington D.C.- based nonprofit, estimates there to be up to 27 million active slaves in the world today.

This project is a pretty fantastic example of what artist can do as social entrepreneurs.

About the Artists Involved in The Human Trafficking Project

Merissa Nathan Gerson-Writer (Boulder, USA)
In May 2008, Merissa graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Her writing can be seen in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Apothecary, and local Colorado journals. For the past four years she has worked as a farmer, a waitress, a sixth grade teacher, a bilingual tutor, a lamp-maker, an intern for the Native American Rights Fund, and a creative writing teacher at a juvenile detention facility. In May of 2004 she received a BA with a dual focus in American Culture Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Washington University in St. Louis where she headed their rape prevention initiative.

Ligaya Domingo- Filmmaker (Philippines)
Ligaya is a visual artist based in Manila. A filmmaker and advocate of women’s and children’s rights, Domingo studied Fine Arts and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Art History at the University of the Philippines. Ligaya has worked as an assistant director, production designer, art director and actress in various independent film productions. She is an active member of Sinekalye, a group of independent filmmakers and video artists from the Mowelfund Film Institute. Besides the HTP film Gimikera, Ligaya recently completed Perya, a documentary about a community of carnival workers.

Kat C. Palasi- Photographer (Philippines)
Kat is a freelance photographer who has documented women’s issues and the changing traditions of her Igorot clan, the Ibaloys of Benguet. A graduate of Communication from the University of the Philippines, she has received the Asian Cultural Council grant twice from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which enabled her to study at the International Center of Photography in New York City. She is currently preparing to shoot a documentary on Filipino youth culture. See more of Kat’s work here.

Veejay Villafranca- Photographer (Philippines)
Raised by a photojournalist father, Veejay was attracted to the camera at an early age. In college, Villafranca worked as a staff photojournalist for the Philippine Graphic covering events such as the conflicts in the Southern provinces of Zamboanga & Sulu and the insurgencies in the Cordillera mountain range. Villafranca also covered the official visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to the Philippines in 2004. Most recently he has worked for wire agencies such as Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters news agency. Veejay was also part of the recently concluded Angkor Photo festival held in Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Meryl David- Singer (Philippines)
Meryl started singing in 2003 with an acoustic group called Soulground that regularly performed throughout Metro Manila. Wanting to explore different forms of music, she decided to form a band that would play neo-soul for the underground Filipino hip-hop scene. Meryl is currently collaborating with indie artists alongside her career as a registered nurse. “What brought me here isn’t just because of the mere fact that I sing. If it’s the truth, I’m in; if it’s not the truth, I’m out. Awareness leads to nothing without action. It’s more than cool to know what to sing for and what to sing against.”

Mike Hortaleza aka DJ Grimrock- Musician (Washington, USA)
Mike is a Filipino musician born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Influenced by hip-hop culture at a young age, Hortaleza found his talent on turntables in high school and became a DJ entering DJing competitions and practicing the art of Turntablism. He has performed with or opened for various musicians including Live Human, DJ Craze, One Be Lo, Eternia, Scratch of the Roots, Native Gunz, Sadat X and Sleep. Mikey was also the main DJ on the War of the Words tour in 2006. Mike is currently building an Oregon Chapter of the Universal Zulu Nation to promote community service through hip-hop.

The Network of Music Career Development Officers Conference

In Current Events, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 14, 2008 at 2:47 am

The Network of Music Career Development Officers (NETMCDO) is an active international group of professionals working in the area of music career development. NETMCDO’s members provide information, advising, and resources to musicians to advance their careers across the spectrum of the professional music world. Members include music career center specialists, music school faculty, administrators, university generalist career counselors, private practice career advisors, and others.

Most of NETMCDO’s members focus on the careers of classical and jazz musicians, however, many of their members also deal with the entire range of the music industry.

The Network of Music Career Development Officers (NETMCDO) was founded in 1995 by Angela Beeching of New England Conservatory and John Blanchard of Manhattan School of Music.

The original goal was simply to gather together colleagues at similar music schools throughout the U.S. to discuss issues and get to know each other. When NETMCDO began to widen their circles and advertise their annual meetings in New York, they saw more and more interest from schools without career centers for musicians or course work on the business of music. NETMCDO have grown into an inclusive organization where “veterans” and “novices” alike share viewpoints, experiences, and knowledge.

NETMCDO is now a thriving network with members across the world. The Network communicates via an active Listserv, with over 130 participants, and an annual conference held each January in New York. The two-day conference is generally held in the days immediately preceding the Chamber Music America conference, since many of our members attend both conferences.

The 14th annual Network of Music Career Development Officers conference will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, January 13 and 14, 2009 in New York City. To register click here.

An Artist’s Journey: The Guitar Hero Story

In Creative Support, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Interesting Articles, The Idea, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 10, 2008 at 10:46 pm

The story of the entrepreneurial journey of Guitar Hero creators Eran Egozy and Alex Rigopulos is one that really struck a major chord for me. Their journey is filled with failures, self doubt, an unwillingness to stop ” the addiction” and the ultimate “underdog- wins-it-all” fairy tale ending. While it is a long article, that appeared in Inc Magazine in their October issue, written by freelance writer Don Steinberg, I think their story offers many parallels (except for maybe the amount of money they raised by angel investors) of an artist’s entrepreneurial struggles to artistically and financially succeed.

As artists, this article may truly embrace most of our own fears, doubts and disbelief about how much is required from us for the love of art. But since we are never going to stop “the addiction” we might as well try shooting at entrepreneurial success, just like these guys did.


Alex Rigopulos promised he wasn’t going to treat this as some kind of victory lap, as a fist-pump in the sky to proclaim that his long-struggling company had gutted out a decade of failure to explode in unlikely success. But, man, he could have. On a sweltering evening this July, the Who (yes, that the Who) was about to play a private concert for his company’s 1,500 invited guests — press, partners, investors — at the rented-out Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. Harmonix Music Systems, the company Rigopulos co-founded 13 years earlier, was on fire. He and co-founder Eran Egozy and their patient investors had made millions of dollars, and millions more were on the way. The company’s video games, Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which let players perform real rock songs on fake instruments, were pumping life into a panicking music industry, an industry that just a few years back only occasionally took the time to return Harmonix’s phone calls. Tonight, the company was introducing Rock Band 2, in advance of its official release in September.

Rigopulos didn’t dare think of this event as vindication, though. “You always feel like you’re on the brink of failure,” he had said in his office a week before the Who concert. Failure, after all, had chased his company for so long. He and Egozy had launched Harmonix in 1995 fresh out of graduate school, with a cool piece of demo software they had written, a dreamy business plan about bringing the bliss of playing an instrument to nonmusicians, and no truly marketable ideas.

Could you design a better blueprint for years of frustration? It came like a slow beating: a decade of scraping by as the founders struggled to turn their idea into a viable product and began sacrificing pieces of their vision (and their company) to stay afloat. A decade of learning that ingenuity comes in two flavors: the kind where you invent mind-blowing technology (that was the easy part for two guys with master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the kind where you build a legitimate business around it.

The aroma of a rocking party — booze and sweat and perfume — drifted across the Orpheum’s lobby as Rigopulos schmoozed and tried to be everywhere. The Harmonix CEO, 38, is tall and fine-featured, his uniform an untucked dress shirt and a suit jacket over slim-cut jeans. Until seven years ago (when a receding hairline made it look too silly), he had a ponytail. At open bars, businesspeople squeezed shoulder to shoulder for drinks, and many lined up to play Rock Band 2. They sang and jammed like teenagers on plastic guitars and drums, performing songs like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”

And then…Rigopulos was nowhere.

Downstairs, past a security guard and a velvet curtain leading into a VIP-only area, then through another doorway in a back barroom, there he was, alone, lost in thoughts and a bit of bourbon, pacing, looking at the floor, his arms folded over his chest. It was quiet. In 15 minutes, he would be getting onstage to say a few words before the Who came on.

“I’m not introducing the band,” he said. “I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for sticking with us.” Maybe this was an emotional night, after all.

Soon, up in the theater, the houselights dimmed, the background music faded, and silhouettes appeared onstage. It wasn’t Rigopulos — it was Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and the rest of the Who. Townshend cranked four staccato power chords to begin “I Can’t Explain,” and the crowd erupted. Rigopulos didn’t get to make his thank-you speech.

“The band was ready to go on,” he said afterward with a shrug. “I didn’t want to hold things up.” The night had been 13 years in coming, after all.

If you weren’t among the people whose money Harmonix had been burning through, the company appeared to burst onto the scene with a billion-dollar success. In late 2005, Harmonix and RedOctane (a company that briefly ran out of money while funding Harmonix’s creation of the game) released Guitar Hero. The game reached $1 billion in North American sales faster than any other video game in history and became a pop culture phenomenon, with celebrity fans, magazine covers, TV cameos — the whole Hollywood movie montage.

Guitar Hero comes with a plastic guitar that looks like a Fisher-Price version of a Gibson SG. Players press big, colored buttons on the guitar’s neck to try to match colored dots that cascade down a TV screen in time with the music, mostly classic rock songs such as Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” and the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated.” For example, during the crunking opening of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” the famous da-da-daaa, da-da-DA-daaa, if you don’t hit the blue button with your left pinky and press the strum bar lever at exactly the right time with your other hand, it goes da-da-daaa, da-da [silence] daaa. If you get it right, though, the effect is that you are really playing the awesome guitar riff of a song you have heard a million times on the radio since you were 15. It’s shockingly fun. You score points based on the accuracy of your playing.

To read the rest of this article click here

How to be a Thriving Artist in This Economy

In Creative Support, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Networking, Risk on October 8, 2008 at 8:10 pm

How can you make the most out of a shrinking economy as an artist?

#10 Get on-line and display your work. The internet reaches the entire world and if you are not on it you are significantly diminishing your potential market. For the little it will cost you to build a site, it will pay in spades for the positive image and credibility it will bring to your work, which in turn helps you get your next job.

#9 Create a blog. WordPress is free. Blogging is a great way to keep your current clients interested in what your doing. It’s also a great way to build your market, one reader at a time, simply by expressing yourself and sharing what you do. Sure it takes commitment to blog. But I can also tell you it’s fun and rewarding to see your online community supporting you too.

#8 Promote your blog online for free. Find other blogging communities of like minded individuals, regardless of the focus of their blog, and share your work and ideas about the topics they write about. Connecting with like minded individuals with different interests from yours, but who’s values are in line with yours, will bring new audience members to you.

#7 Create products and services that are current in themes and reflect the economic times. Build in commentary by attaching a written statement to it, or sharing it with your audience live, or providing 700 billion dollar snicker bars for $1.00 or Deregulation sucks! drinks at intermission to give your work a “today” edge. Guerrilla marketing works! Then find a niche community of online shops to help you promote and market what you are doing or creating. Seek retails that focus on a customer experience where your work can really be featured or stand out because of the environment.

#6 Partner with another artist and cross fertilize your customer base by combining forces on upcoming shows, gigs and through communications jointly with your clients. Offer to get involved for the exposure and ask the same from the artist you select as a partner.

#5 Network, network, network. Attend free events that are of interest to the business and government community. Bring a stack of your business cards and engage in casual conversation. Be friendly, curious and share who you are. By getting to know new individuals, some of them are most likely to be interested in the work you do, and then your odds of finding a new opportunity increase ten fold. People buy from people. In tough times and in good times, but especially in tough time, connecting with others matters more than ever.

#4 Create an inexpensive short weekend workshop, or find a free project to offer the community that can get others involved in your work in a new way. In more difficult economic times affordable, with a focus on fun, family or group events sell. Happiness matters now more than ever in times like these. Workshops bring people together in new ways that can spark interests and become sustainable because of the bonds and “webs” people want to create. A short community event that raises awareness about you and your work can springboard into workshops, classes, or your next gig.

#3 Can your artwork lift someone during their work day? Create a Bailout for the Human Spirit lunch hour program for employees at corporations in your community. With job lay offs at record high’s and 401K’s plummeting, Main Street corporate America is going to need to give their workers some affordable hope. Teach an onsite painting class, play music and bring shaker toys for employees, write an original skit and give your audience a reason to laugh.

#2 Remember who you are and what you are made of. Remember why you are an artist and become more innovative. And think like a survivor. Who really can afford and needs the services, products and creativity that your artistry offers?

#1 Invest in yourself and invest in your clients. In hard times, while most cut their promotional budgets, many in business say it can be the best time to really get a leg up and grow your business. Investing in yourself and potential clients, as you can see from this list, does not necessarily require cash. Instead, it requires 150% of your personal involvement, enthusiasm, determination and will to succeed. A vibrant artists is a powerful magnet for others, yes indeed!

Learn How to Innovate like Thomas Edison

In BOOKS: Learn and Grow, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 7, 2008 at 8:56 am

How did Edison innovate and what can we, as artists, learn from his best practices?
Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, in this past year has written a wonderful book titled Innovate like Edison, that can teach us his most important principles of innovation.


The term “core competence” was coined in 1995 by global business strategist Gary Hamel. A competence refers to a bundle of skills and technologies which, when mastered, yields competitive advantage. “Innovation competence” is a variation on Hamel’s term, describing the bundle of skills Edison used to generate competitive advantage through his innovation system.

Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation™ propelled him to a record 1,093 U.S. patents as well as 1,293 international patents. Edison’s approach to innovation not only encompassed the development and launch of extraordinary products and services, it encompassed deep mental preparations as well. The Five Competencies of Innovation are: Read the rest of this entry »

Monday’s Journey

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 6, 2008 at 10:07 am

I met Monday Mariano at Interlochen Arts Academy summer camp back in the late 70’s. First we lived together as cabin mates outside in the woods, during an 8 week summer session with a bunch of other young female musicians, and then we went on to play together in orchestra at Interlochen, the very next year, during our time together at the Arts Academy for high school. In fact Monday lived right down the hall from me for most of my time at the Academy and I knew her fairly well.

But these day Monday goes my Monday Michiru. After graduating from IAA, in 1987 Monday was scouted by a young Japanese movie director, Shinji Somai, to appear as a lead in his movie Hikaru Onna (“Luminous Woman”) about an opera singer. Shinji Somai is known in in Japan for casting unknowns who had never had previous experience in acting, and with a lead role in hand, Monday decided to move to Japan to coincide with the filming of the movie which, by the request of its producer, debuted her to the Japanese public under the name Michiru Akiyoshi.

The film entered the International Tokyo Film Festival in 1987, earning honorable mention for Best Actress, as well as Best New Actress awards from Kinema Junpo, The Japan Academy, and the Yokohama Film Festival. At the urging of her management company in Japan, she continued in her newfound and unexpected acting career which now expanded to included theatre and television, hosting her own radio programs (J-Wave, FM Tokyo, etc.), modeling for major commercial ads (Kohdansha, Yubinchokin, NTT, and most recently for Four Roses), and appearing on television as a “personality.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Creative Economy is the Antidote to Wall Street Woes

In ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 3, 2008 at 4:06 am

This article, written by Linda Naiman, Creativity at Work, appeared on her blog on Sept 25th, 2008. If the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (the UNCTAD) is noticing the impact of the creative work force now in their economic data, just imagine what we can do if we buckle down and apply ourselves under a new administration in the United State of America?


According to recent reports from the UNCTAD, the Creative Economy is undergoing unprecedented growth compared with traditional services and manufacturing.

What is the Creative Economy?

UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) defines the Creative Economy as a set of knowledge-based economic activities making intensive use of creativity to add value to intellectual assets. The Creative Economy is comprised of Creative Industries which include film, music, publishing, new media, and design, which generate income from trade and property rights. Creative occupations include engineers, educators and scientists as well as those involved in the creative arts, design and entertainment.

John Howkins, author of The Creative Economy: How People make Money from Ideas (2001), defines creative industries as “The sum total of four sectors: The copyright, the patent, trademark, and design industries – together constitute the creative industries and the creative economy.”

Economist Richard Florida, suggests that America’s [and Canada’s] workforce advantage lies in our ability to solve problems, forge new frontiers, and quickly adjust to changing economic forces. The creative economy recognizes everyone is inherently creative, and that creativity is a driving force of innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

700 Billion Dollar Snickers and Peanut M&M Party

In Current Events, Emotional Intelligence, WEBSITES & BLOGS on October 1, 2008 at 1:57 pm

So are you wondering where did all that money really go? Check out Air America Radio talk show host Rachel Maddow‘s video equating the US government’s bailout of Wall Street to a candy sugar high.

I don’t know about you, but these last couple of weeks have felt pretty scary. And if your feeling the least bit scared now, just remember under a McCain presidency, his solution for our insolvency is to cut all spending to the bone–including the 138 measly million dollars that the National Endowment for the Arts sprinkles out as financial support for the entire United States of America.

Interestingly, there are about 138 million taxpayers ( as of 2007) in the United States– including many who pay zero income tax, which is estimated to about a third of all tax filers. You can be sure that a lot of artists fall into this category too. This means that the National Endowment for the Arts currently spends about $1.00 a person for an entire year of creativity advancement and arts advocacy. $1.00. That’s it. Read the rest of this entry »