New Music Monday: Maggie Rogers

Over a year ago a video went viral on YouTube with Pharrell sitting in on a masterclass with students at the NYU Clive Davis Institute. In the video Pharrell listens to the music of three young musicians and provides feedback on individual tracks played in the class. After the first two, Maggie Rogers is called to sit next to him and nervously explains her history and musical heritage. In later interviews she admits she had no idea he was going to be there or that she would be one of the students selected to present a song. As her song plays Pharrell looks bewildered, amazed and pleased. You have to find the clip just to watch his reactions. When it’s over he surprises everyone, saying that he has no notes to give. The song is great as is and he encourages Maggie to pursue her “thing”. Shortly afterwards Maggie released a few songs including “Alaska” which she played for Pharrell that day and “Dog Years” which was my favorite. A few months ago she released another song, “Falling Water” which continues her journey as a budding recording artist. Maggie Rogers is one of my favorite young musicians. She’s original, authentic and has something to say. Enjoy “Falling Water” for today’s #NewMusicMonday

New Music Monday: Calum Scott

Calum Scott was on Britain's Got Talent a few years ago and while he didn't win, he had a very memorable audition. His sister performed just before he did but it didn't go well for her. The judges dismissed her and Calum had to follow up with his sister in tears back stage. Surprise, surprise, he ended up knocking it out of the park. He did a slowed down version of Robyn's "Dancing on my Own" which won over the audience and Simon Cowell who gave him the golden buzzer. After the competition Calum spent a couple years touring and building his audience before releasing his first album about four months ago. This is a single off that album that always puts me in a good mood. Not only is the song great, but it has a wonderful video that captures the youthful desire to leave home and the later desire to return. You can hear more from Calum on YouTube and iTunes. Enjoy!

New Music Monday: Houndmouth

"Sedona" by Houndmouth always puts me in a good mood. I discovered the band a little over a year ago with their album "Little Neon Limelight". Two other gems from that album include "Gasoline" and "Honey Slider". They just released a new album, "Golden Age", that's a bit more experimental than their previous work, but I really like "Modern Love" which does the best job of combining the old sound with the new. 

The Celebration Sandwich

Some years ago I was talking to a friend of mine about how I critique someone's work. I explained that I like to start off with a positive before providing the negative and she said, "oh, a Celebration Sandwich!" I asked her what that was and she said it's a compliment, followed by a criticism, followed by a compliment... like a sandwich with the criticism between two compliments. I loved it and adopted the additional compliment at the end to make sure any conversation of this nature ended on a high note.

One of the most difficult things to do is give and receive constructive criticism. I adopted the Celebration Sandwich because it's how I would like someone else to criticize my work. It sucks when you put a lot of effort into something and the person you're working for only points out what they don't like. On the flip side of that, it's hard to critique someone's work in a way that motivates them rather than deflate them. 

I have two stories on this topic that I hope will illustrate both sides of the subject. The first is a project I did a couple years ago for a client who was a very tough nut. Most of the feedback was critique with hardly any compliments. When he did provide a compliment, it was very neutral. He never smiled. It's not like I needed to be showered with compliments, but I needed some idea of what he liked, a base line, in order to gauge how best to complete the project. Without knowing what he thought was good, or what made him happy, it was difficult to know if he was genuinely satisfied with the work. In the end I was happy with it and he seemed happy with it, but the experience wasn't the best.

In the second example I was supervising an artist who was drawing some characters for me. When he delivered his first draft they were much more cartoonish that I hoped they would be. They were amazing, but not what I was looking for. I started off by telling him how much I liked the work and made sure he understood that I recognized his talent. I then told him the direction I wanted to move the artwork and closed with a reassurance of my confidence in his abilities. The next draft was exactly what I wanted and he even expressed he was happier with the second draft. We ended up having a wonderful collaboration and he is someone I would love to work with again.

As much as I love the Celebration Sandwich, it doesn't always work. Critiquing another person's work is always difficult and it is equally difficult to be critiqued. The objective of the Celebration Sandwich is to provide feedback that motivates and keeps people invested in the project. It's a way to steer someone's work in the direction you want it to go while assuring them of their talent and contributions. It's how I like my work to be critiqued. Next time you're in the position to critique someone's work, give it a try and see how it works for you.


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New Music Monday: Air

Last week I got a comment from a connection on LinkedIn about the music he uses to get into "flow" mode and thought I'd share my go-to track for the same thing. This is an extended version of "La Femme D'Argent" from a band called Air. It's from their album, "Moon Safari" released in 1998. It's 20 years old now, but this song and this album really get me into "flow" mode. It's especially useful when I'm writing as I can't listen to music with lyrics when I write - messes me all up. Enjoy! 


Why Isn't Anyone Watching Your Video?

Ok - I thought I might write something actually useful rather than just posting music links and photos. While I was walking my dog the other day and she was taking time to sniff a particularly interesting spot of grass, I started thinking about really good videos I've seen online by decent sized businesses that have a sad number of views. They went to all this trouble to make an amazing video, but hardly anyone saw it... Why? I think the reason is what I'll call the "If you build it, they will come" mentality. People tend to think that if they make a video and post it online, people will be so amazed that they made a video, they will automatically watch it and will eventually get tens of thousands of views. In reality it's much harder than that and I'll explain what you need to do to get your video seen

I'm not sure if you've heard of this before or not, but there's something called "audience building" and it's something everyone should be thinking about for any big project be it video or something else entirely. It can be a somewhat difficult idea to grasp and I remember five years ago trying to explain it to a Head of Marketing who just couldn't, for the life of her, understand it. Audience building is the process by which you attract eyeballs to your project before your project is finished. It's what you do so that when your video is released, people are ready and waiting to see it.  It's about building desire and anticipation. It's the opposite of "build it and they will come". It's more like, "build it and while you're building it talk about it a lot and get people interested so when you're ready they will come".

How NOT To Release A Video Online: Hire a producer to make a beautifully crafted video that says everything you want to say about your business in a way that is interesting and highlights your humanity and professionalism. After weeks or months of work, share it on facebook and twitter. The end.

How TO Release A Video Online: Hire a producer to make a beautifully crafted video that says everything you want to say about your business in a way that is interesting and highlights your humanity and professionalism. Announce on social media that you have a new project you're working on and can't wait to share it with your followers. Send a tweet announcing a new collaboration between yourself and your producer. Ask your producer to post an enigmatic picture on Instagram and share it. Take your own enigmatic picture of the title of the script and share on twitter. On the day of the shoot, share behind the scenes pictures on social media. Ask the producer to post photos of the post-production process (editing timelines, voice-overs, external hard drives) and share those posts. Announce a release date on social media. Find 20 people in your social media network on different platforms and formally request they share the video on their social media once you release it on yours. This is important because you can't predict what people will share and you can't just hope and pray it spreads on its own. Get commitments! The more the better.  Do a three day countdown with stills from the video and a "3", "2", "1" superimposed. The morning of, post an announcement that you will be releasing the video at 1pm cst. Then post your video! Make sure your 20 people follow through and post it themselves, then go over to Google AdWords and spend some money to spread it out beyond your own circle of influence and target those people you want to see it. $100 on AdWords goes a long way so be sure to budget at least that much into the project. Write a press release and send it to relevant websites and blogs. If possible contact as many as possible in advance and see if the will commit beforehand. Then follow up. A few days later post a blog or an interview with the producer about the experience of making the video. The following week post a short video of outtakes and bloopers and direct people back to the original video. When you hit a milestone number of views, such as 1,000 or 5,000 post it again with a "Yay! We did it". Share responses to the video on social media and keep talking about it for at least the first month after it was released. 

You don't have to follow this verbatim, but hopefully you get the point. Don't spend a bunch of money producing a video no one will see. Talk about it frequently both before and after release. Spend some money on AdWords and BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE.

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New Music Monday: The Decemberists

Two songs from one band for today's #NewMusicMonday. I only learned of this band a few months ago and they have quickly become a favorite. Both songs are from their new album, "I'll Be Your Girl" and both are a little more electronic than is usual for the band. They performed "Severed" on the Jimmy Fallon show in April and I thought for sure the song would explode and I'm kind of surprised it hasn't. 

According to Wikipedia, they are from Portland Oregon, where I once lived and released their debut album in 2001, the year I left... Makes me want to move back to Portland!



Chicago 2010

It's kind of hard to come up with new things to blog about, so I thought I would share some pictures from a trip I took to Chicago in 2010. As you can probably tell from some of what I've produced, I love architecture. I also love to photograph architecture. I like how the built environment can give you a sense of place. I like how a place can make you feel. The projects I've been pursuing the hardest the last few years are those that let me share my interest in architecture in a way that I hope will help people better understand and appreciate it themselves. 

P.S. I totally photoshopped the dramatic sky into the last picture!

New Music Monday

This is something I started a couple weeks ago on Facebook and LinkedIn and thought I'd transition to this blog. Up until a few years ago I had very simple tastes in music. I pretty much absorbed whatever the radio threw at me. While I was aware there were other artists and music out there, it wasn't something I went in search of... Then I moved to California. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's like every radio station here shares a couple hundred "classic" rock songs that just play over and over and over again. I don't do a lot of driving, but when I do, I can guarantee I will hear something by The Eagles, Michael Jackson, Green Day, Queen and Journey. Then one day it occurred to me that I have been listening to the same batch of songs for the past thirty years. Sure, a new one will sneak its way in, but it's pretty much the same couple hundred songs set on repeat. With this revelation I started to explore and found the #MyTuner radio app which lets you listen to stations from around the world. It was with this app that I found some stations in Humboldt, California where I once lived. And that's when I found #KSLG, an indie radio station that opened my ears to a whole new world of music. From there I found a couple local stations in KUCI, the college radio station at UC Irvine and KSBR at Saddleback College. It's been great discovering music outside the corporate driven music industry and supporting artists who aren't making millions a year but love what they do. #NewMusicMondays is a chance to share some of these songs, and if it catches on, hopefully an opportunity to hear what my friends and connections listen to as well.  So today on #NewMusicMonday it's "You Worry Me" by Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats.

Tustin Tiller Days

I recently finished editing some footage that I shot last Fall at the Tustin Tiller Days fair. I was switching from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere and needed something to play with as I was learning the new system. While I was worried the transition would be difficult, I quickly learned that the two programs shared many similarities. Additionally any question I had was quickly answered by a search on YouTube, a resource I didn't have when I was learning Final Cut all those years ago. Since the project was just a learning tool I put it aside to focus on other work. Then a couple weeks ago I had some free time and decided to finish it off. It's not anything fancy, just pretty video set to pretty music but it's good to sometimes do projects like this just for the fun of it. If interested, follow the link and enter the password: Tiller


First Blog Post EVER

I never thought I'd be writing a blog, but here we are. Why am I doing this? I'm not sure. I guess I see this as a way to share some of the behind the scenes activities of an independent producer. I'll try to share stories that have some value or insight so as not to waste anyone's time. I'll also do my best to NOT write epic long posts in which your coffee gets ice cold before you reach the end. 

This was kind of spontanious so give me a day or two to think of a good topic and I'll be back with more!

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