May 2011

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My good friend and social entrepreneurship mentor, Alan Harlam, and I were talking and he was telling me about some new exercise regime he’s on called cross training. He described it as: “social, fun, and competitive.”

As is often the case when Alan talks, he says things without recognizing their effortless brilliance.

When he said the words “social, fun, and competitive” I literally stopped him (only partly because as glad as I am that he’s digging cross training or whatever, I could only feign interest in exercise talk for so long).

I really stopped him because “social, fun, and competitive” sums up what you must aspire towards if you hope to have a successful web presence.

If your site/web presence lacks any of these elements you will fail. You will lose to any other site that does feature these elements.

Social (LNKD bubble aside – and, remember, the late-90s Internet stock rise was also a bubble, but – like this social media bubble – when it popped the world was forever changed) and Fun should be apparent.

However obvious it should be to make your web presence social and fun, it’s certainly not simple. How many sites do you know that are fun? I promise you, they’re the ones you spend the most time on …. however you define “fun.”

And, of course, people screw up social all the time. Most frequently, they use “social” tools as a way to share “PR” information about what they’re up to…wrong (the correct ratio of authentic communication (i.e. non PR) to PR is 80/20, by the way).

No, it’s competitive that I think bears a bit of discussion. This doesn’t mean competitive in the Western sense so much as it means incorporating moments of satisfaction based upon some achieved threshold, and cognizance that others are also attempting similar threshold moments.

It can be something as simple (and seemingly non-competitive) as the completion bar on a LinedIn profile, or the civic sharing involved in star ratings on Amzn, to the more overt game mechanics seen on Zynga’s apps.

Have a look at the sites you frequent, and note the number that combine “social, fun, and competitive,” and then look at your web presence. How do you stack up?

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A lot of great comments on my recent piece for TuneCore, but one in particular sort of got my wheel’s spinning.

Ken Shane and I got in a bit of back and forth about – generally – what constitutes success in this music business model.

In attempting to address Mr. Shane’s point I suggested that for virtually every other artistic endeavor aside from music there is little-to-no expectation that most people will make their living engaging solely in this activity.

For example, few people think, “I’m a fine art photographer, and I should be able to just take fine art photos.” The vast majority of fine art photographers I know subsidize their gig by doing non-fine-art work (weddings, photo-journalism) and/or work completely unrelated to photography (stock brokering, etc.).

Same is true, of course, for writers, actors, painters…mimes, et al.

None of these people (particularly mimes) feel that they are somehow deserved of the right to mime and mime only — they have some other non-mime gig to subsidize their mime-itude.

Musicians, for some odd reason (and, arguably, actors too) tend to feel doing non-music work is somehow beneath them/hinders their ability to create great art. They often seem taken aback when it’s suggested that perhaps they have to do some other job in addition to creating their art. (Yes, I’m generalizing, but, in my experience, only a little bit.)

In reality, of course, it’s not just a bifurcated life that artists must live — having multiple jobs.

Who doesn’t have several jobs? My wife is a full-time mom who also does educational consultation and teaches bellydance. Don’t even get me started on my crazy-ass schizophrenic activity. Frankly, most everyone I know is juggling several “jobs.”

And yet musicians want one job: musician.

In any case, the message here isn’t that musicians are solipsistic, but rather what I tried to convey in my response to Mr. Shane’s comment to my TuneCore post: that we all must have jobs that allow us the time/money/freedom to pursue the work that makes our life meaningful (our art).

In other words, we have to have: The gig (lowercase) that helps sustain the Gig (uppercase) that sustains the Spirit.

Of course, the old adage of “do what you love, and never work another day” isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just reductive.

No one is so monochromatic as to have a single thing they love; we all have a variety of interests, and, thus, we all do many things.

Some things we do because they align with our values and purpose, and some things we do in a purely mercenary manner so we can do more of our purpose-driven things.

Such is life. Thank goodness.