The New Rockstar Philosophy

Every musician and their dog knows that the music industry ain’t what is used to be. Heck, it’s not even what it was ten years ago when I was still packing gear into rusted-out Econolines and pulling red-eye shifts along the Trans-Canada.

So how do emerging artists get noticed these days? After all, the odds that you’ll be discovered by Usher and rocket up the Billboard Hot 100 are slim to none — and even that won’t happen without a solid YouTube presence.

You could dig around the internet for scattered slivers of advice. Or you could grab a copy of The New Rockstar Philosophy, a comprehensive DIY guide for musicians on how to build your brand from the ground up in the digital age.

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April 2, 2013


Clipped from last year, this unfortunate little gem illustrates how contextual advertising may not always showcase your brand in a flattering environment. As they say, buyer beware. (Click the image to enlarge.)


February 15, 2013

Pi Theatre - House/Home

Last night, I was warmly welcomed onto the board of directors for Pi Theatre’s. Pi produces bold, uncompromising plays that explore modern life. They also have a fantastic staff and a dedicated, enthusiastic board. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with such a talented group of people.

Beyond a shared interest in intellectual, emotionally charged work, I discovered that Pi and I have a few geographic connections. The company’s Artistic Director, Richard Wolfe, is from Saskatoon, while one of his predecessors, Del Surjik, is now with Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre. Pi also has a history of producing plays by Quebeçois playwrights, including some I became familiar with during my years in Montreal.

If you want a taste of Pi (a groaner, I know), check out their upcoming production of Terminus, Mark O’Rowe’s nightmarish vision of one night in Dublin, where a serial killer dreams of singing Bette Midler tunes, a teacher races to save a former student from a barbarous gang, and a young woman finds love in the arms of a demon.

Terminus runs February 28 – March 17 at Performance Works on Vancouver’s Granville Island. See you there!

Image: Sasa Brown and Todd Thomson in Pi Theatre’s production of House/Home at HIVE 3. Set design by Roxana Chapela, costumes by Carmen Alatorre, lighting design by Carmen Hung.


February 1, 2013

The $700 Noodles

When I moved to Vancouver last year, I found this tiny Thai restaurant in my neighbourhood. As a lunch special, they offered a tasty plate of pad thai for $7 from 11am–3pm. I was soon eating there once or twice a week, often bringing along my partner or a hungry friend.

One afternoon, I wrapped up a meeting nearby and rushed over in time to get lunch. Arriving at 2:50pm to an empty restaurant, I asked for the special. The owner said no, it was too late. I politely pointed out the time, but he insisted that the kitchen had already put everything away — although he suggested I order pad thai at the regular price of $12.

I then remembered another nearby Thai joint with a nearly identical lunch special. I busted a move and arrived at 3:05pm. A waiter enthusiastically greeted me and offered their lunch special, which also was supposed to end at 3pm.

As I walked out the door of that first restaurant, the owner likely thought the inconvenience of preparing one plate of pad thai wasn’t worth seven bucks. But I haven’t been back to his shop since, and don’t plan on returning. Over the course of a year, he’s lost about $700 in revenue.

This self-destructive myopia is not absent from the arts. We often judge decisions based on their immediate outcome, rather than the potential longterm impact. This may be due to our tendency towards loss aversion. With our audiences in particular, we sometimes forget about the lifetime value each person brings to an arts organization.

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January 14, 2013

Matisse - The Conversation

Your email newsletter can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. Why a few arts organizations still think newsletters are an exclusive benefit requiring paid access completely stumps me.

I get newsletters from many major art galleries, including MOMA, AGO and the Tate. For each, I signed up painlessly through their website, and I get updates on exhibitions, events and gallery news. These newsletters help me plan visits, share stories with friends, and blog about interesting developments. This is nothing mind-blowing, but it is important, as newsletters ultimately lead to ticket sales.

I recently noticed that a significant local institution was missing from my inbox — the Vancouver Art Gallery. I jumped to their website and looked for a place to subscribe. After a few minutes of browsing, frustration seeped in. It really shouldn’t be this tough to sign up, I thought, blaming the website’s user experience.

I shot a tweet off to the gallery, asking where I could subscribe. Their response caught me off guard:

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November 4, 2012