Archive for the ‘Commerce’ Category

Your career don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Your career don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing

If your career has stalled with the economy, it might be time to change the tune . . . with a little help from your friends in the music world.

I’m thinking of people like Ella Fitzgerald and saxophonist Phil Woods. I had the pleasure of interviewing Woods back in the day when he provided Billy Joel with a sassy solo on the hit “Just the Way You Are.” He’s a legend in jazz circles, and for good reason, playing with a passion, dexterity and generosity toward emerging artists. Good advice for the business as well as the jazz world.

Woods is not the only musical philosopher. Listen to the wide range of talent in the genre, from Bebop to Bossa Nova, and you’ll hear lessons for life, as well as your career. Here are four easy pieces culled from the masters:

  • Take turns. Listen to the interchange between Phil Woods on alto and Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn on their recording “Voyage,” featuring the Bill Charlap Trio. All of the band members solo, but then they step back to give the other person a turn. Works in the office, too.
  • Support others. Elevations is a new band of young musicians from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their debut recording of the same name is a study in cooperation. The musicians support the material, which is another way of supporting each other. Check out the song “Worlds of Resource” for a refreshing view on working as a unit.
  • Stay cool. Miles Davis epitomizes the attitude and practices it well on the recording “Kind of Blue,” especially on the track “So What.” It predates the phrase “whatever” but captures the sentiment without an excess of cynicism.
  • Swing a little. Put some sass into your work. Listen to anything by violinist Stephane Grappelli and try to keep your feet from moving. Pair him with classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the works of George and Ira Gershwin and you’ve got fascinatin’ rhythm. And a model for strutting your stuff at work.

Or as Ella sang, “It makes no difference/If it’s sweet or hot/Just give that rhythm/Everything you’ve got.”

 

Is Sybarite5 Sarasota’s Best-Kept Musical Secret?

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Is Sybarite5 Sarasota’s Best-Kept Musical Secret?

Someone left the radio tuned to a station that programs NPR’s Weekend Edition on Saturday mornings. As I reached for the dial to switch to a classical music station, Fred Child, the host of Performance Today, cued up Astor Piazzolla’s “La Muerte del Angel” by the string quintet Sybarite5, recorded live in Holley Hall in Sarasota, Florida.

My wife and I had just seen a series of bracing concerts there, and so I stepped into the shower . . . and back a lifetime to a concert by the Guarneri Quartet, who played Bartok’s String Quartet No. 1 with an intensity that shredded their bows. And here was a quintet whose founder came from Sarasota and who could play with the same nuance and fervor. Not what you would expect from a laid-back city by the sea.

Then Child announced that Sybarite5 had recently recorded an album of Radiohead covers. Time to step out the shower and learn a bit more about the group.

Named after the ancient Greek city in southern Italy now identified with seekers of pleasure and luxury, Sybarite5 is the first string quintet ever selected as winners of Concert Artists Guild International Competition in its 60 year history. The media have compared the group to rock stars who play with missionary zeal. Its members have performed in traditional venues (Carnegie Hall) as well as nontraditional ones (the CBS Early Show).

And while their repertoire includes composers known in the classical world, such as Piazzolla and Mozart, the quartet released a recording of covers of the music of Radiohead called “Everything in its Right Place,” following in the wake of another musical pioneer, pianist Christopher O’Riley, the host of NPR’s From the Top, who has released several transcriptions of Radiohead music.

Sybarite5 was founded by double bassist and former Sarasota resident Louis Levitt. In addition to his work with Sybarite5, Levitt has been featured on chamber music appearances that have included the Aspen Music Festival as well as performances with Grammy winning composer Bob James. He has also performed with the Sarasota Orchestra. He recently became the first ever double bassist to win the Concert Artist Guild Competition.

As for the other members of the quintet, many have a foot in both classical and contemporary worlds:

  • Laura Metcalf, cello, was featured as a soloist with the One World Symphony playing an arrangement of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.
  • Sarah Whitney, violin, led the Cleveland Central Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra as concertmaster on tour to Carnegie Hall.
  • Angela Pickett, viola, performs with the Princeton Symphony and has played the fiddle with numerous ensembles, including the Chieftains.
  • Sami Merdinian, an Argentinian violinist, has received worldwide recognition for his performances as a soloist and chamber musician, including his work with the Perlman Chamber Music Workshop, which holds a winter residency in Sarasota.

I’m downloading another of the group’s recordings now, the EP “Disturb the Silence.” It features music by Radiohead and Piazzolla, plus two original works written for the quintet, and made its debut at number 11 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart.

It’s a good way to start your weekend.

 

The World According to Ringo

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
The World According to Ringo

Every year or so Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band hit the road to bring cheer and nostalgia to boomers and their kids. After 17 studio recordings under his own name and a career spanning more than 50 years, the former Beatle has amassed a large catalog of songs that reveal a philosopher as well as a lovable mug. Finger bling and peace signs aside, the guy delivers some sobering wisdom for those who look beneath the mirth. It may sound simple, ordinary, even natural, but practicing his philosophy is more complex than it sounds.

Here’s what I’ve learned since I saw him sitting there, a generation ago on the Ed Sullivan Show:

  • Have a heart. “Maybe I haven’t always been there just for you,” he sings on “Weight of the World.” “Maybe I try but then I got my own life, too.” Ah, remorse and regret, the terrible twins who visit the conscientious all too often. Ringo chose career over companions when he went on tour, as many corporate road warriors do today. While acknowledging that you have to pay your dues, Ringo counsels compassion. Give yourself, and others, a break. “But no matter what you choose, choose love.”
  • Give peace a chance. “Last night I had a peace dream,” he sings in “Peace Dream.” “No need for war no more/Better things we’re fighting for.” Like efforts to minimize hunger and pain. And while he often advocates for global harmony, he also emphasizes the need for inner peace. “I’ve got to remember some days when I feel sad/Nothing lasts forever, and everything must pass,” he sings on “Y Not.”
  • Let go. So things don’t work out. “Ev’ry time I see your face/It reminds me of the places we used to go,” he sings on one of his signature songs, “Photograph.” “But all I got is a photograph/And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.” Time to leave the twins behind, along with all of the other baggage. Forgiveness helps. “It all comes down to who you crucify,” he sings in “Weight of the World.” “You either kiss the future or the past goodbye.”

Good advice for people of good will. All you have to do is act naturally.

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Housing’s New Job: Rebuilding the Economy

Monday, April 8th, 2013
Housing's New Job: Rebuilding the Economy

Here’s something we haven’t heard in the last five years: while government and retail shed jobs, builders continue to add them.

A closer look at the numbers shows a split recovery. While the overall economy added 88,000 jobs in March, three areas lost workers that month: government (7,000), retail (24,000) and manufacturing (3,000). Since the start of 2011, government has shed 391,000 jobs, and millions of workers continue to leave the labor force, according to figures quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

The opposite is happening in the building trades. Reflecting the growing recovery in the U.S. housing market, the construction industry added 18,000 positions in March and a healthy 169,000 since last September. That brings construction’s cumulative gain since 2011 to 367,000, beating the 357,000 gain in manufacturing.

Those figures reflect increasing activity in the market. Privately owned housing starts in February stood at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000, 27.7 percent above the February 2012 rate of 718,000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Sales of existing homes and condos have also grown, from 4.52 million to 4.98 million over the same period.

While the economy still faces headwinds, housing looks like it’s building a solid foundation for recovery.

The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
The Revolution Will Not Be Printed

It’s easy to believe that since print survived radio and television it will survive the Internet. After listening to Barry Dawson, I’m not so sure. Or to take a more nuanced approach, I’m not sure it will continue to influence the culture and the economy to the extent it has since Gutenberg invented movable type more than 500 years ago.

Certainly print works better for some content and some eyes, but not news. Its immediacy seeks out the fastest and most flexible medium, and digital tools deliver. Combine original content, new distribution channels and innovative marketing and you have a potentially profitable business, as well as an alternative to ink.

Barry DawsonThat brings us to Dawson, a resident of the West End of Monroe County, a rural area of the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania. Long inhabited by the descendants of German and Dutch settlers, the area best known for woodlands and resorts continues to transition to a bedroom community for metropolitan New York and New Jersey. Several papers, radio and television stations cover the region but shifts in the economy and the culture have gutted their newsrooms.

Enter the digital entrepreneur. Dawson grew up in the West End, moved to North Carolina and returned to take a job in radio promotion with a pair of stations in the nearby Lehigh Valley. He has local knowledge, knows how to bypass channel surfers by embedding commercial messages in programs and lives on his mobile phone. Combining those assets, he bought a police scanner, became a reluctant reporter and launched westendsupporter.com and westendradio101.com. He also integrated his site with accounts at Facebook and other networks as a way to drive traffic and measure results.

Dawson believes that with its speed to market, digital news will eventually replace printed news. It’s a natural fit. Blending content and commerce creates a viable business model. Only time and his bank account will prove him right. Meanwhile, here are five conclusions I’ve drawn from his venture:

  1. Digital trumps print for speed and relevance
  2. Mobile devices trump PCs for optimum news delivery
  3. Micro content beats state, national and international news for gaining followers
  4. In our attention-deficit culture, product integration trumps advertising
  5. For marketers, digital offers the precise measurement of the effectiveness of the ad spend.

Where do you find your news? And do you think print and the people who produce it will dwindle in importance?

Retail Therapy

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Retail Therapy

How do you compete effectively in the retail space? Listen to Sarasota’s Jesse Balaity and take a page from the Apple playbook: Think different. You can download the Acrobat file here.

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Retail Therapy

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Retail Therapy

Many brick-and-mortar stores struggle in the Internet age, and new shopping centers present challenges to established retailers. Enter Jesse Balaity, owner of Balaity Property Enhancement in Sarasota. With a master’s in architecture and a decade of experience, he designs and manages projects in retail, mixed-use and hospitality. In Sarasota, he has consulted on the new Diamond Vault building and Touch of Africa on St. Armands Circle. His newest project, Carats Fine Jewelry & Watches on Bay Road, opens soon.

Read the Q&A at BIZ(941).

Non-profits can profit from social media

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Non-profits can profit from social media

How can non-profit organizations use social media to further their cause? Writing in Great Britain’s The Guardian, David Lawrance, head of development at The Clare Foundation, says that charities and other non-commercial organizations can boost donations and energize volunteers . . . if they adopt the practices of the business world.

“A recent survey showed that UK charitable organisations have doubled their supporters on key social media channels in the past year,” he writes. “Yet, for many charities, the vastness of the social media landscape is too daunting to venture into.”

The solution, he says, is “to bring established commercial methods, business expertise and entrepreneurism to the voluntary sector.” As PR and social media strategist for a U.S-based marketing agency, I work with for-profit and non-profit organizations to plan and execute their entry into the world of social marketing. Lawrance’s strategy can work for both sectors. I’ve condensed his approach into three key points:

  • Choose your network based on its audience. LinkedIn attracts professionals. It’s a great place to establish your expertise with key opinion leaders, including the media, who can spread your message. Facebook attracts a sociable audience eager to share personal information. With its punchy headlines and live links, Twitter can serve as a hybrid between those two, as well as a news feed for your organization.
  • Make an emotional connection. Show the people you’re helping. Their stories will motivate volunteers and sway donors. “Donations will be more forthcoming if [services] could help somebody just like them/their mum/their child/their pet/their friend,” Lawrance says.
  • Use supporters as ambassadors to amplify the message. Encourage supporters to “like”, re-tweet, send links, write blogs and upload photos and video. They have greater credibility with their peers. Let them tell your story.

Non-profits can profit from social media. They just need to get down to business.

Jeff Widmer is a PR and social media strategist.

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Through the looking glass

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
Through the looking glass

Google Glass: altering marketing as well as reality.

Creatives without borders

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Creatives without borders

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great, creative people.”
– Leo Burnett

At a breakfast meeting of a nonprofit organization dedicated to good deeds, Ed started talking about a funeral. A friend had died and the family didn’t have the money for burial. So Ed and another DJ put together a benefit and in less than 24 hours raised thousands of dollars for the family. Ed’s a DJ who does karaoke for the local bars. With wild hair and wiry beard, he looks more like a deer hunter than an artist. Yet he developed an innovative solution to a problem that would have challenged most of us.

Later that day, NPR broadcast the story of an out-of-work scientist who raised $25,000 to research the effect of drugs on the brain through an avenue not associated with medical research: crowd-funding. Two days before, the ASPCA hosted a live dating show on Twitter called Puppy Love that matched potential owners with pets . . . just in time for Valentine’s Day.

That isn’t what we’d expect from a night owl, a scientist and a pet shelter. And that raises an interesting point: who do we consider creative? The art director who concepts a campaign or the surgeon who reroutes the body’s plumbing? If we don’t paint or act or play an instrument, if society doesn’t sanction our work with a degree or title, do we even consider ourselves creative?

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep,” William McKnight, former chairman of the board of 3M, once said. “Give people the room they need.”

And the credit they deserve.