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cesThis past week, thousands of tech geeks, journalists, booth babes, (and Top Chef Contestants?!) descended on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where companies show you mouth-watering products you’ll never be able to afford.

There were many big announcements, but in my opinion, Motorola and Verizon stole the show with a much anticipated iPad competitor, the Motorola Xoom, and a fleet of 4G LTE enabled smartphones and tablets. 4G LTE is the 4th generation of wireless standards (an upgrade to 3G), offering extremely fast download speeds on your mobile devices.

motorola xoom

Photo credit: Josh P. Miller/CNET

Motorola Xoom

The Motorola Xoom, winner of CNET’s Best of Show Award, is definitely drool worthy. The Xoom has a 10.1 inch screen, an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor, rear and front facing cameras, 32gb built-in memory, flash support, and Android’s brand new Honeycomb interface, built specifically for tablets. Whatever you do with it, it’s going be pretty awesome. Play the latest Android games, update your Facebook, use the latest O2uk Mobile Broadband or watch Youtube videos. Basically whatever you do will seem bigger and better than ever. If you can afford to splurge on a hot new hi-tech gadget this year, this one is my recommendation. Compared to iPad’s 9.7 inch screen, A4 processor, no cameras, no flash, and iOS, this tablet is arguably better across the board. Oh, and it looks shiny too.

vizio, xvt3d6sp

Credit: Vizio

Vizio XVT3D6SP

The new Vizio line of TVs are not only beautiful (full-array LED backlight, 480hz refresh rate, etc.), they come with a host of Internet Apps (VIA). One of these apps, OnLive, is a cloud-gaming service that offers a bunch of cool features. My favorite is called “Versus”, which uses the 3D capability of the television to allow two separate gamers to use the entire screen without need a “split-screen mode”.

Each player wears the 3D glasses, which send a different image to the right and left eye, so that each player will simultaneously see a 2D image of their screen on the television. Halo party, my house?

Lady Gaga, Polaroid, Sunglasses

Credit: Gizmodo

Lady Gaga’s Polaroid Sunglasses

Last year I predicted that 3D glasses would be the new hipster trend, but I think I have a new favorite pair of sunglasses.  Lady Gaga paired up with Polaroid to introduce a pair of terminator-inspired specs that take pictures.

Ridiculous?  Maybe.  Expensive?  I’m sure.  Awesome?  ABSOLUTELY.

Panasonic 3D videocameras

Last year at CES, 3D was a big deal. However this holiday season, 3D TV sales suffered because of the lack of specialized content. Maybe this will help that. Now for the low cost of $1400 Panasonic released the first 3D videocamera last year for the low low cost of $21000, then a consumer friendly model last October for $1400, and now have upgraded their line.

I can hear it ten years from now at preppy private schools, “Oh… your home videos aren’t in 3D? I don’t know if we can be friends…”

motorola atrix

Credit: Josh Miller/CNET

Motorola Atrix 4G

Manufacturers have finally figured out a way to use the insane amounts of processing power they are putting into smartphones these days. Let you use it like a computer! The Motorola Atrix 4G comes with a laptop dock. This dock, once you plug in your phone, brings whatever you are doing on your phone into a larger screen, allowing you to surf the web, watch videos, write emails with the comfort of a full-sized laptop. Nifty eh?

iosafe portable rugged

Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET

iOSafe rugged portable

Tired of your external hard drive crashing and losing all your illegally downloaded movies? Well IoSafe is here to save you! In a video demonstration at CES, they showed how their external harddrive can withstand 10 rounds from a SHOTGUN. Since I often accidentally fire my shotgun at my hard drive, I’ll totally be buying this baby.

Verizon Home Security and Control System

Credit: Tim Hornyak/CNET

Verizon Home Monitoring and Control System

Verizon’s new system combines security, power usage, and appliance usage all into one manageable system. It allows you to check in either on your computer, smartphone, tablet, or FIOS-enabled TV to see how much power you are using and which appliances are turned on. Went on vacation and forgot to turn the porch light on? Just log online and switch the light off. Headed home after a long day of work and want to hop right into a warm bed? Just log onto through your smartphone and switch on your electric blanket. The possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, this system is only available right now in New Jersey. Verizon is missing a big opportunity if they don’t get the Jersey Shore to endorse this…

And there you have it! My favorite tech picks from CES 2011. What caught your attention?

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January 10, 2011 | Filed Under Post, Uncategorized | 2 Comments 

I went to a seminar last week where Seth Godin talked about how to become a linchpin.  He talked about the things he usually talks about: being irreplaceable, spreading messages that are worth spreading, being willing to fail, etc.

seth godin

Photo Credit: Wa-J on Flickr

It was an extremely engaging talk and got me to thinking about how the dance world could really benefit from his advice.

Dance is going through a very interesting and somewhat frightening revolution.  We are seeing a new culture emerge that embraces “the hired body,” the dancer that masters a set of techniques dictated by a specific dance vocabulary, almost like a checklist.

That’s a lot of jargony language, but basically what I’m saying is that today, dancers are being trained so that they can be hired.  They are being trained so that no matter what kind of movement a choreographer gives them, they will be able to do it.

The problem with this is that instead of becoming artists, instead of becoming linchpins, and instead of becoming irreplaceable, these dancers become cogs.  At the very best, they become exceptional at being told what to do.

sytycd opening number

Photo Credit: PhillyLambs on Flickr

We see this on shows like So You Think You Can Dance all the time.  They accept exceptionally trained dancers that can convincingly perform any style of dance that is thrown at them.  And they are all very good at being told what to do.

So what’s wrong with being told what to do? A lot!  It creates the impression that the only way to be successful as a dancer is to be a hirable body, when in reality if that is all you can do, you’ll be replaced by some 18-year-old by the time you are 27.

You shouldn’t be able to write down art.  Art is about self-expression but it seems that the emphasis in mainstream dance is trending towards perfection and mastery.  It makes people describe the dance world as “cutthroat” instead of supportive and innovative.

I’m not arguing that technique isn’t necessary.  I’m arguing that having good technique shouldn’t be measured by someone being able to execute a checklist of movements.

Singers and musicians aren’t respected just because they can hit high notes; they are respected because they put their heart and soul into their work to create true art.  Dancers should be judged no differently.

Annie Perretta Thesis

Photo by Yannick Bindert

So what do we do? We give dancers the tools to be successful while being different.  We create a community that allows people to fail in order to promote innovation.  I think we can learn a lot from the avant-garde fashion industry, which praises and respects designers and artists that take a chance, even if they (or their models) fall on their face.

We need to show dancers that you can still make beautiful art without pointing your toes all the time or being able to do a triple pirouette into a front flip suicide.

Let’s make real artists and not just hired bodies.

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July 27, 2010 | Filed Under Post, Uncategorized | 1 Comment 

Being able to tell a good story is a notably powerful marketing tactic. A compelling narrative is something that people will tell their friends, tweet about, write about, and most importantly: remember.

Lives are a continuous narrative with a series of beginnings, middles, and ends. You can harness this inherent appreciation of story in your own personal social media strategy. When thinking about personal branding and self-promotion, there are a few things you should always keep in mind.

People may trust facts, but they remember stories. The object of a good story is to elicit some sort of emotional response from your viewer. Emotion is closely linked to memory and higher levels of attention. What were you doing on the morning of September 11th, 2001? I bet you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing. People remember stories because they are channels that spread the emotions contained within them.

Your most unique quality is your own personal story. No one lived your life but you. Spend some time thinking about how you got to where you are today. Make a list of a few key events that shape your art. Knowing this story, your story, will help focus your audience’s attention on what is special and different about you. You have competition, so why not promote your most distinguishing quality?

Carrie Underwood (Photo Credit: the.diet.starts.monday on Flickr)

Carrie Underwood (the.diet.starts.monday on Flickr)

Reality shows do this all the time. American Idol’s Carrie Underwood was the country girl from Checotah, OK (population 3500). She used her rags to riches story to appeal emotionally to audiences.  Branding not only helps you focus your attention, it helps your audience relate to you and your work. I don’t advocate choosing a niche or archetype that you can “fit” yourself into. Instead, identify the unique elements of your own narrative and incorporate those into your brand.

The perspective of your story is just as important as the story itself. You can weave a compelling narrative without mimicing the insanely inspirational stories that you see on Oprah or the heart-wrenching clips from Extreme Makeover Home Edition.  In fact, people are fairly cynical about manufactured drama.

By contrast, Dave Barry became one of the most celebrated nationally syndicated humor columnists by collecting and commenting on the absurd extremities of his own life.  He built such a supportive community that he was essentially able to crowdsource his column from the absurdities that other people sent him.  Almost every single item in his annual Holiday Gift Guide was submitted by a reader.


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July 22, 2009 | Filed Under Post, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

In my last post, you learned that no one cares how good you are if they don’t know who you are. Social media literacy is an essential skill for all artists to master. And by social media literacy, I don’t mean being able to create a facebook event, or tweet about your breakfast, or add friends on Myspace. My 10-year-old cousin can do that. I mean being able to effectively use social media to self-promote and create a lasting, active community that will continue to support you.

When using any social media tool, there are 5 important rules to follow:

  1. Don’t lead with tools, lead with relationships. You aren’t going to get anywhere by blindly twittering promotional material 20 times a day. In fact, that’s probably a pretty good way to annoy your fans. Instead of looking at these tools as a platform solely for spewing content, think of them as a way to get involved in the conversation of your community. Amanda Palmer, lead singer for the Dresden Dolls, is a great example of what an artist should strive for. In May, she made $11,000 in one night. She twittered her fellow “Losers of Friday Night” (fans who had decided not to go out on a friday), got together a group of people to hang out on the internet, chatted about stuff, made a t-shirt on the spot about the stuff they were chatting about, and sold over 400 shirts in the next few days. That is how you harness the power of a community.
  2. Great Big Sea (Photo Credit: Cindy Funk on Flickr)

    Great Big Sea (Photo Credit: Cindy Funk on Flickr)

  3. Use tools as an aide to build community. When you are an artist, community is everything. It is your bread and butter and if your fans are not strong and loyal, you will not survive. You do not have to be a household name to be successful if you have a strong community. Have you heard about Great Big Sea? Probably not. They are a Canadian celtic-rock band. Last summer I went to one of their concerts and then saw the Backstreet Boys the following weekend at the same venue (don’t judge!). Can you guess which concert was sold out and which one wasn’t? It’s hard to believe, but a Canadian celtic-rock band actually beat the Backstreet Boys in ticket sales. Great Big Sea enjoys consistently sold out concerts because they have an active fan base that will travel thousands of miles to see them and they recognize the power of having this community. An example: their website is titled “The Community of Great Big Sea.”
  4. Tell your story. You want to use social media to connect and engage with your audience on a personal level. There’s an Indian Proverb that goes: “Tell me a fact, I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. Tell me a story and it’ll live in my heart forever.” People remember stories, so why not tell yours? And I don’t mean a stale bio that you find on all these artists’ websites. I mean something personal, written by you, about you, that readers will want to tell other people. One interesting and memorable anecdote or fact makes it easier for your fans to promote you. I can’t count how many times I’ve bragged that Lady Gaga was one of 20 applicants accepted into Tisch early decision ever.
  5. Create an incentive for users to come back. There was a Mashable post a few weeks ago about 5 great Facebook fan pages. They all had one thing in common: original content. You want to make content that is not available elsewhere. We yearn to be on the inside, getting the “exclusive sneak peek”. Make your fans feel special and give them something they can’t get anywhere else.
  6. Don’t sign yourself up for more than you can maintain. Having 8 different profiles on various media platforms won’t do any good for you unless they are all well developed and updated frequently. If you have enough time to maintain 8 accounts, then that’s great. However, if you are an artist, you probably are busy working on your, you know, art. Focus your time on one or two platforms (using points 1-4). And don’t ever hire someone to maintain your profiles. There is nothing that will make you look more out of touch with social media. Your fans want to connect with you, not your 20-year-old intern. The whole point is to engage people, and you can’t do that if you are spread across eight different platforms or aren’t even using the tools.

Building community, making a personal connection, and actively engaging your audience is not only important, it is necessary to set yourself apart from everybody else. Be authentic and be yourself.

Originally published on StillIndie.com

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July 16, 2009 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

This is my first blog post. I’ve shied away from the idea in the past because of something I think all artists have: self-doubt. Because we grow up in a highly competitive atmosphere, we are constantly questioning ourselves: “Why do I deserve to do this?” and “Why should I succeed over that person?” What I have come to realize is “Who cares?” You probably aren’t unique, but even if you are, it doesn’t really matter. The focus should not be on whether or not you deserve to succeed, it should be on how you can succeed with the skills that you have. That’s where social media comes into play.

No one cares how good you are if they don’t know who you are. From a very early age, in any art form (dance in my case), we are taught that the only way to survive in the world of art is to be the best. “Do you think people will pay to see that pirouette?!” “You think you can fill seats with that documentary?” We are constantly pushed to be the “best”, when in reality, many of the best artists fail. So You Think You Can Dance just started its 5th season and after auditioning thousands of dancers over 5 years, they are still finding exceptional talent, enough so that the show is already auditioning dancers for a 6th season in the fall. There is an endless pool of talented artists in all fields and your job is not to be better than your peers. Your job is to get noticed first.

Thousands of people are competing for the same success that you are. Marketing yourself effectively is about making people remember who you are in a crowd of people. I recently got to work with a choreographer, let’s call her Anya. After college, Anya knew that she didn’t have the years of technical training necessary to become a well-paid professional dancer, so she decided to try out choreography. She, like dozens of other dance hopefuls moved to New York, put together a show, and invited critics and members of the dance community to view it. She, unlike the dozens of other dance hopefuls, fed her audience food and got them drunk on cheap alcohol, convincing them it was “part of her Estonian background.” Was it illegal? Probably. But by marketing herself and turning her art into an event, she enjoyed consistent rave reviews while most of her hopeful dance buddies did not.

Art is not just about creating something. It is about effectively sharing that something with a larger community. Anya acknowledges that she is not the best dancer now, nor was she ever in high school, college, or in her graduate experience. Yet now Anya is a very successful professor at one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation. How? She knew how to market herself and her works. What Anya did to make her art look like more than just another post-modern dance piece, you can do using social media. With all the social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blogger, Digg, Flickr, Youtube) freely accessible, it is now your job to distinguish yourself from all the other artists doing what you do. Independent artists and labels won half of this year’s grammy awards, due in part, no doubt, to their talent, but also to their access to and skilled use of online social resources. It’s easier now than ever to make a name for yourself, by yourself.

“How?” you might ask. Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. Subscribe so you won’t miss my next post.

Note: Originally published on StillIndie.com

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July 15, 2009 | Filed Under Uncategorized | 2 Comments