“Just because a lot of art comes from pain does not mean the artist has to suffer.” – Naithan Jones
During the 2021 SXSW Conference, I watched a virtual panel and the topic addressed how touring would change for artists once the world opened up. It was a fascinating discussion about how art was made during the lockdown and how artists were creating more balance in their life with their work. This year, I was able to attend a panel that is taking the concept one step further – “How Do Artists Make Money Now?”.
Moderated by Tiffany Gaines, Found and CEO of SS Global Entertainment, the discussion focused on mindset; mental and physical health and perspective; the power in community; and the advancement of technology. Panelists Naithan Jones (Founder of web3 platform Royal), Andra Liemandt (Founder and CEO of The Kindness Campaign), and Matt Ott (Vice Chairman and Co-Founder/Executive Director of Black Fret) came together to address some different forms of creating income that may not have existed, even a couple of years ago.
All of the panelists emphasized the importance of community. When asked about an artist just starting out without a lot of resources, Jones pointed out that, although “streaming is like a map of the industry and specifically to artists….it doesn’t give you the topography, which is who are those 200-300 fans who are willing to support your bills for a year?” The industry doesn’t have a good way to track this. “If I have a super fan in Des Moines, IA and I’m not touring for the next two to three years, I can’t activate that intent.” Jones shared that if these fans are token holders, you can do all kinds of things with them now from music releases just for them, to free merch, to arranging a FaceTime together because you have a token, etc. These are things that enhance relationship management as well as generate an income that allows the artist to live a life, rest, work, and create in cycles outside of the normal 9-5 most people work in. “Creatives don’t really work that way. Where they can express their gift in a healthy way, where they have the economic base to do that, that’s a critical goal.”
Liemandt expanded on that thought: “Nate, I love what you were sharing about giving rest to musicians, to be who they are and work in their passion and their purpose. What we want to be able to do is put musicians to work right now, pick up gigs when they’re in the mood, not have to do something, but when the mood strikes, pick up a gig that is in line with their craft.” The Kind Music platform supports independent artists with songwriting workshops and recordings – all created through community.
“Community is more important than ever to help ourselves and help each other.” – Matt Ott
Black Fret operates in various cities using the patronage model that symphonies have used – people pay for subscriptions to hear local music. Ott said, “When we started Black Fret, we wanted to get some members, throw some parties, and give money away.” But he discovered in the process that people are always looking for ways to help and give back. As an artist, he suggested hanging out after shows, playing early gigs (“old people like to go to early gigs”), networking, playing corporate gigs. Ott thinks that Kind Music is “an incredible opportunity for musicians to lay down a track on a song written by people in a collaborative effort that gets that musician paid”. In the same vein, he loves the Royal business model “to find a revenue stream that helps them find the 1000 true fans”.
Each of the panelists emphasized the mental health and mindset aspect of creating art and being paid for it. Leimandt summed it up best when she said, “When I started seeing dollars roll in, it related to my self-worth. Purpose, value and what you’re doing daily to support them equals joy.”
As a publication that focuses on mental health issues and the arts, we found this panel to be comforting. More people are seeing the value in a holistic approach to wellness, and artists are slowly (but surely) being praised for the wellness opportunities their art provides to the masses as well.
On our second full day experiencing SXSW 2022, we wandered into the JW Marriott to check out what was going on shortly after getting our hair done at the JVN pop-up. “What the She-Cession Will Teach Us About Hiring” was listed on the board, a panel starting in mere minutes upstairs. So, we meandered up the escalator and got our seats. (After a brief stop to the Indeed Lounge for an iced latte and hot cocoa, of course.) The panel was led by Jessica Jensen, the CMO at Indeed, and included Mandy Price (CEO, Co-Founder of Kanarys, Inc.), Janet Gipson (VP of Talent Acquisition for Global Medical Response), and Jennifer Tracy (VP of Talent Acquisition at Spectrum).
So, we were in the presence of greatness. Incredible women in C-Suite positions doing good things in the hiring world.
And then the stats hit.
90% of the 50 million people who left the workforce permanently during the pandemic? Women. 70% of women who reduced hours or left jobs during the pandemic in the US did so because of a lack of support in the workplace. 89% of these women admitted that their male partners weren’t as negatively affected.
The numbers are absolutely devastating. Women – who are often relied on for extra work throughout their lives – were stretched thin when things took a turn for the worse two years ago. After all, who was widely expected to make sure kids in the household were logging into Zoom for schooling and keeping them entertained while they were trapped inside? Who is always encouraged to keep a tidy home, cook, and possibly even have a full-time job to financially support a family or any dependents? Plus, women are often tapped to be caretakers/caregivers when family and friends become less capable of handling their own things. The pandemic brought that into even harsher light than ever before. And women aren’t, truly, asking for that much from their employers. The panelists went on to outline common needs women seek from their place of work:
Happiness and a sense of belonging
Flexibility to make work and life
Luckily, the massive change in workforce dynamic during the pandemic led to a few realizations by companies across the United States. “Organizations became more thoughtful as to when they scheduled meetings – are they scheduled during the day or during the times childcare would be more problematic,” elaborated Mandy Price. “We also saw organizations realize that, just because you weren’t on camera, didn’t mean you weren’t working.”
“We have to collect the data and see who is exiting the workforce, what is their profile and how can we support them,” encouraged Janet Gipson. “Starting at the top, women are exiting faster and leaving for more flexible work and lucrative pay (travel nurses, for example). Moving down the tree, women of color are leaving even more.” In fact, examining intersectional dynamics has been key in a lot of their upward movement over the past few years. And it needs to be a practice that more companies – especially at a corporate level – employ and expand on.
As for changes within their respective companies? “When we look at the ability to change healthcare, our company is innovating in how we deliver healthcare,” Janet said. “We’ve partnered with Mobile Health and are delivering paramedics, EMT’s and the like to homes of patients. People do not have the dollars or reimbursements for 4 or 5 days post-surgery. We deploy health care professionals to take vitals, check-in on patients, etc. This has allowed a couple of things – The pay is more competitive. The other thing is the flexibility. The data, along with changing how we schedule and do work are key to keeping and retaining the women in the work force.“
Which, by the way, isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many jobs require physically demanding work that women aren’t historically linked to. However, many women are more than capable nowadays to tackle heavy lifting and challenging physical roles. But that doesn’t mean they’re being considered in the same ways men are. Explains Jennifer of Spectrum’s current hiring process and capabilities, “65% men, 35% women. 86% of hiring is frontline. Some roles have historic physical barriers. 80+ pound ladders. We have a tool on our site called ‘Fit Finder’ – a candidate can take this and it allows them to be served jobs based on their personality. Launched two years in the past, we have seen gender representation in those frontline roles has increased, simply because we have made the suggestion that women may be a good fit for this role.”
In addition to software updates and more open-minded hiring practices, Spectrum has brought their 80lb ladders down to 50lb ladders, a feat that benefits people of every gender and helps relieve pressure and unnecessary tension as we all age.
Jennifer, perhaps, made the most poignant statement on how to move forward in the hiring process to retain talent that will stick with you, and reduce turnover and disappointed employees. “Working to remove education requirements and focusing on skills and abilities. Working to expunge criminal records. Proactively retain your talent, not just acquisition.“
I found the Indeed Lounge to be an especially absorbing stop in my day. It seemed to be much more tailored to the whole person, rather than just the resume of a person. The Share Your Salary to Support Equal Pay was fascinating – people were encouraged to write their job titles, location, and salary on a card to post for all other participants to see. In this way, salary is not a closely held secret, but rather knowledge to help in your own negotiations.
Indeed had headshot photographers, coffee, appointments with a career coach, and tarot readers. Yes, tarot readers, which make all the sense in the world in a job search. It is important to identify your own possible strengths and fears and tarot is the perfect vehicle for this understanding.
SXSW 2022 – as we have established – was such a welcoming and wonderful experience. With 2020 being canceled and 2021 being an all-digital event, coming back into a hybrid in-person/digital setting was everything we could have hoped for. This year, the film/television panels and events were spread out further into the week than years past, and we were thrilled at the thought of trying to get a glimpse of Donald Glover and the Atlanta team on the red carpet on Saturday, March 19th, at the Paramount. Not expecting to get a chance to actually step foot into the theater, we were shocked when we got into the premiere with no issue as secondary music badge holders. Viewers were promised the first episode followed by an extended Q&A. We got that PLUS the second episode!
“We like to under promise and over deliver.” – Show creator, Donald Glover.
If you love Atlanta already? You will be pleased right out the gate. If you didn’t love Atlanta already? It’s absolutely time to give it a try!
Without any big spoilers: The first episode is a reimagining of real events. Because there are plenty of things that happen in this real world – in our individual lives – where you just think: that could have happened differently. One of the things the cast revealed in the Q&A was that, in putting together these final two seasons of Atlanta – If you didn’t know, now you know. Seasons 3 and 4 have been filmed, and they will be the show’s last – they spent a lot of time watching other amazing shows like Succession while asking themselves: What is something these shows CAN’T do that we can?
And with the preview of just the first two episodes? This team can do a LOT that others can’t!
During the first season, the writers and cast genuinely felt like they were trying too hard – and, upon reflection, they can still feel it in the work itself. During season 2, they were trying hard to prove that season one wasn’t a fluke. They earned that success, and they did a brilliant job. In these final two seasons? They’ve grown up, survived 2 years of a pandemic, some even have growing families that they didn’t have before. Admits Donald of how he writes post-children: “Kids make you soft as butt.”
The consensus this time around? “We’re just trying to have fun.”
And, when the Q&A host asked if some of the subject matters in the first two episodes were based in truth (including instances of black face and euthanasia), show writer (and show creator Donald Glover’s brother) Stephen Glover said: “That shit is just funny”.
“We’re just fucked up people,” Donald added. “It came from us.” He went on to explain the correlation between fear and comedy, which are both massively present in Atlanta. “Fear and comedy are closely related, they’re always touching each other. They’re very connected. That’s why we’re trying to do that.”
From a viewing perspective? This show has always hit the tough, societal, human notes right alongside the wacky, weird, hilarious, bizarre WTF moments.
The panelists revealed that their writer’s room has been a physical location – but also a group text thread filled with memes and videos. Which, in hindsight, is made crystal clear in season 2, episode 6 with the character of Teddy Perkins (IYKYK). Donald Glover revealed that the character and episode were inspired by a photo of Michael Jackson ducking and covering, and the follow-up question: “What if you were being chased by that version of Michael?”
After this theatre viewing, we can admit it’s OUTSTANDING to watch alongside other fans, but just as hilarious, poignant, and effective when watching alone. Starting this season, you can watch it on Hulu the day after the episode airs on FX. And if the rest of the series continues with the cadence of the first two episodes of the 3rd season? You will not want to miss a single second.
The insight during the panel revealed self-awareness and an all-encompassing relatability to the content. With everything I learned about the creative process behind Atlanta, with its text thread writer’s room, I am feeling inspired to start my own writer’s room text thread. Because, my friends and I are SURELY clever enough to create our own epic, highly anticipated show, right?
On second thought, I think I’ll leave it to the pros. I already miss you, Atlanta crew!
Episode 1 of the 3rd season drops tomorrow, March 24th on FX. (Available on Hulu starting March 25th!) Keep up with our continuing coverage of SXSW here.
SXSW 2022 was all types of greatness. The entirety of the festival was focused on the future. While many panels and installations chose to speak about driving the near-future in ways that align with heart-centered outlooks, there were plenty of post-apocalyptic discussions and even more about technology and digital progression in the more distant future.
One of the first panels we enjoyed was “Welcome to Your Digital Afterlife: Upload Creator Greg Daniels in conversation with Amy Webb.” This panel took place on opening day, Friday, March 11th. If you are not familiar with Greg Daniels and his incredible career track, here’s a quick rundown. Greg is a screenwriter, television producer, and director. A big portion of his work centers on creating storylines for episodes about the future. His writing credits include The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Parks & Recreation, King of the Hill, and more. (But did we need more? His credits are insane!) He is the genius responsible for the flash-forward episodes in many of your favorite television shows and sitcoms. (Think: “Lisa’s Wedding” and the finale of Parks & Rec. ) He co-created Space Force with Steve Carell, which almost entirely focuses on the future of space tech and travel.
Daniels has always employed a reporter’s eye when creating his storylines and characters. This is a trait he has passed down to other writers on his projects and proteges over the years. Learning about the past to correctly identify the future. Allowing himself to observe people in their natural habitats – Texas, when researching King of the Hill, for example – has given him space to breathe authenticity into his characters and storylines. Perhaps this is why so many of his episodes ended up predicting the future when looking back years later.
When asked about what inspires his work, Daniels initially pointed out The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He expanded by explaining: “I also worked with Jim Brooks [one of the Mary Tyler Moore Show creators] on the Simpsons. So to me, he is a great icon on a very humanistic way to get characters where you don’t look down on them or treat them poorly. I like that style and that’s the style I write in.”
The focus of this panel was on Greg Daniels’ creation of the science fiction comedy series Upload. The premise doesn’t stray far from concepts discussed in many of his previous television works, and many other futuristic ideas pop culture has explored over the last few decades. In 2033 – the not-so-distant future – humans have the capability of uploading their consciousness into an afterlife of their choosing. The series 2 premiere was released on March 11th, the day of the panel, so focusing on it was a given.
As to Daniels’ idea of what the future may actually hold? His take is that, regardless of how it all unfolds, he sees pseudonymity in it. (He also admitted to having just learned the term during a panel the morning of March 11th. What a win!) “Your avatar develops a reputation that you have to live with.”
Amy admitted, quite quickly, that she is terrified by this idea. “My unit of measure is going to be quantified by some type of algorithmic scoring system,” she responded, trailing off a bit. When considering it as a reality as opposed to a train of thought induced by what we believe the future should be, it really is quite alarming. However, addressing our fears of the future can actually also prepare us to plan for what we WANT our future to look like, instead of what we think it will ultimately be (if science has its way).
Check out more of our SXSW 2022 coverage here. (We will be rolling out coverage for weeks to come!)
Athens-based indie rock outfit Monsoon – expertly comprised of Sienna Chandler and Joey Kegel – has proven its propensity for balancing delicate harmonies with hard-hitting lines. The duo’s dynamic is energetic, edgy, and self-aware in a way that we haven’t exactly experienced before. And their new album Ghost Party is more evidence of all of that.
The first track “Walking Legs” seems to get you on your feet in just that way, starting out slow and careful and building into a cacophony of epic sound. “Third Voice” brings in more pop elements, an introspective track about change and hope at its core. The title track delves into the brokenness Chandler felt during a particularly dark time, ending with Haunted Mansion-esque energy. (If you can’t quite relate even now, having lived during an insufferable pandemic, then kudos.)
The meandering nature of “Don’t Move” is almost a palate cleanser sound-wise, though the lyrics seem to question preconceived notions in a less-than-subliminal way. “O Brother” continues with morbid metaphors, while the one-minute-long “Dark Colossus” discusses a unique love, laced with the same darkness as its predecessors.
The soundscape of “Submission” feels like it hopped right out of an indie film like 500 Days of Summer, while “Nightshop” has more of an underground, pop-punk sound to it. Ninth track “Red Blood” keeps that punk spirit alive, at times akin to the haunting chant of “red rum, red rum” from that quintessential horror flick we all know and love. The composition sounds more like a spell being cast, but that doesn’t vary much from many of the tracks on this release.
While “Pig Pen” is not about our favorite Peanuts character, it does introduce whirring guitar parts that make us want to headbang all day. The album rounds everything out perfectly with the eleventh track “Beetlebee,” which starts with a whisper and ends with an absolute bang. In fact, the song feels much like the progression of the album as a whole. We’re particularly fond of it, and can’t wait to see the live performance.
Get your first listen to Ghost Party on February 18th.
A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1, the newest LP by the Provo, UT-based band The National Parks, is set for release on October 8. The eight-song collection “…was inspired by love and life, and chronicles the fear, joy, uncertainty, and peace that life might look like at the end of the world.”
A Mix for the End of the World pt. 1 is an album that you will want to hear again and again. I would recommend listening to it from beginning to end, at least the first time out. The first piece, “At the End”, serves as a short (52 seconds) introduction to the music coming next. They have incorporated the same device with “Continuum” – a 41-second interlude leading to the end of the album. Both allow your ears to adjust to the next music.
My two favorite songs on the release, “Headlights” and “Dizzy”, showcase the very lyrics, tunes, and harmonies that have made The National Parks a band that has developed a strong national following.
The National Parks will finish 2021 with a 15 city tour in support of Mat Kearney.