Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Relieve Quarantine Anxiety with... Will Smith?

Last week, I was trying to get some work done and was getting a little anxious about life. Suddenly, a voice spoke to me softly and said, "Just chill, maaaaan." I leaned back at my computer and decided to take the advice of the strange voice. I browsed YouTube in search of anything to set my mind at ease. (It's not just procrastination, it's therapy!) In a few minutes, I ran across this playlist of lo-fi beats to chill to from Will Smith. It's not a new concept, but I wasn't thinking about it at the time. I loaded it up and pressed Play.

It should help you relax and remove some anxiety from all the news and the quarantine. It did for me.

BUT, if you want a 24 hour mix, you're going to have to check for the original badass lofi hip hop radio that Smith was paying homage to. Listen to this one if you need to be zoned out for hours at a time.

Link: Lo-Fi Hip Hop Radio

Finally, another favorite chill playlist was sent to me by Stephen Russo.
Link: Coffee Shop Radio

Hope you enjoy these. You can also find these and ones like them on Spotify, iTunes, and other places.

- Mr Benja -

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

What Kind of Parents Created Me?

So...I really got into creating online because of the ability to share the interesting people and experiences that I was coming across. I have some images that I don't usually show. They're always on my mind and will accompany my other posts. We'll see what happens.

This is my father Earl alongside one of my favorite image of his, a block printed painting known as "The Line". I found a photograph of the image and recreated it on the computer and got a large print made for his birthday. You can't tell here, but he's really happy about it. :).

I'm actually reminded of "The Line" as I see places like Wal-Mart and Ralph's with huge queues of people stretching around the block for some canned goods because yeah, everything is crazy right now.

The other half of my major influence is my mother, Shirley. All my life I knew her as an opera singer and professor of music at Florida A&M University. More than that, I knew her as an educator and a student. She was always on the hunt for knowledge and was willing to share it to everyone in her environment. Also, that's not a college student in the pictures, btw. She also taught young ones in few moments of "spare" time. Interestingly enough, she was strict, but never pushed the arts on me as the end all and be all of life. In fact, when I expressed interests in computers and video games, she was all for it even though it really wasn't her ballpark.

Dr Shirley showed me how to fight the fight to get to where you want to be. How to get around the obstacles. And how to get your music heard.

Now you know.

- Mr Benja -

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Branding for Artists

** UPDATE: This is no longer a quick note. It became a full on blog post. Enjoy. :) **

A quick note on "brand".
Brand is what helps people understand and connect with you.
In these Internet streets, that's essential.

I define brand in two ways:

Definition #1:  "Perceived Value" - When people think about your personal brand, your art brand, your friend brand, your employee brand, etc. they have a perceived value rating for you. The higher that perceived value, the greater your ability to move minds...or...influence.

Definition #2: "The story that's going on in others' heads when you're not around." -  When people think about you what do they think about? Think about Disney, Netflix, the NFL, your cousin, Mr Benja, Andy Warhol, Dr Phil, The Avengers, In-N-Out, etc.

And...other definitions: You can also check Merriam-Webster or some other smart people for their definitions. It's worth noting that the name comes from livestock branding, which is how people literally marked the ownership of their products. <>

As artists, we're in a weird position to craft a combined personal and professional brand. I need to figure this type of branding out for myself. 

So what do I know about branding? Well, for much of my life, I've worked to design brand for games, products, movements, technologies, etc. Rockstar Games Table Tennis is an example of a team project where I was the lead game designer. (Much of the visual styling was all from corporate though. They do great work.) The entire campaign relied heavily on multiple levels of branding.  <>

Now that I'm out of the corporate scene, I've realized that I NEED a personal brand to communicate my ideas effectively. Unfortunately, personal branding doesn't come naturally to me. My unregulated thoughts are far too weird to simply "say what's on my mind". (Damn that computer science background.) Even if you've never thought about it, you may be a personal branding natural, or maybe not.

But shouldn't success be all about the product? CAN be, but you're leaving a lot of opportunity untapped as well as wading in dangerous territory, especially for an artist. First of all, a small amount of brand consideration can make your product/service/idea go a lot farther. Secondly, in this era we're in, I guarantee that I can acquire a better image than you would create -- and likely for cheaper. Your brand is what will set your work apart from being a mere commodity.

Over the past couple years I've FINALLY starting working on my personal brand because I'm seeing how much it can get me. I'd rather just be a hermit and hoard my creations outside of the public eye. The whole personal branding thing really doesn't come naturally to me, I'm actually envious of people that just live life as a natural brand. I mean...I'll never be fake, but following the unqualified "Be Yourself" mantra has gotten me into a lot of trouble. In 2020, I'm working on avoiding those troubles.

A simple example is my regular Facebook posts. (See attached image.) Most of my posts all follow a basic format, background, and style. It gets people to understand my message faster. They get FAR more traction than my other post types. But I actually took the time to work out how I should communicate consistently on my main feed. It worked, and I had time to figure it out in a safe place. Now, they're flow pretty easily, and I can create variations.

I'm still a work in progress and would never call myself an "expert", but I can't stress the importance of the brand enough in this attention age.

Anyway, this was just an observation and a sharing of what I'm thinking about. I'm going to revisit my Instagram right now and will keep stumbling along horribly until I get it right.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on brand for artists.

- Mr Benja -

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