Monday, December 31, 2012

Caren Explains Her Favorite Songs of 2012

One of my favorite exercises each year is to put together a playlist of my favorite songs. It amazes me just how intertwined music and memories are, and how just putting on an old album can recall past experiences I'd all but forgotten about. 

BUT! We live in the present, and these are the songs I loved in 2012. If you need some new music, might I recommend these tunes? (Less the obvious choices... you really got my attention, Gotye).

CK's Favorite Songs of 2012 
(put this on shuffle, I didn't sequence it)

Buy the songs on Google Play
Give them a test run with this Rdio playlist

1. "Pioneers" - The Lighthouse and the Whaler
2. "Brothers" - Tanlines
3. "Youth" - Daughter
4. "Fireshrine" - Purity Ring
5. "The John Wayne" - Little Green Cars
6. "It's Time (Penguin Prison remix)" - Imagine Dragons
7. "Breezeblocks" - Alt-J
8. "Dannyboy" - Youngblood Hawke
9. "Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It" - Stars
10. "Thinkin Bout You" - Frank Ocean
11. "Funtimes in Babylon" - Father John Misty
12. "Henrietta" - Yeasayer
13. "King and Lionheart" - Of Monsters and Men
14. "I Will Wait" - Mumford & Sons
15. "Switzerland" - The Last Bison
16. "Endors Toi" - Tame Impala
17. "You Never Need Nobody" - The Lone Bellow
18. "Five Seconds" - Twin Shadow
19. "She Lit a Fire" - Lord Huron
20. "Anna Sun" - Walk the Moon
21. "Venice" - The Lighthouse and the Whaler
22. "Don't You Give Up On Me" - Milo Greene
23. "Default" - Django Django
24. "Thrift Shop (feat Wanz)" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
25. "Angry Eyes" - Kopecky Family Band
26. "Myth" - Beach House
27. "Sex" - The 1975
28. "Hold On" - Alabama Shakes
29. "St. Croix" - Family of the Year
30. "I'm Getting Ready" - Michael Kiwanuka
31. "Before Your Father Hears Us" - The Family Crest
32. "Put the Gun Down" - ZZ Ward
33. "Genesis" - Grimes
34. "Concrete Wall (RAC Remix)" - Zee Avi
35. "Heartbreaker" - The Walkmen
36. "I'm Not Talking" - A.C. Newman

Keep calm and rock on. Happy new year, folks.


Friday, August 17, 2012

So You Want to Work in the Music Industry? Here's My Advice...

A few times a week, I take calls with college students and young professionals who want to work in the music industry.

My first piece of advice is simple: Don't.

To explain, I call upon the idea of "blue ocean strategy," which supposes that you can make high profits by creating new demand in uncontested markets. Put more simply, if you go fishing where no one else is, you'll find a clear, not bloody, water and walk away with more fish.

In the context of your job search, this means looking for opportunities where other people haven't thought to go yet.

If you want to start working in the music business, the obvious options are obvious to everyone else, too: record labels, music sites, booking agencies, etc. Because of the high demand for these positions (coupled with your lack of experience), you won't have much leverage in the negotiation and might even have to accept an offer (like an internship with possibility of full-time employment) without pay. Later, if you find yourself unhappy or suffering under a bad manager, you'll likely be reminded how many people wanted your job. (This is, of course, unfair to companies that have great entry level opportunities, but I've heard some pretty terrible stories over the years).

Instead, you can get some fantastic experience (and a better salary) by looking in non-obvious places.

I saw how valuable this could be when I was in college and interning for the ad agency BBDO. I was assigned to the account management team for Cingular Wireless and got to see all aspects of the agency and how it worked with its brand clients.

I also expressed interest in working on Cingular's music initiatives. Though it was a small part of my job, I got to help the senior account managers and a  major record label put together a plan for bringing Cingular's ringtone platform to market. Since BBDO didn't have an in-house music team, all I had to do was raise my hand and say, "Can I help with this?"

When I started applying to other music-related jobs, that was a great talking point and something I could highlight on my resume. Yet I also walked away with functional experience that was relevant to any advertising or marketing job. It gave me more options rather than tying my skills to a very niche industry, and that is especially important in a tough economy.

If you want to get started in the music business, take a look around for opportunities other people don't see... maybe that's working for an agency, like BBDO, or for a consumer packaged goods company, like Coca-Cola, which has so many ties to music and entertainment. Non-profits and universities (which book talent for fundraisers and events) are other good places to look, so long as you have an idea of where you can help.

However, if you find yourself stuck in a cubicle with no way to work music into your daily tasks, make an opportunity for yourself in your spare time. There are thousands of bands looking for help with marketing, management, PR and the like, but they often can't afford the help. Read Donald Passman's book and find a project you can work on pro-bono work in exchange for the experience. It will show potential employers -- whether in the traditional music industry or not -- that you are serious about your dream, even if you're currently an accountant.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Caren Explains the Cannes Lions 2012

If you keep up with me on Twitter, you were probably overwhelmed by my tweets from Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last month in the south of France. Now in its 59th year, the festival brings together the most creative minds in business -- mostly from advertising and marketing but increasingly from other fields.

Thanks to the ever-generous Google, I was invited to the Cannes Creative Academy for Young Marketers for "Young Lions" under the age of 30. During the week, I heard from some of the industry's top creative minds in a small classroom setting, as well as the festival speakers in larger sessions.

Some staggering stats from Cannes:
  • 11,000 delegates attended Cannes Lions 2012, with 90+ countries represented
  • There were 34,304 entries for Cannes Lions awards, while 47% of all ad campaigns that ran last year were deemed failures by the market
  • Research shows best brands in the world outperform S&P by 400%, confirming that the brand is an incredibly important intangible asset
  • More #canneslions tweets were sent in a day this year than in all of the 2011 festival
If you're an ad geek like me and Don Draper, it was a week full of "pinch me!" moments (as well as business buzzwords like "earned impressions" and "creating value"). Here are some of the best things I heard and saw over the week...

The Work

Each day, the festival displayed the short list of finalists for Cannes Lions awards in each category. Other work, including videos from the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase, was shown in sessions. Here is a pinboard of the best stuff I saw.

Favorite Case Studies

Of the thousands of celebrated campaigns, here are three that stood out for their impact and effectiveness.

Soundbytes: Quotes from the Experts

“Search the right place, not the bright place.” - Morihoro Harano, founder and chief of creative at PARTY Tokyo

"The revolution is coming from all sides... and I hope what we witness is the rise of the independents." - Dan Wieden, co-founder and global executive creative director of Wieden+Kennedy, on the changing agency landscape

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a heckuva lot less.” - Joe Tripodi, EVP and Global Marketing Officer of The Coca-Cola Company

"Leadership is the responsibility you have to articulate your ideas in the face of 'no.'" Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President of Global Advertising Strategy at The Coca-Cola Company

“Fax machines don’t have APIs” - Michael Scissons, CEO of Syncapse, on bringing companies into the present of techology

“We’re always inclined to chase the new, new thing... but it’s about pace.” - Michael Wall, President of Lowe & Partners, on bringing your customers with you when you're selling tech

"When you're a young client, you make the mistake of thinking that creatives want a big white page, but really they want more concise things." - Laurie Coots, CMO of TBWA\Worldwide

"I didn't write 'Just Do It'... I just did it." - JR, street artist and TED Prize winner, on art versus advertising

"If you ask creatives what their job is, all of them will say the same thing: to do good work." - Tor Myhren, President of Grey New York

"Our desire to measure ourselves is unique and universal." - Stefan Olander, Vice President of Digital Sport at Nike, on the insight that lent to Nike Fuelband

"The problem with advertising is you buy the drink, but don't have the friends... you buy the 4x4, but don't have the freedom... you buy the promise, but end up buying the wrong product." - philosopher Alain de Botton

"Great advertising deeply impacts the ways executivies think about and talk about their companies." - Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman of TBWA\Worldwide

"You can never expect the young people to learn if you don't let them speak... let them get involved." - Val diFebo, CEO of Deutsch NY

"Does anyone ever start at their best? That would be so depressing, to start at the top and work your way down." - Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie

"Nobody expected a '10' was possible... the scoreboards could not accommodated a '10.'" - Nadia Comaneci, star of new Visa campaign, on earning the first perfect score at the Olympics in 1976

"Do well and do good." - President Bill Clinton in his keynote on advertising responsibility

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Life, Liberty, Happiness and the Absence of the Pursuit

Last year on the Fourth of July, I saw a woman wearing a bedazzled shirt that spelled out three words: Life, Liberty, HappinessBorrowed from the Declaration of Independence, the words were (of course) colored in red, white and blue.

The shirt was cute -- patriotic, playful -- but upon reading those three words I considered two that were noticeably missing: "pursuit of." Though the omission was obviously for the art of the shirt, I read it to be a sign of the times. 

The founding fathers knew then, as we should now, that happiness is not a God-given right. If anything, it is a lucky find.

Yet ours is a time of instantaneous gratification. If you don't believe me, just watch someone's face light up when they receive a new "Like" or RT or +1. We can also order our entertainment on-demand, pick-up dates from websites and have gourmet meals delivered in 30 minutes or less. In short, we've grown accustomed to ordering and controlling our happiness. 

The pursuit is also lost in the stories we tell ourselves. You can achieve anything you dream of! You're special! You can have it all! But none of that comes without a lot of work, a bit of misery and some sacrifices -- things that make us decidedly unhappy and uncomfortable.  

I see the consequences of this playing out in my generation, as my peers and I stumble around expecting happiness. Scores of college students who majored in cool subjects that don't immediately lend to career paths are now drowning in debt and moving home. Others, like me and 45% of my business school classmates, changed jobs within the first year of graduation, citing a need to be more fulfilled.

Of course we should have our eye on happiness. Our technological and sociological achievements should be celebrated. Yet I worry we are trying to rush ahead to the end goal at the expense of the pursuit and, with it, are losing the value of patience.

Some of my darkest times are responsible for my greatest happiness. For how much greater is happiness when it has alluded you? How much more do you grow when you are tested? Being unhappy has made me fight for it and pushed me to take more risks.  Our Founding Fathers assured us that pursuit. 

Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance, and we are free to chase it. We are free to find it. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#Whenindc (at least in spirit)

Got a bit homesick reading all the posts on (The Hot 99.5 one is hilarious). Here's one of my own, which happens to me more now that I live in California...

When people tell me they're "from DC"...

... but really they mean MoCo or NoVa.

See more on Twitter under the hashtag #whenindc

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Reflections from my desk at Paste magazine, 8 years ago

Last week one of the folks at Paste magazine posted some photos from its old office in Decatur, Georgia.

The photos were taken in September 2005, a few months after I'd started my job there. In one of the shots, you can see me hunched over my desk -- a happy workaholic -- surrounded by what a fire marshall would deem a disaster waiting to happen.

With the news Facebook's bajillion-dollar acquisition of Instagram, it was especially nice to see this digital time capsule opened up last week. Photos and their memories are incredibly powerful. This particular album reminded me of my own days at a start-up (albeit of a different sort) and what really goes into that work: a lot of love, frustration and faith.

I shared the following reflection on Facebook but wanted to expand on it and give it a bit more breathing room...
I vividly remember the first time I visited the Paste office for my internship interview, at the recommendation of my wonderful sorority advisor and friend, Christy. Situated next to the train tracks and above a frame store, the office looked like a frat house occupied by music geeks.

Overdressed in my pencil skirt and heels, I plopped down on a hand-me-down couch to talk to Paste's publisher, Nick Purdy, who gave me the first case interview of my career. I was sure I bombed it, but on the way out he suggested a start date of August. Surrounded by posters, CDs and shipments of magazines, it was all a bit overwhelming and I wondered what the heck I was getting myself into.

A year later, they couldn't drag me out of that place and they had no choice but to hire me on full-time. My coworker, Jeremy, donated his old college desk so that I had a place to sit. We built it in what little space was left in the place, while other folks were sitting two to a table (while our interns got resourceful and turned huge rolls of bubble wrap into makeshift workstations). The Brick Store Pub acted as our conference room and we shared team lunches on the roof. We took turns taking out the trash and answering customer service inquiries. If the train was rolling by, we put our phone calls on hold.

In the years that followed, Paste grew-up and got a bigger office and I learned how hard it is to build something from scratch. I also learned how rewarding it is when you succeed. Many of my coworkers had second jobs -- valeting cars, writing press releases, coding for other companies -- but you wouldn't have known it from how hard everyone worked when they arrived at the office each day. Every contract, every subscription and every award was a tiny victory that each of us had a hand in.

More importantly, I learned that it's true what they say: to love what you do, you must do what you love (and it doesn't hurt to surround yourself with good, smart and creative people).

Thursday, March 01, 2012

My first concert review - August 1996, The Monkees

I was saddened to learn that Davy Jones of The Monkees died yesterday. The Monkees reunion tour in 1996 brought me to my very first concert. I've now been to over 300 gigs, so hearing about Jones' passing made me think of all the good things that have happened since then.

To commemorate his life, I'd like to share the very first concert review I ever wrote, taken exactly as it was scribed in my junior high diary.

(I'll warn you now: most middle school journalists were pret-ty intimidated by my writing...)

Sunday 8/25/96

Last night we went to the Monkees concert at the Patriot Center (George Mason University). It started at 8pm. We saw the Oldies 100 WBIG van. It was parked outside the "arena."

When we got inside we saw the tee-shirt stand. Meghan and I each got tee-shirts. We were going to get a program but they cost $18.00 each! It only had pictures, too. When we got our tee shirts, Meg & I changed into them. We bought ice cream and went to our seats. Section 101 Row C, Seats 11, 12, 13 and 14.

[DJs] Jim London, Kathy Whiteside, Dave Adler, etc, from WBIG came on stage and opened. 5 min. break then all of a sudden. You heard, "Here we come, walking down the street..." and the three touring Monkees came out. Davey Jones, Mickey ____ and Peter Tork. Opened with I think, "Take the last train to Clarksville."

Very funny. Mickey pulled kids up on stage. Their names were Charolette, Emily and Georgia. It was Georgia's birthday. Sang happy birthday.

Overall, each had two solos. Heard songs I knew and didn't. "I'm not your stepping stone," "Another pleasant Valley Sunday," "Daydream believer."

Davey came in the audience. Said people thought he and Marcia Brady got married. Asked if we remembered the theme. Sang it, and he came in audience. Then song "Girl." Came two rows away from us. Closed with "Day...Believer." Left.

We had alot of fun. Also, they did Jimi Hendirx impression. - Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum^Bum, Bum, Bum, Bump, Bum Bum Bum We Want the Monkees We Want Davey, We Want Mickey, We Want Peter, We Want Mike.

Funny. Loved It.

Thanks for the music and the memories, Davy, even the very silly ones.