Marketing, Mastery and Magic Moments (Clint Watson)

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Marketing, Mastery and Magic Moments

If I thought for a second it would take this long,

I never would've started down this road I'm on.

But I'm here.

I'm gonna keep on going.

With a million other mother f**** doin' what I'm doin'

And I'm pursing grandiose dreams to say the least.

I'm a student of the whole world out on the streets.

It may be prudent to get myself a good plan B,

but plan B is the same plan as A through Z.

Lord please, if you lean down and hear my prayers,

know that I've been walkin' down this road for years.

And my fear is no matter how much my heart yearns,

I'm never gonna get my turn.

I want my turn, gimme my turn,

Walk that walk and I've done the work

Now I want my turn, gimme my turn

I need my turn.

I want my turn, gimme my turn,

worked so hard and you know I've earned it.

And I want my, and I need my turn.

- Sam Johnson - My Turn [Listen here]

I'm sure these lyrics resonate with many artists, both visual and musical. Artists who want to make a living from their artwork and "go pro" can learn a lot from these lyrics and from singer/songwriter Sam Johnson.

My wife and I met Sam a couple years ago playing in a hotel lounge in San Francisco. As an amateur guitar player myself, I love great acoustic guitar music and was blown away by Sam. Both his playing and his voice are excellent.

We immediately bought his album, The City, and every song on the album went to the top of our favorite playlists. I always hate comparing artists to other artists, but it's sometimes the easiest way to give someone an idea, so we've always described him to friends as kind of a "Dave Matthews, kicked up a notch with some reggae and hip-hop influences." If that's your kind of thing, you should buy his album.

It seemed to us that he should be much bigger than he is and we talked with him for a long time after his show. The struggles he describes in the lyrics above, pretty much sum up the story he told us.

He has been pursuing music full time since he was nineteen. And now, in his thirties was wondering how to get his career to the proverbial "next level."

We talked about a few marketing ideas (knowing me, I probably harped on utilizing email newsletters), but the truth of the matter was, I had the feeling that he already knew what to do. There was definitely a vibe that "this guy has paid his dues" and the next big thing for him had to be around the corner...

I've often said that there are only two things artists have to do to be successful: Mastery and Marketing. As in mastery of your craft and proper, consistent marketing.

I've realized, however, that there's a third piece, which I'll call Magic Moments. As in magic moments of time. It takes time, usually a lot of it, in the form of these "magic" moments that, piece by piece, pile up and create a mountain of work upon which your success stands.

I'm talking about moments of interaction with fans, moments of meeting influencers, moments of practicing your craft, and moments spent learning about marketing or business.

Picture yourself standing on top of two pillars labeled "Mastery" and "Marketing" with your goal high above you. Each time you add one of these moments, as if by magic, one of the pillars gets a tiny bit taller, bringing you closer to your goal. Finish another plein air painting? The "Mastery" pillar just got a tiny bit taller. Just took the time to engage your fans on Instagram? The "marketing" pillar just got a little bit taller. Just got into an art gallery? The "marketing" pillar got even taller.

Piling up magic moments takes time. It is what it is.

As the famous saying goes, "it only takes ten years to be an overnight success."

Unfortunately there is, in our society, an increasing amount of impatience. I see it both in the art world and in the tech startup world. It's not surprising that those on the journey are impatient, because the rare outliers get all the media attention.

In tech, it's exciting to think you're going to be the next Uber or Instagram. But, for most of us, a more realistic path is to roll up our sleeves for the long haul and start piling up those magic moments. Young founders go to "hackathons" and create a "startup" in a weekend. And a month or two later they ask me what's wrong with their business.

Nothing is wrong. They just haven't piled up enough moments.

There really are no shortcuts. It takes thousands of these moments piled up. So you gotta keep on goin', there's a million others doin' what you're doin'.

The only thing you can do to "accelerate" the process is to pile up those magic moments faster. That's why Kevin Macpherson challenges students to paint 100 small paintings in his book Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color.

You can pile up 100 magic moments of mastery faster if you do 100 completed small paintings instead of fewer larger paintings. And on the marketing side, tools like email newsletters, Facebook and Instagram are a godsend. You can have several moments a day with these online platforms. Oh, what we would have done for these marketing platforms back in the 1990's and early 2000's when I was in the gallery business!

The other thing you can do to accelerate your moments is to commit to your art full time, as Sam Johnson did. Plan B is the same plan as A through Z. Of course, that's not an option for everyone, but for some, it is.

As I think back over the past 18 years and building FASO and BoldBrush, I realize the truth of these ideas.

The saying "It's not work if you love it" is bullshit. It's a lot of work because, to be successful professionally, you have to do all the parts you don't love. And you have to do the parts you do love, even when you don't feel like it.

If you only do the parts you love, when you feel like it, then, like me and my guitar playing, you have a hobby.

We may be the leading provider of professional artist websites now, but it took over a decade of relentlessly piling up those moments, one at a time, to get to this point. I wrote code (moment), talked with artists (moment), wrote a newsletter (moment), placed advertisements (moment). Rinse, repeat. Day in. Day out.

I used to joke with my wife every morning and night that I felt like the guy in the old Dunkin' Donuts commercial (Time to make the donuts, I made the donuts). Every morning I'd say "Time to write the code." And collapse with exhaustion in the evening, joking "I wrote the code." I've done the work and you know I've earned it.

But don't think this a plea for sympathy. It's not. It's simply what it takes. The good news: the journey is fun!

If you're doing something you love, something that you believe in, then you can enjoy each stage and each step.

Learning to appreciate where you are as you take each step on your journey is critical. Even though BoldBrush is an "overnight success" now, sometimes I actually miss the earlier days. Even though they were a ton of work.

You know why? Before you've "made it" there is less pressure, and you get to do the part you love more.

When we had 100 customers I had a lot of time to code, and I loved it. Now that we've surpassed 10,000 customers, I spend a lot of time managing teams, going to meetings, dealing with issues, and thinking about strategy. Those are interesting things too! But, I sometimes yearn for the solitary maker's high that came from sitting at my computer alone and just making something cool.

In the years since we saw Sam Johnson play live, we've listened to his music often, follow him on social media, and try to come up with excuses to go back to San Francisco again. Then, several months after meeting Sam, I noticed a post on Facebook that Sam had signed a record deal.

That's the result of thousands of those moments piling up. It only takes ten years to be an overnight success indeed.

A couple of weeks later, we noticed this post of Sam with Dave Matthews. More moments piling up. More connections. The pillars grow.

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So before you get too obsessed with the pace of reaching the end goal, enjoy where you are. Enjoy your craft. Enjoy each of those little moments that are piling up underneath you.

Keep on going and soon enough, you'll get your turn.



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Clint Watson

BoldBrush & FASO Founder / Art Fanatic

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