#42 - Love Thy Neighbor(hood)

  
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Project Nande is a $5/month membership club that gives its members access to curated neighborhood guides spotlighting cool shit going on in Chicago. The guides are curated by an editorial team comprised of Chicagoans who got tired of SEO-driven listicles that felt phony compared to their daily experiences. Subscribers get access to hundreds of past guides, a new guide every week, first crack at physical guides (the one above was done as a partnership w/Intelligentsia Coffee) and a concierge-via-text service for those who like to procrastinate on making Friday night plans. An example of the concierge service in action:



Founder Andrew Tran stopped by the podcast to talk about how Project Nande came to life, what he feels is missing from nightlife coverage and who exactly is responding to those concierge texts. Really insightful stuff in this episode, even if you don’t live in Chicago.

YOUR HOMEWORK FOR THE WEEK:

  • RSVP FOR OFFICE HOURS LIVE! Thursday, November 14th at the Hoxton Hotel Chicago’s new “Working From…” space in the West Loop. Free to attend but I need you to RSVP so we can get a headcount. My guests will be former Chicago Bear-turned Angel Investor Corey Mays and one of the funniest people on Twitter Larry Legend (of SmokedOutCouch fame). It’s going to be absolutely insane and I hope you can come!

Click here to RSVP!

  • If you like behind-the-scenes business dealings, content, or want to figure out how we got to the current state of tentpole movies and sequels, sequels, sequels, this is a must-read: “In January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney's film studiosJeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry. The recent release of the big-budget Dick Tracy movie had been a disappointment and, as a result, Katzenberg was desperate to recapture the magic of old and rid his studio of their extremely costly "blockbuster mentality." This fascinating, highly quotable memo was his mission statement. It’s subsequent circulation in Hollywood caused a huge stir.”

  • You’ve read “What’s Left Of Conde Nast” already, right? If not, get on it ASAP.

  • Sooooooo I was walking outside yesterday and came across this random porterhouse steak just laying on the sidewalk. If you can figure out why it was there or have conspiracy theories, please e-mail me!!!

    TUNES:

    The Source’s All-Time 5 Mic List

    Eight years ago, I made a Spotify playlist of every album that got 5 mics in the iconic hip-hop magazine The Source. Over the last month, I’ve gotten a surge of people subscribing to it. I don’t know what forum found it or whatever, but I’m happy they did!

    PRO TIP: If you don’t know anything about rap music, you can honestly listen to this playlist and you’ll be better off than 95% of the population once you’re done. 

If you enjoyed this story, forward to a friend and tell them to sign up for the newsletter!
Office Hours is written by Ernest Wilkins. Follow me everywhere @ErnestWilkins or email me here.

COME TO THIS: OFFICE HOURS LIVE!!!

Image result for office hours ernest wilkins"

Chicago-based subscribers:

Next week, I’m doing a live taping of the Office Hours podcast at the Hoxton Hotel’s new “Working From” space in Chicago’s West Loop. The event is Thursday, November 14th from 6:30-8:30 so grab some Happy Hour drinks and pull up!

It’s free to attend, but you’ll need to RSVP so we can get a headcount. I’m planning a fun show and a few surprises so I’d suggest being there live if you can.

Newsletter returns tomorrow, see you then!

#41 - What makes a great bar?

Image result for TWO-WAY CHICAGO

Earlier today, I tweeted about how much I hate third places that try to create fake intimacy with patrons. I’ve never used this comment thread feature before so let’s try it out!

Beloved lovelies, here are my rules for a great bar:

  • Either has a TV or doesn’t

  • Either does fancy drinks or doesn’t

  • Serves either leveled up snacks or leveled down entrees

  • Regulars ain't all white dudes

  • Bar staff ain't all white dudes

  • Has Wi-Fi

  • Be fun in all seasons

  • 🔥Happy Hour specials

  • Has cool merch (merch = a t-shirt, coozies, maybe a crewneck but that’s IT)

  • Sponsors a beer league team

  • Owner is either really nice or really mean. No in-between

  • Does special things for holidays

  • You never see your exes there

  • The ratio of locals to tourists is 90%/10%

  • One cheap shot option (bonus points if the cheap shot is local! (Example: In Chicago, I want Malort shots and I don't want to spend more than $5 for them.)

  • Mediocre/Terrible social media presence

  • Doesn't have those cheap-ass "local team" championship banners bought off Amazon like this:

Two questions:

  1. What is your criteria for a “great” bar? Not good, GREAT.

  2. Does this bar exists where you live? If so, share!!!

View 6 comments →

#40: The Office Hours Interview - Phil Chang

  
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Phil Chang

Phil Chang is a Brand Strategist and Creative Director based in NYC who has worked with Nike, Apple, Netflix, Samsung, MTV, The Museum of Modern Art, SSENSE, Bottega Veneta, Dropbox, Mandarin Oriental, Rodarte, adidas, and Calvin Klein.

He also wrote one of the most influential pieces of business/culture writing I've ever read, 2011’s The New Middleman. A quote:

“As technology (specifically, the internet) continues to facilitate tenable careers in creative industries, the number of professional participants in fields like fashion, art, music and design continues to proliferate at an exponential rate. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a moot point – the useful fact to be gleaned is that this phenomenon makes it difficult to distinguish exceptional talent from the rest of the mix. Effectively, this is why you see countless corporate brands get ‘influencer marketing’ so communicatively and tactically wrong. Recognizing who has the potential for permanent, dynamic relevance is an art in its own right, and while it might seem like anyone could easily train themselves to do that, I ask the same question that I imagine the oft-maligned Damien Hirst constantly positing to his detractors, “Why haven’t you already, then?”

…again, this was written in 2011. Feels like it could have been written last week, right?

Listen to his thoughts on advertising, freelance creative direction, landing a gig at Wieden + Kennedy, why creatives shouldn't have to be in the office and a LOT more.


If you enjoyed this article, I hope you’ll consider a paid subscription. Paid subscriptions allow for a better newsletter because I’ll be able to focus on good content instead of freaking out about how I’m going to pay bills. Paid subscribers receive exclusive newsletters and early access to the live Office Hours hangs.


YOUR HOMEWORK FOR THE WEEK:

OFFICE HOURS LIVE:

CHICAGO! I’m going to be doing a LIVE TAPING of the Office Hours podcast (The most recent epsiode is at the top of this email) in November at the Hoxton Hotel Chicago. Details to come!

TUNES:

If you watched the amazing HBO show The Righteous Gemstones, here’s a playlist I made featuring music from season 1.

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be at HBO haven’t released the best song from the show…

This Ghetto Sage (Saba, Smino and Noname’s new Avengers-like rap group) project is definitely going to be on my shortlist for best projects whenever it comes out, SHEESH.

#39: How to Create Your Own Cultural Movement

  
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🚨LISTEN TO THE CLIP BEFORE YOU READ THE ARTICLE🚨

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Back in 2012 on the dearly-departed The Champs Podcast, the immortal Questlove laid out the strategy for what became The Soulquarians, a loose collective of musicians that dominated rap and R&B in the late-90s and early 2000’s. What he says in this clip is the secret behind creating a “movement”. That secret is the driving force behind every major music movement over the past 30 years.

For the sake of understanding, a “movement” in this context means a marketing campaign around a specific piece of art that aims to provide community, affiliation and inspiration as well as the desire to live a better life. Let’s first unpack how they did it.

The Soulquarians — an unofficial collective consisting of Erykah Badu, Bilal, Common, D'Angelo, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Pino Palladino, James Poyser, Q-Tip, Questlove himself and his Roots bandmates, and the late Roy Hargrove and J Dilla — were all established artists at the time but by adding a cultural context to their output, they all achieved more success than they would have going about it all separately. The collective produced and guested on each others albums and in doing so, shaped the sound of hip-hop, soul and R&B across the 11-12 albums they worked on during their short time together.  

As he mentions in the clip, by framing the Soulquarians collective as “alternative, left-of-center hip-hop”, Questlove and his label were able to poach other acts that matched The Roots’ sound as well as allowed them to collaborate freely to create music that fit in that “alternative hip-hop” pocket by using a specific context that fans could identify with, even if they had never listened to an album.

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The Soulquarians, from left: Talib Kweli, Common, Yasiin Bey, James Poyser, Erykah Badu, Questlove, Q-Tip, Bilal and J. Dilla

A reminder: The music business is trying to sell a product. That product = the songs they own and the people who make them. As a creative, it can be easy to focus solely on the work itself without considering the cultural context of how potential fans will be introduced to you and your “product” in the first place. From there, it’s easier to get press opportunities (Trust me, it’s ridiculously easier to get coverage if you have your movement already rolling) and agents and marketing types know how to market you amongst the thousands of people who are trying to do the same thing you are.

Cultural context is my fancy way to describe the “movement” concept.

What is “cultural context”? 

To me, cultural context is the unique cultural perspective of a product presented in the proper context the creator intended it to be consumed in. Going back to the music example, the product (music) and the people who make it are created and inspired by specific cultures, based on whatever traditions they have inherited along with unique personal touches like regional slang, or a particular style of production. Music is a great example of this phenomenon, because all music must grow out of its own cultural context. People in every culture create music, based on what they’ve learned and from what they’ve listened to growing up. Even when an artist creates something entirely new, it is still based on a cultural context of what existed before. Cultural context in music is why you know what the British Invasion is or what a Motown song sounds like. It’s why people spend all day on Twitter going to war for southern rap, grime, noise, black metal or Gqom. Cultural context is why Dreamville is winning right now. It’s the combination of the unique cultural experiences of the people making the music presented in proper context.

This concept isn’t new by the way. My main man Emile Durkheim — one of the people responsible for the study of social science itself — talked about this in 1893. 

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*pulls out Social Sciences degree*

The “movement” concept aligns with Durkheim’s notion of mechanical solidarity. 

Mechanical solidarity is the sense of togetherness in a society that arises when people share similar experiences, customs, values, and beliefs. Mechanical solidarity is a form of social cohesion, in which people are bound together for a passionate cause with a sense of common duty and responsibility, which, in turn, can spark cultural movement. Cultural contexts power these movements and by doing so, enhance group solidarity, strengthen our identities and social solidarity, as well as bring people and societies together.

Now, using the music example, I’ll share steps to create your own “movement”: 

  1. Ask yourself, “What do I want to share with the world about me and the people who live in my world via my art?”

  2. Look around and find people who share your culture who are in a similar creative space. Start in your backyard because odds are, those people will get what you’re trying to do because they share similar context.

  3. Collaborate on projects that appeal to people who share your cultural context with people who share your cultural context. 

  4. Broaden your reach by figuring out how to contextualize your culture to someone who is completely different from you. (A good way to do this is to think about what questions a journalist would ask you about your creative output. Try to answer questions like “What do I have to say about the world?” And “What did growing up in _____ teach me about music?” The better you can articulate your context, the better chance a person has to understand and ultimately support what you’re trying to do.

  5. Repeat until you have a million in the bank.

If you’re a creative in any discipline, I’d advise taking a look at the culture that created you and then looking around for like-minded individuals who share your cultural context. Odds are, they have the same goals as you do.

As the old saying goes, if you want to go far, go together.


If you enjoyed this article, I hope you’ll consider a paid subscription. Paid subscriptions allow for a better newsletter and more value for you lovely subscribers. Paid subscribers receive exclusive newsletters and early access to the live Office Hours hangs.


Your Homework for the Week:

TUNES:

For more on the Soulquarians, check out Okayplayer and the late great RBMA’s stories on the collective. Also, this playlist SLAPS.

If you enjoyed this story, forward to a friend and tell them to sign up for the newsletter!
Office Hours is written by Ernest Wilkins.Follow me everywhere @ErnestWilkins or email me here.

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