Time to look at the digital tea leaves and share what I see.
Flux Research has had a variety of identities but I’m now settled on building a writing portfolio as the basis for future blogging supporting bigger writing projects (books, baby, books!). That’s a very long-term plan that may not come to fruition for many years nevertheless I’m building the base now.
But since relaunching I’ve been focusing on learning more about WordPress (for this site and others) and getting All World Dance back in action.
Most of my current blogging takes place at Hypebot where I continue to dig deeper into music tech startups, interviewing startup CEOs and sharing what I can of the possibilities on the web for DIY musicians.
Figuring Out What All World Dance Can Be
To be honest, I’m also struggling with what All World Dance could be. Right now it’s just me and it suffers for that but, then again, I’m in a phase that I don’t want to rush.
For example, when I initially launched All World Dance a few years back, I approached it and envisioned its potential based on projects I did in the previous decade. I then took a break and returned a year or so ago where I shifted from dance news, videos, etc. to just posting dance videos but with a similar overall vision. Now I’m back for the third time and posting videos again but looking at the overall project differently.
That’s a doable approach while I figure out what I’m doing with the site and how I can create time to work on the site. At this point I’m still investing huge amounts of time into keeping up with music tech and music startups beyond particular posts.
Building On My Work At Hypebot
That extra work is finally starting to pay off at Hypebot where I’m getting to know more startup founders and CEOs who, for the most part, have been really delightful to interview and keep up with over time.
The next step on that trajectory is moderating one (maybe more) panels at the MIA Music Summit happening in Miami in late March. I’m working on a panel about Alternative Funding for Artists with a focus on things like crowdfunding and new forms of patronage.
So far Benji Rogers from PledgeMusic and Pia Guidice of Ideame are on board. One or two more to be added. I think it’s going to a solid event and I’m looking forward to finally meeting some of my contacts in person.
Sometimes I think of the intense news gathering I do daily, which makes it difficult to find the time to do other projects, as part of my part-time Hypebot job but a lot of it is what I would do anyway. I like understanding how things are changing and I use that knowledge in my own projects.
What I See When I Look At All World Dance
So All World Dance at this stage looks like a lot of my projects at an early stage. Blogging about something I care about but also trying to find a form that will reach a sizable audience. Flux Research isn’t about reaching a large audience but you can see it starting in a similar place.
However I’m really influenced right now by messaging apps as a base for building larger platforms. I’m not taking the same route but it’s shifting my thinking just as studying Yahoo’s history 14 years ago affected the first website I launched.
When most people look at All World Dance they probably see something that is the blogging equivalent of two grad students building a link directory in their free time. When I look at All World Dance I see the beginnings of a Yahoo (back when it was a huge success and inspiration) for dance fans, dancers and professionals.
But looking at it in light of what messaging apps are accomplishing, especially those in Asia, gives me a different way of understanding how a much bigger company can be built from relatively simple beginnings.
Of course, All World Dance will develop differently from messaging apps but currently what looks like a content pure play is as much about building an audience and maybe even a community around dance videos as it is a form of content marketing for a project that could be much more than a media play.
How All World Dance Is Pushing Me To Change
Pulling this off can’t be done alone. Though I’m very much biased towards bootstrapping solo while outsourcing specific needs, I want to build something that will require much more than that. You know, things like other people and other people’s money!
Which really brings me up against what has empowered me to this day. The reality is the things that enable you to succeed at a certain stage of life or a particular project are often the things that block your success as you grow or change.
I’m a web publisher and problogger partly because when I graduated from Ohio State in 2000 with a PhD in Cultural Studies I proceeded to not get a job.
There’s a lot I could say about that but after spending 8 years of my life in grad school I found myself ill-suited for anything else but not situated to get the actual jobs that existed even though I was outperforming in almost all areas.
Those next few years were incredibly difficult but when a piece I wrote for a music magazine didn’t make it in, I couldn’t let my interviewees down and so I put it on the web in 2001. And that’s when my life as a web publisher began.
Soon thereafter I was blogging and building an audience without having to ask permission from anybody. Basic web publishing tools for writers were still emerging but it was already cheap to start a site and go directly to an audience.
And that’s a big part of what hooked me. I was gradually finding ways to support myself doing things I cared about with no gatekeepers.
Just the other day I realized that what I was doing was going Direct To Fan as is the focus of so much of the music biz today. And finding that I had an engaged audience and could make a small living without having to answer to anybody but that audience helped rebuild my self-esteem after the incredible thrashing it took coming out of grad school and into unemployment.
In 2004 I launched ProHipHop and Hip Hop Press. As things grew I soon found myself in North Carolina, solo on the web, with my biggest audience in New York and LA. And if you don’t think a 40-something white man in North Carolina with a laptop and a lot of coffee building a predominantly black NY/LA audience isn’t a serious achievement then you don’t know jack!
Twice I tried to partner with others and let me say those were classic examples of learning from failure. But mostly what I was up against was the limit of anyone without capital going solo. You could do it in the previous decade off blogging but it’s pretty hard today with so much money and so much competition in the game.
The early days are gone and there’s no going back. And though I do have options that could allow me to keep rolling solo, that isn’t what I want to do right now. I want to build All World Dance and it’s going to take help and money. And that means I’m going to have to get way out of my comfort zone.
In particular that means eventually dealing with gatekeepers, in this case investors, while trying to find early co-founders partly because investors want to see that. It’s not that I don’t want to work with people but despite the successes I’ve had, I’ve never been that good at recruitment or sales. And I’m really bad with gatekeepers who play games as so many do, even those who think they don’t.
The Near and [Possibly] Far Future
So All World Dance is going to take some work. I’m not sure if I can even do the basics right now due to my other responsibilities but I’m going to try. Honestly I don’t feel I have any choice. If I walked away from an opportunity to which others are so blind at a point in time when there aren’t nearly as many open fields as even 5 years ago I would never forgive myself.
There are other such gaps that are not seeable by those with Silicon Tunnel Vision but none that are as deeply connected to my personal history as dance. Basically all my serious achievements up to 2000 were related to dance or writing. In many ways those two areas define me.
So the next 6 months or so are about seeing if I can pull off the basics and not only reach an audience but create some initial proof regarding what both I and All World Dance can do.
And it feels different now. Since fully embracing All World Dance all the great ideas I come up with that distract me are pretty easy to simple note and file away. I don’t feel distracted at all.
I do feel scared and overwhelmed and almost walked away most recently two mornings ago.
Yet I also feel powerful and ready for what I like to call The Big Takeover. If I can find the right people, I know we can do enormous things and they won’t just be about dance but will also school a lot of people in tech.
So, yeah, the rest of 2014 is going to be kind of nuts but it’s time to step up and show folks what I can do. So far you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Now let’s see if I can beat the powerful effects of digital climate change while bringing the full picture into view.