Anyone who is anyone in the classical music world knows that no publicity portfolio is truly complete without a Christian Steiner photo. Some of the most memorable portraits of luminaries such as Pavarotti, Von Karajan, Itzhak Perlman, Leonard Bernstein, and countless others have been captured with Mr. Steiner's lens. Thanks to my recent Hebrew Melodies CD project with violinist Maurice Sklar, i finally had an opportunity to experience a Christian Steiner photo shoot!
Many, many thanks to Maury - of all the CD's i've recorded, this is the first time the solo artist has asked me to be part of their publicity photo set. I'm usually relegated to the inner lining (if at all), so to be asked to be part of such a major part of the publicity is a rare and special honor. Here's a picture featuring Maury posing with Mr. Steiner:
i was struck with the small size of Mr. Steiner's apartment, and the utter simplicity of his studio setup. Somehow i had imagined a vast complex of vaulted ceilings with batteries of cameras, overhead lighting systems, and cavernous rooms with gargantuan backdrop movie studio sets. What a shock to see a basic living room with nothing more than a Bechstein "A" piano, 3 lights, and a 3-color (red, white and blue) paper backdrop frame!
There was a powerful similarity between Mr. Steiner's minimalist studio and Da-Hong Seetoo's sparse audio recording setup: both were masters using the simplest of tools to achieve the most incredible results, proving that artistic perfection lies with the eye and the ear, not with the complexity of the technology.
His mastery really comes to life in the way he sets up his lighting, poses his subjects, and uses the psychology of a trusted musical colleague to put the artists at ease with his vast repertoire of stories and jokes, or in the way he will just gaze at you until he smiles and finds the perfect angle for the shot.
When it came time to do my solo shots, Mr. Steiner spent a good bit of time exploring all different angles of my profile before decisively concluding that he liked the left side of my face the best ("Your right eye is smaller than your left," he told me). My small eyes were quite a challenge (i've heard that from several professional photographers over the years), and to keep them from squinting closed he purposefully kept me from smiling too much. One neat trick that Mr. Steiner used was to elevate himself on a step ladder, forcing me to naturally open my eyes more to see him at that angle!
I never knew that Mr. Steiner was a pianist himself! That helps to explain the extraordinary rapport he is able to achieve with his classical music clients. In fact, one way that Mr. Steiner keeps an active hand in the performing world is as the founder of the Tannery Pond Concert Series in upstate New York. Here is Mr. Steiner with Nikolai, the "Tzar of Tannery Pond", and his favorite toy:
All in all, it was a grueling 5 1/2 hour photo shoot with a few solo shots of yours truly snuck in for good measure (a much needed update for my own publicity picture portfolio!). I can't think of a more pleasant, inspiring, and artistically captivating photographer to work with! Can't wait for the contact sheets to see how the pictures turned out, bad hair day and all!
Going where the Cattle Graze: thoughts on YouTube marketing
I've really enjoyed working with Blip.tv, given its multiple distribution capabilities and lack of time limits for video clips. In my heart, Blip.tv clearly wins in the 'technical functionality' category. Nevertheless, it's become pretty clear in the past month or so that the segments i've started to cross-post to YouTube have been attracting a much wider audience - pretty inevitable, i suppose, given that YouTube is the 3rd most visited site on the Internet (behind Yahoo and Google), according to Alexa.com's Global Top 500 list on 11/3/07.
Chris Koenig, a Microsoft developer (or, more correctly, a "Breadth Developer Evangelist in Microsoft's South Central District" according to his site) just came across my first anniversary video demonstrating Tablet PC's and was kind enough to share it on his blog:
This video of my interview with classical accordionist Lidia Kaminska seems to be approaching a "tipping point" of sorts - over 8,000 views as of this writing, and the number of views seems to be growing exponentially:
This isn't to say that simply posting to YouTube will guarantee an audience - the following video seems to be suffering a "middle of the sandwich" syndrome of sorts, being a "part 2 of 3" from my Visual Recital workshop in Boulder, Colorado - it's a really nice montage of performance snippets at the 2007 Mad Cow Festival featuring various musicians and aerial dancers, but it's garnered zero views so far, compared to the higher viewership of part 1 and particularly part 3 (though that might get skewed now with this posting):
Oops - it just jumped to 18 views from the start of my writing this article! LOL - the internet is reading my mind! :D
Then again, some videos seem to garner lots of attention by simple association with a hot topic or product. The word "ipod" has much more to do with this clip garnering over 7,000 views than my ad hoc camera skills, i'm sure:
I guess the lesson i'm coming away with is that while YouTube is a major contender for getting your work out in the public sphere, it still takes good ol' elbow grease to promote your material. I'm still committed to working with Blip.tv, as i really love the functionality of the site, but i'll be sure to continue my cross-posts to YouTube as well.
I just came across this Reuters article a few days ago, with an irresistable intro-hook paragraph:
"They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere. But these days, it seems you haven't really made it unless you have that most prized of status symbols - your very own page on Wikipedia."
A few lines down, it points out the fact that unlike social networks sites like MySpace and Facebook, Wikipedia does NOT allow you to post articles about yourself. (Wikipedia, in case you're not familiar, is the world's largest online encyclopedia that's open for anyone - yes, anyone - to submit and edit articles to.)
Of course, naďve moi didn't initially realize that when i plopped over to Wikipedia a few weeks ago, signed up for a free account and promptly started to Copy-Paste my biography into the Wikipedia article framework. At first, all looked fine - but then when i tried to test the article and refresh the page, a glaring banner had suddenly appeared along the top, announcing itself as the "CorenSearchBot" or something to that effect, warning that the text i had inserted had been directly copied from an external source (uh, yeah...like, my own website?). Well, i tried changing a few lines around, omitting sundry details, and re-pasted the edited biography -
No go. Man, that search bot was tough to fool!!
I then studied a few other biographical articles within Wikipedia to get a flavor of the language style required and came up with a fairly decent draft.
Moments later - and i really mean, MOMENTS! - several new angry banners began appearing all over my article like neon parking tickets on a Philadelphia street, declaring that the piece was in imminent danger of being summarily deleted and banned from the Wikipedia universe. Several administrators angrily demanded to know if i was the self-styled author of the subject under question. I answered affirmatively, and tried to defend the new 'neutral' tone of the writing. Several more mentions of auto-biographical violations were thrust upon me, and it started to look pretty bleak for yours truly to retain even a micron of Wikipedia real estate...
Well, i think an apologetic stance helped somewhat, and even a plea for help as i really had no idea what was going on, and felt badly that i was evidently in the virtual equivalent of tresspassing in a library with muddy shoes on. Fortunately, several other authors began chiming in and checking out some of my reference sources - an absolute requirement, by the way, to have a prayer of hope to be considered "notable" enough for inclusion in the world's largest online encyclopedia. The Wikipedia gatekeepers looked kindly on my references, and even spent a good deal of their own time cleaning up the text and adding footnotes and proper text alignments and the like. The key was to immediately keep 'hands off' of directly editing the body of the article - i was free to submit reference, media, and text suggestions within the discussion page, but directly authoring my own article was a "no no".
Therein lies the key. You cannot author your own article, but certainly a hired press agent can do so on your behalf (as i'm 99.99% sure most of the uber-popular classical musicians' articles are authored by). Otherwise, you will need to rely on your own notoriety and the kindness of fans and strangers. Newspaper and magazine articles are an absolute necessity to substantiate any portion of your article, so the more you can have on hand (Publication name, article author, date of article, and - if possible - page number and/or URL link) the better equipped you'll be to keep your virtual stake in the Wikipedia ground. This can make things very difficult for unreviewed musicians and composers, but then again it creates incentive to get out in the public light and let your local publications know about it as much and as often as possible until something gets written about you.
After several trips to the Wikipedia I.C.U. and much discussion between administrators, it looks like Hugh Sung has at least a decent foothold in Wiki-posterity for now. i'm not quite sure how "prized" this is as a "status symbol", but it's certainly neat to have seen the process from the inside out.
What in the world was my name doing on a NY Times movie review page??
Upon further investigation (ie, clicking the link) it turns out that i make a cameo (i assume) in a film called, "Aaron Rosand: Celebrating a Life in Music". I write "assume" because for some reason i can't open the link properly in my browser. Anyone catch the preview of the film? How does my hair look? Does my leg keep jumping around too much? Is my tie on straight?
LOL - somehow i don't think the Paparazzi will be hounding me on the PATCO high speed line anytime soon...congratulations to my esteemed colleague Aaron Rosand on the release of this new film!
Greg Stepanich on Classical Musicians in the Video Blogosphere
Greg Stepanich from PalmBeachPost.com writes in his Oct. 12th post about the innovative ways classical musicians and institutions are marketing themselves, including an increasing wave of internet videos being used to educate and market classical music. Mr. Stepanich very kindly highlights the blog of "yours truly" as being "one of the most consistently interesting blogs out there..." (Why, thank you!) and points out my video interview with soprano Jacquelyn Familant where she talks about the importance of self-marketing. He also mentions my link to Charles Griffin's website and notes that Charlie is making PDF's of his scores directly available for purchase via PayPal. There's also a terrific reference to the Lynn University Conservatory of Music making their master class and rehearsal videos available for viewing thanks to BandDirector.com. We should see more conservatories following this model, a la shades of iTunes University!
Many thanks to Mr. Stepanich for recognizing the efforts of musicians trying to find innovative ways to share their art in a visual society!
i've just added a neat new sidebar widget that plays previews of my track offerings on AmieStreet.com - tracks can be purchased directly from the widget and then heard in their entirety. Setup was a little tricksy tricksy - it involved extracting a bit of code from AmieStreet's own artist promo flash player code that looks like this:
For the "playlist URL" in the widget settings, you want to extract the following code portion (look for "playlist_url=") -
"artistId__9685" refers to my Chopin album ID number.
I've set the player to start automatically when my blog page is opened. If this gets too annoying, please let me know and i'll turn the "auto-play" off. I'll try to get more selections uploaded soon so that regular readers aren't bored to tears. Please support classical music on music distro sites like AmieStreet.com and purchase a few tracks! (As of this writing, they're still really cheap - $0.13 per track - so let's see if we can't get the stock price inched up a bit, eh? Many thanks!!)
Earlier today i received happy news that InstantEncore.com has just added my blog's RSS feed to their News section. Pickings are a little slim at the moment, but hey! this site's just a few weeks old! Already it's easy to see how nicely their strategy to be a comprehensive Classical Music portal for news, podcasts, concerts, recordings and streaming media is coming together. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, and promises a wealth of consumer-friendly access to the rich world of Classical Music activities.
The "Video" section is still blank, and i've put in a request to have my video podcasts from Blip.tv added to their "Podcast" page. Hopefully we'll see some more legs for some of my video and audio material.
Special thanks to Evan, Margo and the entire InstantEncore.com team! Keep up the great work!
I'll try to design a variety of these banners in different sizes, but i think this is a pretty good first run! BTW, it took me a while to figure out, but i managed to make the entire movie hyperlinked - click on the flash movie to jump to VisualRecital.com! A great little tutorial on this technique can be found at Kirupa.com.
Still lots of work left to be done, but i thought it would be fun to share a little preview of the new Visual Recital subsite. www.VisualRecital.com previously just redirected to HughSung.com, but now that i've been able to develop a library of promotional materials (video clips, photographs, posters, etc. - oh, and a nice logo to boot!) it makes sense to set up a dedicated site to promote the concept.
Sticking with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, you'll notice that i'm using the same blog template for the Visual Recital site. The trickiest part was getting the subsite to render its own color scheme independent of the "father site" - if anyone is really interested, let me know and i'll post the technical specs of how i managed to work it around. I have absolutely loved the dynamic content and the design flexibility of the blog format, so i wanted to translate that into creating a resource for presenters (and fans!) to not only pull up the standard retinue of publicity materials like bios and pictures, but also to have a reason to return to the site as new content gets developed (and blogged about), more composers get featured and involved, and other musicians can get a backstage look at my internet marketing adventures.
Here's my laundry list of things to be done to the new subsite:
Simplify the sidebar menus - most of the sundry lists and sidebar widgets will be removed and replaced with basic links to promo materials and media files. I may develop a dedicated list linking other musicians and visual artists who are doing similar work to mine
Post and Link Promo materials - didn't i just say that? Well, forgive me for thinking aloud - i'll dedicate a few posts to stuff for presenters, like videos in various formats, the newly developed poster (samples and blank templates), and (hopefully soon) some nice animated GIF banners if anyone is interested in putting some eye candy on their own sites! Just for fun, i may even look into developing AIM chat buddy icons...
Technical Specs - these will be diagrams for stage presenters who need to see how the equipment is set up, everything from the dual Tablet PC's on the piano to the digital projector and screen setups. As i get around to visiting different venues, i hope to post pictures to illustrate how each stage works. I'm also thinking seriously about developing my own rear-projection screen - most likely to be built with a pvc pipe frame and Tyvek home wrap with a black rear drop cloth to cut ambient light and focus the projection...sketches and development pictures to be posted as this new project comes together...
Dedicated Podcast Series - i'm just putting this idea up for mulling...might be too redundant to do, but i might set up a small series of podcasts (video and audio) as subscribe-able promo for new and upcoming shows. Interviews with featured composers, backstage tech setup videos, how-to's, screencast tutorials...that sort of stuff...maybe...
As the Visual Recital and Hugh Sung sites are both working within the same blog structure, you'll still see a lot of overlap, particularly with the shared visitor counter and the links to the Upcoming Concert schedule (yes, yes, i'll update that one soon...) Again, VisualRecital.com will primarily be the promotional media vehicle, but with a blog flavor to keep the material from getting stale (as happens far, far too often with artists' websites). The best thing that could happen would be for other art musicians to pick up the concept and start developing their own shows! Nothing less than a new revolution in the live art music experience for today's audiences...
I'll post a holler once the site is cleaned up and tidy for a nice lil' housewarming party! (more)
At the risk of joining ranks with those email inbox-clogging spammers, i've designed and distributed my first HTML email advertisement for my next upcoming Visual Recital at the Darlington Arts Center. This turned out to be more difficult than i had imagined - posting web pages on a server is one thing, but finding a friendly way to distribute HTML content is an entirely different matter!
Anandgraves.com has the best article for creating HTML mailers - very helpful advice on formatting, design, coding and software considerations.
I'm lucky to have a copy of Dreamweaver to make HTML page creation a breeze, but apparently there are other WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) HTML coders out there, most of them free (Anandgraves.com lists several in the article), so it shouldn't be hard to create content. The thing to keep in mind is that HTML mailers are basically an extension of one's website - all the images in the message are actually pulled in from a specific directory you create from your site. Keeping image files small is a crucial design factor to making sure your recipients don't have to watch grass grow while waiting for your message to load (or more likely just delete the message outright).
The tricky thing turns out to be the distribution of said HTML mail. Outlook 2003 doesn't (apparently) have an easy way to directly code HTML into email messages. I tried looking at PHPMailer, but pardon me - even I have a limit when it comes to deciphering code, and when the ratio of effort to learn to ease of execution leaves something to be desired, i immediately defect to searching for an easier alternative.
That "easy" alternative (relatively speaking) turns out to be Thunderbird, the open-source email client made by the same goodwilled folks who gave us Firefox (my hands down web browser of choice). Setting up Thunderbird to talk nicely to Gmail turned out to be more of a pain than i expected. Fortunately, once the deed was done, the ease of inserting HTML text made all that effort worthwhile.
If you'd like to see the direct HTML mailer file, click here.
By all means, if you'd like me to mail you a copy, drop me a line and i'll send one off to you so that you can forward it to all your friends!
Someone suggested i create a mailing list, i assume with some sort of signup form...yes, yes, that'll get added to my "to do" list...
Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!