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Women and men, both, are forever trying to achieve what emerged in the 1880s as the work-leisure balance. Each of us are constantly juggling commitments: friends, family, career, ambition, hobbies, inner-drive, chores, household tasks, running errands and answering emails.

Technology has made these processes more seamless and more demanding. As other peoples’ availability and accessibility increases, the same is thought of and applied to us.

For students, a further dimension is added into the equation when school/tertiary/further study becomes another immersion and pleasure with deadlines, readings and out-of-hours time required to complete and pass each course. You’ll of course then have to earn a living and manage the other aspects of life simultaneously. And while there are the old 9 to 5, or 8-8-8 expressions, the reality of the world today is that flexibility and adaptability are keys to success, achievement and sanity.

I’m pretty terrible with flexibility, I like routine. But I’m slowly and steadily trying to stretch and thoughtfully strain those tired muscles and help them to regain some youthful flexibility.

While we’re on the topic of flexibility, have you ever wondered how those amazing women you see on stage manage their dual roles as mother-actress/dancer/musician/performer?

On top of the complexities other workers, commuters and you and I have to face, those drawn to the stage and screen must also integrate rehearsals, shows, touring and long days and nights into their ‘routine’.

I recently spoke to a few notable women who find themselves in this position (no pun intended) and wrote about it for artsHub. Check it out for some insight into living the days and loving the nights, and how to be constantly ‘on’ and present.

Chris Anderson’s theory of The Long Tail first appeared at Wired (of which he is Editor-in-Chief) in 2004. Subsequently expanded and published as a book in 2006, the theory’s fundamental premise is that online markets have allowed for greater diversity and inclusion of niches in the distribution of products such as music, movies and books.

Anderson says online distribution and retail reflects today’s ‘world of abundance’ and that it has profoundly increased our exposure to lesser-mainstream goods.

Physical retail outlets such as DVD (or video) rental stores, record/CD/DVD shops, and bookstores have to work on the economic premise of their products’ likelihood of return on investment (ROI). Simply, this means the physical space their products take up on their shelves is restricted and dependent upon their chance of selling, thus ensuring they were worthy of stocking and space. If an item sits on a shelf and isn’t sold, it is wasting space that could be used to temporarily house another item more likely to sell and earn a profit for the store. It is principally predicting the economic viability of each product, based on its likelihood to sell or regularly turn in a profit (in the case of rental stores).

Entertainment in a physical world, such as described above, also has implications for movie theatres. The relatively frequent high number of cinemas in reasonably-sized metropolitan areas is evident, and each cinema needs to find local audiences in order to make their screenings economically worthwhile. Managers must also take into account the limited number of hours a day they are likely to attract customers, and schedule their screenings and staffing requirements accordingly. All this results in an entertainment economy revolving highly around mainstream hits, as they are the most likely to produce a more impressive ROI.

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Anderson explains the primary difference between physical retail outlets and those that are purely digital services is that for the latter, both ‘hits and misses’ are equally viable financially. This stems from the fact that neither take up any physical space, meaning they are on equal economic footing and misses are ‘just another sale, with the same margin as a hit’.

What Anderson’s research has shown is when the demand for niche products is served, there is actually less interest in the hits. However, whichever online platform is selling or leasing the products – Amazon, iTunes, Netflix – they still receive an equal profit regardless of what the customer purchases. The only difference is the customer is more likely to be satisfied with their product, and I would extrapolate on this to say that subsequently, they are more likely to return for additional goods in the future.

Ultimately, Anderson calls this the ‘infinite shelf-space effect’ where subscription services (Netflix, Spotify) and digital downloading services (iTunes, Amazon) are able to offer more personalised products to customers through ‘stocking’ an unlimited number of choices.

The other important aspect of the digital entertainment industry is that through tracking patterns of user’s purchases, clicks (viewings) and interests in/of products, the service is able to ‘recommend’ additional products the user may also enjoy. I personally find it both helpful and overwhelming when viewing a book on Amazon to note just below ‘my’ book (the one which I have searched for/am interested in), a whole range of other books I might be interested in, thanks to what other customers interested in ‘my’ book also purchased.

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Similarly, to purchase products one creates an account which tracks your data and keeps a history of your views and purchases.

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Obviously this is commonplace in any online marketplace, and each operates through establishing a network of user preferences, similarities between customers, and analytical software and systems.

A key point Anderson makes however, is that digital stores are still highly dependent on the ‘hits’ or mainstream products to attract consumers in the first place. He writes:

Great Long Tail businesses can… guide consumers further afield by following the contours of their likes and dislikes, easing their exploration of the unknown.

The benefits of Long Tail businesses, as Anderson asserts, are numerous for both the entertainment industry and individuals. Customers are able to access (or are involuntarily offered) customised recommendations based on their browsing patterns through what Anderson calls an ‘increased signal-to-noise ratio’ – based on good recommendations – with the potential for introducing customers to alternate products and encouraging exploration into new fields connected through their customised network.

Businesses utilise recommendations as an efficient and effective form of marketing that also drives users towards lesser-known products which, in turn, are able to find an audience.

Anderson says the benefits for the entertainment industry are immense, with customisation leading potential to create a far larger market overall. Recommendations can ‘drive demand down the Long Tail’;

And the cultural benefit of all of this is much more diversity, reversing the blanding effects of a century of distribution scarcity and ending the tyranny of the hit.

Not long ago I posted a response to Christopher Bantick’s opinion piece about the supposed decline of high culture and elite art in Australia.

According to Bantick, ‘Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy’. Without reiterating my entire spiel, as we would say in high school debates ‘I strongly disagree with this statement’.

Let’s continue with this semi-hilarious debate structure, shall we?

I will now present you with evidence in rebuttal to Bantick’s arguments and convince you – without a doubt – that young people have indeed not lost the capacity to “actually know when something is art, and worthy” of our appreciation and attention.

Exhibits A and B: Happy by Pharrell Williams and Happy by Gillian Cosgriff (background vocals/guitar by Sage Douglas, Josie Lane and Robert Tripolino).

William’s Official Music Video is a modern artistic masterpiece in itself. Originally for the soundtrack of Pixar’s Despicable Me 2, Happy is an all-singing-all-dancing four minutes and seven seconds of fun. As an extension of those few minutes, Williams also produced the world’s first 24 hour music video, which you can all watch at 24 Hours of Happy [dot com].

The video consists of the four-minute song repeated with various people dancing and miming along. Williams himself appears 24 times on the hour, and there are a number of celebrity cameos including Odd Future (1:48pm), Steve Carell (5:08pm), Jamie Foxx (5:28pm),Ana Ortiz (5:32pm), Miranda Cosgrove (5:40pm), JoJo (6:16pm), Kelly Osbourne (1:28am), Magic Johnson (5:36am), Sérgio Mendes (10:32am) andJimmy Kimmel (11:48am). The minions from Despicable Me 2 make several appearances throughout the film, including one scene at 3:00am, in which Pharrell and the minions dance in a movie theatre that is playing the scene from Despicable Me 2 in which “Happy” appears. The site allows users to navigate to various points in the 24-hour timeframe, including all 360 four-minute segments and each hourly segment with Pharrell. –  Wikipedia (it’s more reliable than you think)

So, all in all, I think that’s a pretty innovative, multidisciplinary, and inviting work of art, don’t you?

And, you know what? It seems not a whole lot of people agree that such art is ‘crass’, Mr Bantick, because Happy has topped the charts in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands and has come close in Hungary and Denmark, too.

Regardless of what the opposition thinks of Pharrell William’s current worldwide hit, Happy, which Williams no less than wrote, performed and produced, Cosgriff’s interpretation is so much more than just a cover you’d see on the first round auditions of The Voice.

Cosgriff is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), one of the nation’s leading music institutions. Having received some of the best formal training in the industry, Cosgriff is making numerous contributions to the Australian music scene. She won Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe 2013 and is currently on a mission to play on pianos all over Melbourne, an artwork in itself called ‘Play Me, I’m Yours‘ by artist Luke Jerram.

Play Me, I’m Yours, in Melbourne until 27 January, is presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Betty Amsdem Participation Program. They’ve been painted and decorated by local community artists and can be found all across Melbourne’s arts precinct and its surroundings. Anyone can sit down to a piano and play to their heart’s content.

Now, take note, Bantick and fellow high-culture-appreciators. This is an artwork, presented by Victoria’s premiere arts institution. The very same Centre is home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Opera Australia, amongst other more traditional arts ensembles. Furthermore, Betty Amsden OAM is one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists who is directing her funds specifically towards children and young people and their engagement in the arts.

Anyway, Cosgriff’s taken on her own little arts project, playing and performing on the pianos for anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to be in the vicinity at the time. Her performance of Happy is cheeky, fresh and thoroughly entertaining. She’s also teemed up with other performers, and the locals at Real Good Kid productions to film and upload the performances to share with everyone with internet access.

I’m not negating more traditional forms of art. I’m not saying all popular music is fantastic or that the price of tickets to some international acts’ concerts aren’t ridiculous. But, the cost is across the board. The fantastic Berlin Philharmonic (whom I’ve seen) or Beyonce (who, despite all my best intentions, I have not), they’re both raking in the cash because to put on such a show costs a whole lot of dosh. And, seriously, Beyonce is practically a God who never stops giving, so it’s only fair we give a little back.

So, yes, today’s youth are growing up with a different ‘cultural background’ than you and others who’ve come before us, Bantick. Our thinking is changing but it’s because now the world is growing stronger and becoming more connected by empowering people through the arts. And, elitism has no place in a world like that.

 

You may remember that I’m fortunate enough to be interning at artsHub, Australia’s premiere website for everything you need to know about the arts – performing, literary, visual, screen and related fields. Tomorrow night, artsHub is launching a whole new website. It’s a makeover that’s had a lot of time and effort behind it and from the sneak peaks I’ve enjoyed, it’s an amazingly streamline environment. It’s incredibly user-friendly, adaptable for mobile and tablet devices, and marks a positive turn in and for, the organisation where membership and subscription options are being revamped to offer you more information, faster, and in greater detail.

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning of my own in my life: trying to work out what to do in the coming days/weeks/moths/years (!!!). It’s quite overwhelming and daunting, but many nice prospects are presenting themselves along the way. Primarily, I want to travel. Back to Europe, New York, Japan and beyond. Take me anywhere, really! However, before that happens, I need a paying job. So, if anyone in Melbourne knows of a company/shop/organisation who are looking for someone to do some admin/retail assisting/writing/almost anything, please let them or me know, I’d be super grateful. I’ll even send you a postcard from a city of your choice when I do finally venture across the seas.

Australia is going through it’s own ‘cleaning’ processes, streamlining a new government and organising national and international policies and priorities. There is a lot to be said about the election and voting systems we experienced last weekend, but for now, I’ll leave that to other commentators. I’m sure if you’re interested, you’ve already found your way across other websites such as Crikey, The Conversation and The Drum, alongside mainstream newspapers and television stations.

I’m also after some new podcasts to listen to. I’m pretty open and generally interested in anything, so if you’ve got any recommendations, please let me know in the comments section or any other communicative method.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pieces I wrote at artsHub yesterday:

SDC commissions eight new works for next year <— this article has the best picture, worth clicking the link just to see it

Daffy Duck, Wagnerlicht, and The Ride of the Valkyries

Emerging South Australian printmaker wins $5,000 art prize

Canberra Symphony Orchestra explores emotion in its 2014 season

Malthouse announces 2014 season

It’s so hard to know where to draw the line, sometimes.

Do you lift a pencil before the procrastination can begin, or knock of the pen’s lid only to twiddle it between your second and third fingers? Drawing the line can be preventative or experimental. There’s the line separating the platform from the railway. The lines that run in perfect parallel (tautology?) across the pages yearning for your scrawl. The points of high and low across a musical score, the bars on a cell, the perimetre of your windows and doors. The lines created through positive and negative space when observing the heating vents on your floor. The pinstripes of your pants, the lines of the law. Script lines, spoken words, paraphrases, Southern drawl. Accents have lines and are lines. Exclamation points, marks on a page, seats on a stage.

What is a line? Are all lines straightforward, or are they up for interpretation? Some lines are a way of expression, they are creative, help us make sense of things.

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Sometimes things seem so black and white, with a definitive line separating two distinct parties. Good and evil, right versus wrong, high and low, speech and song.

I wonder if it all comes down to respect.

And just because one person crosses a line doesn’t necessarily make it okay for us to follow suit.

I saw a man yesterday. And I saw another man. The first man was in trouble. But he was troubled. He may have done wrong but he wasn’t wrong in himself. He needed help. And how can one be helped if one keeps to them-self? The first man was scared. He was under pressure. He was paranoid and upset. Then the second man took it upon himself not to offer support or a kind word, but to take out his phone and captured the first man’s pain. He literally filmed another man in crisis. And that cannot be okay. There has to be a line there. And man number two crossed it.

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Today, a young person going through a rough time has found herself to be a headline act featured across newsstands worldwide. I am aware that by writing about this I too, may be partaking in the media frenzy. But I have chosen to voice my opinion for a purpose. If someone is suffering, don’t make jokes. You may think you know the whole story, but for better or worse, people do draw their own lines. There’s the stuff they tell you, and then there’s the stuff they don’t. They might do it to protect themselves, or to stop you from hurting. And suddenly, a single person transverses the line, whatever it may be, and the whole world knows everything person ‘A’ wanted to keep secret.

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Boundaries are both helpful and unhelpful. But, put ourselves in the situation of another and many of them suddenly seem to make sense. Line’s are a protective mechanism, a signifier of privacy, a marker of difference, or a connector between two people or events.

Some lines are straight forward, clean cut, obvious and matter of fact. Practical, functional, statement, simple. Other lines are elusive, you can’t quite catch them, or if you do, you can’t properly grasp them.

But all lines have a purpose. So, if your lines are hazy, broken or you’re feeling uncertain, call another line for help. Because that’s a healthy choice you can make to expel, settle, and regain focus.

Helplines.

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And, here’re some lines I wrote for artsHub this week:

‘Prince Harry Kills Me’ Banner Left Out of Biennale

Understanding Arts Audiences <— *this is really interesting*