Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

The Power of Peak Moments and Powerful Endings

Want to make more of an impact with your customers? Maybe a quick science lesson will help you create more positive and memorable experiences for your fans.

In a post this week on his Artful Manager blog, Andrew Taylor has some great observations regarding the Peak/End Rule. Taylor writes about "Nobel-prize winning psychiatrist Daniel Kahneman, who has done experiments to determine how individuals attribute pleasure or pain to a lived experience." His findings led to the Peak/End Rule.

The Noise Between Stations web site describes the Peak/End Rule this way: "When people assess a past experience, they pay attention above all to two things: how it felt at the peak and whether it got better or worse at the end. A mild improvement -- even if it's an improvement from 'intolerable' to 'pretty bad' -- makes the whole experience seem better, and a bad ending makes everything seem worse."

Wikipedia chimes in with "We judge our past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted."

Back to Andrew Taylor's blog post ...

"First off, this fact of perception seems to be already in the bones of the most well-regarded artists. For example, I once heard a jazz pianist tell a group of students how to craft a solo improvisation. The cheat sheet? Build to a strong middle, and make a solid ending ... the audience won't remember anything else. I've also seen many orchestral conductors add an especially dramatic flourish to their final cut-off, leading the crowd to go wild, regardless of what came before."

The traditional wisdom I've always heard was to start strong and finish strong. Based on the Peak/End Rule, that may be only half true. A new rule to consider: If you're a performer, save one of your most potent "peak experience" pieces for someplace in the middle of a performance, then end with a crowd-pleasing flurry.

However, this concept can be applied to art of all kinds:
  • Plays
  • Novels
  • Poems
  • Short stories
  • Musical performances
  • Art gallery events
  • Stand-up comedy routines
  • Dance presentations
So ... regardless of what you create, be sure to craft a specific climactic moment, and save your best stuff for the end.

Tips for Authors & Self-Publishers

Are you interested in publishing your own book? A recent survey showed that 80% of people claimed they'd like to write a book. Of course, most of those people will never take the first step toward that goal, but it's a staggering percentage: Eight out of ten people!

I recently become the president of the St. Louis Publishers Association. And as a full-time self-published author, I find myself dishing out advice to aspiring authors more and more often. Since I have some knowledge and success in this area, I've decided to write more articles and tips on this topic. Hopefully, I'll have a new book out on the topic later this year.

In the meantime, click here to read an article I just posted called Nine New Year's Book Publishing Resolutions.

To your creative success!

Are You Profiting From the Long Tail?

Still think being an independent solo artist, writer or performer means you're small potatoes? Think again. An article in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine has been causing a stir and forcing people to rethink the realities of modern entertainment marketing and sales.

Please read the article, by Wired's editor in chief Chris Anderson, and get a grip on the way indie, small-budget and self-produced products are weaving their way to end users -- while turning a profit!

Here's the gist of the article: The old way of marketing and distribution was based on physical scarcity. Entertainment products (music, books, film and video games) were primarily offered to the public through retail locations. Due to costs and space limitations, only the top-selling titles were stocked in stores. If a title couldn't justify its shelf space, it was eliminated. Hence the creation of lowest-common-denominator hits and bland superstars.

Many creative people and products obviously still found an audience via other means (live events, word of mouth, creative marketing), but the mainstream sales channels were mostly unavailable to these "fringe" players.

However, in recent years successful Internet-based companies such as Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and others have turned the old business model on its head. While all three of the aforementioned web sites indeed sell the "hits," they also see the value in also offering lesser-known titles to their customers. And by doing so, they've seen some interesting results ...

People are willing to explore and try new things. Using posted review comments, ratings charts and personal recommendations, consumers are discovering new music, films and books they would have never found in a retail store.

And -- gasp! -- these fringe titles are profitable. Sales reports indicate that nearly one-third of these sites' revenues come from selections that fall well below bestseller status. Anderson has used the term "the economics of abundance" to describe this development. That's a phrase that resonates with me. Without the limitations of finite shelf space, "scarcity economics" is melting away and giving consumers more choices ... and creative people more opportunities to find an audience.

It's a fascinating read. Again, read the article here. Anderson is working on a full book on the subject. Read his Long Tail blog for updates.

How to Price Your Art (and Not Sell Yourself Short)

Here's another short audio segment from my Artist Empowerment Radio show at In this one I discuss some ideas on pricing your creative work, delivering value and getting the revenue you deserve.

Listen HiFi - Listen LoFi - Download It (1.2 megs)

In the segment, I mention this interview with Caroll Michels, a career coach for artists and the author of How to Survive & Prosper as an Artist. The interview is one of many on the web site. Be sure to browse through the Making a Living as an Artist section, described as "a guide to pursuing a successful creative career."

While you're there, also check out Managing an Artist's Income and Managing Freelance Income. Good stuff.

Simple Secrets of Successful People

Do you love libraries? And bookstores? I do. I'm drawn to them and the potential they hold for allowing you to stumble across a new concept, a fresh thought or a timeless idea with a new spin.

On a recent trip to the public library I happened upon "The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People" by David Niven, Ph.D. In this guide, published in 2002, Niven consults scientific research to uncover the traits of success. But this is no dry academic paper. It's a fun read filled with great ideas.

Here are five highlights:
  • It's not how hard you try. Effort is the single most overrated trait in producing success. Your goal should be to make progress, not just expend energy.
  • Enjoy small victories. Pursue your passions like you would put together a jigsaw puzzle -- work piece by piece. While you ultimately want a final outcome, take pleasure in the journey to get there. People who enjoy a steady stream of minor accomplishments are happiest.
  • Don't force yourself to like broccoli. Personalities and talents are like shoe sizes. They can't be redirected without uncomfortable consequences. Realize who you are and what your true personality is -- and plan a future that fits it.
  • Be an expert at something. Choose a particular subject that is crucial to what you do and learn everything you can about it. Sixty-eight percent of people who consider themselves successful say there is at least one area in which they are an expert.
  • Hope springs internal. Your best source of confidence is not the latest economic report or other external factor. Assertiveness comes from your belief that you can accomplish what you want, regardless of what else is happening around you.
Think about these five tips -- and see if you can apply them to your creative pursuits.

Audio Tips for Artists, Writers & Performers

One of my goals for 2005 is to take advantage of the Web's advancing multimedia features. As you may know, last summer I launched a new online audio show called Artist Empowerment Radio. It features more than an hour of my spoken word tips and inspiring messages combined with song snippets from some of my favorite artists.

I love the concept (and so do listeners) and I will continue to produce new shows. But I also want to make shorter audio clips on specific topics available from this blog and my site. And I want you to be able to stream the clips and download them if you want to.

To kick things off, here's a segment from the Artist Empowerment Radio show called "Break Through. Get Creative. Take Control."

Listen to It OR Download It

Enjoy! And please post a comment to let me (and others) know what you think.

How to Promote Your Art, Books and More From Your Hands-On Web Site

Marilyn Scott-Waters describes her web site at as her "odd, little world of paper toys, holiday cards, valentines, sun boxes, baskets, bags, origami and ephemera ... all for you to make."

Scott-Waters is an illustrator who published a book called The Toymaker, a 20-page collection of folding paper toy designs that anyone can make. The cool thing about her site is that she makes her designs available as free downloads. Visitors can see pictures of each paper toy and download a PDF file that can be printed and folded into a use-it-now novelty item.

Pretty cool. But you may be thinking she's hurting book sales by giving away the store from her web site. Right?

Scott-Waters says, "I think I get most of my book sales off of my web site. It's like free advertising, only more fun."

Getting "hands-on" with her potential customers develops a relationship and makes a connection to the product. Why do you think car sales people want you to "take it for a spin" or department store clerks ask you to "try it on"? They know the more involved you are with the product, the better the chance you'll make a purchase.

But on the Internet, tactile interaction is practically nonexistent -- unless you're smart enough to give away your art like Scott-Waters.

And there's another benefit: "I also get a lot of illustration work and other work from the site," she says. "But most important, the site is a chance for me to be really creative."

For more info on Marilyn Scott-Waters and her illustration techniques, check out this interview.

January Is International Creativity Month

I admit, it took me by surprise. It almost seems cruel to have the traditional holiday season be immediately followed by International Creativity Month. But that's exactly what January is. So let's celebrate!

I did a lengthy Google search and found many references to the observance but couldn't find a formal web site or info on how International Creativity Month started. But does it really matter? Any opportunity to recognize and inspire creativity in any form is welcome in my book.

So, in honor of International Creativity Month, here are several links to get your juices flowing:

Doug Hall and David Wecker, coauthors of "Jump Start Your Brain," host a radio show called "Brain Brew." It's described as a program that provides ideas and encouragement for turning dreams into reality.

You can listen to some recent shows at Hall's web site. Segment 1 has some excellent advice for an artist and a children's book author who called the show.

And here are five more links that cover creative thinking:
Enjoy yourself throughout January as you celebrate International Creativity Month!

How to Make 2005 Your Best Creative Year Yet

While at the public library last week, a U.S. News & World Report magazine cover jumped out at me. The large typeface screamed "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2005." I picked it up, thumbed through a few pages and was so impressed I immediately headed to the nearest bookstore to buy a copy. Luckily, the entire issue (Dec. 27 - Jan. 3) is posted online.

The 52-page section covers practically everything a human can do to live, work and play better. From setting priorities and learning to meditate to quitting your job and listening to new music. There are even sections on why you're better off when you fix your finances, master your data and have more sex. Sounds like a good plan to me.

This is a great time of year to make a new committment to self-improvement -- which includes developing and sharing your creative talents. Even though most people reportedly bail on their goals within a month or two, you don't have to count yourself among the majority. Be bold. Be different. Become a lean, mean creativity machine in 2005!

For some excellent thoughts along these lines, take a look at Michael Port's ThinkBIG Manifesto. Here are two favorite excerpts from it:
Stop Seeking Validation From Others. Acknowledge your needs and desires, not your mother’s, friends', co-workers', society’s, etc. Stop seeking validation from or comparing yourself to others.

Embrace the Power of Intention. Your present intentions create your present reality. If you want to change your reality, change and strengthen your intentions.
If you haven't read it before, this might be a good time to check out 10 Ways to 'Make' This Your Best Music Year Ever, an article I wrote a year ago. It's filled with some timeless success concepts, whether you are a musician or not. (Sorry, I haven't yet updated this page with the new design of my site.)

Also, are you taking advantage of January? This is a month when a lot of people make purchases -- books, music, art and more. Your fans have Christmas money to spend, they may be getting cabin fever in winter and need a little boost to spice up their lives.

What should you do? Promote yourself more vigorously this month. Make special offers. Have a limited-time discount sale. Offer free shipping. Announce a special buy-two, get-one-free sale. Do something cool. In fact, I'm doing this very thing this month with my own New Year's Buzz Bundles.

Your fans need something to keep them going now that the holidays are over. Why not help them with your unique creative gifts?