James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

45: The Business of Baring It All

Hi and welcome back! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Welcome to Season 2, Letter 45 of The Studio Visit.

There’s been a few things that have happened since the last time we’ve chatted, such as starting a 10 month residency program for University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life program. The preparation for this residency has led to reading more fiction, such as a recommendation from Nick DisabatoMumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed. Aside from books, I’ve been digging into more podcasts with greater vigor. One that has recently resonated with me has been StartUp.

Here’s a breakdown of how the show works. The host, Alex Blumberg (who you might know from the podcasts This American Life and Planet Money) quit his day job at those various podcasts and decided to start his own company, which happens to be a podcast network. Being the podcaster he is (how many times can I say podcast in this letter), he decided to podcast his journey in becoming a first time business owner of a podcast network. Meta, I know. Whew, let’s take a breath.

When I first heard about this podcast, it was getting hyped anywhere. My skepticism in all hyped things flew into the usual phases:

  1. Hear about popular thing.
  2. Think about checking it out.
  3. Become frustrated that I did not check it out from the beginning, tries to ignore it.
  4. It keeps popping up everywhere that my interest eventually gets the best of me.
  5. Okay fine, I’ll check it out.
  6. Oh my gosh, I’m hooked.

This cycle eventually happened for the podcast Serial, which I’ll save for another day.

I caught up all seven episodes in one day. I was hooked by the pure honesty of Alex’s journey in creating a new business. The conversations with his wife, the struggles of naming, the gut punching realizations of not knowing everything felt honest; a breath of fresh air in the staleness of ego-inflated business podcasts. Hell, this written piece about StartUp inspired this week’s letter. At face value, I loved it but I wanted to dig deeper into the why, which led to these four reasons.

  1. It bares everything for the listener: faults and praises with transparency. Even the sponsor reads reveal how much the sponsor paid, and features in-office interviews of their staff.
  2. I felt comfy while listening to it, like I became good friends with Alex Blumberg. It has the coziness of a bare-boned, “people speaking into cheap earbuds” podcasts, while having the spit-and-polish production value that moves you along.
  3. It advertises for itself. How genius is it that this story about starting a business is essentially multi-episode advertising for his business model and investors.
  4. He’s using his leftovers and teaching his audience while sharing his story.

While preparing for this Arts and Public Life residency, I’ve been thinking about better ways to share my process and teach people while creating finished products, whether it is an art piece or a physical good. Would it be feasible to host open nights at my studio where I could teach things while working on longer burn projects? Could I start a podcast in conjunction of this newsletter that reveals the veil of my thinking which teaches and helps others in the process?

What are some ways that you’ve made by-products of your larger projects? Have you found yourself learning a new skill while working on something, and decided to share it with others? How do you feel about baring it all for the sake of helping by opening up your process? Let me know and hit reply.

Thanks for reading, and see you next Monday.

-James

What did I find interesting this week?

  1. What I Learned From a 30-Day Social Media Detox: There’s a multitude of these type of articles floating the web, but what I found interesting about this particular piece was the detailed journal entries of each day.

  2. Job Listings That Don’t AlienateErin Kissane collected a variety of responses of words that alienate people from applying to certain jobs. If you are in charge of hiring, you should definitely read this.

  3. Humans, InteractingDave Wiskus as part of his “Better Elevation” YouTube series, made a video about the importance of connecting with people in relation to his experience at the conference CocoaLove. Not the swarmy, “networking” type of connecting, but pure human, non-looking at your phone, connecting. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

  4. Everybody Sexts: Complete with fantastic illustrations, this series by Jenna Wortham features stories of everyday people and their sexts and why they sent them.

  5. Dystopian Chic: While I was writing this week’s newsletter, one of the baristas put this on the stereo and I jumped up to ask her what was playing. If you dig 80s samples and muffled production, you’ll like this.

James T. Green