How can every business be creative? Taylor Hanson, who found fame as a musician in the '90s, and Kevin McCoy, a lifelong visual artist who recently launched a media licensing startup called Monegraph, offer their best advice.
Kevin: People have asked me over this past year and a half, “What about your studio practice? Are you afraid of losing that?” I take refuge that I’m confident in my identity as an artist. I’m not worried about what particular thing I’m doing -- making a photo, a painting, a company. I know that it’s all part of the same process. You have to be creatively open to these possibilities and not be hung up on, “I should be doing this, I should be doing that.” Everybody makes their own path. You’re thinking about following your own voice, and you’re always trying to identify who your audience is, and how to reach them and what to say to them. For me, for this particular set of ideas, it seemed like making a company called Monegraph and trying to make a platform was the way to do it.
Taylor: Absolutely. An artist’s life is essentially crystalizing what you believe and finding a way to refine that and continuing to share it over and over and over. That’s the same as building a brand. Apple, BMW, go through the list of incredible companies: They have a powerful sense of themselves. And being a performer, writing songs, collaborating with others -- your whole life is that way. You’re constantly pushed back to, who are you? What is it that makes you special or different and how do you amplify that?
Kevin: That’s been one of the most amazing things -- interfacing with people from, say, finance, marketing or other spheres. You really see the level of engagement, the level of intelligence and commitment in those fields. You get into conversations and benefit from their knowledge and skills. That’s been really exciting to experience.
Taylor: Some of the people that have inspired me the most have been businesspeople and creative people who are not literally artists. I see a huge comradery among anybody who’s willing to chase their own idea and try to build something for themselves. And honestly, some of the most noncreative people and the least inspiring to me have been the actual artists. In the band community, they call it “lead-singer disease.” It’s ego, which is super toxic. There’s a version of that in the tech world, too: tech gods. Ego sucks the air out of the room.
Kevin: That’s definitely true. I’m a collaborative artist and I have been forever. The downside of the art world is that there’s this idea of one great genius toiling away in isolation -- and that’s not just how the world is. A question for you, Taylor: How did you guys juggle the slow extension into this mini-enterprise? How do you make sure that all adds up in a coherent way?
Taylor: Well, how do you walk a tightrope and not fall to your death? It’s similar. To me it all comes back to a sense of purpose. I didn’t always recognize how much I’m a goal-oriented human, but I constantly visualize something happening. Sometimes we’ll store up a very, very long list of ideas that only comes out in pieces. I find doing more than one thing a necessity. As a musician and an artist, I always want opportunities to be multifaceted.
Kevin: Yeah. It powers the whole thing.
Taylor: I’m completely a workaholic is what I’m trying to say.
Kevin: Don’t try to burn the candle at both ends. Just drop it in the fire.
Taylor: I’m praising the fire gods. You just hope you don’t burn the house down.