PatreCon: Work to Publish by Jack Conte



early on in my music career I realized I had a problem I would export a final version of a song I'd call it tic toc final right before uploading it to disc makers I'd give another listen and I'd realize that the cymbals are a little bit too bright and I do another mix and export the real final version this time when I was done I call it tick-tock final final and then I'd second-guess myself and I'd send the new mix to a friend who would tell me that lowering the cymbals made the Juno stick way out too much so I'd fix that and this processor repeat over and over and over again until my exports folder would look like this and that's when I started thinking about the concept really of finishing a piece of art like James is saying hanging it on the wall what was so infuriating about this is that so many my heroes seem to be able to finish so many things freddy w 231 videos Irving Berlin 1500 songs Ella Fitzgerald 84 albums Zach Weiner Smith 3000 comics Robb has a podcast over 1300 podcasts JK Rowling 7 novels in 10 years Woody Allen 49 movies Peter Hollens 27 music videos 35 songs an album in 2014 Hank green 6868 videos how do they finish so many things it was mind-boggling to me in 8 years later after spending a few years in tech I've seen engineers and designers and product managers and anyone who puts things into the world struggle with this the key realization for me was that I think this is a vocabulary problem we have a vocabulary problem when I think of things that finish I think of meals or vacations or sports matches the end of a sports match feels final and a number of things contribute to this feeling there's a binary outcome in a state change one contender becomes a winner the other contender becomes a loser there's a quantitative measure of the end state literally called the final score and there's literally a clock that counts down to zero finishing a sports match feels like finality feels like relief there's a simple emotion either total elation or total disappointment there's complete clarity but when I finish a song I get none of these things there's no say changer binary outcome song isn't either good or bad it's a totally qualitative spectrum there's no countdown that hits zero finishing a sports match feels totally different the finality this sports match is replaced with a feeling of deficiency when publishing a song the feeling of relief at the end of a sports match is replaced with a feeling of stress is it ready should I make a few more tweaks the simple emotion at the end of a sports match total elation or total disappointment is replaced by complex conflicting emotions and indecision about what to do next the sense of clarity is replaced by a deep uncertainty finishing a song doesn't feel like finishing at all we have a vocabulary problem it's silly to use the same word to describe the conclusion of a sports match and the trailing fade out of the creative process Publishing is not finishing all the emotions are different Publishing is something else Publishing is what John Lennon did to wrap up revolver the following excerpt is from a book called here there and everywhere by Geoff Emerick the recording engineer for most of the Beatles records he writes it wasn't until the very end when most of revolver was mixed and ready to be mastered that someone realized that the album was a song short so on the next to last night the group began frantically rehearsing John's new song he said she said John had always been the basher in the group his attitude was let's just get it done so it was no big surprise that we got the entire song recorded and mixed in 9 hours as opposed to the more than 3 days we spent on here there and everywhere it still sounds scrappy and rough to me it's got that ragged feel of a track that was done in the middle of the night under pressure the next day we staggered in for another five hours of mixing and sequencing and the album was done incredibly revolver had been completed in just over 10 weeks with many songs taking only a few hours to get down on tape that's publishing publishing is how Woody Allen thinks about his catalogue of films which I got from a book called Woody Allen on Woody Allen's a series of conversations with a filmmaker what he says I make so many films I don't care about individual successes and failures I tried very hard to make my films into a non-event I just want to work that's all just want to put the film out there for people to see just grinding them out I hope I'll have a long healthy life and I can keep working all the time I can look back an old age and say I made fifty movies and some of them are excellent some of them are not so good some one were funny I just don't want to get into that situation that so many of my contemporaries are and where they make one film every few years and it's a big event that's publishing publishing is deciding to stop when you want to keep working and it's super painful and some people can't do it and some people can people like Freddy W and Ella Fitzgerald and Zach Weiner Smith and rob has a podcast and Woody Allen and Hank green and Peter Hollens and JK Rowling how do they finish so many things they don't or they publish them anyway Publishing though is more than just a single decisive moment it's more than just the art of identifying the point at which additional work yields diminishing marginal returns for me now publishing starts the instant I start recording a new song publishing I found works best if you think of it as a style of working it's an attitude that persists throughout the entire creative process from the moment you begin work to the moment you give it up to the world working to publish is about getting done the whole time your whole mentality shifts when you're working to publish you focus on the stuff that matters and you ignore the stuff that doesn't even the fun stuff the stuff that calls out to you and begs you to enjoy 30 minutes satisfying your obsessive desire to make something perfect that only you will notice you write the next scene you record the next instrument you build the next set you shoot the next take you color the next frame you design the next synth working to publish it's selfless its outward focused it's about results and giving back and contributing to the world working for pleasure on the other hand is how I used to spend most of my time working it's inward focused it's slow and enjoyable but ultimately it's about giving to oneself it's rooted in the ego it's fixing details that you and only you care about it's a luxurious self-indulgence it's calm and it's a great way to unwind and relax and it's freakin fun as heck and there's a time and a place for working it publish but like any luxury I try my best to use it sparingly I feel like a bit of a hypocrite here because working and publish is hard and for me it's more of a North Star than it is like a habit it's a framework that I aspire to not something that I'm great at or figured out when I look back at my youtube catalogue I reminded of a period between October 2011 and March 2013 when I only published one video and that video is not even mine so it really shouldn't even count basically I went for 17 months without publishing anything I'd been learning how to make electronic music and instead of putting out my stuff I was fretting over the details I have a memory from that period of working on a song and comparing it to a Skrillex track and feeling like my kick drum was too wimpy I spent five days tweaking that kick drum five days tweaking that kick drum from 9:00 in the morning to midnight locked in my studio wasting my time nitpicking that kick drum I got chased by the monster of your kick drum isn't good enough as a professional kick drum I forgot about working to publish and I did that for 17 months I released nothing my heroes are great publishers my heroes have mastered the art of doing only what matters the whole time and then stopping I think that's badass it's a great strategy because the world is made of funnels this is something I learned working at patreon everything's a funnel in order for a sales team to be successful I have to send 10,000 emails to get a thousand responses to find 500 people interested to get a hundred phone calls to get twenty commitments to get ten sales this phenomenon is called a funnel and it appears everywhere for websites a million people visit the homepage a hundred thousand click learn more 10,000 click buy 6,000 make it to the second page of the payment flow 2,000 enter their credit cards and 1800 those credit cards process payments without declining the world's made of funnels I remember realizing how this phenomenon could apply to my everyday life about a year ago it was Monday and I wanted to see a doctor by the end of the week I'm not going to tell you why it's gross I ended up using end up using Yelp to find a really promising sounding doc with good reviews I called them the phone rang four times the machine picked up at which point I left a message two days went by I hadn't gotten a response yet so I called back and left another message a day later I got a phone call from a nurse and after explaining my symptoms they inform me that they didn't treat people with my particular problem and that would be better to call different specialists so now a week into the process I was back at square one a full week had gone by I wasn't any closer to seeing a doctor then I remembered that the world is made of funnels so I went back to Yelp and this time I found eight doctors that looked promising and determined five of them would work for me and call them all three of them answer their phones two of them had appointments available in the next two weeks one of them could see me right away which meant that I just funneled the out of doctors appointments because the world is made of funnels that's why working in publish is a great strategy because when you work to publish you end up making a lot more stuff for the top of the funnel at one point I heard some lore that Irving Berlin was said I've written ten songs for every one that he released and that means that he wrote 15,000 songs in his life and he published 1500 of them of those 25 songs hit number one in the charts he was nominated for twelve Tony's and Academy Awards and won four of them Irving Berlin whether he knew it or not was a funnel master but let's look at his batting average for a second that's 15,000 songs and four Awards that's point oh two six percent conversion through the funnel and he had no idea which songs would hit and which ones wouldn't because you can't choose what you're famous for I learned that lesson the hard way after spending a measly one day making a youtube video that now has 9 million views and spending six months working on a record that's sold less than three hundred copies you can't choose what you're famous for that's up to the funnel I can't make a song a hit that's up to the funnel I can't control how my songs push through the world and are experienced by others that's up to the funnel but what I can do is be prolific I can be creative I can make great stuff what I can do is work to publish I can record the next song and write the next slide and design the next web page and cook the next rest you paint the next stroke and draw the next comic and then I can give those things up to the funnel and I can move on and I can go to sleep at night knowing that I did everything I could you

42 thoughts on “PatreCon: Work to Publish by Jack Conte

  1. Wow does this resonate with me. If I don't get enough ready to post the next day I can't sleep worth a damn. Thanks for helping me put things into perspective.

  2. I hope this musician had politically correct, establishment friendly lyrics. Patreon doesn't tolerate any thought crimes. Private Corporations have zero responsibility to maintain values such as free speech. The profit motive is all that counts. If the rich, powerful, culturally dominant establishment says jump, patreon asks, "how high Mr/Mrs/Miss/Sir/Madame/it's most high excellency from the tribe of Juba, etc, and can I ban anyone who offends you today"?

  3. Its Dec 17 2018, I just Saw this Video!! Buuufffoommm.. (Mind explodeiss <- Spelling is wrong cauz mind eploded). YouTube just became a lot easier for me. Lets Roll

  4. We just joined Patreon and we are glad we did. We have been sitting on 6 years of content. That is over 1 terabyte of content and not one thing posted. 5 businesses, 4 successes, 3 times homeless, and one hell of a rags to royalty as we are about to become Billionaires and we still never posted a damn thing UNTIL we joined Patreon about a week ago. We have 4 episodes, 2 blogs and will post 5 episodes next week and 3 blogs. Love LOVE LOVE Patreon and thank you for the opportunity to tell the story of 2 Africans who launched Africa's first silicon valley while getting picked up by a major tv production crew to turn our VLog into a tv show and ALL because we published on Patreon!!!

  5. Great video!! Wow in soo many ways!! You just made sense of all my doings of what I have been doing all along!! And thank you! You have explained and given me all the explanations that I had soo many questions for that I have carried for 20+ years!! I also can forward this video to my husband whom a few years ago, that I had him look in my computer and his jaw dropped- yup he was in shock when he seen all these different folders!! All he could say was "I see…now I know why you need another..no, a larger hard drive" lol

  6. This is good insight, relevant to a lot of the work creatives and other self-employed people do. When you work for an employer and have a boss, the job is generally defined by them and you are usually expected to get through it at a pretty decent rate of speed. If you don't get it done fast enough, in many cases that will be the end of your job. It gets you moving. The trick is to transfer some of the that attitude that you have in that kind of situation with an external taskmaster to work that you do on your own, where you are not only the worker but the boss as well. I admit that in my own case it is considerably harder to get into that full-speed-ahead mode when I am working alone, but I know it when I am in it. The difference is unmistakable. What I need to do, and perhaps others as well, is figure out how to get into that mindset more quickly and consistently. Maybe I should stop making so many youtube comments…

  7. Jack Conte is genuinely a hero of mine, I don't think I've ever seen someone so openly passionate about the things that they truly love. Great video!

  8. This video has inspired me to just do stuff and get it out there, even if it isn't done or perfect. I'm learning animation and I don't know why but arms intimidate me. my first video my eyes were super weird. I'm still trying to figure out how to sound good. But I put stuff out and I am publishing stuff, imperfections and all. Perfectionism can kill the creative.

  9. OMG, I did not aspect this at all. I mean, I knew it was going to be good, but this, man, this is amazing. Thank you Jack, you made my day. I think I'll start to Patreon you 😉 A big hug big man!

  10. This is wicked genius, we hear this concept in Sales all the time but to think about it from the creator perspective, awesome!

  11. Solid talk! Taking more at bats takes the pressure off of each one work of art needing to be a masterpiece.

  12. i'm going to watch this EVERY time i'm about to open this laptop. I refuse to let perfectionism destroy my creativity and take the fun out of making music.

  13. Good vid…! Nothing is ever finished because we as humans are never finished, we continualy grow and learn, and thus our perspective on our creations is always changing. Sometimes I have spent days building something only to think of something better half way through..but had I not started the project the new thought may never have occured…

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