Artist Rights

This past week a federal appeals court stripped Californian visual artists of the right to collect royalties from resales of their work. There is no global consensus on royalty rights for artists, as they differ all over the world. I believe however that artists have the right to benefit from the resale of their work.

Actors get royalties from films and TV shows. Authors often get royalties from their books. In this case, it depends on the contract, for sometimes publishers just buy their books outright and refuse them royalties. Many of the top visual artists are represented by galleries that help the artists career by selling their art and being their consigliere. In these relationships, the gallerist takes a percentage of the artist’s royalties, just like an agent does for actors.

When an artist sells one of their pieces to a museum or a collector, they simultaneously hand over ownership. This is why buying art is thought of as an investment. A collector buys a piece and is able to sell it later for profit. It is an industry with little regulation to pricing, and it often follows the economics 101 law of price and demand.

Regardless of ownership, I believe that the artist should always get cut of every sale. Being able to create collectible art is a gift. We should be applauding visual artists by giving them lifetime royalties just as we do for actors. The difference in artistic medium does not matter. We should protect the rights of all artists.


Fiscal Responsiblity

My childhood programmed fiscal responsibility into me. The constant financial tension that ran through my house when I was a kid made it so I was wary of getting myself into a situation where I spent more than I had. As a result, I consciously feared financial trouble. I credit these financial trials and tribulations of my childhood with pushing me to focus on personal financial success.

Even though I have more money to play with now, and my family takes big financial risks, we are nonetheless still financially responsible. I can’t help but link fiscal responsibility to investing and running companies. I frequently lament about the insanity of high valuations and huge amounts of capital being tossed at founders and companies, all of which makes zero sense to me. I spoke to someone a while ago that raised $10m without an idea really flushed out in an industry that he had never been in. This is not always the case, obviously. On the other hand, I am seeing companies who are under-capitalized that are making it work with very little capital. I realize that there are no rules here and trying to understand why this happens is just pointless.

There is a balance between spending money to make money, aka spending money to grow a company. Yes, it does cost money to build a business, and profitability takes time, but focusing on fiscal responsibility from the onset is absolutely crucial. What is the true ROI on those costs? How quickly can you get to profitability so you can be master of your own destiny? Take a look at StitchFix. Katrina Lake only raised $35m and figured out how to build a business and an IPO. She didn’t raise hundreds of millions. I don’t know Katrina personally, so I have no insight into how she built the business, but if she did it with $35M then she had to be very smart with the capital she had.

A reader of this blog sent me the following quote from Robin Williams in the 90s: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you have too much money”. This quote perfectly captures current behavior in the start-up world, pointing as it does to fiscal irresponsibility.

Every Woman Has A Story, Christina Asquith, The Fuller Project, Podcast #68

Christina Asquith, the founder of  The Fuller Project, is an award-winning journalist for over 14 years, writing for The New York Times, The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian and was a staff writer at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her book, “Sisters in War: Love, Survival and Family in the New Iraq” is based on the 18 months she lived in and reported from Baghdad, Iraq. Christina and I sat down to talk about her very impressive career, and how she managed to carve a space for women’s stories long before it was a trending topic.

Follow the Fuller Project on Twitter.

Here is the podcast on iTunes.

Ribs Any Time

Ribs are something we tend to gravitate towards in the summer but truth be told good ribs are all about oven roasting.  You can finish them on the grill as easy as you can finish them in the oven by cranking up the broiler.

Emily made these incredible spicy ribs that we devoured.   I keep thinking about having more ribs 12 months a year.

  • ½ cup gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds baby back pork ribs, separated into individual ribs (this is the call and you can get your butcher to cut them for you)

Whisk gochujang, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and oil in a bowl until smooth.

Toss the ribs with half the marinade.  Put into a baking dish and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the ribs, covered with tin foil, about an hour.  Then uncover and increase the oven to 450.  Roast for another 45 minutes. Take the reserved marinade and brush the ribs in the last 5 minutes until they are browned, glazed and tender.  You can also take them out of the oven, toss them on the grill or just crank up the broiler.  The ribs will get a little crispy and caramelized, just how I like them.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.  Just an added touch.

Protest Numbers Matter

There is so much information out there that it is mind-boggling.  Everything gets amplified but I question how many are part of the amplification.

When the kids were in EH-12, I sat on the executive board of the school.  It was an honor.  Although the downside is I knew more than I really wanted to.  More times than I would have liked, the school reacted to loud voices complaining.  I referred to these voices as the minor majority.  They were loud but they weren’t the majority, they only seemed like the majority because they were so loud.  Nobody comes in the Principals office to say what a great job they are doing.

We are certainly in strange and pivotal times.  One of the rights we have as citizens is to protest.  I am so impressed with the groups around the country protesting around causes that they care about.  The inspiring young students from Parkland High School in Florida, where 17 students were killed, have spurred on a movement of protests around anti-gun control throughout the country.  They have been extremely grassroots and very focused.  It is awe-inspiring.

This past week the gun rights groups of the same age put on a group of protests to counter these efforts.  The numbers of people that showed up to those rallies were extremely small vs what was expected.  That says to me that the minor majority around no gun control (aka not changing the way it is now) is in fact minor.

This up and coming generation wants to live in a different world.  They have more liberal views on social issues.  I am not sure I believe all the supposed data that changes constantly on media channels.  All you have to do is read the numbers of people who show up for protests.  Politicians should take note.

City Flavors on the High Line

City Flavors, a Night Of Local Bites, will be happening on the High Line on Monday, July 23rd.  This is one that is right up my alley.  20 emerging food entrepreneurs will debut their treats this evening.  These food entrepreneurs are residents of New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) and graduates of Food Business Pathways (FBP), the intensive 10-week program funded by Citi-Community Development equips these food entrepreneurs with the tools to launch their food businesses.  This event is a fundraiser to help the FBP graduates start their enterprises.

Each City Flavors participant has been paired with a mentor from some of the city’s top restaurants and food purveyors to help them prepare for this event.  Some of the mentors include Andrew Tarlow, owner of Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, Roman’s and Achilles Heel, Bill Telepan, executive chef of Oceana and Ariane Daguin, chef, and founder of D’Artagnan to name a few.

Should be a really fun and obviously delicious evening!  Buy your tickets here.

#MeToo is silently changing the way women think

When Susan Fowler called out inappropriate behavior in the workplace, other businesses in the technology/start-up space began to speak up too.  This movement quickly bled into other verticals such as the restaurant and movie industry.  Interesting to point out that some industries have yet to have a shake-down, aka people to be held accountable for sexual harassment.

I have been talking to women of all ages including women in the Corporate world and they are starting to think differently.  Most of the younger women are righteous, as they should be, and will not accept any form of harassment and are comfortable speaking out.

Women who are a bit deeper into their careers look at the landscape and are not sure that they want to participate in it.  They are looking to play the game differently.  They want their jobs to fit with the lifestyle they want to live.  When law firms believe that throwing an event where they teach their female peers to play golf so that they conduct business the way men do, women are saying enough is enough.  They want to practice law but not in environments where their male counterparts (and older females sometimes) just don’t get it.  These old-school environments appear to be tone deaf to the wave of change.  Women are asking themselves “why can’t we do deals when we are shopping for shoes, at an exercise class or on a hike?”

Years ago I spoke at an event filled with a room of female Corporate lawyers and bankers, they were frustrated by the cultures that they were working in.  I asked them why they didn’t leave those workplaces and start their own?  Change rarely happens inside.

Will there be a wave of boutique firms in the Corporate world run by women?  Will women start leaving Corporate jobs to do or start something else where they can be in a culture that is more appealing to them?

It is time to change all Corporate cultures to be more in line with how people want to live? Women are done with cultures that don’t make them retain their sense of self.  They are watching the #MeToo movement and although they might not be shouting from the rooftops they are thinking about different journeys in their careers.

Girl Scouts are thinking about the future

I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout.  My Mom headed up the Brownie troop.  I remember going on a camping journey and making our own pads to sit on as part of a project before sitting around the campfire having hot dogs and s’mores.  When we moved, I joined the Girl Scouts as a way to meet new kids but in the end, I stopped going.

One of the things that I loved about the experience is getting those badges.  To me, it was all about completing goals to obtain a badge.  So when it came time to sell the cookies, I was happy to go door to door.  That is a positive experience for a young girl, it teaches you to be entrepreneurial. That is really what each badge does regardless of the challenge.

I just learned this fun fact that $860 million (yes million) Girl Scout cookies are sold every year.  Oreos are the only cookie that outperforms.  Keep in mind that Oreos sell all year and Girl Scout cookies are compressed into a 3-month sale cycle.  Girl Scouts have been budgeting, selling and distributing these for 102 years.  Girls these days are using Square, Powerpoint charts, and Excel spreadsheets to know how many they sold of each cookie.  Data-driven girls!

Currently, the Girl Scouts are focusing on four things; entrepreneurship, outdoor and life skills and STEM.  They want girls to become makers, not users.  Another fun fact, 50% of female business leaders were Girl Scouts.  Their tagline is Building Girls of Courage, Confidence and Character.

Any smart organization should be taking this time to think about the future.  It is a pivotal time and in order for the Girl Scouts to be here another 102 years, they need to start thinking about what the future needs to usher a different generation of young women into adulthood and I happen to know, they are doing just that.

Motivate Mondays

With the season in full swing, I’m out of the city and enjoying my summer slow down out east in the Hamptons. My change in locale got me thinking about a particular Long Island entrepreneur who we featured on Episode 41: Putting in the Time to Build Traction with Carissa Waechter of Carissa’s Bakery. Not only is Carissa’s product just delicious, I love how fearlessly patient Carissa was when it came to finding the right partners to expand her business. Definitely worth a re-listen for anyone in the middle of putting together a deal.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here

You Are Only As Good As Your Name

I have written about this topic before, you are only as good as your name.  The lessons we teach our children is, to tell the truth, say please and thank you, be considerate of others, understand moral justice and what saying sorry means, be respectful of others and above all be honest.

I could go down a variety of paths but I can’t help wondering about people’s behavior these days.  It is anything from unacceptable behavior in the workplace to making financial commitments and then just walking away from them.  Is it a feeling of entitlement?  Have people become so cavalier around commitments?

People’s name proceeds them.  And if someone doesn’t know a person, it is easy to find their reputation out in a few easy clicks.  These days it almost impossible to behave badly and believe that you can just sweep it under the carpet.

As we watch the fall out of many and there are certainly more to come and that includes investors who aren’t honest, make commitments and then just walk away, and bad behavior of others.  Remember, you are only as good as your name.