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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW: Cynthia Kahn (Amused Now)

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Amused NowIn today’s industry interview, we chat with Amused Now founder Cynthia Kahn. If you’re not already familiar with the entertainment hub that is Amused Now, let us be the first to tell you: it’s awesome. Run by Kahn, the site brings talented creative individuals into the spotlight with their guest blogs, in depth interviews, and exclusive content. Now, I meet a lot of passionate individuals in this line of work, and let me tell you that Kahn is no exception. Always eager to promote local artists, authors, filmmakers and more, she puts her heart and soul into everything she does, making Amused Now a fantastic destination for artists (or other creative individuals) looking to not only share their stories, but learn from others. “Check out what Kahn had to say about getting started, submitting to blogs, today’s indie scene, and more below. 

Infectious Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How are you?
Cynthia Kahn: I’m doing fabulous, Angela. Thank you for asking me to participate on your site.

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have quite a diverse background. I am an artist, an information systems project manager, and an entrepreneur. Life takes you through a wonderful journey. It’s interesting how these seemingly unrelated paths merged into my true calling, helping indie artists through the founding of Amused Now.

Drawing and painting have been a big part of my life, since I was a young girl. Several years ago, I discovered water-soluble oil paints and I was able to take my painting to a whole new level. I began experimenting with my own techniques. That experimentation inspired me to create a new style of painting with cloth, where I cut up used clothing and caulk it to a board. It’s a very tactile process, very different from painting with a brush.

My creative side led me to a career in information systems. I love learning how people work and designing ways to automate their business processes, so they can work more efficiently. You never stop learning about business, people and technology.

A few years ago, two would-be entrepreneurs reached out to me and asked me to help them design a web application for their new business Amused Nowidea. I joined their startup team and helped them found a company. I stayed with the business for the first year and then moved on. However, I was hooked! That experience gave me the confidence to start my own company a year later: Amused Now.

What led you to launch Amused Now?

When I believed the time had come to share my paintings with the rest of the world, I decided to apply to local arts festivals. Due to either politics or the fact that I was relatively unknown, I did not get accepted into a single festival. I felt that I was being judged by those who did not know me or my art. I decided to start my own artist community, originally called ArtComm, as a place where anyone can participate.

Being a systems analyst, I designed the e-commerce application for the community and hired someone to develop it. Because my project is self-funded, I refined my minimum viable product (MVP) for initial release. I chose to focus on digitally distributed art: music, films and ebooks.

When the time came to create a corporate entity for my project, I decided that the original ArtComm name was not unique enough. After lots of name searches and domain searches, I found “Amused Now” and it just felt right, so I incorporated with that name instead.

When the e-commerce development began taking way longer than I planned, I decided to attend a local entrepreneur incubator called Startup Your Startup and get some advice. I learned a lot about starting your own business, plus I got an unexpected kick in the pants. After about a week, the organizers sat me down and told me: “You seem like a bright person. Why haven’t you launched anything? You need to do something!”

One of the other entrepreneurs gave me a free WordPress template and helped me install it on my web server. I went home and figured out how to configure it, asked some of my social media friends for help and, within two weeks, launched the Amused Now Blog. I still haven’t launched my e-commerce site (a story best left for another day), but one year later, the Amused Now blog and YouTube channel  are extremely popular and well-known websites to find out about indie artists.

One of, if not the main goal on Amused Now it seems is to help artists make a living doing what they love, and create a community. How do you think we can expand that sense of community and support outside the internet and in our own local scenes?

Community comes from a sense of belonging, consistent acts of kindness and support for those who participate. I try to attend local events and meetups. When I find artists that fit my target audience, I pass out my card or ask them for their card. I follow up with an email and try to get them involved. Sometimes friends introduce me to artists, and I always offer to help. However, to be honest, Amused Now is hosted on the internet and my target audience is artists who are social media savvy.

What has been the most rewarding experience with running Amused Now?

The biggest rewards for me are meeting all these incredible artists, learning from them and sharing their stories. I have personal interactions with all the artists who participate, either by email, phone or real-life discussion before our video interviews.

What advice do you have for bands submitting to online outlets?

Make sure your art is professional grade. Before you submit your work, ask yourself: Does my art fit with that of the site? If not, research outlets that do fit. Find out what successful artists in your genre do, what critics look for and, most importantly, what your fans want. Then, produce a quality product.

If you are just starting out or simply not satisfied with the way your book or script reads, your music sounds or your film is edited, then get critiqued by someone in the industry. Take classes. Continuously improve your craft. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Strive to do better.

Your industry is not stagnant; it is constantly changing. Do you want to follow a trend or lead a new one?

In addition to musicians, you also work with filmmakers and authors. What made you want to open up your doors to a multitude of talents?

I want Amused Now to be an entertainment portal for all things indie. Because Amused Now caters to multiple types of indie artists, we have a wider-reaching fan base than most indie sites.

Have you found your new favorite musician/film/book through your submissions?

I really don’t have a favorite anything. I will tell you that my life is enriched beyond my wildest imagination from meeting and interacting with so many talented artists.

What is one question that you don’t think is asked nearly enough that you’d like to offer insight on?

I touched on this earlier, and I’ve blogged about this topic on Amused Now. My pet peeve relates to artist promotion. Every indie artist has to take ownership of their promotional activities. Yes, I’m a promoter and I provide a vehicle for artists to share their work, backgrounds and insights. I definitely expand your reach by introducing you to my fans and my community; but I am not you, and I do not know your fans like you do.

The most successful artists today are social media savvy. They have researched the available social media sites, studied the communication nuances of each one, found out where their fans hang out and hang out there too, making connections and building relationships. As an artist, you don’t have to be on every social media site, just the sites where your fans hang out most.

Part of what makes Amused Now unique is an artist’s ability to sell their music on your site. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Just to be clear, our custom e-commerce application has not yet launched. I added a basic e-commerce plugin to the blog and asked a few artists if I could upload and sell their music, so I could experiment with different marketing campaigns, while the custom application is under development.

I don’t consistently offer the sales option, although it’s available for the asking. With the plugin, I have to track revenue and artist’s share. When the custom e-commerce application launches, participating artists will get paid immediately at the time of sale.

I want to build an entertainment portal, where fans can learn about indie artists and purchase their work without leaving the site. When Amused Now launches its e-commerce application, artists can consolidate their web presence with our free artist profile; and they can upload their content for sale on Amused Now or add pay-per-view distribution to their exiting websites.

What advice would you like to pass along to those looking to get into the music industry?

Most people choose to become an indie artist because they want the freedom to produce the type of music that they want. Be true to yourself, produce a quality product, get out there and connect with fans, and listen to feedback that makes sense. Take calculated risks.

Continue to improve your craft and produce new music. Now, that’s why I founded Amused Now! So artists can sell their art on our site, recoup their investment and produce new art: the circle of profitable creativity.

You’re incredibly active on Twitter, and promote your content harder than anyone I’ve met (which is awesome!) What do you think is the key to staying relevant among so many others in social media today?

Be genuine. If you met me in person, you’d see that I am the same in real life as I am online. Social media is just another form of interpersonal communication. All the same rules of conduct apply: say something, listen and be polite.

Just like with any conversation, it’s not only about you. I’m successful online because I talk to people who talk to me. I share what they share. I thank them when they share what I share. When appropriate, I take the conversation into real life.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received regarding the industry?

Be yourself and be true to your art.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

That’s it. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Cynthia Kahn

CEO and Founder of Amused Now Entertainment, Inc.

AmusedNow.com

YouTube.com/AmusedNow

Twitter: @Amused_Now 

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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