Creativity is something that we all possess in some form or another, but many of us discount our creative abilities. Maybe we think we don’t have what it takes to be creative or we doubt that any of our ideas are original enough to be inspiring, so we let them die. In his new book, Steal Like An Artist (Workman Publishing Company), Austin Kleon talks about creativity and the 10 things nobody told you about being creative. Here’s a short trailer about the book to give you an idea of what he’s talking about:

Steal Like An Artist Book Trailer from Austin Kleon on Vimeo.

We had a chance to talk with Austin about his new book and the idea that while nothing is original everyone can be creative by stealing like an artist.

Figment News: You have a new book out called “Steal Like An Artist”. That’s an interesting title. Why did you call it that?

Austin Kleon: “Steal Like An Artist” is a riff on a quote generally attributed to Picasso, which says, “Bad artists copy, great artists steal.” The idea of the book is that you are a mashup of what you let into your life, and that the way to better creative work is to surround yourself with the right influences, work hard, and play nice.

FN: On your website you call it a “manifesto for creativity in the digital age.” Do you think creativity has changed, and if so are you espousing a new way to go about being creative?

Austin: Creativity hasn’t necessarily changed — it’s still a matter of makers taking what came before them and remixing it and transforming it into their own thing. What’s changed is that now we have the internet, which allows us to gather influence and get our work out there in a way we never could before.

FN: The book is based on a list you created for a talk you were giving at a community college in upstate New York. What was the genesis of the list and can you give us an idea of what the main themes you touched on in that talk?

Austin: Sure — I was nervous about giving the talk, so I went for a walk with my wife and asked her what I should talk about. She said the best talk she ever heard was just a list of things the speaker wished she’d known when she was starting out. So I decided to steal that idea and went home and wrote up the list. The talk was really about demystifying creativity — it isn’t about being a genius, it’s about gobbling up the right influences and doing the work.

FN: I was particularly drawn to one item on your list – “The Secret: do good work and share it with people.” Do you think the social aspect of the web allows for greater creativity? And by sharing, are you fine with people being allowed to riff off or derive other works from someone else’s original idea?

Austin: It’s all about the interconnectedness of ideas — the web makes it easy to spread and mix ideas. I think it was Steven Johnson, in his book WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM who said that ideas get better when they bump into each other a lot. And the great thing about the internet is that it’s easy to steal ideas—the bad thing about the internet is that it’s easy to steal ideas and do nothing other than present them as your own without improving them or transforming them into your own thing.

FN: Clearly the old model of controlling access to creative works is breaking down. What do you think the future holds for creativity?

Austin: I try not to make predictions about the future. Thing is, all these ideas are actually really old — the way to be creative is to soak up everything, let it swirl around in your brain, and then pull it back out and try to form it into something. The future is made out of things from the past.

FN: Do you think anyone can be creative?

Austin: Yes. Absolutely.

FN: Now that you’ve published your manifesto on creativity do you think you, and others, will continue to change it over time?

Austin: I hope so! It would be horribly boring if in 20 years nothing changed and I was giving out the same advice

FN: Figment is all about creativity and imagination funneled through a shared love of music so if you’re up for it we’d love to give you a quick creative exercise. If you had to create a fake band what would you call it and what type of music would the band play?

Austin: Not sure about the name, but it would be a mixture of 60s soul and 60s garage rock — my two favorite genres.

FN: Okay, what real bands did you steal from to create your fake one?

Austin: I grabbed The Sonics and put Otis Redding in front of them.


One of the primary reasons we started Figment was because we wanted a way to express our creativity. We love music, but we weren’t going to form a real band. A fake one? Why not? It allowed us to flex our creative muscles through logo and cover design, writing and even marketing. When we started the site we did wonder if anyone would share our interest in creating fake bands enough to maintain a site like Figment, but rather than just wonder we decided to put it out there to see what would happen. It was a little scary, and yes, some people made fun of us for wasting our time on site devoted to fake bands. But happen, it did, and now four years later we’re thrilled to see all of our players expressing their creativity. What’s even better is that it’s become a creative outlet for musicians and non-musicians alike. We hope it inspires not only fake bands, but real ones. So we hope you’ll pick up a copy of Austin’s book and continue to “fake it until you make it!”

Watch Austin’s presentation at The Economist’s Human Potential Summit.

Check out Austin’s Blog

Check out Austin’s previous book “Newspaper Blackout”.

If you found this interesting you should also check out:

Everything Is A Remix

Bands I Wish I’d Made Up

February 24th, 2012

This is a new feature here on Figment News where I’ll highlight a real band that I wish I’d made up.  You know, as a fake band.  Make sense?  No?  That’s half the point.  Stop thinking and start rockin’!

The first band I wish I’d made up is the Diamond Rugs. Made up of members of the Black Lips, Deer Tick, Los Lobos, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. It’s a supergroup of sorts and the kind of shambolic collaboration that is sorely lacking in rock n’ roll these days. So sit back, pop open a cool one and “Gimme A Beer”!

Diamond Rugs – “Gimme A Beer” – Live in Atlanta from Partisan Records on Vimeo.

2012 Figgie’s

February 20th, 2012

It’s that time of year again!  The time when you get to award those fake bands on Figment you think deserve to be recognized for their achievements in 2011.

The Figment Awards, or “Figgie’s” as we like to call them, are awards that are handed out once a year to those Figment bands and albums that garner the most votes from the Figment community.  They recognize excellence in fake band creation and design, and since they are voted on by the community represent those bands that have truly resonated with their peers on Figment.

This year we are happy to announce a new Figgie category “Best New Band”!

Our crack Figment editorial team have selected the fake bands, albums, singles, tag lines, new bands and tours of 2011 we thought deserved to be nominees, but we’ve also given you the opportunity to write-in a nominee.

While clearly these awards are all in good fun, we ask that you try to be as fair and impartial as possible when casting your votes. Try to vote for the band or album that you think best deserves the award.  If you honestly think your band or album deserves your vote that’s fine, but keep in mind that everyone else might not feel the same.

Also keep in mind that any Figgie Awards for Album, Single or New Band only apply to those releases or bands created in 2011, so if you write-in an album, single or new band that wasn’t they will be disqualified.  As for the tour Figgie, we will only recognize those tours that actually took place in 2011. If you created a tour in 2011 that doesn’t begin until 2012 then it will not be considered for an award this year.

As we did last year, you’ll be asked to cast a vote on the following award categories:

Best Developed Band – this award recognizes the fake band that was the most complete in every facet of the game – band back story (description), artwork, album cover design, song titles, band news, marketing/promotion, collaborations with other players bands, and fan base development.  In short, we’re looking for you to cast a vote for the fake band that is 2010’s best and most complete fake band.  Last year’s winner was Old Republic.

Album Cover of the Year – this award recognizes the best album cover design of the year.  We’re looking for you to vote for the cover that not only has the best design and visual impact, but also best communicates the album’s genre and content.  The cover of Lucifer and The Long Pigs “All Our Hexes Come From Texas” was last year’s winner.

Best Tagline – this award recognizes the fake band with the best tagline.  Promotion is important in the music business, and with so many bands trying to capture people’s attention you have to find a way to cut through the clutter to get a fan’s attention.  We’re looking for you to cast a vote for the band that not only best summed up their band’s aesthetic in one line, but also created a memorable slogan that grabs your attention.  Last year’s winner from Cherry Vendetta was certainly memorable, and created a rallying cry for the band that they have woven into their albums, tours, etc.

Best Band Name – this award recognizes the Figment fake band with the best name.  A name that captures not only your attention, but also a bit of the band’s aesthetic, while also being clever and original.   Who could forget last year’s winner!

Best Single – this award recognizes the best song title!  We know a lot of you are releasing singles these days, but we’re not looking for you to cast your vote on album covers, but instead simply on how great of a song title it is and whether or not it made you want to buy the album .  Yeah, we’ve included quite a few funny ones in the nominees we put forward, but we’re also looking for a song title that resonated with you, so if you have a favorite that appeared on a 2010 album that isn’t funny please write it in – and remember to include the group that created it!  Last year’s winner was the single “Judas In Disguise” by Stonekrank.

Best Tour/Festival – We’re looking for the best tour or festival, but there are a lot of factors that go into what makes a fake tour or festival seem real.  Obviously the name of the tour is the first thing that grabs your attention, but we’re looking for more than that.  We want you to consider the concept behind the tour or festival.  How original of an idea was it?  Do the bands involved fit with the overall concept, and how involved were they in the tour or festival?  How was the artwork for the tour?  Did the creator publish news, use the shout box or other online media (i.e. Twitter) to promote the tour before, during and after?  How well did they merchandise the tour?  All of these things should be factored in when you cast your vote for this Figgie.  Again, if you write in a nominee please keep in mind that the tour/festival you nominate had to have taken place in 2011, and not just created in 2011.  Last year’s winning tour/festival was “Merchants of Metal IV:  Hell on Earth”.

Best New Band – The newest Figgie will be awarded to only new bands that were created in the previous year.  We’re looking for a new band that best exemplifies a great fake band – name, band description, logo, tagline, etc.  We’re also looking for a new band that’s built a strong fan base and released some great albums in the past year.  So think hard on this one, because you’re picking a band we expect to see great things from in the future, and if you’re writing in a new band make sure you only nominate one that was created in 2011 or it won’t be considered.

Album of the Year – this award recognizes the album that is the best of the best.  We’re looking for you to take into account the cover design, the album description and the song titles when casting your vote.  In short, which album do you think was the best of 2011.  “Censored For Your Protection” by Old Republic took home last year’s award!

So those are the awards we’ll be asking you to vote on this year.  We hope you’ll take a moment to check out all of the bands nominated before filling out your ballot.  The last day to submit your ballot is March 19, 2012, so make sure you get your votes in before the end of the day on March 19th.  The winners will be announced here on the Figment News blog on Friday, March 23, 2012 and each of the winners will receive an icon for their winning band/album page as well as 1,000 pieces of lucre.

Check your email because we’re sending out the invite that will link you to the ballot later today.  We’re looking forward to seeing who you vote for!


And Their Genre Will Be?

February 16th, 2012

Thanks to TMTYTF and FuriousGrace we know that our band will be called Victor Rossi & His Big Fat Posse, but now thanks to ChildofAlma we also know what kind of music they’ll be playing!

So what’s the genre?  Shock-and-Awe Sensory Assault Blackened Deathgrind

What is that you’re saying?  Well, here’s how ChildofAlma describes it:

This genre focuses on using high levels of production to deliver traumatizing, punishing heavy metal. The music is a mixture of black metal, incorporating shrieks, tremolo-picked riffs, and eerie ambience with the subgenre of death metal called Deathgrind; aspects of which are blast beats, slam riffing, and gutturally growled, unintelligible vocals.

Both of these genres are usually purposefully poorly produced. However, in Shock-and-awe sensory assault blackened deathgrind, studio production is embraced to amplify the fury. Songs are mixed as loud as possible, with the vocals, snare drum, and bass drums at the front of the mix, and the guitars two solid walls of noise that hold it all in. The bass guitar is more felt than heard, resonating through the mix, and disturbing ambience is layered throughout, barely audible.

Well, I think that about covers it.  So Victor Rossi & His Big Fat Posse are a Shock-and-Awe Sensory Assault Blackened Deathgrind band.

Thanks for all of your hard work on creating a genre for the band ChildofAlma! Now let’s turn things over to thehoseman to come up with a tagline.  Hopefully he’ll have us something back by no later than the end of the month!


Top Band Chart Ch-Ch-Changes

February 13th, 2012

I know that a lot of you have been clamoring for some changes to the Top Bands Chart for some time now, and I’m happy to say we have now obliged. The new Top Bands chart reflects those bands with the greatest album sales over a rolling 1-year period (365 days.)

You’ll notice that we’ve changed the focus of the chart from “fans” to “album sales.” We did this for a couple of reasons. First of all, we wanted the chart to better reflect those bands that are at the top of their game. With “fans” as the metric, you saw little movement, and the chart didn’t really reflect how active a band was within the game. Plus, we felt sales was a better metric given where we hope to move our lucre economy, etc. We also supplied the number of releases those sales were based on. Why? Because we felt it provided some context to that band’s sales figures. Some bands release a lot of albums that don’t sell that much, others release fewer albums but sell a lot. By providing the number of releases we allow you to see more clearly how that band achieved their chart position.  After all, there is more than one way to rise up the charts on Figment, and we didn’t want to diminish either release strategy.

Let us know what you think of the new chart!

And So They Shall Be Named…

February 10th, 2012

Well, we tasked TMTYTF and FuriousGrace with coming up with a name for our band and they have returned with a moniker sure to conjure up all kinds of goodness – Victor Rossi & His Big Fat Posse.  We’ll leave it to them to describe the how and why in the comments below, but in the meantime, ChildofAlma, you’re on the clock!  I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see what genre he decides on.  Check back on Feb. 21st or so to find out!

Figment Playlist is a new feature here on Figment News where we ask a Figment musician to share the 15 favorite songs he/she enjoys listening to the most.

Thrice Knightley may be best known for his work with his long time band Let’s Not and Say We Did, but the Hawkins Springs, KY native has also released a string of singles as a solo artist, and his long awaited full-length solo album “Based On A True Story” was finally released on January 31, 2012 on Heiroglyph Records.  While Knightley is primarily known for his guitar work, he decided not to work with other musicians on his solo debut and instead played all of the instruments on the record himself.  So what does this multi-faceted musician listen to when he has some down time?  We thought we’d find out.

Here is Thrice Knightley’s Figment Playlist:

Thrice Knightley:  Have you ever heard a song and thought, “Aw man… I wish I had written that song?”  Well I have — plenty of times.  Sometimes the lyrics of a song just crystallize my thoughts better than I ever have myself or make me look at something or someone in a whole new way.  Sometimes it’s the melody or harmonies or rhythms that are so original that I wish I’d thought of them… and sometimes it’s the production and arrangements that take me to places I’ve never been before — or places in my past that I long to return to. Each of these songs has captured my imagination in some way.

It was really tough to produce a list of just fifteen songs because there are so many great bands out there.  My apologies to my many other favorites I had to leave off this list.

“Prayer for Oxygen” by The Forgotten Falling – What I really like about this song is just the feel of it.  The synths, the guitars, the drums, the vocals — they’re all just so right.  I could listen to it for hours on end.

“Sing” by Stonekrank – I love when a song from one musical genre is redone in a completely different genre — and works.  “Sing” is one of those songs.  It’s sorta like Seether’s version of “Careless Whisper” only even more so.  It could have come out sounding really hokey, but Stonekrank did a masterful job.

“Lithium Crash” by Cherry Vendetta – So much anger.  So much lust.  Love the attitude.  And these women can PLAY!  All their songs are awesome, but “Lithium Crash” is tops IMHO.

“It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Sepsis” by The Four Docs – I grew up going to the Appendix Day parade in my hometown, and this song brings back a lot of really good memories from my childhood.

“The Day The Well Ran Dry” by Shrapnel Wagoneers – One of the best new bands on figment, and this tribute to a fallen comrade is some of their finest work.

“Cutting Into My Teeth” by Cadem – You can hear the band’s influences on this track, but there are plenty of surprises here, too.  From my favorite Cadem album, The Eighth Procession.

“Occam’s Machine Gun” by Noah Romero – Sometimes a razor just isn’t enough.  Good thing Occam brought artillery.

“Chasing The Bleatles With Needles” by Voracious Knitters – They’re kooky AND smart — my favorite combination.

“Absinthe Minded” by Zandergriff Miggs & The Parliament of Owls – What can I say? Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. A great track from one of the most imaginative bands out there. My hat is permanently off to these guys.

“Gnome… Adder… What?!” by Bagfinder – They’re proteges of the Wheat-Beatles, but they’re so much more than that.  Their brand of hook-laden rock is perfect for riding around with your friends. That’s saying a lot in my book.

“The Ballad of Leonard Nimoy” by Kaffeine Induced Heart Attack – Who more deserves to have a song written about him than Leonard Nimoy… unless it’s William Shatner?  Great job, guys!

“The Lost” by Britboy82 – This band takes me back to the British Invasion of the 80’s — what a great time that was for hard rock.  It’s a shame Britboy82 has broken up.  I’ll miss them.

“Put Your Bullet Where Your Mouth Is” by x69 – A track from x69’s latest single.  Their best work yet.  Can’t wait for the album.

“Petri-Dish something-something (A Work In Progress)” by The Chosen Rejects – I know it was a work in progress when recorded, but this song exemplifies this band’s originality.  And I’m still trying to figure out all the lyrics…

“Pedal:  Into Revelation” by Calavera Electrica – Very original, and very listenable.  Who could ask for anything more?