On Saturday, the sixth day of #IT2023, we were joined by the man behind the yellow squares, Elijah (you may recognise his mantra, “Close the app, make the thing”). He’s also an artist manager, DJ and writer. As well as sharing daily notes on Instagram about sustainable artist creation, the music industry and the future of work, in his masterclass, Elijah covered the ideas he’s sharing and give tips on productivity and experimenting when it comes to releasing your projects into the world.
QUOTES AND QUESTIONS FROM ELIJAH’S MASTERCLASS
“The yellow squares are like the extension of my personality.”
“It’s easy to sell or market a song like this or [say] “Why don’t you make artwork like that?” but I’ll just do it and see if it works.”
Some questions from the audience...
“I’m releasing niche music on a small label. How can I turn this into a global touring business?”
“I work a lot in electronic music and most of the stuff is niche – drum and bass, grime, dubstep or whatever it’s gonna be – and it’s very difficult to make something very niche that appeals to like a thousand people in London, but then also gets [you] opportunities to play around the world, but if you look at it through Instagram, all the DJs we follow will be doing that. It looks like everyone’s popping, everyone’s playing around the world, having some global experience, but those are the 1%. I guess the Instagram and social media and the way we consume things, it makes it look like everyone is doing that when we know they’re not.”
“I hate having to sell my work, but how do I build a career selling my work?”
“This might just seem like a bit brash but this is about building a career out of what you’re making. There’s nothing wrong with doing it as a hobby and [out of] pure enjoyment and a lot of elements of this project I just do for pure enjoyment. There is no money to be made out of some of the stupid squares I’ve posted. It’s just for my own creativity, and that sometimes there’s a bit of a line in strategy and creativity. So thinking about what bits of your art and your creativity is work and what bits of it is just vibes. That’s something that only you can know.”
One of his popular yellow squares and the meaning behind it:
Art is making within your means.
“You don’t need anything other than the idea to get started. And if the idea that you need something else is not an idea yet, that’s a dream, so just working with what you have. Obviously my limited talent as an artist or illustrator means I can only do it like this for the time being, but maybe in time as my technical skills develop, this would be like a really beautiful kind of image, like Da Vinci level. But for now it’s all, this is all it can be.”
Some more Q&A from the audience…
As you juggle so many different things, like how do you best manage your load and how do you actually get shit done other than closing the app and making the thing?
“First of all, I’ve got to want to do those things. A lot of the things are straightforward cause I want to do them. I’ve been able to delegate things – not [that] I just don’t enjoy it, but I feel [are] unnecessary. So with the album, for example, I could have had 10 meetings about it and spoken to a distribution company and done all this crap, but I just made it and then done all that stuff afterwards and in the fastest way possible. I didn’t speak to anyone about the idea. No one knew that it was even an idea until I had the thing in my hand. So I cut out a lot of that BS of back and forth and asking permission and all of this stuff. It just saves energy and time. So by the time I actually get to execute the thing, I’m still excited about it.”
What do you think generates opportunity?
“…You need to be personable and nice or something, but it helps, it helps to have a good reputation like that that carries a lot of bad work, nice people, <laugh>. Um, but being useful is, is just as important. I don’t know… This is one thing about this experience, you only know your own right. So I’m not sure if that’s true. All around, dunno!”
You can also buy tickets for the Keep Hush: Make The Ting album launch on June 29th at The Carpet Shop, SE15.
Words: Kat Friar
Photography: Saadiq T