Becoming A Media Entrepreneur: Q&A With Paxton Baker

Paxton Baker, managing partner, Liquid Soul, mixes both a creative and a quantitative approach to his work.

“When you run a TV network, you’re working on acquisitions, the daily line-up, new specials, documentaries, awards. Plus you’re watching ratings and you’re ever mindful of the competition,” he explains.

Charlene Weisler: Is there a difference in promoting a concert vs. a TV show? What are the considerations for each?

Paxton Baker:  A concert is live event. You have to get someone to go out  [and] do something. It has to be warm and embracing to evoke a reaction…. So, you’re driving human emotion. For TV you can sit back and relax. It’s a different type of experience.

From a concert perspective, music hasn’t really transferred to TV. There are some things that you do at a concert that you can’t do when you’re watching it on TV….For TV you’re a bystander, no one sees your reaction. If you’re an artist on stage, you can feed off the energy from the audience.  A concert aired on TV isn’t the same experience. TV is one-way communication — someone is communicating something to you.



There are certain programs with active communication where you can use Twitter and participate using multiple screens, but for the most part the reaction is kept to you or with a limited amount of people.

At a concert, you are participating in an experience. You’re laughing along with hundreds, thousands of others. You’re sharing music, comedy with others. TV doesn’t do that yet.  

Weisler: What is your process in developing a program?

Baker: It varies….There is a process for developing a documentary and a different one for an award show, for example.

For “Soul Train,” we recognized iconic artists from our history and also introduced modern artists to new audiences….

When I produced the Soul Train Awards, I was mindful of that heritage. We broke new artists like Bruno Mars and Miguel. They got their first ever recognition on TV at the Soul Train Awards. We wanted to bring our great heritage but also offer a modern twist. So it's a different mindset.

We produced a documentary on President Obama’s first trip to Africa. There was so much heritage, so much hope and fulfillment. We wanted to evoke those feelings in the audience. You shoot a lot of b-roll, with the mindset of capturing the emotions to bring to the television screen.

For the concert ,there is immediate awareness. In TV there are a lot of little pockets and corners where you can tuck away visuals and program subconsciously.  There are things that people aren’t aware of, that they can come back to and discover and rediscover.

With DVRs you can play back over and over again. You don’t get to do that at a live event.

Weisler: What are the most important considerations in trying to attract an audience to a program or an event?

Baker: Whatever you do, you have to be mindful of the end result, what’s important to the audience. For Sneaker Con, our sweet spot is 18-  to 24-year-olds. They’re interested in what’s hip and now and a degree of sustainability.  They’re not interested in what their parents are interested in. They want what’s quick and transactional. It’s the currency of now.

Weisler: What is the profile of sneakerheads? And how do you market Sneaker Con?

Baker: Sneakerheads are 18- to 24-year-olds for the most part.  There are 25% who are 12-18 and approximately 50% in the 18 -24 range. They are extremely technologically advanced and very mindful of trends and pop culture. 

At one point MJ [Michael Jordan] was the most important person in sneakers. He's still in a top spot, but sneaker culture has moved to pop culture, and Kanye [West] is now the most important person from a trending perspective. He is the most important person in the modern athleisure wear market and he’s a pop figure, not a basketball player. The successful basketball shoe is one that can cross over from the court to pairing with your jeans off the court.....

So the bulk of the promotion and marketing is done over social media and by word of mouth. There are no TV ads and very little radio. With social media, our marketing is extremely targeted and focused, and the results are there as well.  

Weisler: Give me some predictions of the media landscape five years from now.

Baker: Programming will continue to be more interactive….Live programming like sports will continue to be important, and more emphasis will be based on live events. In politics, debates are already much more interesting and will continue to be more interactive. People will be better able to participate and ask questions in real time, and interaction with screens will continue to evolve.  Who knows, we may soon be able to watch great programming from space.

Weisler: What advice can you give today’s graduates who are seeking a career in media?

Baker: Be open-minded and learn as much as possible. You can program your own channel — and if you’re driving a trend, TV will pick it up and will expand your reach to millions. One word of caution: Just make sure you’re proud of what you upload, as it lives forever and can come back to bite you. Technology is important for the modern programmer, but an open mind is overwhelmingly important.

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