We were all recently reminded that it was Martin Luther King Jr. who famously dreamed of a world where we would all be judged by the content of our character, but in our industry, artists are judged rather by the amount and quality of their generated content. Content equals character in a world where online presence is often the key to getting the job.
Whether we like it or not, the norm of the modern age of entertainment is to judge an artist by the amount and quality of the online content they can continue to generate. Relevant content equals relevance in the industry and viability as a marketable commodity. As an entertainment industry professional, you are a commodity. Or, you are not. We have all heard the stories about people getting work because of their large social media followings, YouTube subscriber base, or viral content. Go viral, or go extinct. Create a high profile, build an online presence, generate constant content, or slide into the oblivion of just another fantasy hobbyist. Get serious, or seriously reconsider your choice of profession.
Think about it. You are a business. Your commodity is you. You are your product and you are selling a service. In order to succeed in business, you must build your marketing machine, and your marketing machine must include an online presence filled with relevant content for prospective customers to seek, find, and assess before they will purchase. In today’s age, nobody purchases anything or uses any service without first researching the company or the product – even if all that entails is posting to the “hive mind” for recommendations of where to eat, what to buy, or who to use for a needed service. I won’t eat at a new restaurant, if they don’t have a website with a menu, photos, and reviews. Would you?
As entertainment professionals, we cannot expect that anyone will hire us if we are a complete unknown without a relevant online presence. If you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. If all you are is a collection of personal social media accounts, you are no different than your cousin, Cecil, who works at the canning factory back home in Wisconsin. Get real. Google yourself. I guarantee that casting directors will before they offer you a job. What will they find? Your personal Facebook page? Your Instagram account?
If you don’t have a fan page and a website associated with you as a commodity, then you are not a commodity. How serious can you really be about your professional career if you can’t take the time to register a domain name and build a simple website? Or if you’re completely tech illiterate – get a friend, bribe a friend, or pay a friend to build a site for you. Look at the major professionals whose careers you wish you could have. Assess what they all have in common when it comes to their online presence and generating relevant content. Most of them have people who do it for them, but until you are able to hire a marketing team – you are your marketing team.
If you don’t have available content associated with your career – you don’t have a career.
What you have is a fantasy life – no different than your best hometown friend, Sallie Mae, who you left behind back in Nebraska to become the manager of the local mini mart. If you happen to be the manager of a mini mart here in LA, but you’re not using every spare hour striving to demonstrate that you are something more than a fresh-off-the-bus fantasy player – then Sallie Mae has it all over you, because she isn’t paying $800 per month to rent a room with five other people in a three bedroom apartment in Koreatown with one bathroom. In fact, Sally Mae is laughing at you from her three bedroom, two bath house in Omaha, that (according to a Zillow search) she can get for $1,000 per month.
Get real. Get serious, or you might as well move back to Nebraska. If your only online presence is your personal social media accounts, you are not a professional business person – you’re a hobbyist. In this world, you are what you do. If all you do is post about drinking at local bars with friends – your social media presence says you are a bar fly, not an industry professional. If all you do is post about political issues that interest you – you are a gadfly, not an industry professional. If all you do is post about that great restaurant you ate at last night – you are a wanna-be food critic. You are not an entertainment industry professional.
Entertainment industry professionals post about the work they are doing – even when they do not currently have any employment in the industry. Remember my favorite Sabelism: you have to do the work to get the work. True professionals will post about anything and everything they are doing to better their career. They post about acting classes they are taking, auditions they are preparing for, new physical workouts and diet regimens they are committing to in order to enhance their physical viability for the roles they wish to play. At the very minimum, true professionals are posting about new scripts they are perusing, monologues they are learning, accents they are perfecting, skills they are acquiring, or industry books they are reading to learn more about their craft.
When they do have work, true professionals are generating content about that work. They are posting about learning their lines, studying their scenes, doing their research on their project’s time era, setting, hairstyles, clothing, manners, and any other thing that can assist their backstory and the creation of a viable character. They post about rehearsals. They post from the set while on break from filming. They post behind-the-scenes looks into their processes. They provide hints about their costuming or props, and they sell themselves as professionals on the job. Even when they are not on the job of fulfilling a role or a contract, they are on the job of getting more jobs by constantly generating content to demonstrate that they are true serious professionals.
True professionals post about the projects they are working on – promoting themselves and whatever it is they are doing day and night. The best way to market your product and services to new potential customers, is to promote the work you are currently doing for existing customers. It is far easier to generate relevant content when you are working, and far more important too, if you want to keep the string of work flowing. When you book a gig, it isn’t an excuse to take a break from doing the work, but should rather serve as the impetus for doing even more work to line up the next project.
Build and fill your website. Create a public fan page. Flood your sites with relevant content. Do your best to be the only Joanie Jones or Sam Smith on the first page of a Google search. Content is character, and if your dream is to make a living in this industry, you must know that you will be judged by your content, or lack of it….
As the founding artistic director of the Redlands Shakespeare Festival, Steven managed the creation and foundation of the organization from the ground up, and served as both artistic director and executive director of the thriving organization for nine successful seasons.