I heard Bernie Sanders announce a great idea. With a small tax on Wall Street Trades, we can send kids to State College for FREE.
BUT until that happens I am not sure traditional schooling is a valuable investment as an artist. Students are coming out of college in debt. Some have parents willing and able to shoulder that debt. But many – with traditional career paths – enter the adult world underwater. In a business as unsure as ours, I cannot justify any debt with the dram of becoming an artist.
Want to be a great artist? Go to college and learn about Shakespeare, Opera, Ballet etc
Want to work and get paid? Become a content creator TODAY!
I don’t care you are 13 or 31 or 80+…
The sooner you start become a content creator the sooner you become a working artist. You may not be paid yet but you are ON THE JOB training for a career. AND you are developing skills for future successes, social media and other following, learning what NOT to do…
WHAT IS A CONTENT CREATOR?
Live performance, TV, Film, digital audio or video, creative or technical writing (books, poems, short stories), art (painting, sculpture etc), educational tools … ANYTHING you create with intention of some audience digesting. Content might be fictional or non-fiction. Comedy or Drama Or Information… IN short… ANYTHING!!!
In the not too distant past a rare few controlled ALL content. Studios controlled the making and distribution of movies. A few networks controlled ALL of the TV. A few major Galleries meant the difference between the amateur and professional artist. A few big producers controlled all live performance.
An artist was a slave to big money and their gate keepers (agents, casting directors and snooty ass-kissing interns). While those systems are still in place, they no longer have the strangle hold on the world and there are infinite platforms where an artist create and make money from their creations.
There are plenty of dreams of performing on Broadway, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall. In New York we have about 50 major performance venues and another 100+ medium venues where and artist can make professional pay. To perform there you probably auditioned or able to get a manager to book a tour of a show you created.
New York probably has 1000+ small venues of comedy, cabaret and theater. Most of these stages are student, amateur and showcase venues, but many artists have carved out a living producing their own works.
If you have talent as a singer, actor, musician or dancer, create a show. My crew started doing Improv because it made the most sense as producers. We stared with more cabaret – mostly parody of oldies and Broadway – and sketch comedy. But as we got bigger, trying to find time to rehearse and write became difficult. Plus in our early days our turn over was so bad that as soon as we created a new sketch, a major performer in that piece quit. Improv can be anyone warm bodies ready to play (with proper training/experience etc)
But all you need is a room with lights. ARTISTS (Actors, Directors, Writers etc) get hung up on traditional performance venues. CONTENT CREATORS realize they need enough space to their schtick and a place for the audience.
Our first weekly show – Spring 2003 – was in a room on the third floor, upstairs from a Strip Club. (3 years later we were performing in a 150-seat theater downstairs when the Strip Club became the NY Laugh Factory). We split the door. The room maxed out at 25 seats. The hostess provided free drinks to guests. Another early venue, PSUEDO.COM lets us keep door for a monthly show. They streamed the show online. A few venues had a straight rental. We avoided those at all costs. In 2003 we also did a killer show at the Knitting Factory. We kept 70% of the door. Broke even after $300 of marketing to pack the place.
For most of our past 10 years we performed rent-free at comedy clubs. We got the door and the club sold drinks. We made as much as $500+ with $5-10 tickets. 2005-2011 we were producing 6-8 public shows/week.
Slowly we booked more and more gigs via corporate, college and K-12 school groups as well as touring venues. We cut back our public shows to focus on the paid gig. The same marketing dollar that sells 1 ticket will sell 1 gig.
HOWEVER – these days public shows promote gigs and vice versa… More about monetizing content later…
TV, FILM, VIDEO, AUDIO, WRITING
I am linking all of these together as one big category of recording something to be enjoyed later. Acting, music, dance, novel… even that last tweet you created was intended to be digested sometime after you created it. But anything shared publicly via movie theaters or art galleries, sold as CD, DVD, Book, Art Creation, Poster, TV, Computer, Phone, IPOD, IPAD, tablet etc etc etc
Major films and TV shows are still – in most cases – by a few. However there are far more major outlets than just ten years ago. Major movie theaters are dominated by studio films with big stars but every city has smaller screens for independent projects. The number of TV networks creating original content has grown form 3 to 300+ in twenty years. Remember when FOX was a the new big kid on the block in the late 1980s with the Simpsons, Married with Children and 90210.
These days NBC, ABC, CBS are almost dwarfed by FOX, CW, A&E, AMC, HBO, FX, USA… I just filmed a new sketch TV show for TruTV. What’s TruTV? that’s what I said LOL. BTW Watch me on Friends of the People this summer as a UBER Taxi Driver (parody). The 200-300 channels that started as syndication outlets (reruns of old shows) are now in the original content business. NETFLIX knocked the door down and now everyone wants to play.
Think about how many hours you spend at the Movie theater every month. Then think about the number of hours in front of a TV. Then think about the number of hours you watch Youtube. Vine? Tweets? Facebook. Everytime you TWEET you are creating content. And when 1,000,000 people tweet, TWITTER can justify selling ADS to pop up between. If you have 1, 000, 000 followers you can be paid to tweet directly by sponsors. ALL SOCIAL MEDIA is a form of Content Creation. 99% of its is amateur but someone is making money off all those cat videos.
As a CONTENT CREATOR social media platforms have leveled the playing field. You no longer have to waste time and money to get yourself seen. And for the same budget to get 20 people at a live show you can probably get 100K hits on a youtube video.
Not a day goes by without hearing someone curse the very existence of Justin Beiber. But as a producer and content creator to thumb nose up at how he rose to public eye is sheer ignorance.
Vine Star Cameron Dallas – basically a punk kid – compared to the 1000s of talented actors and singers I know and respect as artists – had millions of followers watching his VINES (6-second videos at vine.co). Then he made a movie release direct to public via ITUNE. Cameron’s “following” put his movie “EXPELLED” on the ITUNE #1 slot for four weeks with millions or downloads. The movie has since been release on Netflix. If this teen decides to go to college it is paid for. Meanwhile most of the 1000s of trained amazingly talented actors and singers have given up and moved back home to sell real estate or burgers full time. (A few stick it out and make a living performing, teaching etc
Now of course that is an extreme situation. Not quite JB status but a rare relative rags to riches scenario. But YOUTUBE, VINE, INSTAGRAM and other provide platform for artists to share their creations. Direct to DVD used to be a RED FLAG. Now direct to consumer is key. Forget the cost to create for a second. The cost to distribute your content to the masses went from millions to zero. You may not make as much or anything but it costs you nothing to upload to Youtube. It is now cheaper to create and share digital content (photo, audio, video) than mount a live show.
If you are a writer, you no longer have to wait to impress a publisher. You can create your own blog. Short Stories, Poems, Intructional material, and sometimes full novels are being release direct to consumers by the artists. Or you can sell your own digital downloads or books via mail on Amazon, EBAY and other platforms. Using PAYPAL you can take payment on your own site to TShirts, books, HOW-TO Pamphlets. This blog costs me $18/year to maintain via a new WORDPRESS program. You can have YOURNAME.com cheaply. I recently upgraded to $99/year because i needed more storage and capability.
High School class clowns vine.
ALWAYS BE CREATING (ABC)
There is no more excuse. You can develop an entire movie with your camera phone these days. Most phones have 1080 resolution video cameras. With a tripod and simple set ups start recording yourself.
PERFORM LIVE – go find a coffee shop or bar or other venue that will let you sing, do comedy, recite poetry, put up a play for free. NO OVER HEAD. ABC!!!
WRITE – Start a blog. TWEET. Rant on Facebook. ABC. Anything you might put in a private journal make it public. SCARY? I know. You will be amazed at who loves what you consider self created crap. WRITE SOMETHING EVERYDAY.
COMPOSE – Try writing an original song. Not hard. It may suck. WHO CARES.
RECORD – Create audio and video with your phone. Use a webcam. What ever you have right now w/o spending any extra cash, create something TODAY!!!
Ever meet someone with a great idea for a TV show, novel, movie etc. ALMOST EVERY DAY I over hear someone with a great idea – WHICH IS MEANINGLESS until turned into something.
The sooner you try creating, the sooner you will get better at creating. EVERYDAY you waste NOT creating is a day someone else passes you by…
NEVER USE THE WORD HARD!!!
Nothing I do is hard. I am better than most when it comes to being funny or singing. Plenty out there are better than me. But thinking something is HARD makes it HARD.
I was teaching a corporate Improv workshop last week. One of the participants kept saying “I have taken improv classes. Improv is Hard”. She was actually very good. I told her, “Stop using the word ‘HARD’ to describe Improv and I bet you will find it easier almost immediately.”
The following Saturday I was teaching musical Improv to my adult Improv class Saturday mornings. One of the students was struggling. She was actually very good but kept making that “I SUCK” face. I said “WHO GIVES a F*&^ if you F((& UP!” I didn’t.
MAKE BIG MISTAKES
Not fearing mistakes leads to amazing leaps of self confidence and discovery. Actual Big Mistakes are learning opportunities. I tell my young students “If you grow up to be my brain surgeon, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE MISTAKES” Otherwise WHO CARES!?!
I learned by 5 years old, taking piano lessons, never to worry about messing up. When it comes to performance, NEVER stop to think – or say – “THAT SUCKS” “I’m Sorry” “This is hard”.
In Junior High playing trumpet, the band director says MAKE BIG MISTAKES. If you blast a wrong note, you will know it and fix it. If you fear mistakes you probably will play flat due to lack of breath support. (ASK ME ABOUT BREATH SOMETIME)
At worst say, I have not figured this out yet – I need more rehearsal/practice. THEN REHEARSE AND PRACTICE until you figured it out…
Performing is like becoming a parent. NO ONE is ever truly ready. But you jump in and figure it out as you go.
You can take classes till your death bed, but until you get out on that stage or in front of a camera it is all technique. And true performance/creation has NOTHING to do with technique. Technique is something for teachers to try and relate to students what real artist do. Technique and training saves me every time my allergies flare up or I am otherwise having a bad day. Sometimes in rehearsal I go back to the basics to work through a scene, dance move etc
But creation and performance is a process of just DOING.
Don’t think – DO! Don’t tell – SHOW!
REMOVE EGO & INSECURITY FROM THE EQUATION
I know easier said than done, but ego and insecurity equally hamper great artistic creation. Start creating today and it gets easier everytime…
Honestly, after 20 years as a professional performer, I still struggle with this. I have moments of extreme anxiety and over confidence.
I ALWAYS say to do what I do every day takes a small dose of arrogance. But EGO limits vulnerability. Vulnerability is what allows your audience to enter your world. SCARY? I know. But we have to let them in. We draw them in. A plastic exterior – unless you are AMAZING BEAUTIFUL (and even then still annoying) – limits your ability to communicate anything worth communicating.
Often time EGO is overcompensation for insecurity – a wall of protection. Trust me you are fooling no one. Don’t hide fear. DEAL WITH IT.
Finding ways to harness nervous anxiety FEEDS our artistic creative machine. Great Charisma is less about confidence and more about finding ways to focus that otherwise scary negative energy.
I have often had performance where – upon leaving the stage/set – i felt was totally horrible because I was nervous etc. BUT I have learned over the years to focus that into my voice and physical performance. I have learned ways to control my bad habits (Fidgeting etc) to take on the bad habits of my characters. Most often when I am having a bad day, my audiences say “That was the best I have seen you on stage.” BECAUSE whatever was causing me stress focused me. Other times I did not focus – taking the situation for granted – and presented a flat, unmemorable performance. I hate it when other artists “Phone-In” the performance. Hate it more when I catch myself doing the same.
Personally my best work happens when I have a little anxiety, but take the time to focus that energy. My voice sounds better, my acting choices are cleaner, my dancing is more impressive etc etc etc
TO BE CONTINUED…