So…You Want to Be Famous!

Me Thinking

Excuse me, I have a question.

The biggest change that has occurred in my life time is a the shift from living in a meritocracy to living in a mediocracy.  I have always been a hard worker.  I love to study and, when I was young, I  was told by my teachers and mentors that if I studied hard, applied myself and invested completely in each job I took on, success and career longevity would be imminent.

For over two decades I was very lucky to have been able to rely on my reputation alone.  Most of the work that I was given, around the world, was based on referral.  People had often heard of me or seen the quality of my work and, in turn,  wanted to retain my services so that they could have their business or event benefit from that quality.

I did very little advertising because I knew most of my clients personally and understood how each of them came to know of me.  None the less, every year I spent about 10% of my earnings on advertising because those selling me the advertising told me that I needed it.  After some years of record keeping , I did the math and came to a disappointing understanding.  While I had spent 10% of my annual income on trade listings, attending business conferences and mailing stuff, this expenditure was responsible for only 1 or 2% of my annual revenue.  8 to 9 % of my hard earned cash was being sucked into a black hole called “Advertising” and that advertising was having no effect.

Since the dawn of the “age of stupidity”, being knowledgable or good at something is no longer all that is needed.  As the years have passed, the marketplace has expanded and there is a lot of new talent out there.  As the employment landscape changes so does the means of access .  The work I get is still mostly by referral, but as I get older, I am now expected to increase my annual investment in advertising to stay competitive.

Then there’s this guy , Ice JJ Fish, who has put out some songs and videos in the past few months and, overnight, has over 4 million hits on his video.  I expect that he didn’t spend a dime.  He has got to be seen to be believed, truly a representation of what kind of mega talent is needed to succeed in this media saturated reality we call the 21st century.  All at once tragically bad and strangely compelling, you can witness his free advertising HERE.

One of the market streams that I operate in is custom song and music composition.  I released an album recently called “The Ukulele Bandito” to celebrate the first birthday of my daughter with  16 songs I had written.  I am very proud of the album and hope that revenue from the sales of it will go towards the future of my new baby daughter.

I think when anyone releases an album of songs they hope that one of the songs will get heard, go viral and help to sell a million copies of it at  99 cents each, thus creating financial independence and, ultimately, freedom.  But there is a lot of music being made, like the stuff being churned out by Ice JJ Fish, and getting heard and seen is the key to success.  That’s where the advertisers get their hooks into you.

I was recently approached by a music company, who, in a personally addressed email, asked me if I wanted to be discovered as a musician through a song contest by some industry professionals including the likes of Hall and Oates.  I was euphoric, my internal answer to this invitation was a resounding “YES!” so I clicked on through to the web page where I could submit my songs for international recognition and, of course,  the immediate stardom and money that follows.

On arrival at the song contest entry page I discovered that they wanted me to spend $30 per entry.  I almost fell for it.  I started calculating how much I would need to spend to enter my 10 favorite songs, because the more songs I entered the more likely my chances of winning my place in the sun, right?  I was going to have to spend $300 to enter.  So I wrote that number down on my wish list and continued on to see where else I could promote my interests.

I figured I would concentrate on developing a fan base using social media.  If I had $300 to spend, maybe it would be best spent being  on Facebook advertising. I already have close to 2000 friends, but Facebook only lets 30 or 40 see my posts so  I decided to spend $30 as a test to see if I could generate more interest in my Facebook Page and the Online Music Store that I have there.  With in a few weeks, I had managed to increase the number of likes on my page, but something wasn’t right, no one was buying the album and there were no comments,  None of my 2000 friends seem to be any wiser about my prolific music adventures.  If all I was buying was “Likes”, I couldn’t see how this was going to help me on my way to financial independence. After all, you can’t pay for groceries with FB “Likes”, at least, I haven’t tried to do that yet.  Who knows, maybe Facebook likes will be the new currency in the post banking economy.  I started to write this blog about my plight on Facebook and then this guy made a video that explained the whole FB advertising paradigm and I decided to let him explain it to you.  He really nails it and you can hear what he has to say on YouTube in a video that he made called Facebook Fraud.  It is very revealling.

Another market stream that I have worked in most of my life is film and television.  I have quite an extensive reel of media appearances over the years, but as with all things that have to do with gettin golder, this part of my career has taken a bit of a hit, so I decided to find a new agent and get myself back on track.  I produced a demo reel this week, you can see it HERE:

After finding a new agent I was told that I would need to register and pay for a few services to help me with my visibility.  I bought new photos for $150 and registered at several talent based websites for a cost of $65 each.  When registering at the websites, there is an option to register for the premium membership which is usually $250 or so.  Paying this premium fee is supposed to get you better placement with the casting directors.  I guess if you are a non talent, but have money, you can effectively buy your way into a job over a person who has talent but limited financial resources.  Alternatively you can be IceJJFish and just be you, that seems to be working for him.  He hs accumulated another 100,00o views on the video link above since I started writing this.

Then of course there is the question as to whether or not I should join the union (of course I will, but the cost, oh the cost).  Non union members get paid badly, usually minimum wage which works out, where I live, to about $100 a day for a 10 hour day, the same rate people got paid for a days work in Canada in 1984 (Thank you Mister Harper for keeping Canada in the dark ages).  If you are a Union member you can get paid a minimum of $200 a day whether or not you are there for 8 hours.  Even if you only work for 1 hour, you still get paid for 8.  Of course to be part of the Union means paying a membership fee of anywhere up to $1500 AFTER you get cast in some shows as an apprentice, accumulate vouchers…and so it goes.

This sort of “pay for access” model exists in almost every employment sector in the marketplace.  It is quite a profitable revenue model for the advertising companies and individuals that are successful enough to suck in enough uneducated wannabes.  Of course, from time to time a young upstart has to be given a break otherwise every body looses faith in this ridiculousness, but those breaks are far and few between.  PT Barnum once said “There’s a sucker born every minute”, and this being the Age of Stupiidity, I don’t expect that this nauseating form of  exploitation is going to end any time soon.

It becomes painfully apparent that you have to be prepared to spend a lot of money if you want to be seen, get out there and work.  Finding work is becoming a full time job that requires a huge budget.  The most tragic thing about all of this is that, even if you do spend the money on everything you are ask to spend money on, there is no guarantee that you will ever get paid enough from the jobs that you get  to recover those costs or live a respectable life.

The truth is that anyone, no matter how unqualified, can rise to the top of the heap like IceJJFish and, once there, screw everything up for those who may actually have talent.  But maybe the world has moved beyond talent and now all we crave is embarrassing episodes of real life because there is nothing more entertaining than watching some guy sing about rape to a woman with large breasts in an untrained voice that beckons like  siren song after its been put through a meat grinder.

So in the final analysis, working in the mediocracy during the Age of Stupidity is becoming over rated. I can’t see why anyone would want to spend what money they have to get a job that only allows them to spend their life in indentured servitude, earning next to nothing, when not working produces the same results with far less effort.