Five years ago, two costume designers graduated from the same college.
They were very much alike, these two young creative people.
Both had been better than average students, both were talented, and both were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Over time they gained similar experience working across the entertainment industry. They had gigs on concert tours, television shows, and film productions.
Yesterday these two costume designers showed up early for the same job interview. But there was a difference.
One of the designers was there to get the job, and found herself competing against 45 other talented applicants.
The other designer was there to conduct the interview.
What Made The Difference
Have you ever wondered what makes the winning difference with a career in the entertainment industry?
Why are some people stuck hunting for gig after gig, while others get a stream of opportunities frequently offered to them?
Everyone knows that having a strong professional network is essential to getting referrals and access in this business. That’s standard.
The key difference is in how that network is built.
The struggling creative professional relies on one-on-one self-promotion to build a circle of like minded colleagues.
However, the smart creative professional knows that traditional networking is too slow and difficult. So, she looks first to build an audience, and the right people flock to her.
What’s An Audience?
A network is everyone you know who will pick up your phone call.
An audience can be everyone you know, but includes strangers who know you and your work, even if you’ve never seen their faces.
See, Rick Rubin doesn’t have a networking problem. He’s a super-producer and has an audience. People bring him projects. He doesn’t have to go hunting for them.
You don’t have to be world famous like Rubin to get work. But if you want a real career in this business you have to become a “celebrity” in your field.
The celebrity editors, the celebrity stylists, the celebrity production managers get all of the work, while the rest fight for low wage scraps.
It’s your choice.
The Network vs The Audience
We’re taught to stay away from strangers. That’s good advice for 3rd graders, and bad advice for your career. In audience building, it’s those random strangers who’ll come of the blue and offer you the best jobs, opportunities, and projects.
A network takes constant contact to keep warm. Drop out of the work circle for a year or two, and you’ll find yourself hustling to get back in the business, as if you’re now a newcomer.
An audience is different. It grows itself as people talk to each other about you.
Networking is hyper-competitive. To win, you need to know more A-listers and gatekeepers than the next guy.
Audience building doesn’t rely on cozying up to anyone special. However, other professionals who have an audience are more likely to work with you when you have an audience of your own.
Build a network, and you’ll have to continue network building for the rest of your career.
However, if you build an audience, the right people will seek you out for years to come.
Are You Building A Network or An Audience?
By now you should be convinced that having an audience of people who listen to you is essential to having lasting success in this over-crowded industry of ours.
The next thing you should understand is that audience building is actually easier than networking. You see, choosing to build an audience rather than networking takes a change of perspective, not some special talent.
What if, next time you hear about a conference, you didn’t just register to attend. What if you pitched yourself as a panelist (or a speaker, if you’re so brave)?
The first benefit is that as a participant, you go to the conference for free, or you’ll even be paid for your time. The second benefit is that you have a chance at building an audience of hundreds of people, rather than settling with networking with a dozen.
Whenever I sit on a panel, I get a river of people approaching me afterwards, hoping to network. It’s a much more effective way to meet great people than the standard networking advice I’ve read in any book.
I’ve only given one speech, but the experience gave me a long term client relationship with a reality show star. No networking needed.
The Best Way To Build An Audience – Do It Online
OK, maybe you’re shy, and building an audience makes you nervous. You don’t want to step on any atage and speak to people. You just want to do great work and get hired.
You see, the absolute best way to build your own audience is by publishing your creative work online, through blogging. Blogging doesn’t require you to “come out of your shell” or travel to meet people.
(Hey, we’re connecting through this blog right now, and we don’t even know each other!)
A blog allows you to build an audience using your best talents. If you’re terrible with words, but great with video, then a video blog is for you. And if you’re one of the costume designers I mentioned above, then a photo blog may the perfect way to present your work.
Blogging allows you to build an audience, and get hired, by doing what you do best – creative work.
The Modern Entertainment Career
I see more and more creative people in our business who are choosing to build an audience for themselves online, and I love it.
People like Mark Malkoff, a former staffer at The Colbert Show used his video blog to land his own deals with IKEA and Air Tran.
Baratunde Thurston used his blog to build an audience, and the Science Channel made him the host of his own TV show.
Model Chasity Saunders and television producer Quan Lateef created their own thriving business using their blog and podcast.
My favorite example is Rafi Kam, a web developer in New York who was hired to cover the Sundance Film Festival. His film credits? Just his video blog.
So, Why Aren’t You Building Your Own Audience?
Blogging has made it easier than ever to make a name for yourself in the television, music, and film business.
It’s the absolute best way to establish your credibility, your personal brand.
I’ve worked with several people who wanted to create personal brand blogs. The biggest questions I get are:
- How do I make the tech work?
- What topic or content should I create?
- How should I use my blog to get hired?
Those questions are easy for me because I’ve had to find answers for them myself. The audience I gathered through blogging has given me 4 of my last 5 jobs. I see it as the new way to build a career in entertainment.
What are your questions about blogging and creating an audience for yourself? Leave it in the form below, and I’ll get back to you.