Thursday, August 14, 2014
POTATO SALADS AND THE WORTH OF AUDIENCE BUILDING
You have a fan.
Yes, you. Regardless of your vocation.
We all do. People who support us, in our professional lives, and believe that we can deliver. They believe in us.
This belief scales. The belief that a respectful colleague has in you to deliver is actually no different to a ‘Beliebers’ perception that simply touching Justin Bieber will make their life better. Sure, one is more based in logic, but there is no distinction, quantitatively, between the two levels of belief.
It’s akin to happiness. Over a drink in Shanghai, a Producer and I were sharing stories about people we had encountered making films. His work had taken him to Afghanistan quite a bit, and he had avoided the temptation to watch the Afghan life from a safe bubble. I had observed a myriad of people through my work as well. Our common point, was what we had seen first hand.
The joy that someone in Afghanistan feels when their child is able to be educated, is no different to the joy you feel when you get a promotion here. That your microcosms are different sizes, economically, has no bearing if you aren’t aware of it. Joy, is joy.
And these commonalities are more important than you think. When you think of delivering on your expectations at work, regardless of what you do, you share the same expectations as Bieber has to his audience. The audience size is different, of course, but neither one of you will have a job if you don’t perform.
We all cultivate these fans. When you go to a job interview, you put on your costume and you gambol and dance to the delight of the onlookers. If they enjoy your performance, you make fans, and money flows in. If not, hit the pavement.
We live through these routines and rituals for our entire lives, filled with uncertainty and doubt about our ultimate fate, without ever asking ourselves a simple question.
How many fans do you need to live comfortably from your work?
One million? Two hundred thousand?
I’ll grant you, it’s a more difficult question than it seems. But surely the peace that can come from understanding this point makes it worth asking?
For most people, it’s usually one audience member: your immediate boss.
But for an artist?
Scratch the surface and there are layers you have never considered.
The depth of the connection. How niche is this audience? How long will they be your audience member? How much access are you willing to give an adoring fan?
Will you be as cold and distant as Avril Lavigne? Or as inappropriately, hilariously, gropey as Rhianna?
A friend and colleague recently started experimenting with this very notion. He’s using a range of content to try and build and audience on Instagram. When the people are gathered then, in front of his soap box, he will test what level of engagement they show towards him and his work.
It’s a wild west, in this regard. Rules are being made on the fly. Some experts proclaim that building an audience must be a structured process of analysis, planning, and well executed strategy. Others suggest that good work will build your audience for you. Neither one is incorrect.
Realistically, the answer returns, inevitably, to you.
What level of income do you need? You would be surprised how you can make freelancing work when you are willing to scale back on your spending.
Most importantly, however, what kind of work are you producing? Lamborghini, prior to 2003 when they were bought by Audi, used to make only 250 cars per year. Justin Bieber, on the other hand, has 52 million followers.
Recently, a guy from Ohio created a Kickstarter campaign as a satire of crowdfunding. His ‘project’ that needed funding was to make a potato salad. That’s it. Just potato salad.
5,953 backed the project. It has reached $49,070 of a $10 original goal. That’s roughly $9 a person.
Could you live on $50,000 a year?
So, there is a starting point. That’s my tribe. In a world of roughly seven billion people, I need to find at least five thousand committed fans who are willing to give me a minimum of $10 a year for my work.
How many do you need?
This will be your base. As long as you keep your tribe happy, you are free to court more fans with the quality of your work. 52 million fans, at $10 a year…
But you have to perform. You have to maintain the integrity of your work, to keep your tribe happy rather than lose them while chasing a bigger audience.
Because you have dedicated fans now.
Your fans believe in you. Your responsibility as an artist is to them.
And so you have to deliver.
Even if it’s just potato salad.
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