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business dance espresso

How to maintain a great signal to noise ratio?

When we talk about marketing, one of the things we should be aware of is our Signal/Noise ratio. The metaphor refers to a technical issue from analog radio broadcasts. When you communicate via radio, you have to listen on the same frequency as the sender is broadcasting and vice versa. If you are slightly off the frequency, you hear the broadcast but with a lot of hisses. If you are far away from the frequency you receive either only hiss, aka noise, or another signal (that you are not looking for).

Let’s grab a Dance Espresso over that topic:

What does Signal/Noise ration mean as a metaphor?

In times of social media, we all broadcast continuously with our posts, likes, shares, tweets, and whatever. If we are smart with our marketing strategy, and if we know our goals and artist identity, we aspire to send a lot of signal, while avoiding to add noise. Signal would be everything that aligns with our purposes, the message we want to spread, and the thing we want to be associated with. Noise is everything that has nothing to do with our signal or even distracts from it.

An example: when we want to spread a message about dancing, choreographing, and traveling the world, everything that is about our dancing and seeing exciting places works as a signal. But posting our daily coffee is a distraction, as are videos from our cats. Those two would be adding noise.

Who defines what noise is?

You do. Only you decide what it is that you want to “broadcast” to the world. It’s not essential what you send out if you only have a private channel and want to connect with friends. But as soon as your social media channels are part of your business, defining and sticking to your signal matters. It’s part of your promise to the world.

How much noise is fine?

Again, that is a question that only you can answer. It depends heavily on what strategy you have to connect with your followers. Noise is everywhere on the frequency spectrum, so it might help you to reach people you might not reach without it. But noise also waters down the value of your broadcast for everyone who is looking for your signal. As a rule of thumb: When you want to be perceived as an expert in your field and it is a niche, keep the noise level low. If you want to reach a broad audience, the noise percentage can be higher. If it’s not possible to differentiate between signal and noise, the noise is too high.

When I released my first book Dance Smart, I dived a little bit more into marketing and therefore stumbled upon this topic. While I am did a pretty good job with my Signal/Noise ratio on the blog, my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Signal/Noise ratios sucked. I gradually improved that over 2020 but I am still not there

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business

How brutal honesty improves your artistic growth

Brutal honesty sounds like an evil thing. But in reality, it is a state of mind that will calibrate your expectations and help you to plan your next steps more accurate, which will lead to faster growth in your art, business and character.

Honesty is telling the truth to ourselves and others. Integrity is living that truth.

Kenneth H. Blanchard

Unrealistic self-talk is sabotage

Sadly, I know too many people who have an unrealistic image of their capabilities and skills. This issue goes both ways and is rarely a matter of the wrong point of view. We have those who think they are really good or even exceptional at something, while barely scratching the surface. On the other hand, some people don’t trust their skills enough and put themselves down while doing outstanding work.

Both of these extremes are unhealthy for the development of your craft and character. Being able to execute ten footwork steps with two different rhythms does not make one good at footwork. It means you should invest more time into it, to make it out of beginner territory. And doubting your performance abilities, when your dance reaches strangers emotionally is stupid as well. If you can do that, develop it further and be proud that you can have such an impact on stage.

Brutal honesty only hurts in the short-term

When you are honest with yourself and admit weaknesses, you can build a path of action based on a realistic starting point. This will lead to much faster results, than plotting your journey from a moment you did not even reach yet. 

You might feel uncomfortable by accepting that you are not as advanced as you are in a particular field. Still, the immediate improvement of your onwards journey, due to realistic expectations, will make up for it and bring you to a much brighter place in the long game.

Also, you decide how harsh or gentle your self-talk is. Honesty is not related to the tone of voice you apply.

You don't need a crystal ball to map out your future, being brutally honest about your starting point, will do as well.
photo: Tomas Kirvėla via Scopio

Brutal honesty is not the enemy of affirmations or self-motivation

When you are realistic about your situation, there is nothing wrong in positive self-talk and affirming yourself that you can achieve something. The step from self-delusion to trying to motivate yourself to do better is in knowing your current situation. Affirmations should help yourself to believe you can achieve something, not to cloud your judgment.

Honesty is often very hard. The truth is often painful. But the freedom it can bring is worth the trying.

Fred Rogers

Brutal honesty with others

When we talk to others, the case is similar. If we genuinely care about someone, we should not add to their delusion. In the long term, we do them a much bigger favour, if we tell them the truth and help them grow instead of reassuring them in a wrong image of their selves.

Considering we know these people well, we can tune the tone of our words to their emotional state and give nice suggestions instead of harsh critique.

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blog

Breaking at Olympia 2024: What will happen?

On December 7, 2020, the IOC officially approved breaking as a discipline at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. That’s exciting news for competitive breaking, but the dance scene is ambivalent about it. There is widespread concern that the essence of our dance might get lost, once it gets drawn into the world of sports.

The risk of breakdance being part of the Olympic Games

The biggest fear that is around in the dance scene is that breaking will become detached from its cultural roots and the bigger part of the world will perceive it as an acrobatic form of sports, instead of an art form that goes hand in hand with cultural values. There is nothing we can say to debunk this claim. That is a possibility, but it is not inevitable.

How the wider public (outside the dance scene) perceives breaking will depend on how the competitions are judged and who the judges will be. If we are honest about this point, there is no difference to events that are happening right now. Depending on the judges panel, the character of events changes a lot.

Also, the mainstream media and therefore, the majority of people worldwide already perceive our dance as acrobatics and not a dance. When we ask random people about breaking, they have no idea what we mean. When we ask about breakdance, they know it is about spinning on your head.

The advantages of breaking at Olympia

With breaking becoming an Olympic discipline, its exposure will be much bigger. As mentioned before, there lies the risk of creating the wrong image in many minds. But if you pay attention to the discussion and the signs that Olympia sends out, they at least try to do it right. They call it Breaking instead of Breakdance, even though the majority of people are not familiar with that name. So they are, at least, aware of the responsibility.

The bigger exposure will create a lot of opportunities for dancers to earn more money and educate the public (if they choose to do so). The older generation will be able to judge and share their view about dance and culture. The young generation will have an additional platform to test their skills. This platform will most likely be the one with the most attention when we count eyeballs. This attention will lead to even more brands and sponsors come on-board for breaking, which opens up opportunities for people to make a living from breaking.

Will breaking change because of its inclusion into the Olympic Games?

Yes and No. We will see an increased focus on the athletic aspects of the dance. The young generation is already pushing the boundaries of what can be done. Olympia will only speed up this development, but it is not its sole reason. Breaking has always been a phenomenon living in the twilight between art and sports, and the aspect that caught people’s initial attention was the acrobatics. This will not change.

The jams, battles and gatherings were we celebrate the culture will not go away, just because there is an additional platform. Underground events that are true to the culture will still be around, and they are not competing with sports competitions. It will be in the power and responsibility of all the b-girls and b-boys participating in significant sports events, like Olympia, to represent our culture appropriately. This includes competitors, but also judges, consultants and even visitors who are familiar with the culture.

Manny talked to Red Bull BC One 2020 E-Battle Champ and World Final Runner-Up Madmax about the balance between being an athlete and an artist. Also, Tracy interviewed Ayane, talking about her point of view when thinking about Paris 2024. I highly recommend you read them both.

We need to play it smart instead of being stubborn

If we want to stay relevant in this thing, we need to play it smart, instead of insisting on being right because we were there before Olympia and other big players. There is a lot to do around big competitions with worldwide participation and media coverage. And we (as people that live in and love the scene) are not good at these things yet, because we never deemed them essential.

I am talking about commentators, analysts, documentation, physical and mental training methods, coaching, mentoring, own independent media coverage – no matter if it is written, video or audio – and many more things that are part of any big competition. People that cover sports for decades have that shit down, and we are just getting started. Of course, some single individuals and companies play the game already, but as a whole scene, we don’t. This could become an issue as people with no interest in the culture would coin the public opinion.

It is up to us to develop the abilities to fill as many of these needed roles as possible. Even for dancers that don’t compete, there are opportunities to bring their expertise and do jobs linked to their passion. Some might even find out that these new opportunities suit them better than competing themselves. The potential to make it happen is there. But it will be a rough ride to level up fast enough to be ready for the competition in 2024. One question remains: Is it important enough for us to try, or will we stay on the sidelines and hate about others making their moves?

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blog business

How to properly research a topic

Research is an essential component in most contemporary works of art and also in a lot of jobs that aren’t related to art at all. The opinions what research is and how to research appropriately vary by great lengths. This is my point of view on this topic.

Not all research is equal

Depending on your project, your requirements for research will differ. In a scientific paper, you will need to quote all sources, verify their credibility and do so as well for the sources of your sources, if you want to be taken seriously. When you research for an artistic project like a stage piece, it might be sufficient to find opinions instead of facts, so the need for verification of every source might not be needed. 

If your art wanders into the fields of political activism (which is indeed often the case and the premise for the core of this article), you better dig deep and make sure that you are telling the truth or you risk to lose all credibility when it easy to debunk your claims. People tend to not believe people again, once they could find a lie themselves.

No research is ever quite complete. It is the glory of a good bit of work that it opens the way for something still better, and this repeatedly leads to its own eclipse.

Mervin Gordon

Tools of research

Access to information via the internet seems to make research much easier than ever before. This is partially true. It is easier than ever before to find info about every topic, but the quality of that information is not as reliable as it was in a time when putting out information was harder to do.

  1. Nevertheless, our research usually starts online. Google the topic. Make your search specific and not generic. If you consider censorship and filter-bubbles as an issue (you should) do the same search with another search engine (like duckduckgo) that is not based on Google.
  2. Search social networks, discussion forums, community pages and specialized sites for info on the topic. Don’t stop after checking Facebook and Youtube. These two platforms are owned by the biggest corporations that earn money, with your data and preferences. They cater strongly to what they think you want to read. Specific discussion forums and alternative networks that don’t earn money with your data should be your preferred sources online. Examples would be reddit or the social network minds. Which platforms you go to depends on the topics you search for. I already wrote about alternative social media platforms, if you want to dig deeper into that topic.
  3. Check out documentaries about the topic.
  4. During steps 1 – 3, you hopefully picked up some names of experts for your topic. Grab their books from the library if they published something, check their blog, social media and whatever is available. If possible, get in contact and talk or write with them.
  5. If they reference others in their work, repeat the steps above with those people as well. This can be a time-consuming loop until you really get to the point when you find the source of something.
A visit in the library to grab some books should be part of every serious research project.
Your resarch should also lead you to the library, not only to your laptop.
Photo by Aleksey Popov on Scopio.

Golden rules

  1. Don’t prefer one opinion over the other, just because it suits your point of view. Check all theories with the same enthusiasm and depth of research, until you debunk or confirm them.
  2. The fewer sources you have, the less reliable your information.
  3. The farther away your sources are from the origin of the information, the less reliable your info.
  4. Spreading false information will hurt your reputation.
  5. So will sharing misleading information.
  6. If you consider your topics to be the target of censorship and your primary sources are platforms that use algorithms to decide what they show you, you are doing it wrong. 

In the end, research always comes down to asking the right questions. Only you can know what these questions should. Be honest to yourself and invest enough time to come up with everything important to your project.

Categories
blog dance espresso

Social media is not the problem

Often we tend to feel that social media is keeping us from doing more important or more productive things. But saying social media is the problem is a serious misinterpretation of the case.

If we hang out online instead of doing stuff we want to do – the problem are our priorities. Because we just don’t want it enough. Facebook and friends can be ignored if we really have something to do.

via GIPHY

Recently I made a Dance Espresso about that topic. Bottom-line: we need to be the master of our digital life or we will become it’s slave.

Categories
documentation

Stuff to read about the Red Bull BC One World Final 2020

Over the weekend, I worked on the Red Bull BC One World Final 2020 as part of the editorial team. Here is a list of the stuff we wrote about the event and the winners. (some stories are not linked as they are not yet published)

My favorite quotes from the weekend

My secret is I am not afraid to lose. I am just in the moment and want to represent myself in the best way, the true way.

Kastet

As long as we love dancing and music, we are happy, you know. […] We can do in 2021 for sure. So just stay strong and see you in 2021.

Shigekix

Watch the Replay of the Red Bull BC One 2020

Last year, I wrote a little bit about the 2019 Red Bull BC One World Final in India if you want to check on that.

Categories
dance espresso

But you are not a pro!

Sometimes people use really stupid things to try and diss each other, like the phrase “but you are not a pro.” It is absolutely beyond me, how anyone could think this is a clever way to diss somebody. Check it out in the new Dance Espresso.

Reasons why “but you are not a pro” is absolutely bonkers

  • Being a pro is not related to your level on the dance floor but comes down to a lot of other skills too
  • Not becoming a pro can be a smart decision for a lot of people who want to keep their passion pure and not connected to the need for making money
  • Dissing somebody for his job choices should not be a thing at all. Don’t we have better stuff to do? I think, we have.
Categories
dance espresso

How to give proper feedback and who not to ask

This is a follow-up to the previous episode of Dance EspressoChris Cross and Parrish had good comments about feedback and how to give feedback properly.

If asked, offer valuable feedback

When somebody approaches you and asks for your opinion “It was nice” is not an appropriate answer. At least not, if you care for the person that is asking. If you genuinely care for the person, tell them what you liked, what you disliked, and what you would change. If you are capable of doing so, tell them the reasons for it.

Offering this detailed response, you give them something to work with, which will help them to grow in their craft. There is a particular trend that goes hand in hand with the nonsense called political correctness, where people don’t offer any critique to spare the artist a negative emotional response. While most consider that being nice, it is irresponsible to value the short-term comfort of the artist over long-term growth. If you care, be honest.

Do not correct a fool, or he will hate you; correct a wise man, and he will appreciate you.

Don’t even bother asking the wrong people

Please don’t waste your time, getting feedback from people who do what I mentioned above. You know who in your circle is never giving negative feedback. That is either because they love everything, or are not used to speak their mind to share something real, because they are too worried about your feelings.

Let me ask for feedback

Let me know if you dig Dance Espresso. What would you do different? Where do you see room for improvement? What topics do you want to see next? There is a long list of topics I can cover, but I think running this more like an open exchange, would be much more fun. Feel free to drop a comment or reach out via email or dm.

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business

Dance Business Possibilities: How to make it work

Last week we talked about the elements that we need to master to run a dance business (and I strongly believe it is the same for almost every other business) and become a professional dancer. What we did not cover are the actual possibilities that we have to create income with. I separate those into primary possibilities and secondary ones. The primary ones being the things that directly involve your dancing skills and the secondary ones being things that you can apply your dance knowledge to and therefore turn them into dance-related work.

Let’s look at the primary ones. While all of these are very diverse on the inside, you can split it up into four general activities.

Performing

Performing can be summed up by “dancing for an audience”. It is not relevant what kind of “piece” you perform or in what “stage situation”. Productions can be contemporary pieces, dance theatre, muscials, commercial shows, streetshows and performing for movies, music videos or ads in front of a camera. If you put in the work, performing can bring you a stable income.

For most of us performing is done on a freelance base where you write an invoice and must take care of everything tax-related yourself. If you are really lucky you can get into a standing company that can employ you. In this case, they would pay for your insurance and tax. The downside of performing is that it is not completely in your hand how many shows you can do, because you never know how many gigs you will book.

Teaching is your solid base for any dance business

Out of these four primary work fields teaching is the one that is most reliable in terms of a steady income. It might not be the one you can earn the most money with, but it provides a good amount of stability and security. As soon as you have your classes established and running you know how many people come to you. Therefore you know how much cash will be in your pocket at the end of the month.

Teaching can be done as a freelancer or employed. Depending on the laws in your country, only one of these options might be legal. The downside of teaching: if you have a lot of classes it might feel like a regular job and can get boring if you are not good at motivating yourself.

Choreography

Creating the choreography for performances, shows or camerawork is one of the opportunities that can earn you a lot of money in a short time. If you are booked by a big production to do this job you develop the dance and rehearse with the cast until they can do it. Then your job is done.

While they do the performances, you are already good to go and work on the next job. Downside: You need some strong references or a good network to book the jobs that pay well.

Competing is part of the marketing for your dance business

You can earn money by winning battles. There is price money out there. But the events that have a proper amount of it are rare, and the competition is fierce. If you are not top of the pops – this will not work.

In my opinion, competitions should never be seen as an income stream. There are other reasons to join competitions like building your name, testing your skills and having fun, but for most of us, it is not an option to rely on.

So far so good, let’s look into some secondary possibilities that can directly benefit your dance career development:

Working in or running an artist agency

An evergreen that has tremendous value. If you are doing the booking in an agency that books dancers you might be able to book some good jobs for yourself or for your crew. As no serious agency gives gigs to people they don’t know you are going to meet a lot of people aspiring to a dance career that might be future colleagues on stages.

Therefore you are sitting on the source for jobs and potential new colleagues. Of course, your agency needs to be cool with you doing this, but if you do great work and have the skills to convince on stage, there should not be a problem. On a side note: if you are running the agency yourself it’s no problem at all.

Producing stage pieces

This one is big. It is a shitload of work but can pay off. I live in Austria and at the time I started there was no hip hop dance theatre in the country. In 2006 we started working on changing that – and we did. In the last 10 years, Austrian dance companies, crews and solo artists created more than 15 pieces in a genre that did not exist before in our country. I call this good work. *brofist to everyone who did a piece or show, you guys know who you are*

At the start, most people tend to choreograph and dance in the pieces they produce. So you just created the opportunity for you to do more work. If you are creating pieces for more dancers, you start meeting new people again and grow your network.

Making the event

Creating Dance Events is as big as producing for the stage. You help your scene to grow. You build opportunities and depending on your kind of event you get to dance yourself. Possible events are jams, competitions, theatre, workshops and so on. You can get really creative with this one. The best thing about making events happen is that you really meet a lot of people that dance too. If you treat them well they will eventually become a great addition to your professional network.

And now on to some possibilities that where you can fill a niche that might be unreachable for someone without dance background.

This list is a little bit longer and more creative than the one before. Most of the following jobs are perfectly doable without any knowledge about dance. But being able to dance or having the daily practise that you need to stay on top of your game will give you an edge here. In some cases, you can use your knowledge to become an expert in a niche, which is always an advantage. The list is in no specific order.

Photography/Videography

I put those two together, which does not mean you need to do both, but all points are valid for both. Every event that wants to grow requires proper documentation or ads. As a dancer, you have a better understanding of what to shoot and can produce better images. You can also use this to create products like photo books, prints or movies that might give you some income through sales.

Writing

Dancing is trendy at the moment, and a lot of companies are investing in the scene to grow their revenue. If there is some expert knowledge needed for blogs, copy or whatever, your experience sets you apart from the people who can write but know nothing (like john snow). If you have valuable stuff to say you might be able to publish a book and create income through sales.

Commentary

Be it on your own channels, on tv productions for upcoming big events, or online live streams. Breaking (which we don’t call Breakdance, remember?) is slowly entering the realms of sports and sports have commentators. With Olympia 2024 incoming, all the qualifying events that lead up to it and even existing events like the yearly Red Bull BC One World Final, that already has multilungal commentary, the demand for dance expertise will only rise.

Acting

Sometimes a role asks for someone well versed with moving and doing stuff with his body that untrained people can’t. I produced short movies myself and heard more than once that it is so refreshing to see “actors” on the screen that know how to move.

Modelling

Most dancers that practise hard have a physique that goes well with being a model. As you train your body regularly you are always in shape when a request comes in. I have a lot of colleagues that do model and dance back to back. The only bad thing about modelling: if you are a living photobomb like me, it does not work.

DJing

Dance needs music. The DJ provides it. While you are not actively dancing behind the decks, you are there at a lot of events and get paid. On good events, the DJs does not have to work the whole night alone. In that case, there is still time to hit the cyphers when your backup is playing.

Producing Music

When you have the taste and the skills to create danceable music: go for it. Dancers are always on the search for new music. If you can deliver, you have nothing to worry about. This is another one that can add money from selling your music or through royalties.

Fitness Trainer

New trends are coming up in the fitness world every day. At the moment of this writing, Breakletics is a thing, as well as dance fitness. If you are into this stuff, you can seriously pimp your income because people are fast in spending money on their “healthy lifestyle”. I did some of those earlier in my career, and these were the most profitable classes with the most participants I ever had. And this might go very well with being a fitness model for the club you are working at.

Yoga/Pilates/whateva teacher

This one could be in the other category (stuff that aids your dance career) as well. Some people get deep into Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais or some similar practises. While I am well aware that those are very different, this makes no difference in our business perspective. If you get deep enough into something, teaching might come naturally for you. That is the case here. Like the fitness trainer above, it is one hell of a chance to add substantially to your income. Some of my friends established themselves as the dance experts in physiotherapy. A smart move and it works. Maybe you can design a yoga class tailored to the need of dancers.

Judging

I almost forgot about this one. If you build yourself a reputation that will get you invited to judge significant events, then you can earn money with judging. This said you need to get to the big battles. Smaller competitions can pay you most of the time, but the income is not significant.

I am pretty sure I forgot something, probably a lot of things. If you can think of additional dance business ideas, let me know in the comments and I will add it to the list. And I will give credits for helping me out. With the work fields above there is one important thing. While you can make money with them, you need to be good. Doing any of those bad will damage your reputation while killing time you should use for dancing. So there is no easy-going in any of those.

Secondary work fields are things where you do not actively dance, so they take away time from your dancing. This sounds not too beneficial at first sight but there are reasons why you might want to include secondary work fields in your job setup.

  1. your secondary job benefits your active dance career (the first list of secondaries)
  2. your knowledge of dance qualifies you for a job that non-dancers could not do or makes your results better than from a non-dancer (the second list of secondaries). This makes negotiating higher fees/salary easier.
  3. you are not yet able to support all your financial needs by dancing alone.
  4. you are not that much into “the hustle” and appreciate the stable extra income.
  5. the point we never want to talk about: a lot of the secondaries can provide stability and income when you are not able to dance because of an injury or because you need a break or even when it is time to say goodbye to your active dance career. I know we don’t talk about this. But it is wise to think about it and have a plan.

As a research task for you on the path to becoming a fulltime dance entrepreneur and creating your personal dance business plan (fancy wordings over here) think about which of the possibilities above might work for you. Where do you have the right skills? What do you enjoy? What would be a thing that you would love to learn that could play into your work in a reasonable amount of time? Go through your options and map them out on paper. There is power in seeing what you can do in writing.

Categories
blog dance espresso

4 important things to consider when receiving feedback

As we talked about showing our art to the world, the next inevitable step in the chain is receiving feedback. Sometimes because we ask for it, sometimes because people want to share their thoughts. Getting other people’s thoughts about our work is probably the best way to learn about things and improve what we do. Here are 4 crucial things to understand when listening to feedback, in Dance Espresso episode 4.

Don’t confuse the messenger for the message

We should be able to separate our personal feelings for the persons who feedback from what they are saying. Being likable does not make one’s opinion more valuable or right. More often than not, the most valuable input comes from people who don’t sugarcoat what they have to say. Try to give every opinion the same amount of thought from your side, no matter whose it is. And please, don’t get upset without listening.

Don’t take fighting advice from people who never stood in the arena

Try to get feedback from people who have experience in what you are doing. When we talk about dance, get your input from dancers, choreographers, producers, directors, or dance curators, producers. Everybody is quick to judge art. When applying this feedback, you should be aware of the audience you are creating for. If you want to reach the masses, listening to a lot of amateur feedback will help, but if you want to grow in your work, it might be a better idea to reach out to fellow artists.

Immediate reactions vs. well-considered feedback

The third point also depends on what feedback you are looking for. Today it is prevalent to present something and ask for feedback immediately. This practice gives you the first impression of the people, which can be what you are looking for. If you are doing a piece of work that is intricate and needs time to unfold in the viewer’s mind, giving them time is the better thing to do as the material needs to germinate to have its full impact. The more simple the matter, the less important it is to give people time to think about it.

A business sidenote: when you present a complex issue or solution with many implications, don’t pressure your colleagues into quick feedback without having the time to think it through.

Sort out some feedback

In the end, we are talking about your work. It is about your style, your view of the world, and your way of doing things. When a response makes no sense for you, goes against what you are trying to achieve, or simply is stupid. Please ignore it.