The newest stuff on the blog // read it while it's still fresh...

Your Signal/Noise Ratio

Frequency Spectrum showing signal and noise

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).

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.

As I recently released my first book Dance Smart, I dived a little bit more into marketing and therefore stumbled upon this topic. While I am doing a pretty good job with my Signal/Noise ratio on the blog and Facebook, my Twitter and Instagram Signal/Noise ratios suck. That’s one of my projects for 2020.

Read you all next year.

Dance Smart Available Now

Dance Smart is now available on Amazon

Finally “Dance Smart: Dance Concepts for all Hip-Hop Styles” is available. From Dec 23 to Dec 29, you can grab it at a discounted introductory price of 1 Euro for the ebook and 10 Euro for the paperback. Exact prices will vary due to your local VAT rate.

Dance Smart - Concepts for all Hip Hop Styles is now available

Here are some first reaction from early readers:

A very well written ragbag of how to improve your dancing! For me a dancer’s must-read!

Stuggi

Very useful tool-kit for everybody who wants to level up their dance!

Vanny

I also received very valuable feedback on how to improve my writing and presentation of the concepts, that will, for sure, find its way into an updated version later down the road.

Thanks everyone for the support.

Why I call it Breaking instead of B-Boying and Breakdance

Illustration with Breakdance and B-Boying/B-Girking crossed out

Today I will give you my 2 cents about terminology: Do you call it breaking or Breakdance? Or is it B-Boying? Read about my absolutely subjective, personal opinion.

It’s called Breaking

I call the dance that I love breaking. I consider it to be the correct original term, which also makes sense as B-Boys & B-Girls initially danced to the break of the record. Therefore the term B-Boy refers to Break-Boy. I am aware that Bronx-Boy is also a common meaning, but the word Bronx-Boy relates to where one comes from and not what he dances, so I go with the other one.

B-Boying is also a thing, but I’m not too fond of it

The term B-Boying is also accepted and common within our scene, but I don’t like and use it for multiple reasons:

  • It names the dance after the dancer, but the name of the dancer is, in my books, already named after the dance. You would not say Break-Boying, would you?
  • The word B-Boying does not flow well about my lips when I try to say it. 🙂
  • B-Boy and B-Girl are terms that have a gender. Using B-Boying as the name for the dance opens up a lot of questions like: Is it B-Girling if a female does that dance? If so, do we just call it different, or is it another thing? If it is another thing, can B-Girls do B-Boying and vice versa? What happens if we enter the realm of transgender and so on? For me, that whole discussion is an endless loop that I don’t want to be a part of. For me, B-Girls and B-Boys are Breakers and do Breaking.

Breakdance is the no-go

Breakdance is a term that was introduced by a British music promoter who could either not remember Breaking and made up Breakdance on the spot or just said it the wrong way.

The term has nothing to do with the people who created our dance. If you use it for promotional purposes because the uninitiated would not show up otherwise – it’s your obligation to teach them about it in your first class. Yes, I am serious about this.

Here you have it. My highly biased, personal opinion about the Breaking/B-Boying/B-Girling/Breakdance discussion.

What promo material do I need as a dancer?

promo material needed in the dance industry aka promotion papers

No matter if you have your own shows or are auditioning to be part of other productions, there will be times when people ask you for promo material. These are the things you should have ready to send at any given time.

  1. Your CV (Curriculum Vitae) or vita is a list of your education, your employment, and the freelance jobs you did. If it does not include the education part, some people call it references. If someone asks for an artist vita, include only the things relevant to dance, for a complete vita send one that provides for everything. The CV usually has one portrait picture included somewhere at the top.
  2. A Bio or Biography is a text that tells people who you are. This might be used to introduce you on a website or program booklet or anywhere else where people would be interested in who you are. Make it interesting to read and full of relevant things.
  3. When asked for your data, you should be able to provide a one-page document that contains your name, birth date, country of origin, current residence, phone number, email address, passport number, height, weight, clothing, and shoe sizes. If your numbers are good on social media, include views and followers. Your popularity can influence a decision, especially when you audition for shows, as all of your fans are potential customers.
  4. High-quality photographs. Sometimes people decide on your looks. You need a good selection of photos to send along. In auditions, often, the picture is on top of the other papers when handed out to directors or choreographers. You don’t want to waste that first impression. I recommend having three different good portraits and three or more appealing action shots. It is an advantage if you have both from different distances (face only, including shoulders, half body, full body). If possible, make sure they align with your artist identity.
  5. Videos. Potential customers want to see you dance. You should have at least one full show and a demo reel with multiple appearances online, that you can send if someone asks. You can either host them on your own website or pick a hoster like Youtube or Vimeo.
  6. Your online presence. People will check your homepage. So be sure it is up-to-date.
  7. A scan of your passport. This is not part of your regular promo material, but as soon as you are booked for a job abroad, most agencies will ask for a copy of the passport to arrange flights and hotels.

Prepare everything in pdf format and have it ready at any time. Response time is crucial. You will be fast when you have everything prepared to pull into an email and hit send. That gives you an edge over the competition that has to start looking for everything first.

My best Memories of Red Bull BC One 2019 in Mumbai

India's B-Boy Flying Machine posing in the streets of Mumbai
India's B-Boy Flying Machine posing in the streets of Mumbai. Photo: Dean Treml/Red Bull Content Pool

Yesterday I came back home from the Red Bull BC One World Final 2019, which went down in Mumbai/India. The trip was an outstanding experience, and I want to share some of my experiences here. As Manny and I already covered the event itself as part of our work, I will not talk about everything that happened there. You can find the links to those stories below:

Flying Machine disses Robin while jumping
Flying Machine from India vs Robin from Ukraine.
Photo: Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

I want to share my experiences with the Indian dance scene and the culture instead. Here is what stood out at my time in Mumbai:

  1. The hospitality: being friendly and helpful seems to be part of the culture in India. Never before, I have experienced a welcome as warm and honest as during that stay in Mumbai.
  2. The enthusiasm for the hip hop culture: the Indian dancers celebrated the dance, the music, and the gathering in the name of hip hop on a whole other level when compared to events in Europe. As Poe One pointed out, most of these dancers have never been outside of their country, and seeing all the dancers that they only know from videos alive in their home country made the crowd go wild.
  3. The positive vibes in the Cyphers: Sadly, I didn’t have the time to dance with the local guys a lot, but I managed to make my way into one cypher during the camp. What should I say? My level is nowhere near that of a BC One competitor or even a BC One Cypher winner. Nevertheless, the dancers cheered for everyone and appreciated every round that was rocked in the circles. Also interesting: when the music was right, breakers and hip hop dancers shared the cyphers without the urgent need for separating. Watch and learn, Austria. 🙂
  4. The freedom in dance. Probably as a result of the two points above, most dancers (also from abroad) had an easy time to let go of the pressure that comes from the competitive mindset that usually is present in our dance. That led to people dancing more freely and giving way funkier rounds than we are used to.
  5. The will to connect: During the World Final itself, I was sitting in a sector with dozens of b-boys from India. Connecting with these guys was super easy, and we casually exchanged opinions and stories during the finals.

All in all, this trip was an outstanding experience, and I learned a lot about life and dance in these few days. Also, the energy of the dancers from India refueled my desire to get back into dancing.

All that’s left to say is: Thank you so much for the beautiful experience and the outstanding trip. ābhārī hōṅ

Red Flags to watch out for when signing an artist agency contract

A red flag that warns you about signing the contract.

You are ready to launch into the dance industry and found an agency that is eager to sign you? That’s amazing. But be careful and take the time to read your contract to avoid signing with a scammy agency. Sadly they are out there. Here are some points you should look out for. All of them in isolation might be fine, but when more of them come together, you might rethink if you can trust that agency.

Membership Fees

Real agencies know they earn money with every job you dance. Therefore they don’t ask for any fee to include you in their catalog. Some real agencies have this as well to prevent people who are not serious from applying. But if you want to ignore it, make sure that none of the other points is a match as well.

An exhaustive catalog that lacks definition

If the agency has a million different artists without a clear direction or categorization, this is a problem. Especially if it comes together with membership fees. Do the math yourself. If you take the membership fee, they asked for and multiply it with the artist in the catalog, is there an additional need for the agency to sell any jobs or are they already set?

No active promotion

If they don’t offer any other promotion besides the catalog on their website, they probably don’t put in any work. Ignore this for agencies that are big in their respective industries.

No detail interest in you or your work

If the agency is asking for no or very little detail or reference material, you should ask yourself how are they going to sell you. The same goes if they never ask for updates of your work or references.

When your agency contract has multiple of the issues mentioned reconsider, don't sign it.

Automated registration

If you can sign up online and pop up on their homepage without ever talking (or writing) with an actual human, it does not look like there is an interest in providing quality as obviously nobody reviewed your application.

You need to use their photographer or videographer

When your material is good, and they still want you to create new things with their photographer or camera guys, and you need to pay for it. If they cover the costs, it should be fine.

They don’t require a written contract

A contract is there to secure both parties in your working relationship. Only forgo this if you know that guys personally and you trust them.

Sign Now

If they use a time-constraint to put pressure on you to sign the contract. If they see your work as a benefit for their agency and not only your money, there is no reason to make a fast deal but a good one.

You know nobody

If the agency is active in your area, it is improbable that you know nobody in their catalog. Check with your circle if anyone knows the other dancers to find out if they are real or fake.

Not every agency is a scam, and there is no need for paranoia. But when you encounter multiple of the points above, it is probably wise to continue your search instead of signing.

Booking Agency vs Self Booking – a comparison

Booking Agency vs Self Booking

Having enough shows to dance is one of the central points of setting up your dance business when you choose performances as part of your portfolio. There are two general approaches to it: having one or more agents taking care of it or doing it yourself. Both ways have their advantages that we will look into right now.

Working with an agent or agency.

The two main benefits of having an agent are that you can focus on your dance and shows without getting distracted and that the agent probably has a much bigger network of potential customers than you. These two points alone are reason enough for most artists to work with an agent. In fact, I recommend working with an agent if you can. When making performances a central part of your dance business, you should always have new shows and skills ready. It helps when you can put the hours you would need for booking into your abilities and appearances.

The downsides of the work with an agent are that a part of the fee that the customer pays goes to the agent and that in some cases, you don’t have complete control about how your act is presented. Both things can be countered. The fee thing by putting in the contract with the agency that their fee goes on top of yours and the presentation issue by providing high-quality material on your own. This means you already have good photos, a visually pleasing description of your act, a trailer, and a fully recorded show available. The agent will then work with what you provide.

It is crucial to set up a contract with your agency that regulates precisely how the partnership works, so both parties can benefit from it. Here are the points to cover:

  • What do you have to provide?
  • What does the agent do to acquire shows for you? Does he only sell your existing shows or also send you to auditions for other productions? Does the agency provide additional advertising material? If yes, do you have the last word regarding the content?
  • How much is the agent’s fee, and is it on top or part of your payment?
  • Can you book shows on your own or with another agent? An exclusive contract would mean that all the shows you dance have to be booked via that agency. A non-exclusive agreement allows you to do work without that agency, as well. I recommend not to sign an exclusive deal, except the agent guarantees a volume of work that is sufficient for you, as part of the written contract.
  • Reaction times. Both parties need to get a quick response from the other one. You need to confirm availability or fees quickly. The agent needs to bring all the necessary info for the shows and should take care of customer questions. More often than not, he will need answers from you for that.
  • Payment conditions. Do you invoice the customer, and the agent invoices you for their fee, or does he invoice the customer, and you invoice the agent? In both cases, you should be fast and know how to write a proper invoice.

One thing about good manners: when you are booked via an agency, you also represent them to a certain degree. Be professional and don’t hand out private business cards. When you are there via an agency, they usually provide business cards that you can hand out to people who are looking for a show. Even if your contract is non-exclusive, it is not ok to bypass the agency with follow up jobs. If they don’t provide cards, ask them what contact you should give away if asked.

Doing it on your own.

The advantage of being a self-booker is total control. But this control also comes with sole responsibility. You will keep all the money, but if you sweat aspects of the business, your show numbers will be low.

You should set up a website, promo material that you can send out, be fast to reply to customer inquiries, and be good with networking. Obviously, you don’t need a contract with yourself, but you think about having contracts with your customers. It is not necessary in every case, but when there are disagreements, a contract helps to solve them fast.

When you work without an agent, it is also easier to experiment with the price of your shows as you can change it on the fly to cope with the customer situation.

Here are the essential points to have in mind:

  • Be reachable. Reply to your emails every workday and answer your phone. Not responding fast enough might equal a missed show opportunity.
  • Be able to send promo material fast. This means you have it collected in a folder that you can send as an email attachment, and you also have it online where you only need to send a link. Be able to send that link from your smartphone for faster response time.
  • If you dance together with others, make it clear that they need to be able to confirm availability fast as well. You can not confirm a show before you know you have the dancers available.
  • Be proactive, approach potential customers with show offers that fit their needs.
  • Do your homework. When you approach customers, research what they are doing and on what scale. A small society will have another budget than a multi-million dollar company. Don’t be the guy who knows nothing about the people he talks to.
  • Know your worth. Your show has a price. Be sure about the starting point for your negotiations before picking up the phone or writing an email. You can adapt along the way. Talk about the price early in your negotiations. Don’t fix details, book hotels, or flights before you agreed on your fee. It’s a negotiation tactic to agree on many parts, so you are already in the mood of saying yes, and save the weak spot for the end. Don’t fall into that trap, especially when you are not used to negotiations.  
  • Know your needs. Customers need to know what are the prerequisites for your show. How many space do you need? Floor conditions? How many people are traveling and performing? Do you bring the sound digital or a CD? Do you need separate dressing rooms, or is one enough? Wam Up space? If you are far away from home, consider hotel and food. Travel costs, if you go by car. Depending on your show, not everything might be applicable, or there might be additional points. You have to know those.

My general recommendation is to go with an agent who offers you a non-exclusive deal. It saves you so much time that you can invest in honing your craft, which will ultimately keep on top of your game. The non-exclusive agreement allows you to join a dance company that books their own gigs and also take show requests that come directly to you.

How to get more dance jobs?

a list of important factors to book more shows

A central question for everyone who dances shows for money is: “How do I get to dance more shows?” Today we talk about the general points you have to consider, without going into detail. The execution of every aspect can differ a lot from dancer to dancer, and we will look at those details at a later time.

Here are 6 points to consider to maximize your amount of shows:

  1. Reach out to people proactively. There are a lot of potential clients out there that don’t know about you, or even about hip hop dance. If you get the word out, the chances are good that additional work comes in. You can either do this yourself or with an agent. A post about this is coming up next week.
  2. Don’t do wack shows. Every show that you put out is a testament to your work and your work ethics. Always assume that the people who matter to your business and can take it to the next level, see the difference if you put in the work to make it great or sweat it because you think nobody will recognize it. We all have been there, where we think: “we can just freestyle it”. Probably we can, but there might be the guy who danced himself before who sees that you did not put any effort into the show. And he might be the one who is looking for an act for his own company, that is ten times the size of the job you freestyled.
  3. Network and be present. If it’s not part of your job to disappear after the show, stay awhile and network. There will be people who want to talk to you. Use this opportunity to acquire new contacts that might turn into clients later. A little bit of people skills help a lot in this one. If you have someone in your team who is outstanding at it, send him or her. 
  4. Be easy to find. If people are looking for shows, make sure that your website or social media profiles are easy to find and make clear that you offer what they look for.
  5. Have the promotion material for your work. If someone asks where he can see some of your work, you should be immediately able to point him to an online resource where he can find videos and images.
  6. Don’t gamble with your reputation. People talk. When you leave a lousy impression somewhere, it will spread.

How to make it as a dancer by performing?

A dancer doing a freeze and the headline

After covering the most reliable possibility of dance income, teaching, we will take a closer look at performances as a work field. Here is an overview of what you will need to be successful as a dancer on stage.

Performing is the one thing that comes to mind for most people when they think about making a living from dancing. It also a prestigious way as dancing on stage suggests a high-level and therefore a high status. Sadly these expectations and reality do not align all the time. People who pay for dance are not always able to tell the difference between a skilled dancer and someone who is not yet there. But it is a serious mistake to assume you don’t have to do your best.

We want to be part of the guys who 1) live up to the expectations that are out there and 2) stand out from the mass of people who present their dance, before being ready. It will allow us to demand higher fees without even raising the question of why we are more expensive than the breaking crew from the youth center around the corner.

Here is what I think we need to stand out:

  1. Dance skills. No need to go into detail, you need to be able to dance well.
  2. Remembering Choreography. You can get away without being able to do that if you are a freestyle dancer from the scene, but there is no way you get around it when you are looking into performance. Some people would consider this as part of dance skills, but there are a lot of people who dance amazing but can’t remember their choreography. When you do a lot of auditions, it is also a significant advantage if you can pick up choreography fast.
  3. Stage Presence. A particular quality of looking good on stage. It is the sum of multiple factors that we can sum up as confidence, control, and projection (sending out your experience to the audience). I am working on a tag-team publication with Da Bürgermasta on this topic.
  4. Discipline. Not only on the floor and in the training sessions. Every show demands a different mindset and preparation. It is easy to fall into the “we can freestyle that” trap. Probably you can freestyle it and get away with it often, but you will give away the opportunity to max your impact and impressing that one lady that might have booked you for the next gig.
  5. A way to get your jobs. This can be an agent. It can be yourself checking the internet all the time. It can be being in a dance company that takes care of it or even has its own stage. Often people who try to make it in the dance industry overlook that acquiring gigs is part of the work you do. All your other skills don’t matter if no one books you.
  6. The show. Depending on how you get your jobs, having a show ready might be on you or not. If you are self-organized, you also have to make sure there is something you can perform. All aspects of show production will be a topic on the blog, as soon as we finished with the performance topic.
  7. The ability to handle the business side of things. As soon as you are doing jobs that pay, you will need to be able to provide invoices. With invoices come taxes and insurance – basic accounting. If you can’t write a valid invoice, business partners will not pay you.
  8. The professional spirit. Even though professional means you do something for a living, there are much more things that are attached to that label. Being on time, having all of the stuff above down, the ability to understand the reason why your show is booked and adapting it to the needs of the customer (not valid in every situation). People also expect you to be dressed appropriately for the occasion of your show and to be able to handle basic conversation before and after the show. 

So in short, there is a lot of stuff that improves your chances of being successful as a performer. Think about the point above. Which ones do you have down? Which ones do you lack? Are there any you were not aware of?

Next week we start to go into detail with the ways to get your jobs.

Creating more Moves with Transmutation

Sketch of the Transmutation process

An extensive vocabulary of moves helps you to look fresh in a cypher or on stage. Create multiple steps from the same source material by changing the details of a move. We call this transmutation.

This concept teaches you how to create similar moves that flow well together from one single original movement.

  1. Choose a move that you want to work with. It can be a move from your vocabulary or a move from someone else. We will flip it, so don’t worry about biting now.
  2. Change one part of the move. Either detail or a sequence. Just pick something to change. The result is your first variation.
  3. Go back to step #1 but with this variation as the move to change.
  4. Repeat as many times as you want.
  5. If your original material was from someone else, consider not using the first few variations as someone might call you out for biting. You should be safe after flipping it 3 to 5 times.
  6. When creating your variations, take your time & dig deep.

This easy way to works with moves helps you to create a consistent type of moves that is similar but not the same. It will help you to create more transmutations of the stuff that feels right and therefore enhances your performance on the dancefloor.

The idea for this concept came from the concept of melody variation in music. I already published it a while ago in the German language. Now it is back in English.