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).
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
The Artist Identity is at the core of your marketing process. Most issues in independent (means self-made) marketing come from the lack of definition and therefore the potential fans not knowing what to expect. The Artist Identity is a universal idea that is as true in the dance industry as it is in the music business or any other endeavor that requires Marketing. But what is it?
The artist identity is a curated version of yourself that emphasizes your work and the message you want to send out while hiding everything irrelevant. It also takes your target audience and market into consideration.
The Artist Identity is the perceived image of you, as an artist, by the audience. It is the promise to your fans what they can expect when consuming your work. It is the story you tell.
two fundamentally different approaches to the definition/creation process. I
will call them the artist-first-approach and the market-first-approach. Both
are extremes that lead to potential upcoming issues in the artist’s career, and
I recommend taking the best from both worlds to create your process.
The artist-first-approach follows the idea of not creating an Artist Identity at all but by merely going with who the artist is. It would mean you are 100% real with yourself and the audience about everything and let the people who love this find you. As great as this sounds, it fails to take into consideration that every one of us has some weird sides, that might be detrimental to building a consistent story that resonates with an audience that is big enough to make a sustainable career around. It also fails when dealing with people who just have no idea of who they are or who they want to be.
The market-first-approach is what has been done by the big players in the music industry for decades. They studied trends in the market, understood what people considered cool and created artificial artist personas (just another fancy term for the Artist Identity) to match these needs. For that, it was essential to find a new artist without a developed identity and tailor his story to what sells well. That is still common practice in pop music, especially with young artists who might not be sure about who they really are themselves. This approach bears a high risk of the artist becoming unsatisfied with her playing a role instead of following her own intentions and ideas. That might backfire in the long-term.
As mentioned before, I recommend taking the best of both approaches. You start by clearly understanding who you are and what moves you. You think about what you do and the reasons behind it. We already answered a lot of these questions when thinking about Your Bigger Picture and Artisan or Originator. By making the motivations and interests of you the main inspiration for the Artist Persona, you ensure that you are motivated in the long run to stick with the identity that you created.
Step by Step to your
Let’s do this in a structured way. Step by step. I recommend you take notes. Here is how to create/find your Artist Identity:
You need to
answer these questions to make sure you know the foundation you are building
the future of your project on. They are the building stones of what you are
doing. If they are not right, the rest is not going to work. When you meet
issues based on the wrong foundation along the way, you can correct them, but
it is much more work than getting it right in the beginning.
Who are you and What are you doing?
Why are you doing it?
What is your vision of a better
world, aka Your Bigger Picture?
If you are
already settled in your identity and far on your way of character-development the
answers can be simple but going into depth has advantages along the way because
you know more details. In the example, we will go with easy answers from my
perspective to make the article not unnecessarily complicated and lengthy.
My simple answer to #1 would be a dancer. While
this would be the obvious one, it is not detailed enough and would not match
what I really do. If I dig deeper and check with myself honestly what I do, I
arrive at “telling stories with dance as my primary and writing my secondary
means of communication”. Does not sound too sexy now, but it is a much
better start. With the original answer (“a dancer”) I would put
myself in a position to compete with guys like Les Twins and thousands of other
people who are just better than me when we talk about dancing. That’s not a
good position to be in when we talk about business.
I am doing this because I was drawn to
experiencing and presenting stories ever since, but never by merely telling
them. Long before I started to dance, I was into role-playing games (DSA and
Shadowrun for my fellow players), mostly as the game master. I organised
multiple LARPs, which are Live Action Role Playing games – impro theatre
without an audience, just for the pleasure of the guys playing. As soon as I
felt a little confident in my skills, I created my first own dance theatre
piece and later short movies. During all these times I danced myself (in
battles or other productions), but all the projects I launched on my own have
that story-driven background.
In my bigger picture, everyone has something he
or she likes to do, that adds value to the life of others. Everyone should be
able to do exactly that in his life and be able to earn a living doing it.
What are your influences
in the section above are of general nature. Influences and interests are, in my
opinion, where our ideas and topics come from. It’s where we look for
inspiration, where we take our topics from or what shaped our world views. They
are specific. It’s the genres we watch/read, the music we listen to, the
passions we follow, our hobbies and the ways we waste our time with. It’s also
our upbringing, our education and therefore the way we think.
these points helps us stay consistent as we know the things our mind is drawn
I am from a working family – Mum and Dad had
regular jobs to feed the family. Mom in day-care and Dad ran his own software
company. I was in a technical school and graduated as a software engineer. Since
school, my mind is wired to take the logical approach to every issue it is
I did a good amount of martial arts in my life
– with Judo being the one I stayed with for the longest. I did it for 9 years
and held a first dan (black belt) when I quit. I guess it’s fair to say Martial
Arts were the defining thing in my teenage years. Judo is a full-contact
discipline, so one gets used to rough handling.
As already teased above my other interests were
in the realms of RPGs and as a software developer of course videogames (for me
that cliché is true). The topics or genres I follow are mostly Science Fiction
(especially Cyberpunk) and Fantasy (both with a postapocalyptic touch). I love
those because they usually deal with the same topics that we must deal within
our lives but disguise them as something completely different. I hope to be
able to do that in my work as well.
that we have collected this bit of information, what do we make from it? We use
it to create our persona in a way that can stay consistent.
For me, it would not be wise to create my
Artist Identity around being a wealthy kid, that is a fantastic choreography
dancer from an art school and promote following your gut feeling. I could not
keep up with one of these parts, let alone all three. Playing a role is not in
the interest of us, because we are here for the long term and being real with
yourself makes a consistent game much more pleasant.
Your main discipline
your primary way of reaching your audience? Probably by dancing, I know. But
how do you approach it? Common in dance is entertainment, education and
competition. Not saying these are the only three but in most cases at least one
of them fits.
is precise, I guess – you dance or create dance pieces that are there to amaze
people. Education means you help people grow in some way. Competition means you
are out in the arena to proof you are the best – this can be battles,
choreography contests but also competitive art exhibitions. These disciplines
are not mutually exclusive, but it helps to define your main.
I see myself in the education field. While I
try to make my work as entertaining as possible, my main interest is to make
people think about what I want to tell them. This goes well with my analytical
thinking and writing. I guess there is no question that the article you read
right now can be considered education as well.
Up to this
point, we looked at ourselves, the work we do and what we want to
represent. We will now change our perspective
and look at our potential audience.
the answers we collected until now we think about the promise – the offer we
make to people what they will get from us. From there, we develop a matching
lifestyle and the cultural/social aspects that go well with our message. It
will also help us to define topics for visuals and promotional content in
is a creative task that you should take enough time to complete thoroughly.
There is no silver bullet to this one. Everything that came before and comes
after are abstract methods that are similar for everyone. This one is about
taking time and condensing everything you know into a neat package.
My promise is “I will show you my art, help you
to create yours and give you the knowledge to turn it into a business if you
Often the key message might not translate into a slogan. That’s not a problem. You don’t tell people but show. The following examples will work fine, as well:
“I will blow your mind with creative concepts and movement design”. (Would work as the promise from Phillip Chbeeb @phillipchbeeb)
“I will show you how we did it back in the days”. (Could be from Buddha Stretch @buddhastretch)
“When you join me, you will see some sexy choreography pieces”. (Fits Jade Chynoweth @jadebug98)
I did not ask any of these guys for their Artist Identity planning. But by looking at their presentation I found that the examples above work. Only the single sentence I made up, catches the essence of what you can expect from these artists. It’s easy to understand, and that is the point.
What we share
The next step is to define what we want to share with people. Other people call this defining the lifestyle and culture around the artist, which is valid to some extent, but I dislike calling it like that. We are not changing our lifestyle or culture. We are choosing what to show people. This step should take everything into consideration that we already know from this text and include the insights from Your Bigger Picture, Artisan or Originator and your chosen work fields (primary and secondary if you have multiple).
your lifestyle (the real-life you live). What parts of it are relevant and
exciting for someone who might take you by the word of your promise? Don’t make
a mistake and think it’s all of it. Most people are not interested in your
morning routine, diet or family affairs when they are there to watch excellent
movement design and creative concepts like promised in the first example above.
Maybe some hardcore fans want to know that later down the road, but that is a
topic for another time.
Here I am, more or less talent-free but a
hard-worker, trying to decide what’s worth sharing: I chose to go with my
finished pieces of work, in some situations the work in progress, the methods I
use to get there, things that inspire me, what I know about dancing and
everything I know about the business. Things I don’t share as part of my Artist
Identity are my private life, parties (except they are part of my work), my
training, pets, and so on.
At the time of this writing, you can not see
this reflected on my social channels as I am working on my first book release
and will tackle the time-consuming tasks of implementing the Artist Identity in
my social media presence after I finished the publication of the book.
you share are there to build trust between you and viewers, and eventually,
they will turn viewers into fans and then true fans. They are what we need. You
remember the theory of 1.000 true fans, don’t you? You want the people to come
back because they love what you offer, and you want them to come back often.
Therefore, it is essential to find the sweet spot of what you can and want to
give and what they want. If you can deliver that, you are set up for success.
Check the things you put out into the world against your decision of what’s part of the image you want to share. When you teach kids as a central pillar of your identity, consider sharing great moments from your workshops instead of drunk pics from your recent parties. Because the kids are watching and teachers have responsibility. On the other hand, if being there at every party you can get is part of your lifestyle and image that you want to spread, you should share these moments.
Refine by research
there are people out there who are doing something similar or even the same you
are doing. Take your time and check how they present themselves, what they
share with the world and try to find the reasons for things that are not
obvious. If something does not make sense, it could be that the artist you are
checking just did not define his persona well or at all.
is working well for others and evaluate if it makes sense to adapt it for
yourself. Is there an agenda that you can adopt that empowers your vision? Can
you add some quotes, that go well with the mood of your presentation? If yes,
see if it aligns with your image. Don’t throw around rough quotes from mixed
martial arts if you are a Yoga guy who is into zen-like mastery of
self-control. Check methods from similar work fields and see if you find ideas
I added writing blogs because I was inspired by
the work of people like Austin Kleon and Seth Godin. Both are authors but run
their own blog to keep the attention of their readers alive in between book
releases. I might adopt specific tactics from them but tactics are details, and
we are talking strategy now.
If you see
something that works and makes sense for you, just add it to your game plan.
You can always change things if you need to.
Take your time with the process presented in that monster of an article. It took me longer to write it as it is the longest text on that blog. You should also invest the time and not rush the development of your Artist Identity. When you are ready, feel free to share them if you want. Or don’t. However, you feel. But you better be confident about your result.
PS: whenever I talk about share in this article, it means showing it to your audience. This includes appearances in real life and in any media. Just adding this, in case it is not obvious that I am talking general and not only in social media terms.
Apropos “share”: if you dig this article, do me a favour and send it to someone who may need this advice. Much appreciated.
I already wrote about the topic “how to get more dance jobs” a few months back. I get some feedback on this article (that the stuff in there does not work) and some new requests about how to do it in Austria.
What is different in Austria?
That is the question we have to answer first before we can dive into the specifics. All the points from the general article I already wrote apply to the fullest but it can feel like you don’t get any results by applying them. The main reason is that the business side of the scene and the Austrian dance industry are still in their build-up. What I mean by that is that there are people producing shows, there are agencies taking care of bookings for urban artists and there are dance studios in most major cities but there are not plenty of them.
In countries with a developed dance industry, you have the possibility to audition for jobs that you want to be part of every other week. You have multiple standing companies with a regular cast and stand-ins for most positions. You have multiple people that take care of the production side of things. And you have many agencies with a widespread network that generates opportunities to show your art.
In Austria and many other countries with a dance-scene that is on the rise, we have some of these, but we don’t have an abundance. So you maybe have four to ten auditions per year, for pieces you want to do. There are 2 or 3 agencies that seriously care and know about the capabilities and needs of hip hop dance. And there might be five promoters who manage to do recurring events that have international relevance.
Austria has a dance scene and dance industry on the rise. We need to build the infrastructure first to create the jobs we want to do. Nobody will give them to us. Who should?
That sounds like a bad thing in the first place, but it really isn’t. Because what it does, is leaving a lot of space for everyone who really cares and wants to make it with dance and dance-related work.
How to do it?
First, this is not science. Second, I am writing from my own experience of doing business with dance and dance-related topics since 2007. Third, I believe this is the best way forward for the Austria scene as a whole. Some individual people might be better of alone but looking at the bigger picture from a holistic point of view, these are my recommendations.
As mentioned above, our scene and industry are not yet fully established, we are building it right now. This means that there is a lot of space to be filled.
What we should do, is create the infrastructure that we lack. This also ensures that the infrastructure and businesses hold up the values that we want to represent. That is extra important as the possibility of breaking (that’s the thing you should not call breakdance) becoming Olympic will attract people from outside (sports, finance, and advertisers of all kind) who have the business part down towards our scene and their values will not necessarily align with ours.
What can a single person do?
Everything. That is the point. Through the scarcity in the scene, you can contribute very quickly.
You can organize classes yourself. Everything you need it to find is a room and a mobile sound system. I know people who teach twenty classes a week and are set. All self-sustained.
You can organize events. It’s not impossible to do jams and competitions on a low budget. In fact, we need those to have the inhibition threshold low for the new blood.
You can reach out to potential customers proactively and sell your shows. By doing this you fill the role of an artist agency and might become one if you want to.
You can audition for all pieces around and try to land that spot or you can start your own production. This feels overwhelming in the beginning but if you want to create, you should.
How is this getting more jobs?
The part above isn’t, but it is a prerequisite for our scene to grow and move forward into something that can provide a sustainable life for everyone who wants it. From there we need to start connecting and work together (I already wrote about that too).
By creating multiple working platforms (this can be crews, dance companies, production companies, agencies, artist collectives, solo freelancers and more) and connecting them, we can provide more work. If I sell shows, you produce pieces and a third guy organizes workshops we can hustle on our own, or connect and everyone has three jobs instead of one.
Of course, that is simplified as nobody can work with everyone and some people are more suited for this job and not the other. But take into consideration how far our scene came in the last ten years. Think about how many talented people are out there hustling. We just need to connect and build together. In a country with a small scene, there is not really a competition as the market is not nearly saturated. There are only missed opportunities.
Don’t stop there
When we established a network that provides enough opportunities for everyone who wants to dance, the inclusion does not stop. Think about all the street fashion designers, dance content creators, music producers, MCs , DJs and so on. These are valuable for us too, as we are to them. Spotting these opportunities and taking them, is what we should cultivate.
It has been done before in Austria. On a smaller scale. And these islands still exist. Where people work together, but most of the time they only extend to crew and friends. Which is fine, but we all could do better.
As this scene and industry are built now, it is us who should it build and make the rules. Or we can let others built it and play by their rules. Easy decision for me, it always has been.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your online presence. People will check your homepage. So be sure it is up-to-date.
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.
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.
Having a strong opinion, based on facts and experience, is a valuable thing. However, so is seeing tasks or processes with the eyes of others. Especially if those others are the people that we want to reach with our work.
A change of perspective helps us to understand our customers. It helps us to design our marketing strategy better. It shows us the optimization potential in our Artist Identity. In general, trying to see with the eyes of others helps to understand business. It also helps to understand life and why our society works as it works.
So whenever you commit to a new strategy or whenever you evaluate parts of your work, try to switch perspective.
Does your offer add value to the lives of your potential customers? Could it add more value with a reasonable amount of change from your side? Is it real value or just a short status boost?
If you create postings on social media, check if they would affect you the way you want them to affect your followers. If they don’t, why would they do it with others?
If you are doing business with companies, understand what’s in for them when hiring you. Do they consider you an influencer in your scene, an expert for specific topics, both, or something else?
Make it a habit to do this in your business life. The insights will surprise you.
Following up on our general marketing introduction, we will take a closer look at our goals, strategies, and tactics for online marketing. The starting point is to know the business you run. The set-up and income streams you have, define what makes the most sense to promote and how to measure if it works or Nah.
Performers want their followers to join as many shows as possible or buy media that features them.
Competitors want to grow their name to receive as many invitations and potentially paid battle gigs (those are not common anymore).
All these different work fields ask for different things that we want to achieve.
The Teacher should focus on catering to an audience that is close enough to the place where he works and incentivizes them to show up in the classes. However, if the goal is to teach a lot in workshops abroad, it makes sense to focus on people that live further away as well.
The Performer usually has a broader geographic targeting as companies and crews travel internationally. But having your biggest audience in South America, when you perform in Europe does not make to much sense.
There is, again, no silver bullet. You already know a lot about your business and your Artist Identity. Use this knowledge to think about what makes sense to promote. Promote the activities that you excel at and that make you money.
What to aim for?
Measuring what we do is an essential thing in the whole process. Because from these insights, we can decide how to improve in our marketing process or when it makes sense to stop something.
Most people and companies start with a goal that focuses on followers or views, without recognizing that this approach only makes sense in very few scenarios.
Reach is the right metric if you want people to know your brand (that’s why it is the right metric for brand marketing). It makes sense when you want to land a sponsorship or when you are performing with different companies a lot (as they might consider your followership as potential viewers). It is also the one metric that everybody understands. That is the reason why it is so prominent, even if it makes no sense most of the time.
When you are a teacher, it is not enough that people know you. Reach alone, does nothing for you. You need people to take action and show up to your class. You measure this in the percentage of people that come from your social media channels to your classes. We call it the conversion rate. The conversion rate is a much better metric in cases when people need to do something to make you succeed.
There are many more metrics that we can look at, but in most cases, it boils down to one of the two above.
We’ll talk about how to either approximate (which is often enough) or precisely measure those two next week.
For today ask yourself: What is it that you need? High reach or a high conversion rate?
Today is not about business, marketing, music, or dance alone. It is about a mindset thing that is beneficial in all of those.
We live in a world of distractions. That sounds like an exaggeration, but is a brutal truth that results in a decline of real productivity and creativity. We think we are experts in multitasking, but we are not. We are experts in being distracted, which leads to a culture of superficiality. We wear “being busy” like a badge of honor when it is only a sign of lacking priorities.
As an artist and entrepreneur that is in the game to stay (without burning out), we shall cultivate a habit to dig deep in what we do. At least for all the things that matter (the ones that align with your bigger picture).
Digging deep means:
to give ourselves the time that is needed to work things out
to look at a topic from different angles
to do additional research when we miss information instead of assuming things
to ask questions
to find the reasons behind symptoms
to take ideas far
Deep Work means:
to commit to a specific task
to immerse yourself in the work
to shut out distractions (flight-mode is a lifestyle)
to spend enough time with a topic to allow our conscious and subconscious mind to get involved
You will only do your best work when you reach depth. So avoid today’s culture of mediocrity and dig deep when you create your art and set up your business.
It is easier to sell to returning customers than to new ones. Someone who already took one of your classes, visited a show or bought one of your DVDs is much more likely to come back to you again. Given that your work did not suck, of course. But as we know it doesn’t, we can consider the statement above true unconditionally.
There are a few key things that you should have in mind to keep your business relationships healthy. These also make it easy for everyone to promote you by simply recommending you to others. Most of the points below are considered to be common sense for everyone who “made it in the dance industry.” but there are also instances where people sweat it and justify it with “we are hip hop”.
Being hip hop can never be a justification for not having your shit together.
everyone who knows how to run a dance business
Deliver quality. You don’t have to be the best in what you do, but you have to deliver well. Every time. Not delivering once, will lead to not getting the job again. Also, the scene is small, and promoters talk. A bad reputation spreads like a virus.
Handle the paperwork. Writing proposals and invoices are not optional. You will not be paid before you provide an invoice. Everything else is not serious business. The data that has to be on an invoice differs a little bit from country to country. I recommend that you talk to an accountant or consultant at least once to make sure you cover everything you need. I will provide an example for correct invoicing in Austria in an upcoming post.
Contracts! These are not as essential as invoicing as a lot of business can be done by handshake if you know your partners. Sometimes you will have to make a contract though. Don’t be afraid of it, read it all, ask if you don’t understand the meaning of certain paragraphs. It’s not rocket science. If you need to, consult a lawyer, but that is not needed most of the time.
Communicate clearly. Let people know what you need to deliver and what they get. Don’t be vague.
Online Presence. Make it easy for people to find you and share info about you online. Be present on the Social Media platform that is big inside your scene and have your own website (sometimes a crew website is enough, but I recommend you get your own). The own website is so important as it is your digital property. If a Social Media platform decides to shut down for whatever reason, everything you have there is gone. That will not happen with your website. Besides that, it radiates professionalism when you can point people to your website instead of Facebook or Instagram.
Be on time. Don’t be late when being on-site and don’t be late with sending invoices (or making payments when you are on the other end of the transaction). If you are late, your behaviour suggests that you don’t take the job (and therefore your customers) seriously.
Have your CV and references ready (and up to date), alongside with action photos and portraits. When someone wants to hand your file to another interested guy, it should not take you days to collect everything.
Be easy-going and easy to handle. This and the point about communicating clearly. Of course, you need to talk about problems if there are any. But do it tastefully and never be an asshole. Nobody wants to work with assholes.
These eight pieces of advice will help you to keep existing customers happy and make it easier to book additional jobs. All of them apply to new customers as well, of course.
I wanted to cover these first as I think, it is crucial to prioritise existing relationships, before trying to reach more people. Recruiting more fans or customers is a waste of time (and money) if you can not keep them. At least it is a very inefficient use of your time and a source of an unhealthy hustle. We don’t want to be busy acquiring one-time customers. We want to build a tribe of fans & customers who comes back to on every occasion us because they know what we got and they love it.
I made a distinction between fan and customer above. That is not necessary, but for me, it makes a difference in how I approach people. A fan is someone who adores my work (as an artist or teacher). A customer is someone who buys my time and skills for a specific job. The fan will consume stuff that I create because I decide to create it. The customer wants me to create something for him and has his own agenda besides liking my work.
When you want to kickstart your dance career or any endeavour in the dance industry, you will need some marketing. Marketing is a term that is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. I love the simple definition from Seth Godin’s blog:
If you need to persuade someone to take action, you’re doing marketing.
It means whenever we try to make people take our classes, watch our work or click one of our links; we are marketing. Easy as that. In our daily dance business work, marketing is the equivalent of customer service and customer acquisition. But we hate to call it like that.
You can split it into brand marketing and direct marketing.
Brand Marketing is the way that big brands used back in the days when all the hype and the best options you had were tv ads, billboards and ads in magazines. The concept is to expose as many people to your brand message and establish an image in their minds. When you remember who is behind the slogans “connecting people” or “just do it”, you saw brand marketing at its finest in action. For some applications, brand marketing is still the way to go. For entrepreneurs like freelance dancers, it is not. The goal is brand marketing is to reach as many people as possible. As many as possible means high investment in either cash or time. We don’t have the time, and we don’t want to spend our money on people that will not support.
Direct Marketing is an approach where you try to expose only the right people to your message and ignore everyone else. Another difference to brand marketing is that you want people to do some specific, like book a class. It’s not about your image, but your offer. We are not aiming for maximum reach, but for a good percentage between people reached to people who finally accept our offer.
Some of you may already see that I talk about how we can measure our marketing success in the last sentences of the paragraphs above. We will not dive deeper into this today, but for sure later down the road – first, some more general things about marketing.
When you talk about your work to make people come and watch or participate, that is marketing. When you do it without the intention to market, it is as well.
When you post on social media, that is marketing. When other people talk about your work or post on social media, that is marketing as well. And it is free and reaches people that you won’t reach on your own.
1.000 True Fans
The best marketing you can get is still fans talking about your work. They will praise what you do and recommend you to others. They work as your free army of marketers without you getting involved. Kevin Kelly published the idea of 1.000 True Fans in 2008. It has since then become one of the most used approaches to creating a sustainable income for artists.
The basic idea behind the 1.000 True Fans is that you don’t need to become a star with millions of followers to make a decent living. What you need are 1.000 True Fans (in other places they are called Superfans) that are into your work that they will practically consume everything you release. I am not talking about Followers or Likes. True Fans would travel 300 miles to see the new piece you created. They would join a class or workshop you give. They would also buy a DVD or pay to download a movie. They would attend the events you create, and they would purchase merchandise if you had it. They also would support crowdfunding campaigns of yours because they want to see what you make of it.
Just to support the idea with numbers: when you manage to sell 50 bucks of work to 1.000 people you made 50.000. Remove half to be safe on taxes, and you still have 25.000. Most people can make a living from that, as it is over 2k per month after tax.
So the point of our marketing is to find 1.000 people who love what we do. Those 1.000 will become your stable source of income and act as recruiters for new True Fans as well as regular customers who only consume some of your work.
How will we approach to find our True Fans? By engaging in work that is meaningful to us and sharing it with the world. Do you remember Your Bigger Picture? Your True Fans share your vision, that is why you need to know it. If you keep working on projects that play into that vision, they will follow. And they will tell others about it.
How to find those guys?
These are the marketing tools that we can utilise, but they are only the transport vehicle of our message.
Direct Contact. It’s still #1 to find and create True Fans. People who see your work live and enjoy it are likely to check out what you do next.
Social Media is the #2 way of connecting at the moment of this writing, but not as good for bonding with your True Fans as the next.
#3 Your Website and Email list are often neglected since the rise of social media. The advantage of them is that they are your property. When any given social media platforms change their algorithm of presenting your content, you can not do anything about it. If they shut-down, all your contacts are gone. That is not likely to happen soon, but you never know. Social Media is also an open experience; anyone can join. For bonding purposes, it is far more effective to create an intimate and exclusive atmosphere.
Far behind those 3 are other methods like print ads, media coverage, tv shows, guerilla (or ninja) marketing ideas and everything else. There are applications where these OTHER methods can help and give your reputation a push, but they are situational. We will deal with all of the above topics in detail.
Crafting your message
No matter what vehicle we choose to transport our message, its content is what matters most. It is our promise what people can expect from us. If we can deliver on this promise, again and again, our circle will grow and eventually we will hit a thousand.
Go back to your bigger picture and think about which kind of people would share your vision. Don’t think about it as a mass of people, think about it as your one perfect fan. If you can see clearly how she ticks, what she wants from life and what she wants from you, you will know what you have to deliver.
What do you want them to do?
The second part is to find out what you want them to do, if they share your vision. In short, you want them to be part of your journey by consuming your offers. You already know what you offer from Your Dance Business Set-Up. If you missed this one, go back and read it now.
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