More and more, it’s almost impossible to find people to podcast and interview who haven’t been in every magazine and on every radio show and in everyone else’s book. I find someone I want to talk to and then discover that they’ve recently said the same things in an interview with someone else, and I think, “Gee, what’s the point?” Because while I love helping artists get the word out about their work, I also care about the people who read and listen. How exciting can it be for them to read about the same people over and over and over and hear the same artists say the same stuff on half a dozen podcasts?
When you’re just starting out and start to get a little fame, it’s heady. You sign a contract or get invited to teach, and it ripples: soon everyone wants you. Good times for you, indeed! If you work it right, you could be everywhere. But I have to wonder, “What happened to dancing with the one who brung you?” What’s wrong with taking time to develop good, solid relationships with someone you want to work with into the future?
What happens when that first blush of fame begins to wane and you’re not the hot new thing any more? There’s always going to be someone newer and hotter and fresher, and once you’re not it, what’s going to be there? And that’s where a little loyalty can be a good thing: if you’ve taken the time to develop a good, solid working relationship with someone, there’s a place you can turn to brainstorm ideas when maybe you’re not just totally in demand, when maybe your classes aren’t filling and your stats aren’t on their way up. If you’ve worked with someone over a period of time, and they know your strengths and weaknesses, they might be able to suggest a new direction or a way to revisit and reshape an old success. You have a relationship that’s mutually beneficial. They want you to do well.
It’s like when you come to school one day sans the braces and acne, and suddenly you’re popular. You’re homecoming queen and student body president all rolled into one, and everybody wants to be your friend. People invite you to parties and out on dates, and you don’t want to commit because something better might come along–a better party, a cuter guy, someone with a snazzier car. You start double-booking: dinner with the guy from French class, coffee at Starbucks with the captain of the football team, movie with the president of Whatever-Schools-Have-That-Still-Has-a-President. It’s all great until the day people get tired of you spreading yourself so thin that they can’t count on you. They never know if you’ll show up or if they’ll get to the party and see you with someone else. Suddenly you’re not so popular any more, and–even worse–there’s no one who really cares.
I understand, I really do: people want to be wanted. We all need to get ourselves out there, need to make money, need to work the opportunities. I understand that. Here’s what you have to keep in mind as an artist: companies are in competition with each other. You know that. They need fresh faces, new art, hot ideas. They don’t want what’s already been everywhere else. If you say yes to everyone, the only one who benefits is you. OK. That may be what you want. But for how long? If you spread yourself everywhere, what have you got left to offer that hasn’t shown up everywhere else?
So there’s my little rant. I know lots of people disagree with me completely: they’ll argue that they have to run with it while they can and that if they don’t look out for their best interests, no one else ever will. I’m sure that’s true, and in the 21st century, where there’s no company loyalty and people are laid off through no fault of their own, and people change jobs and partners and hometowns many times throughout their lives, it’s the reality that you’ve got to look out for yourself. But let me urge you to consider your options and what they mean not only for you, but for your future relationships. Sure, it’s nice to be offered half a dozen dates to the prom. But it’s also really, really nice to know that there’s someone who will ask you again next year, you know?
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