image courtesy of Stock Exchange
"Why does SHE have to go?"
These six words, combined with some recent discussions, form the basis of today's blog: the importance of filtering words and actions when building an artistic persona.
Those of us involved in the arts--writing, music, acting, etc.--are told that to promote our work, what we must truly promote is ourselves. If we make our name recognizable in tandem with quality work and warm fuzzy feelings, we gain a base audience who will seek out future (and past) work. This "name branding" is a vital part of any artistic career, and much like a prize show pony, a great deal of time and effort must be spent grooming it to perfection.
As hard as artists work to create and maintain their name brand image, one would assume the investment would be carefully and jealously guarded. Yet I see "own worst enemy" scenarios every day, taking the form of online flame wars, rude or presumptive behavior, and two-faced acquaintances. Just a few recent examples:
1. One of my groups recently broke out in a long, multi-player assault thread featuring spectacularly petty and rude behavior. No hope of the moderator squashing things, either--they were one of the key flame throwers. Well, two weeks of this childish prattle nearly cost them a paying market, since I publish a webzine in the group's genre and came quite close to unsubbing. Though I relented, there are a few names I will remember...as individuals who don't maintain a calm, professional manner when dealing with simple issues.
Who knows how many other publishers/agents/readers/etc. sit on the sidelines clucking their tongues when such flame wars break out? How many take note of the troublemakers and blacklist them...or flat out leave? A sobering thought.
2. Another lip-curler was a rather unflattering Amazon guide that made the rounds recently. Created by a reader, the "guide" consisted of a detailed list of authors NOT to buy books from....not because of the quality or nature of the writing, but because of the authors' alleged rude behavior on the Internet. The guide has since been pulled, but while it was up the message made quite a splash. Yes, Virgina, there are consumers who won't purchase work--no matter how good--from someone they view as a bad-doer.
3. Then there's the opening line to my blog, a fun little slap in the face that happened last night. My husband is an actor/filmmaker with a variety of friends in the biz. One is a bit player hard at work building his "star" reputation, someone with a Eddie Haskell approach who has been in my home many times. While planning an out of town appearance this week with this actor "friend," my husband learned the guy's girlfriend inserted herself on the trip. Among other things, she gets so ragefully jealous when her man's "in character" that she recently kicked out a windshield. (FYI, they're going in OUR car.) That said, my husband mentioned I'd be going, too.
The "pal" who is trying so hard to win fans and influence people turned utterly nasty and incredulous. "WHAT? Why does SHE have to go?" Several uglier variations followed, and bottom line I was not welcome in my own car with my own husband driving...yet eliminating Psycho Sideshow Girlfriend was emphatically "not an option."
Needless to say, this flew like a lead balloon and he's been cut from several cross-promotions and future projects. Yeah, he'll survive, but why on Earth would someone trying so desperately to widen their horizons narrow their prospects instead?
That got me to thinking about how fragile reputation is, and how easily we can undermine our own efforts. It takes years to create a positive, recognizable image, and minutes to tear it down. So while I'm a firm believer in having minds and opinions of our own, it's vitally important to weigh the benefits and risks before opening ones' mouth in public and inserting a muddy boot.
Do YOU have a story about a time when the actions of a celebrity, author, etc. were so wonderful--or terrible--that it influenced the decision of whether to buy that person's work? Please share here!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
image courtesy of Stock Exchange
Labels: Random Raves