Act One: Seclusion
Being a ‘millenial’, the pre-social media days seem like a distant memory. No comparisons, no ratings and certainly no f*cking Tik Tok. It was pure bliss.
But now? Distraction and procrastination is an everyday hurdle. Not to mention the all-out, bloody war we’re in with public perception. Social media being at the helm, throwing missiles and nuclear bombs at our fragile ability to seclude ourselves from sharing our lives to the world for a prolonged period.
If you’re creative in 2019, it’s likely your career revolves around social media. It’s where the network and foundation of your music, art, design, styling, modeling, photography, videography career will be built. That’s the reality. In such a content-driven age, with the ever-decreasing attention span of our generation, is it even possible for an up and comer to escape the vital cycle of social media when our careers are so closely aligned to it?
Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of being Frank Ocean, an A-lister whose seclusion skills are on par with a hermit. But it works. The man takes four years out, hibernating from the Earth, to focus and hone in on his craft; ultimately resurrecting and rising to the fore with a complete masterpiece in ‘Blonde’. Frank may seem like an extreme case study, but he highlights the necessity for patience. Forbes 30-under-30 listed Charli Cohen elaborates on the notion of seclusion and monitoring social media use:
“For design work I have to be secluded. Social media is essential for the growth of my business – but it’s very easy to fall into unproductive, habitual scrolling. That’s something I have to nip in the bud to prevent it negatively impacting my workflow. I find Instagram in particular had an adverse effect on my mental health – there’s a fine line between using it for business growth and using it to self-flagellate about not being ‘enough’. So with this in mind, it’s very important for me to moderate my use of social media.”
The pressure to sit on social media, push consistent content and stay ‘relevant’ is jeopardising our ability to sit back, reflect and maintain a healthy workflow. You cannot force creativity. We need to filter the bullshit. We need our seclusion and we need to protect it.
Act Two: Exposure
Despite its many flaws, social media has undoubtedly crashed a series of unconventional doors for the new generation to spread their wings within the creative industry, allowing the unknown to be known in a flip of a switch (word to Drizzy).
Take fashion influencer Ian Connor, the once self-proclaimed ‘King of the youth’ is now a true trailblazer for the social media ‘influencer’ – a term Connor is commonly associated with. Looking cool on Tumblr turned him into a self-made millionaire: style assistant for the likes of A$AP Rocky & Kanye West, fashion designer for his own clothing brand ‘Sicko’ and style icon for the youth. Not a bad return for posting fit-pics on the internet. It goes to show, traditional methods of building your career trajectory are out the window, thanks to the rise of generation DIY.
And yet, creative freelancers are still being castrated by big corporations who feel paying with ‘exposure’ is enough. Exposure is great for connections, but I’m not trying to be a household name, I’m trying to pay my bills.
Alternative grime artist Masterpeace (pictured throughout) provides some advice for fellow musicians & creatives who may feel they’re being exploited for their efforts:
“Do you know what it is? I feel like in our industry that’s life, that’s always how it’s going to be. Do you know what I mean? But those are the lessons you learn in the game that you’re in. Not everything’s going to come pronto.
Every time I get an email about a booking I say to them, “Can you pay me on the night?” And they’re always like, “We’ll do invoice.” And they know, *laughs*, they know they can just pay me on the night. They have the money but they say, “Let me just give it to you in three weeks.” You gotta be patient. You gotta put yourself in the promotor’s shoe, you don’t know what they’re going through right now. You don’t know what’s going on in their position or why they’re not paying you as soon as you want it to be. Just remember that everyone is human.”
Charli corroborates: “In an ideal world you build a good relationship with the accounts people, you build a bit of a rapport, you send them memes and witty emails, you know? You get them on your side so when they’re figuring the payments to queue up they put you in there. But there are some cases where you just need to set a debt-collector on their ass.”
Patience is key. Assess the situation in great detail and make a call. How much value will this project give me? Is it worth non-payment? But be firm and do not slide down the slippery slope of habitual payment repudiation.
Act Three: Clout
With exposure comes clout. In regards to social media, the term ‘clout’ refers to your follow count: the more followers you have, the more powerful a person is perceived to be. Terrible, I know. But it spits out some pretty intriguing synonyms like ‘clout-chasing’, a term being tossed around frequently at the moment, which is based upon the idea of people leeching off, or going out their way to be affiliated with, people who are relevant (often influencers & micro-influencers) in order to build their own brand. Hidden agendas.
Slimy and soul-destroying, yes. But how do you become a ‘micro-influencer’? Is it essential to chase clout/followers to get a headstart in the creative industry? Do you have to be affiliated with circles with an abundance of followers? Often times it’s the alliance with people of ‘higher status’, celebrities and influencers which elevates an aspiring creative’s career. We won’t name names.
Equally, it’s the slow, organic process – reliant on pure talent – which skyrockets and maintains an individual’s career. There’s an oversaturation of mediocre content in every field, but true talent always shines through. Charli Cohen breaks down her ideal route to a successful career in the creative industry:
“I’d say breaking into the industry is pretty gradual and you have a series of breaks. It is that continual thing. That’s the difference between being somebody who’s buzzing at this moment in time and somebody who’s around for the long haul. You could have one big break in the industry and then you have an amazing year and then everyone forgets about you. Or you could have a series of more sustainable, smaller breaks and being able to grow your business in a more sustainable way, rather than burning out in year one. I think, generally speaking, gradual is how it happens and it’s the most healthy and sustainable way for it to happen.”
It’s also important for rising creatives to grow together. Not only is clout-chasing unauthentic, but it’s also unsustainable. Creatives need to gain the trust of fellow expressionists and witness the grind alongside the output. Where’s the substance? Where’s the story? If you truly want to improve on your craft, surround yourself with like-minded people, followers are irrelevant. Professional photographer Joel Smedley sums it up nicely:
“Personal connection is the most valuable thing. You can’t beat it. As a photographer, sometimes when I’m even looking for an assistant, I’ll look for my personal connection with a person more than sometimes their talent. If I get this really amazing connection with a photographer who’s up and coming I’ll say, “Ok cool, come up with me.”
Find your niche. Retain a sense of integrity. Unleash dope content in your own time. Know your worth. Build connections through real-life interaction. Treasure your privacy.