How to Sell Yourself

Think positive. Act confident. Highlight your good points.

Today I was reading the Cape Times and in one article about fracking they referred to the Karoo brand. Not about the brand of spring water, or hotels or something – just the Karoo, it’s a brand. That’s the world we’re in today.

We are in an age when interconnectedness makes infinite variety possible and yet instead jargon and practices are becoming homogenized. Art should be exploding into that realm of potential but instead the systems of capitalism have spread like a monkey-borne lung-melting virus. Branding, marketing, selling. That is what we do as creatives. And we do it in the same way as every other salesman.

Tweets, updates, blog articles – be positive, be interesting. Don’t be critical, don’t be challenging. Take whatever publicity anyone offers, if you’ve been in business 6 months it’s a perfect time to get celebrated as a success. And the press will help you. They are hungry for a success story since the depressing daily grind of most artists won’t make it past their editors.

Spin, spin, spin. Get dizzy, fall over.

What is the point of art if we don’t care about the truth? We can add adjectives to everything we say and write to make it upbeat, fabulous, sexy, funky, cutting-edge, awesome, ground-breaking, successful and amazing but that doesn’t change the industry. I look around at South African theatre and I see a dire situation. Too many clubs and cliques and not enough audience. We are irrelevant to 99% of the city. We’re too busy telling ourselves we’re thriving to really think about changing. That’s the danger of the ‘we are awesome’ marketing strategy – you start to believe it before the audience does. And of course the other problem is that everyone else is doing it too.

I’m deadly serious. We have 2 strategies of marketing theatre in Cape Town, ‘we are awesome’ and ‘it’s theatre’. The Fugard gets a little better by knowing who they’re selling, ‘it’s Athol Fugard’ or ‘it’s Sir Anthony Sher’.

Maybe I’m not angry that we’re so infected by marketing speak. Maybe I’m angry because we’re so infected and yet still are doing it badly. Can’t we bring the interesting, honest, creative spirit off the stage for a minute and ask it to talk to the press? Or write a press release? All the craft that’s put on stage is wasted if it is not met by an equal craft in the selling of the show. How can we take risks on stage when we aren’t willing to take risks off it? With our reputations, with the status quo, with our money.

Selling doesn’t have to be compromise. Selling isn’t compromise. And that we think the only way to get audiences into our work is to create indistinguishable brands and mutual appreciation societies shows that we are not the challenging, creative, daring industry we like to pretend we are.


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