"Having the goods" is one thing. "Selling the goods" is quite another. The most successful artists rock at both.
Amanda Louise Miller (writer / composer / grad student / multitasker)
Artists are corporations of one. We have to be. And what real corporations have entire floors of eager college grads to do, we have to do solo, wearing different "hats" depending on the task at hand.
All these hats can result in all sorts of internal "United-States-of-Tara-esque" conflicts(1), one of the most challenging being the balancing act between product and brand.
"Product" is the actual thing we create--and its quality, creativity, and palatability. Having a good product means having an original, artistic point of view and successfully conveying that view through craft and attention to detail.
"Brand," on the other hand, is how we trick coax the world into seeing both ourselves and our product. Brand is embedded in how we package ourselves -- a YouTube presence, for example (here's mine!), a web page, even our weekly postings on awesome, musical-theatre-oriented blogs. ;-)
But when juggling product and brand, most of us, at some point, overfocus on one at the expense of the other. Take the actor who spends big bucks on new headshots instead of on a valuable acting class or the writer who locks themself away from their performers and audience in a cave of perfectionism -- they've both got a floor of their artistic corporation that needs, shall we say, revisiting.
As for me, after an 8-year hiatus in the "real world," I recently went back to grad school to study music composition full time. (PS: Avenue Q was right, and those kids ARE so much younger than me, but more about that another week!) When I started my master's program, I'm pretty sure the rewards I planned to gain were more "brand-" than "product-oriented." But thanks to some gentle butt-kicking from the experiences and teachers I've had so far at OCU(2), I've realized that, for me, grad school is an invaluable opportunity to amp up the quality of my creative work. So, for the next year anyway, I plan to be as product-centered as possible. (See, Dr. Knight - I was totally listening last semester!)
But working on your product -- or your brand! -- doesn't have to mean diving headfirst back into academia like this nerd did. There are all sorts of free resources on the web for folks who want to do some amping up of their own. The bottom line is that we artists have to make a conscious decision to cultivate BOTH the product and brand floors in our "corporation of one" if we want successful, lucrative (!), and rewarding careers. Which floor do you need to revisit?
(1) If you haven't seen the Showtime series The United States of Tara, run immediately to your nearest streaming Netflix viewing device, and start watching it now. Trust me.
(2) Hear Kristin Chenoweth give my school a shout out HERE.
AMANDA LOUISE MILLER is a non-traditional graduate student, working towards an MM in music composition at Oklahoma City University. Currently, she is living the life of a summer-vacationing vagrant, spending most of her time on the road between her family and friends in Nebraska, and her apartment in Oklahoma City, with her chinchilla, Fosse, reluctantly in tow. www.amandalouisemiller.com
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