I’ve been having to promote a lot of stuff lately. My own stuff that is, I haven’t given up and gone the full selling my soul and becoming a PR person just yet. In fact, while I know some excellent PR types, I decided a few years back that I’ve been doing what I do for ages now and I know most of the relevant journalists for what I do. On top of that I have an ok FB fan page following, a fair few on my mailing list and a decent Twitter following so surely I can just contact people directly in a way that someone somewhere probably has a wanky media word for. I bet it includes both ‘direct’ and ‘personal’ but also ‘promotion’ like ‘dirperpromo’ or something. Even typing that made me feel ill. In previous years when needing to let people know our Phoenix Fringe shows were on or I had a new filmed stand-up show, I’ll just spend a morning rattling off emails, often with an apology at the top like ‘Sorry for another fucking email’. Well not with swears in. I’m not that amateur. Then I’d spend a few days tweeting the bejesus out of it, with one FB post and then maybe if I’m desperate, a linked in post knowing full well no one will ever see that or give a shit.
Lately though, none of this has worked and it’s nearly all down to money. Journalists I know aren’t getting paid much or anything to write about comedy. Time Out’s comedy section was closed down entirely at the end of last year. So unless it is something brand spanking new, or features one of the 20 ‘hot right now’ comedians who don’t really need PR as their stuff sells out anyway, then there’s no interest. Facebook now requires you to spend a ton of money for anyone to see any post that contains a link. Even then, the post can’t have too many words in or it breaches their advertising guidelines. So you have to throw a fair amount of money at a not very useful post, in order for only a small percentage of your fans (yes I have a fan page, I’m sorry everyone) to see it. And Twitter, well, it doesn’t seem to make any difference anymore. Everytime I post a link to an event or podcast or well, anything, more than once, I lose upwards of 20 followers. This means my follower count has stagnated, something that won’t change due to my massive lack of TV profile too. Not only that but it’s become apparent that things disappear on people’s timelines, or they simply aren’t interested. Several times now I’ve had a tweet RT’d from a well known comedian with many followers, only to check the stats and find that no one’s clicked on the link contained at all probably because they don’t know who I am in the first place.
Now, let’s be perfectly honest, all of these are huge first world problems and out there in the real world there are people worrying about far more than their tweet statistics. I know that. But part of my job is self promoting and if I can’t get people to know that I’m doing stuff, let alone persuade them to come along to it, then I haven’t got any work and need some sort of a back up plan. Last week I was meant to do a solo show in Southampton, at a venue where the previous two times I’ve been, I’ve had at least 40-60 audience turn up. This time, only 3 had bought tickets and we had to cancel. Sure, there’s other things that may have caused this. Weather, time of year, money but it’s not how touring’s meant to work. It’s meant to be that you gig in a place, then return the next year to more and more again the following year. This weekend, the Fringe that I co-run, featuring well known comedy acts with affordable tickets, is struggling for sales for the first time in 4 years. Again, it’s cold, its the end of half term, people can see some of the acts elsewhere or on the TV, but again where’s the crowds from previous years? Why hasn’t it grown? And where does that leave independent comedy if now you have to pay for your fans? Paid gigs are becoming hard to come by because they want those who are on the telly. Telly is harder to come by as they want those who are already on the telly. Tours, DVDs, etc don’t sell, unless you already have that audience who wouldn’t know about it anyway unless you pay for the advertising. Even then, there’s so many tours at any time it seems very over saturated. It feels like comedy is very much eating itself.
A few years ago it felt like the internet opened a lot of things up for acts like myself and artists who don’t have fame and fortune behind them. You could post your own videos, put your own music out as you please. Record and post podcasts unedited, or write the articles and blogs you wanted to. But know those that are really benefitting from it are those who already have audiences: Radiohead with downloadable albums, Louis CK with his pay to download content. I have no issues with that at all, especially as someone who buys and enjoys those things, liking them more due to the er, ‘dirperpromo’, erm. But where do you begin if you don’t have that audience already there? I always have that question in the back of my head, and have done ever since going professional with comedy in 2007: ‘What will I do when this stops working for me?’ My CV for nearly 10 years has been ‘prancing around the country making people laugh.’ It’s being extreme but it is also what keeps me working hard. Selfishness aside what about all those others who can’t afford to let people know of their brilliant music, amazing writing and the like?
I suppose I’m just becoming ever more aware how money is the hurdle for everything nowadays. Dealing with rising living costs or the possibility of ever owning a home or attempting to eat healthily. It’s just sad to know that this now permeates creativity and the creative world too because there must be so much of it amongst the noise of the internet that’s never really heard. I might try the reverse idea and not publicise anything at all, and see if anyone seeks it out. I give it two weeks before I realise that’s even worse and start working out how to make transferable skills out of ‘shouting at drunk people’. Still, I could always sell my soul and set up a PR agency for everyone else who’s struggling. ‘Dirperpromo’ is a great agency name right? Right? Guys?
The Phoenix Fringe is Feb 19th-21st: www.phoenixfringe.co.uk
My new Partly Political Broadcast podcast is at: www.tiernandouieb.co.uk/podcast
All other nonsense is at www.tiernandouieb.co.uk. Go on, have a look. Prove me wrong. I dare you.*
*I bet this tactic doesn’t work either.