The term exploitation is often used in various ways in the entertainment industry. An artist may say that he was exploited or taken advantage of when he paid a large sum of money to have his album promoted by a management company, but then found out the company was a scam and did nothing for him. In another scenario, an artist may feel manipulated when he is asked by an acquaintance he barely knows to provide him with a major contact in the industry so that person can attempt to advance in his career. Most artists recognize how difficult it can be to advance and further their career in the music and entertainment industry. With the aforementioned scenarios, one can see that the connotation for the term exploitation often encompasses a negative perspective characterized by someone taking advantage of or manipulating a person or situation unethically or unjustly to use selfishly for one’s own needs.
But what an artist may not realize is that the road that he chooses to take in an attempt to get to the next level in the entertainment industry does not have to be characterized by taking advantage of and manipulating others to selfishly advance his career. Let’s reframe the definition of exploitation and see how it can be used in a positive and different light. Exploitation can also mean to make the most of, to capitalize on, to maximize and to build upon. An artist may ask himself, but how can one do any of these without possibly taking advantage of others? What this ultimately means is that it must come from within the artist via hard work, persistence and a positive attitude. None of this will be easy, but at least one can take heart in knowing that he didn’t abuse others along the way to fulfill his own needs (well at least if one is not a cold blooded psychopath…more on that another time). Let’s take a look at some of the positive and constructive ways that an artist can proceed to maximize and build upon as a means to ethically and justifiably push his career in the right direction without resorting to manipulation while advancing to another level.
What can you do for me? How can you help me? I need this from you! Yikes! These self- serving and one-sided self-serving questions or statements explicitly make an artist look like he is only thinking about himself. Who doesn’t want to have to do the ‘grunt’ work where you pave your own way by spending countless hours networking on social media websites, making yourself present at various events/shows to meet new people and spending an inordinate amount of money on the production, duplication, artwork and legal fees, to name a few, on your album? However, no good deeds will go unnoticed. Well, maybe in the beginning they will. But it can be guaranteed over a period of time that if an artist works hard, engages in the above mentioned efforts and genuinely shows an interest in developing relationships with others, his efforts will pay off. Please be realistic because no matter how hard an artist works and how much effort he puts in, the industry is challenging and the artist may not always reach the goals he hopes for. To maximize one’s own efforts, here are some places that an artist can start to get recognition for his band and get his music heard. First of all, start with submitting your music to college and internet radio stations to increase your opportunities of getting your music heard and played. Unfortunately, major commercial radio stations often have to abide by a specific set list that they are given of exclusive artist signed to major labels. Secondly, seek to obtain interviews with on- line radio stations and on-line magazine interviews. Again, it is easier to secure interviews with independently run magazines and radio stations that are genuinely looking for new artists and music to feature and promote. Finally, put time and effort in by researching independent film makers who are in need of music for their films. They may have a minimal budget or none at all, but the purpose at this point is for the artist to get as much exposure as possible. Every artist has to start some where and if the artist puts on restrictions by only looking for paying opportunities, he is likely to be greatly disappointed when they cannot be secured. So in sum, the goal with maximizing your efforts is as simple as doing your research, being proactive and seeking out opportunities that can be built upon.
Additionally, the importance cannot be stressed enough about how valuable the use of social media websites can be. An artist can positively exploit himself by making the most of these websites. The artist can navigate these websites on his own by putting in as much or as little time and effort as he wants to advertise his music and artistry to the world. However, the more effort the artist puts in, the greater the returns will be. The goal is for the artist to get his name and product out there! This can be easily accomplished by joining multiple websites and creating multiple pages to promote yourself such as creating a personal Facebook page, band or musician Facebook page, MySpace page, Twitter page, Reverbnation page and the list continues to go on. The more places that people can find the artist, see the artist’s name and hear the artist’s music, the greater the likelihood that his name will slowly spread to the masses. Also, it is beneficial to meet other persons in the industry and this does not necessarily have to just be in the area you are involved in as an entertainer (e.g., meet a film maker, an actor, comedian, etc). Rather than seeing what someone may be able to do for you, reach out to the person and see how you may be able to provide assistance and support that person. When people see someone is genuinely interested in them who presents himself as a grounded, authentic person, the other person may one day assist you. Nevertheless, the artist should never have preconceived notions or expectations about what others can and/or should do for him as this will only backfire and create a reputation for the artist that he is only out for himself.
Any artist will be able to recall a not so memorable experience or, shall we simply put it, an experience that may make him rethink why he decided to get involved in the entertainment industry. Exploitation can also mean ‘to make the most of.’ At one point or another, an artist has most likely walked away from a situation feeling used or taken advantage of. But how can an artist learn from that experience and proceed differently in the future? Simple tactics and techniques that an artist can learn deal with reframing and redefining the situation that did not have a positive outcome. Unfortunately, a person may be extra nice to an artist when he believes the artist has something to offer. Let’s say on one of too many occasions, an artist took a person’s word at face value who defined himself as a manager and made multiple promises such as being told his music could be placed on radio stations, the artist could be secured shows opening for major acts and the artist could get his music featured in film and television shows. But, eventually the artist learned that he was taken advantage, lost a lot of money and none of the above took place. What the artist can do is reframe the situation from a positive angle by stating to himself that has learned not to put trust in people so easily, needs to do research on the people before investing money and instead can capitalize on his own efforts by putting in the work himself to see that most of what he expected above, he can accomplish on his own.
It can be unfortunate to know that some artists will get ahead in the industry by taking advantage of others or because of knowing the right persons. But that does not mean you should stoop to that level! Being professional, respectful and considerate of others are not often features that an artist puts at the forefront. Who wouldn’t want to get ahead if one could manipulate or take advantage of a person or situation to benefit oneself? But this is not the way an artist should conduct himself, as being deceitful and manipulative is guaranteed to be short-lived and in the end will be more self-destructive than beneficial. An artist needs to keep in mind that the music industry is much smaller than he may think it is. When an artist creates an unpleasant situation by taking advantage of someone, the person he manipulates may know or be connected with other ‘key persons’ in the industry. Similarly, an artist who decides to gratify his own needs and react impulsively has now destroyed any potential opportunities to work with this person or others by demonstrating he only cared about himself. It cannot be spoken about enough that having personal values where you care about others, truly want to establish relationships on multiple levels (e.g., friendship, business, etc) and act in a professional and courtesy manner, that it is these features that will be remembered about you and assist in your efforts to advance to another level in the industry.
Kerri Edelman, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Contributing Magazine Writer, Singer-Songwriter & Radio Talk Show Host for The Kerri Edelman Show. For more information on her music, visit www.kerriedelman.com and to hear her radio show, visit www.blogtalkradio.com/kerriedelman