Songs for the Struggling Artist


I Am Literally Making All This Up

When I apply for artist residencies, I am almost always asked to describe the project I would work on while there. Sometimes a rather substantial word count is suggested for such things. I suspect that the application lives or dies based on my ability to pitch a possible project. (Mostly my applications die – so it would seem I am not great at this part. Either that or the application ACTUALLY lives or dies based on the résumé, in which case the project may not matter at all.) But the truth is, whatever I say in these project descriptions, I am just making things up.

When I say I’m going to work on my Witch/Hysteria play and then list all the things I’m going to be doing, all those things are things I made up as I wrote the application. The only exceptions are when I list things I have already been doing. For example, in the applications for which I’ve applied with this Witch/Hysteria play, (Failed to Burn,) I can tell them I’ll be reading Malleus Maleficarum and The Discoverie of Witches because I have already begun to do that. I’ve been applying with this play everywhere – not because it’s my top choice for development but because I think I have a decent pitch for it and that pitch is not one I have to make up anew.

As I write this, I am in the middle of one of my DIY writer’s retreats. My friend offered me her house for the week so I happily arrived without a single plan for what I would work on. I’ve recently finished several projects so it wasn’t clear at first what I was ready to dive into. I’m on the Waitlist for a Residency where I said I’d work on Failed to Burn there so I’m keeping that project in reserve. Just in case. That left me with 5 to 6 projects in various stages of abandonment. They were all equally sticky, tricky and in dire need of the gift of dedicated time. How to choose?

None of them was calling to me particularly. I tried to reason my way through it. Maybe I should choose the thing that was the least pitchable. Maybe I should choose the oldest. Maybe I should choose the one that had gotten furthest along. You can see how I might be able to spend my whole residency deciding instead of writing.

In the end, I found a random decision generator and put all the choices into it. WheelDecider chose a project for me and I was delighted with what it chose so I went with it. (If I found I was not delighted with the decider’s choice, I would have removed it from the selection and then spun the wheel again.) I have happily been working on it ever since. I don’t have a plan for it. There was no outline and no proposal. The play is telling me what I need to do. It is the optimal way for me to grapple with a creative work. If I were to retrospectively write down all the things I actually did to develop this project, I’m sure it would make an impressive project proposal but I’ve already done them and I could not have known what I needed to do until I was knee deep into the project.

There’s not a single thing I could apply for with this bit of truth. “I would like to come to your prestigious artist retreat without any particular project in mind and just spin the decision wheel when I get there to make the choice. Or I could spin the wheel before I come. That’s okay too. But not too long before. I’m not always sure what I’m going to be working on 6 months in advance.” That application would stand even less of a chance than my already slim chances.

But just once I’d like to able to apply to something with a list of possibilities instead of a well formulated “plan” for some work’s development. I mean, the fact is, for me – if I get as far as a reading list, or a plan, or an idea of how I am going to proceed, it will be very hard for me to not just go ahead and proceed. I don’t have plans for working, I just work. I am literally just making all this up. Just like the people who make up these applications for me to fill in. Just like everyone with everything. We are all just making all this up.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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I’m Not Busy

“I know you’re busy,” someone will say as we look at our calendars to pick a time to meet. Sometimes I just nod, and sometimes, I say, “I’m actually not.”

Most people are a little baffled by this response. How could I not be busy? And how could I confess it? There are a lot of reasons for my retreat from busy-ness but confessing it feels more and more radical and more important all the time.

Listening to Daniel Markovitz’s lecture on The Meritocracy moved me from what I thought was a private rebellion to thinking of it as a public act of resistance. In the lecture, he discusses the transfer of wealth and power from the aristocracy to the meritocracy wherein those good things are distributed to those who work hard for them. He points out that the elite have been working increasingly mad hours and place inherent value in being busy. The answer we’re all meant to give when someone asks us how we are is “busy.”

The theory is that the growing gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us finds justification in the hour of labor a, say, hedge fund manager, puts in. He deserves his private plane because he works so many hours.

Fetishizing busy-ness like this means equating our value with how much STUFF we do. Our virtue is in how much we run around or how many hours we put in at the office. When someone asks us how we are and we say “busy” – we are declaring our virtue (and probably also our exhaustion.) It does not matter what we are busy with. We could be busy taking health care from children and we’re still seen as virtuous for keeping busy.

So. I’m opting out. I have already declared myself a non-productive member of society, it is not such a large step to cease to be busy. Idleness is, in fact, fantastic for art making. A quiet mind has space to invent. That is what I’m here for – so making space for a non-busy life feels imperative for my purposes.

Markovitz also talks about how the gutting of a lot of industries has led to a kind of enforced idleness for the working and middle classes that serves to strip them of their virtue. If to be busy is to be good – then to be unemployed is the worst. This creates a circle of screwed up justification. The working class isn’t able to work (because of systemic changes, usually caused by those at the top) so they’re not virtuous which means their suffering is fine because they’re not busy, you see?

I just finished reading Anand Giridharadas’ Winners Take All and it makes the case that a lot of the difficulties we’re in culturally, economically, politically – are related to the justification mechanisms of those at the top. For example, a CEO of an oil company feels just fine about his company’s destruction of the environment because he donates to public parks. As he’s blocking the development of sustainable energies so he’ll make more money, he’s sitting, with a great deal of self-satisfaction, on the board to plant flowers in public spaces. He’s busy, you see? He’s not just making money. He’s busy! He’s a good person!

At the moment, I am, in fact, not busy – but I may continue to lean into it when I am busy again. It’s a terrible game and I will not play.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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How to Make Money as an Artist

The answer to how to make money from your art reminds me of a joke Steve Martin used to do. The bit goes, “You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes. You can have one million dollars and never pay taxes. You say, Steve – how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes? First, get a million dollars. Now….”

Except with art – it’s a long list of things like: First, become really popular or First, make commercially profitable work or First, be incredibly well connected socially. Or really, just the same: First, get a million dollars.

If you’re wondering how to make money from your art, chances are you don’t have any of those things yet because if you did, you would probably already be making money from your art and thus we have the art making paradox.

I have read endless articles and books on this topic and they all offer more or else the same thing in more or less optimistic language, depending on the publication. They all know that this is what everyone wants to know, so this is what they tell you, even though no one has the secret. I’m not going to lie to you – the reason why there are so many articles about how to make money from your art is because everyone wants the answer and no one knows how to do it, aside from the Steve Martin, “First, get a million dollars” way. There are some things to try, for sure. There are possibilities and methods. Maybe one will work for you but there are no guarantees.

However – I don’t want to deny what you came here for – so at the risk of repeating what every other article about this says – I will, in fact, offer you some strategies for making money on your art work. I will be unable to avoid drawing on my experience and of other artists I’ve known, though, so you can expect, perhaps, an uncomfortable amount of realism included.

Okay. First:
Get a million dollars.
Kidding. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

First: Make art. If your art requires an upfront investment and you can make it, do it. If you can’t, find ways to adapt. Like, if you’re a painter and you can’t afford a canvas, sketch and draw for a while until you can get the canvas. Make drawings and sketches and paintings. Write novels and plays and blogs and screenplays, etc, etc. Don’t think about selling any of it at first. You just have to do it enough that it becomes part of your life.

If you’re a performing artist, you’re going to have difficulties of a different sort. You’re going to need space (try a park? A basement? Your living room?) and you’re going to (most likely) need other people. Finding other people who will contribute to your art without compensation is probably harder than actually making your piece. All I can advise here is kindness, transparency and gratitude. That is, if you don’t have any money to pay your artists – say, “I don’t have any money to pay you.”

There are those who will pretend they have money to pay artists and then do not have money to pay artists and so do not pay their artists after telling their artists they would be paid. Those folks will get an unsavory reputation very quickly.

Whatever your initial projects are, do not expect to make money on them. The odds are that you will not.

The odds are probably such that your second and third ventures will also not make you money. But you stand a better chance the more work you make – and if you’re lucky you will cease to care quite as much about that.

So – that’s step one. Make your work. And I just want to pause to acknowledge that this is not easy. Making art without money is very very difficult. I have surely talked about this in many blogs before so I won’t go into the unpredictable ways that money makes a difference but just now I suggest that you acknowledge that you’re up against the wall and give yourself hugs.

Step 2: Let’s say you now have a body of work. Make sure you document it because whatever path you take with it, you’re going to need the receipts on your artwork.

Now you can start to think through whether you want to approach making art as a business or as a service. You can try to do both but you’ll likely end up split in half, as any servant of two masters does.

If you pursue the business track, I’d recommend thinking through your boundaries and about what counts as art for you. If you’re happy to be creative on assignment, you will likely be able to make a living. You can get a job in advertising. You can paint for an interior designer. You can write for soap operas. Being creative for a living is entirely possible but be forewarned that this is being “a creative” not being an artist. It’s being artistic for money. It’s not making art. And for a lot of people, this is enough. For some people, they find the balance is to be artistic for work and an artist at home.

If you’re interested in business, you can try selling your art – though I don’t know many who find a way to make this work. Those that do tend to develop a business – they’ll do design to sell their images on t-shirts for example – but given how unwilling most people are to pay for art these days (and for art also read music, theatre, film, dance, writing, etc.,) I don’t know if you can really bank on selling.

I’m not saying you can’t do it. I’m just saying that it is a rare artist who can. If you’re Damien Hirst you can sell a pile of lint but if you’re not already Damien Hirst, it’s not likely you can become him. I think partly that’s because those heady days of buying and selling art are kind of over and partly because the obstacles in the way of becoming the kind of artist who sells his work are more extreme.

Let’s look at music, for example, (and just project out for the other arts) in the pre-internet days, we sort of had a pocket of middle class musicians. An indie band could tour and sell their records and maybe they wouldn’t be able to buy a house but they could keep the band alive. Now, the musician middle class has virtually disappeared. There’s a lot of money at the top and nothing the rest of the way down. What I mean is, you’re either getting 14 million plays on Spotify and doing pretty darn well or you’re getting a thousand and making chump change. You’re either Taylor Swift or you’re struggling. Selling records doesn’t do it any more. Selling paintings doesn’t do it. Selling your writing is a similar problem.
You can try it, of course and you very well may be the one in a million who cracks the code. But the odds are worse than they’ve ever been.

Taking the service route may seem like the easier path. You could start a non-profit organization, go sing your tunes for incarcerated grandmothers or paint puppies in peril.
Probably someone has already suggested you “just get a grant” for something you do. If I had a grant for every time someone suggested I get grant, I’d have a fully funded non-profit. Somehow the world thinks it is super easy to just get a grant – I think they think there are pots of free money just sitting around and all an artist needs to do is to go ask for it. If only.

Listen. Grants are great. I started a non-profit theatre company and I am grateful for every grant check I have ever received. But there are hardly pots of money lying around waiting to be distributed. Grantmakers are rare rare birds and finding one that happens to want to fund exactly the sort of thing you want to make is like going searching for a Rose-Throated Becard (that’s a rare bird from Arizona.) And if you do spot one of those Rose-Throated Grants – well, the odds of it providing you more than a tiny token portion of what you need are VERY slim. Can you find a grant? Sure you can. But you might spend 7 times as long searching for and applying for that funding as you do making your art.

I promise you I’m not trying to be discouraging. I just want you to know what you’re up against.

Are there people who make this model work? Absolutely. They are pros at soliciting donations and establishing artistic organizations and the better you get at it, the bigger the grants are that you become eligible for. So if it appeals to you – give it a shot. I just want you to know that it is not as simple as getting a grant. The first grant we ever received as a non-profit theatre company was for $500. We worked on that application for weeks. The labor, if we’d charged for it, would have been three times the amount of the grant. And $500 was only a drop in the bucket of what we needed.

Grants aren’t magic. That’s all I’m saying. Can you probably pick up a grand somewhere? Probably. But I’m going to guess that you’re going to need more than that to do whatever it is that you want to do. And every penny of it will probably have to go back into the project. So – are you making money with your art? Probably not in this context.

Is it hopeless to imagine you could make a living as an artist? No. It is possible. It’s a little bit like – some basketball players get to play in the NBA and most do not. And more and more – it is only the NBA players who are making any money. Metaphorically speaking.
But again – I’m not telling you this to discourage you. Though, I will say, if you’re discouragable by me, just some struggling artist lady with a blog, I think probably a little discouragement is a good idea. The only way you’re going to survive the indignities of making art in America is if you’re undiscourageable.

Like – if I can, with my little truth telling machine, prevent you from going into whatever art you’re considering, it’s actually a service to you. You might just decide to go to law school instead and then, later, once you have a house and car and your kids have gone to college, you might just come on back to your art and I will tell you that you will likely be in a much better position than those of us who have kept at it, without pause, from our youth.

Do I wish I had done it that way? Nope. No one could have convinced me to take a minute away from my art and if you’re like me – I’m sorry. It is easier the other way. I am envious of those who made other choices and have things like…furniture – but I wouldn’t have, couldn’t have, done it their way.

But let’s say you are like me and no one could convince you to abandon your craft.
Here are some ways you can make it work.
1) Get a full time job. Do your art at night. (Or whatever arrangement of the day you find.) Some of the happiest artists I know have full time office jobs. Others have full time teaching positions.
2) It’s the Gig Economy! Gig it up! Have 6 jobs! I’ve done it. It’s crazy but if you’re trying to prioritize your art, sometimes it’s good to more or less make your own schedule so you can build in a rehearsal day or whatever. I know a Broadway actor who became a handy-man so he could grab a gig when he had the time. When thinking about Day Jobs, I recommend Carol Lloyd’s book, Creating a Life Worth Living – and consider whether or not it will be beneficial for you to do your day job in the big tent of your art or to do something entirely separate. Like, if you want to be a circus performer, would you be happy with a gig as a ticket seller at the circus or will it hurt your heart to be around the thing you love and not IN it? Anyway – jobs, gigs, support careers – they’re a reality for most of us.
3) Other avenues to consider are things like crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, when it first came up in its digital form, was thought to be the future of the arts. It has not turned out to be the panacea it was hoped it would be. But there are ways to crowdfund your work. See also Amanda Palmer’s astonishing Kickstarter album – followed by her great success on Patreon. But – in order for Crowdfunding to work in those magical ways – you have to have a crowd that is already in your corner. If you’re not already popular, crowdfunding is a lot trickier. Amanda Palmer killed it on those platforms because she already had a giant committed fan base when she joined. Personally, I get the bulk of any support on Patreon. I don’t have a CROWD, per se. But I do have some really dedicated supporters – and if you can find even just a few of those, they can make a tremendous amount of difference. If you have people in your life who are willing to help you out, I highly recommend letting them. I’ve known a lot of artists who felt like they couldn’t accept offers of support or patronage and without that avenue, your options for funding your work are really few. I wish it were not so but it is. Art is important. If you have to make it, you will find a way. If you let people help you make it, it will be a lot easier.

Now – a lot of arts support organizations will likely not enjoy this post. They will strenuously argue for their efficacy at giving artists the skills they need to make money. These organizations are some of the top creators of the How to Make Money posts and books and podcasts, etc. It’s how they justify paying all that rent or those salaries for those organizations. Many of these art-support places are very invested in the possibility of magical money that will come to the artists that work hard at the skills they have to offer. I would love it if this were so. I have taken nearly every workshop these sorts of organizations have to offer. Marketing for artists! Grantwriting for artists! Touring! Social Media for artists! Budgeting for artists! PR for artists! Databases for artists!

You can know how to do all those things and still never see a sustainable dime. You can make good work, do bang up support for it and still never find sustainability or even a break. It doesn’t reflect on your quality. It is really and truly the luck of the draw. Not all art is marketable. Not all art makes money.

You should play the game if you want and have to but if it doesn’t fly – it’s probably not you. It’s just that very few things fly.

Even a million dollars isn’t a guarantee. However – it does up your odds significantly. So – to really improve your chances of making money from your arts:

First – get a million dollars.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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A Rejection in a Decadent World

The theatre company that rejected me most recently is one that was founded a year or two after mine. I know this because they interviewed my puppet designer for one of their first productions. They didn’t hire her (their loss) but due to their timing and their mission, I have followed their journey pretty closely.

They do good work. Let me say that, first. But I have always felt like they had some leg up when they began that I could not quite identify at the time. (I can guess now that it’s probably mostly being male. The leg up was maleness. Man-osity. Boy-i-tude.) I resented them for a long while – because I felt like they came up behind me driving a hot rod trike while I was running a three-legged race and they surged ahead before I even knew what the game was. But they won that race so long ago now, I’m finally over myself and I swallowed my resentment and pride to write them a ten minute play on spec for their short New Play Festival. I don’t do this usually – but – like I said before – they do good work and fundamentally that is the most important thing to me. More and more, I feel I don’t have the will to produce my own work the way I used to, so I have my eye on people who do good work. Anyway, despite my little play’s “high merits from our readers” it did not make the final round.

This letter concluded with my old (least) favorite: Keep Writing!

The problem with the specificity of the requirements of this short play festival is that it means the play I wrote for them is really not likely to be to the taste of anyone else. I mean – maybe I’m wrong and someone out there is dying for a ten minute companion piece to The Changeling by Thomas Middleton. (Don’t all come clamoring at once!)

Asking for these kinds of things feels like the height of decadence – the ultimate artistic rent seeking (this is an economic concept I’ve talked about before) and in this case it is for such a small reward. Because here’s the thing – I’m almost certain my little play (“The Apothecary’s Daughter”) will never see the light of day anywhere else – which is fine, I have a lot of plays like that. But I can’t help thinking of the other ten minute companion pieces that other writers wrote for ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Women Beware Women and The Spanish Tragedy and such and how every year “record numbers” of playwrights churn out a record number of plays in this vein and how there’s just a storehouse of Jacobean themed ten minute plays sitting in the files of playwrights around the country and more are added to that rather useless collection EVERY YEAR.

And this is just one tiny short play festival. All around the country there are multitudes of other plays written for other people’s highly specific specifications that then go on to accumulate dusty storage deaths and I don’t know – this is one hell of a decadent world to ask so much of a bunch of theatre people without a lot of open doors available to them.

Anyway – I guess I’ll keep writing anyway since the producer of this short festival told me to but I’m feeling a little sad for all those lost short plays out there. Not sad enough to produce them myself, mind you. But sad.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

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You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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An Editor’s Rejection

Due to the way the publishing business works, one doesn’t get to submit directly to editors very often. Literary agents are the keepers of the gate and so one mostly can just submit to them.

But, because of my membership in SCBWI, I was able to submit to a couple of editors after attending their workshops at the winter conference.

I didn’t really choose the workshops strategically – just by what I was interested in – but I submitted to the editors to whom I was permitted to submit. The first one I heard back from was via the most recent rejection. I will say that it was the most interesting and useful rejection I have gotten so far. First, she mentioned some things she liked and appreciated (always nice) and said that the protagonist seemed a bit younger than her usual middle grade books. That part is the useful bit. I know now that (to someone who reads a lot of books for young people) my main character reads younger than other main characters in the genre. As I know very little about the genre or its expectations, this is useful information for me. I don’t quite know what I will do about it yet but it does give me something to do – a lens with which to take another look at the book.

That’s all good and useful. And I feel like I hit a funny milestone. At the conference, I heard so many people talking about “voice” and characters being “voicey” and I did not really understand what the deal with that was at first. I was told it was a common reason for rejection. And voila! Here it was – (the editor didn’t connect to the character’s voice.) I may have been rejected but now I’ve joined the rejected by voice club.

(Side bar – one of my Patreon patrons sent along this Instagram post wherein an artist illustrated her rejection…so I thought it might be time to get out my colored pencils and follow her example. I decided, though, that I just wanted to remember the good parts.)

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This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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The Podcast Drama that No One Is Talking About

Last year, one of my favorite podcasts stopped updating. I didn’t worry too much about it. Many podcasts are uneven in their production. They stop and start. I’m used to it.

But then, while trying to decide if I should go to Werk It Women’s Podcasting Convention, I looked at the list of speakers and saw the host of that missing podcast (Note to Self) was listed as the host of something else entirely (Zig Zag).

The Case of the Missing Podcast was both solved and begun, both in that moment.

I googled. I searched. I listened to the new podcast and read the few news articles I could find on the mysterious movements of podcaster, Manoush Zomorodi.

It felt like a scandal to me. The host of a popular public radio show abandoned it for the wilds of a startup corporation and/or business podcast! Isn’t this news?

I really thought there would be talk about it somewhere. But no one seemed to care.

Zig Zag was not nearly as good show as the show Zomorodi left. I listened to a few episodes and even though it was made by the same people as Note to Self, it just wasn’t interesting to me at all. The central premise of it seemed to be “Look at us crazy people leaving our secure public radio jobs to go out on our own, experiment with cryptocurrency and make something for money!”

They seemed to suggest that there was some #MeToo action going on over at their former job but they never came out and explained anything about what was actually happening there. It was all super vague for a couple of journalists with mad storytelling skills so it mostly felt like they left because they thought they could cash in elsewhere.

As a person who has never had a secure job, much less a public radio one, I couldn’t help shaking my head at the surprise these women seemed to constantly be experiencing out in the big bad freelance world. While I listened to Zig Zag, my brain just kept responding to it with, “No shit, Sherlock.” Newsflash! Starting a business is hard! Freelancing isn’t easy!

I felt like I should have been their target demographic. I was after all, a loyal listener to their previous podcast, a big supporter of women and advocate for creative life choices – but I found their new podcast ridiculous. And it made me a little mad, too.

Because the promise of public radio is that it is for the public. It is funded by the public. I myself contributed to Manoush Zomorodi’s public radio show. I wasn’t a regular donor. I couldn’t afford to be. But I really believed in what they were doing.

So when Zomorodi and Poyant went off to try the wilds of the crypto currency corporate world, I felt a bit betrayed. I put my trust in public radio and it just up and sold out. And weirdly, despite all of this happening within the news media, there was no news about it. Are podcasts still so niche? I don’t know. I’m not sure the millions and millions of dollars going to podcast companies now suggests a genre no one cares about.

Anyway – the cryptocurrency that Zig Zig focused on went nowhere and I guess the podcast did too. Next thing I knew, Zomorodi was hosting another show (IRL) that was very similar to Note to Self. Previously, I’d started listening to IRL – a show sponsored by Mozilla (a non-profit) and then all of a sudden the old host was gone and Manoush Zomorodi was hosting it. Turns out Mozilla had fired the previous host, (Veronica Belmont) and brought in Zomorodi, who had recently been a guest on the show. IRL basically became Note to Self for that season. So much drama! That no one was acknowledging!

So the body count thus far for this adventure included one public radio podcast and one non-profit podcast host. And maybe even a non-profit podcast? But this saga was not over, friends. No it was not. Because a few weeks ago, an announcement showed up in the Note to Self podcast feed. Note to Self was coming back. It had been bought by the podcast start up, Luminary, and it would be producing the show on its platform in association with WNYC Studios and Stable Genius Productions (That’s Zomorodi and Poyant’s media company created for the Zig Zag podcast.) Manoush is hosting. I don’t know what’s happened to the IRL podcast. Will Veronica Belmont get her job back?

Luminary is a private podcasting company that is putting all of its exclusive content behind a paywall. It’s spending lots of money to produce shows like Note to Self in the hopes that people will pay a subscription fee to listen to them.

So. A show that was developed with public money is now no longer public. It is still co-produced by WNYC Studios, which, if not the actual public radio station, is a part of it.

This has happened with multiple public radio shows. Gimlet Media (which Spotify purchased for over $200 million) was created by two former podcasters from WNYC public radio. I don’t feel great about public funds being the on ramp for corporate podcasting. I don’t begrudge radio folk making their money – but I’m starting to feel used and betrayed by this flight from public radio. I’m a lot less inclined to support it if it’s going to just disappear into the corporate stratosphere.

And while the one Note to Self episode that Luminary has released into the old feed is interesting and worth listening to, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pony up cash to a mega million start up company after being jerked around like this by the host over the last year.

As an indie podcaster myself I am concerned about the way the field is evolving. Are corporations gutting public radio?

Are they thinking public radio doesn’t matter anymore? Think again. In a Facebook group I’m in, someone asked for podcast recommendations and nearly every recommendation in the hundreds of comments was actually an NPR show. I hope all these mega mega corporate podcast companies realize and understand the debt that they owe to pubic radio and find ways to funnel a little something back to them. I mean, this indie one woman podcast maker would happily take a deal at Gimlet or Luminary or Wondry or wherever – but even I, who have never been on the radio, recognize that I owe a debt to the public radio that I listened to and from which I learned by example.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find this episode on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. It features a Nanci Griffith song!

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Medusa Long Shot Rocket Rejection

I started working on my Medusa play sometime around when I started my theatre company, which was close to 18 years ago. I abandoned the play after doing a reading of it but then picked it back up a few years ago when an actor, who’d read one of the parts that first time, asked after it. I don’t know if it had been a full decade at that point but the fact that it had stuck with him after so long made me feel like it was worth grappling with.

After much wrestling, I got the play into shape and did a reading in Brooklyn and after it, I felt like I still wasn’t sure if it was worth anything. One of my listeners pointed out that I might not really know what was actually there until I had the exact right actors. He suggested I think big.

I knew who I needed. As the person who gave the single best performance I have ever seen, I knew that hearing HER read it would tell me everything needed to know. I also knew that in order to have that happen, I needed to make the play good enough for her. I imagined her reading it as I was writing and the play got better.

I did another reading in Queens with a game group of lovely actors and I got even closer to what I thought the play wanted to be. All along I was thinking of this sort of lodestar of a performer and how to get it to her, how to connect with her, how to strategize for this play’s future.

As time went by, the play was selected as a semi-finalist for the O’Neill National Playwright’s Conference but went no further. All of my attempts to make a connection with my Medusa lodestar failed.

Then I saw that she’d be performing in a public park – so I printed out a copy and brought it with me in case I could be brave enough to give it to her. I was. I was brave enough and it was mortifying. Completely and totally mortifying. I don’t recommend this sort of experience to anyone. But – even though she wouldn’t take the stack of paper in the moment, she told me to send it to her agent. And believe me, it had been suggested to me to send it to her agent before but that information is not particularly easy for an outsider to find so the principal value in standing before the actual person was that I could ask her who her agent was. Then began the tricky task of finding her agent’s information. You realize, when diving in to this sort of world, that so much of it is designed to intimidate and keep you out. The world of agents is built to make it difficult to find them. There are services you can pay to simply get an email.

But with the support of a clever friend, I finally got to the agent. Also, with a lot of coaching from my clever friend, I did some finely crafted emailing to just get this play to the woman who had been its muse. After about a week of back and forth, it was, in fact sent to her.

Just getting that far felt like a great leap. It wasn’t just the labor of the week to get it to her – but the years of putting it on my list to figure out and all the attempts before. I launched the rocket into space.

Within days, the rocket fell to earth as I heard back that the play was not for her.

Strangely, given how intimidating the world around agents is, the rejection was one of the best I’ve received. It was succinct, clear and gentle. I wonder if that agents learn that skill because they never really want to give anyone a hard no. What if Julie Taymor suddenly decided to put my Medusa on at the National Theatre with a million dollar salary? Would my muse be interested then? She might. Or at least there might be another conversation to be had.

So weirdly, I find myself wishing other rejectors could be more like an actor’s agent. Reject us like you might have to make a million dollar deal with us next time – because you just never know.

Meanwhile, here I am watching my last real hope for this play float away. I know it makes no sense to set a bubble of hope on an actor’s interest but it was literally the only idea I had for the future of this play. I can’t produce it myself. It’s too big for the resources I can gather. It’s not the kind of show you can do at your local community playhouse.

So…this particular rejection hit me hard – even though I knew it was a long shot. It was the longest shot. And it’s going to take some time to gather the strength to build another rocket – or even just a wagon. It’s going to take some time to reassemble some hope. Maybe it’ll be another ten years. Or maybe never at all.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me keep building metaphorical rockets?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis




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