“Be everything to someone, not something for everyone.”
This is my credo, my mantra, my entire manifesto in a single sentence.
I could end this post right here if I really wanted to. But finding the ideal audience for your art deserves much more than a single blurb. And I write novels when I’ve had too much coffee.
This post was born out of 7 years of unsolicited business advice.
When you’re an entrepreneur, everyone’s a business consultant.
When you’re an artist, everyone’s a critic.
When you’re an entertainer, everyone’s Simon Freaking Cowell.
If I were “doing my job right,” I would be one hell of a Bollywood dancing, stilt walking, snake charming, fire eating, poi-spinning, hula hooping, contortionist belly dancer flying through the air on a trapeze – with a costume encrusted in Swarovskis (not Preciosas!) from head to toe, and not a hair out of place. (Of course, I would never wear the same outfit twice!) And I’d dance an entire set to Shakira, too. And if I wear REALLY good, I’d mix martinis, while hanging upside down, with all my props on fire.
After all, my audience is the layman, and the layman doesn’t know what belly dance is. They want the “wow factor,” and traditional belly dance just doesn’t cut it anymore. After all, “blinding them with B.S.” is a lot more relevant in today’s society than any sort of artistic or cultural experience. And in this economy, you have to give customers what they want!
Sad thing is, they’re right. This Flaming Aerial Bartending WTF Fusion Act could be a lot more marketable in some circles than what I’m doing right now.
Except for one problem – for all the customers who would get what they wanted, my most loyal clients – the ones who like me for me – would be forced to shop elsewhere. And I can’t have any of that. Besides, traditional belly dance is only dead in certain subsets of the belly dance community and the entertainment industry. The majority of people who hire belly dancers are still going for a certain iconic look that involves – you guessed it – fringe, chiffon, finger cymbals, veils, and exotic-sounding music.
It takes a whole lot of faith to realize that you are not alone, and to go out on a limb and market yourself to a like-minded group of people that you’ve never met. To realize that birds of a feather flock together. I like things that are real, authentic and classically beautiful. I like my entertainment in the form of pure uplifting escapism that makes me feel good. I’m a WASP-y white girl from Connecticut; and I like my cultural experiences in food, music and entertainment to be real, authentic and fun, not dumbed down for the universal “American palate.” I am not easily impressed by gimmicks, and will take substance over hype, any day. And I live to have fun.
I believe that there are people like myself, and I meet them every day. They are the audience members who tell me that my shows were a refreshing change of pace from other acts they’ve seen before. They’re the clients who want a dancer to rock their party in a classy and beautiful way. They’re the soon-to-be-married couple that’s searching for their ideal entertainment, hasn’t found what they’re looking for, and will fall in love the moment they land on my website because they love my style and can trust me with their unique vision. My clients have big hearts and cool stories, and that’s why we click!
At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone, and you’ll go insane (and probably go out of business!) if you try. Unlike a lot of dancers I’ve met, I don’t pursue every potential booking that comes down the pipeline. But the more business I release back into the wild or refer to a better qualified friend, the more quality jobs come my way. And if every one of my bookings is the kind where there’s a perfect fit, the client is thrilled, and I’m really making a difference in somebody’s special day, then my job here is done!
So to everyone who’s suggested that I put down my finger cymbals and veils, and brush up on my fire breathing skills….I’m good, thanks. Let me hook you up with one of my fire breathing friends! In the mean time, Popeye said it best. “I yam who I yam.” Love it or leave it.