One of my comedian friends was recently brutally upset by the fact that he had to pay an admission fee to a comedy competition to be considered for it. He failed get into one of the regional prelim competitions so he was told by the organizer that he needed to resubmit in order to be considered for other regional prelims.
He was very upset by this and felt unsatisfied when he vented his frustration to the organizer who runs the festival, so he went public. He vented his frustration on Facebook and Twitter, “exposing” the principal of this festival. In addition, he made various personal accusations and assumptions about the organizer with other comedians in the thread, slinging insults about not only how unprofessional the guy was but also about his clothing and spelling.
The irony being that if you’re accusing someone of being unprofessional while slinging insults about a person’s spelling, clothing, financial situation or other personal attacks, YOU are the one who is being unprofessional.
It all boiled down to one thing. The comedian who was upset spent “seventy dollars” to not even be considered for the competition.
All around; very frustrating. I get it.
This comedian is not alone in his complaint. There are a ton of other comedians who are upset by the results of competitions and the expenditure of real dollars to get into these competitions or to go out on the road, etc.
Let me try to sort some of it out…
This is show-business. Show business is two words, there’s the “show” and there’s the “business.” This business is no different than any other business in that you have to spend money to make money. You have to speculate to accumulate. Sometimes you have to raise the money to be able to invest it in your business. How you raise the money is up to you. But spending money on an administrative fee for a competition is a necessary cost of doing business.
It’s hard for creative people to deal with that, but…
That’s the way it goes.
I remember, a number of years ago, having to pay $25 dollars to a comedy booking company for them to take the time to look at my tape. I’m old school and didn’t believe in so-called PAY-TO-PLAY. So I bitched and moaned to my wife and my parents and any one else who would listen to me about how I thought I was getting “screwed.”
But this particular booker had 25 weeks of work on their schedule. I paid the $25 dollars, didn’t get a review in the time they allotted. I submitted again, paid another $25. Same thing. I sent a letter (remember, it was before e-mail).
They sent a letter back saying that they had so many submissions, that sometimes they just can’t get to a tape before the deadline and that I would have to submit again. I did. Another $25. I was already $75 in the hole! This time they called me and offered me a week of work as a feature act. I thanked them for considering me and while I had them on the phone I said that I would be traveling all the way from Los Angeles to the East coast to do this gig. “Is there any way you could tack on a couple more weeks so I can better justify the cost of travel?” They did. (In business, it’s called an ‘upsell.’). While you have them saying ‘yes,’ get them to say “YES” again!
Sort of like doing your act. If they laugh at the punch line, tag it, top it and do an act-out, to get more laughs from one premise. Same concept.
They gave me 2 more weeks. While on the gig I met the headliner who taught me how to sell t-shirts. I had a great time, gave them solid shows. I showed up early, and I over delivered. I made it my goal to give them the best shows that I was capable of. Then I called their assistant, asked what kind of wine they drank and sent them a “thank-you” case of Merlot; $110. They called me, thanked me for the wine and booked be for 10 more weeks that year.
In total I spent $75 on the submission, $110 on the wine. That’s $185.
That year according to the W-9 I received from them, I made $8250.00. Not a ton of money, but remember I was working as a feature act.
Most Comedians Think Like Employees
Was it worth it for me to spend $75 for the submission, then $110 for the wine? You bet!
But most comedians don’t think this way. In fact, most comedians lack even basic business acumen. Because most comedians think like EMPLOYEES.
How many comedians know the average profit margin of the average business? How many know the definition of cost-basis? I’d bet that there’s not many. Because traditionally our experience is as an employee. Why should I have to spend money in order to get paid?
But you’re not an employee, you’re a business. So it’s time to start thinking the way businesses think. And that’s profit margin and cost-basis.
A quick “ALT-TAB” over to Yahoo Finance, will tell you that the overall average profit margin of all the industries listed is 7.8 percent. What?! 7.8 percent net profit margin?!
After investing $185 in the booker, (all tax deductible, don’t ya know), I made approximately 45 times what I spent. That, by the way, puts all industries listed on the stock exchange to shame in terms of profit.
Would I have earned that if I just bitched about it?
So suck it up, guys. You may have gotten into comedy to skirt the system or not do a nine-to-five or get out of the “rat-race,” Not participate in the business world.
But here’s the reality: You are not only in the business world. YOU are the BUSINESS!
The beauty of it is, is that the business is COMEDY! Hell yeah!
Tune in, tune up, and kick ass!
Have any ideas you can share with how you make a living? Love to hear them!