Recently someone (or a few someones) apparently decided that I was too successful and started up a smear campaign in San Francisco to take me down, or cause me trouble, or annoy me like a mosquito buzzing in my ear, or something. I’m not really sure what their intentions were, except that I’m positive their intention was NOT what the end result actually HAS been: to bring me additional publicity, thereby supporting my business.
I got an email from one of the owners of Stagewerx Theater, where I produce a monthly show in San Francisco, telling me that they had found a couple of these stickers pasted around the theater:
The folks at the venue are pissed because whoever put up the stickers put one on a big sign that cost $5000 to have made, and they can’t take it off without damaging the sign. Now the venue is looking into finding out who the vandal is and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law, which could include a prison sentence up to one year plus damages up to $10,000. Pretty serious for a petty stunt, don’t you think?
And here’s the kicker: I received a second email from someone who saw the sticker, thought it looked interesting and looked me up online to find out what the fuss was about. She loved what she saw and signed up for a Pinup Workshop and my Burlesquercise Intensive that starts in January. Which means that this “bad publicity” directly brought me at least one new student. So, dear vandal(s), thank you for your help. Feel free to put up your stickers all over town and get more and more people looking me up to see what I’m about. Just be careful where you put them so you don’t cause damage to any more property!
This reminds me of how the group on Live Journal a few people created to trash talk the Suicide Girls website actually increased sign ups for the Suicide Girls website because it got so many people who had never heard of the website to go check it out to see what all the drama was about.
These are both great examples of how even bad press can help you! We have all heard the saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity” and that it’s only bad when no one is talking about you. For the most part, I would say this is true (the exception being when you reach the level of notoriety where the paparazzi stalks you… luckily I don’t have to worry about that).
I guess the moral of the story is: If you see someone being more successful than you at what you want to do, put your energy into promoting yourself and building up your own project, rather than trying to tear down the other person. Also keep in mind that trash talking someone within your industry can fall into the categories of slander, libel and trade disparagement, which are crimes and can get you prison sentences and huge fines (and this is separate from any charges for vandalism, as in this case).
In many burlesque scenes in different cities, there seems to be what I consider an unnecessary feeling of competition. I don’t understand why so many people would rather undermine each other rather than pull together and work on building the scene together – especially in the burlesque scene, which is so underground and needs as much proactive outreach and public awareness building as possible. Wouldn’t it be better to think of your “competition” as another group helping to bring more people into the scene? Isn’t each person they meet and bring in to one of their shows or classes or what-have-you another potential audience member or student or customer for you as well? Most people who come to one burlesque show and like it will go to more burlesque shows if they can find them.
I appreciate all of the hard work that everyone else in the burlesque scene is doing to build awareness of our art, locally in San Francisco, across the country, and around the world. Promote, promote, promote! That is how our art will thrive! I look forward to the day when telling someone you are a burlesque performer will be like telling someone you are in a band. Instead of “What’s that?” or “I hear dancing on a pole is a great workout” people will say, “Really? What style do you perform?” and I will be able to reply “My acts tend to be sort of New York avant garde style with a traditional aesthetic and a clowny twist” without people looking at me and saying, “What the hell are you talking about?”
So, the next time you find yourself gritting your teeth as your “competitor” has another successful show or announces yet another class format or fun product, rather than setting yourself against them… put your energy into designing a clever flyer or sticker that showcases you and your fun project and spend your time proactively putting them around town. Shameless self promotion is a great game that we can all get in on!
In the next few days, I will post a few easy and inexpensive ways to get in on the promotion game. This will cover the first steps discussed in my previous posting about Getting Paid to Perform.