I’ve been thinking a lot recently about value. Mainly, what skills do I have that are of any value to anybody else? And yes, by ‘value’ I mean that people would be willing to pay me to utilize. This has been my focus as of late because I’m on the hunt for a regular job and it has been tough going. Getting a ‘regular’ job is one of my goals for 2013.

While thinking about ‘value’ I decided to take a look at the skills I have and see what the current ‘value’ of them are.

  • Throwing Toasters (comedy song writing) – I’ve been at Throwing Toasters for a long time. 1995 was the first time I wrote a song and sent it to Dr. Demento. I started performing regularly as Throwing Toasters is 1996. I’ve toured colleges, opened for “Weird Al” and played in Japan. All paid relatively well. That was then, however, and this is 2013. In 2013, the bulk of my shows playing funny songs for money are at Flappers in Burbank. I’m grateful for these gigs, especially now when I have no other regular employment going on. However, when I do play my average take home is $25 per show. I completely understand that this is a LOT in Los Angeles where most shows pay you nothing, and some even make you ‘pay to play’ in the form of pre-sold tickets. But is $25 every week or so enough to live on? No. Also, after playing there regularly for the past couple of years, being booked as the M.C. or featured act for their Uncle Clyde’s Comedy Contest seems to be as far as I’ll ever go at Flappers. They’ve never asked me to feature on a weekend and they’ve never asked me to headline, so I’m not seeing the money coming in from those gigs ever getting better. I have a lot of fun, most of the time, doing these shows, but it seems that the value of my doing comedy is an occasional $25.
  • Commercial Auditions – I believe I’ve just passed the two year mark in doing commercial auditions. That is, going on on auditions to be in television commercials. Now, I knew from the start, this is a tough road to go down. It’s a numbers game, you just keep auditioning and then eventually (hopefully) something will hit and you’ll book a commercial. When I signed up people (people being agents and other folks who know me and work in commercials regularly) said, “You’ll be working in no time.” Well, here we are two years later and, aside from a few callbacks here and there, I’ve never been booked on a gig. So after all the auditions, I’d say my value to the television commercial world is $0.
  • Improv – I’ve received many nice compliments from people on my Improv and I know for certain I’ve improved since I began. I’ve been lucky to score a paying improv gig here and there but nothing much to even average out to come up with a value.
  • Puppetry – Like improv, there just isn’t enough work there to even come up with an average. Last Monday I was very lucky enough to work on music video shoot that actually paid quite well. But these are so far and few between. A puppetry agent may help but there are basically two of them in Los Angeles. The one everybody has and the new one. The new one politely declined my inquiry for representation. The other one that everybody has, everybody tells me not to approach because the agent is awful. I’ve heard enough stories to believe this is true. However, no puppetry agent, no puppetry auditions. So my puppetry value is $0.
  • Writing/Creating – When I say creating I mean writing scripts/pitches (Dr. Floyd, Uncle Interloper, etc.). Sadly this also has an average of close to $0. None of the things I’ve written or created recently have lead to any money. Dr. Floyd is the only enterprise that currently earns any sort of regular dinero, but that income just keeps the show online and constantly re-podcasting old episodes. And the amount that comes in is really just a couple hundred dollars a year.
  • Podcasting/New Media/Social Media – I’ve been podcasting and creating new media content since 2004. Since that time, I’ve also been using Social Media to promote those and other ventures. None of these have made any real money except for Dr. Floyd (see above), but I’ve had some success in teaching podcasting to others. I’ve also recently been paid to consult on a few projects, but again, these haven’t been enough to come to any sort of average of high value.
  • Voiceover – As you know through Dr. Floyd and other podcasts, I enjoy doing voiceovers. For awhile I had an voiceover agent and did a ton of auditions but got nothing. They dropped me after a year. Recently I joined and I’ve been auditioning daily (close to 350 auditions in the past two weeks). I’ve booked two jobs and I will say, it’s been awfully nice to audition without driving to Santa Monica like I have to do for commercial auditions. This venture is just too new to determine if it’ll grow to have a high (if any) value, but it’s certainly a promising start.

Now, I’m not going through all this to have myself a big old pity party. I’m just wanted to take a good hard look at my skills and see what they were currently bringing in. I’ve always known the entertainment road is a tough one and unlike just about any other job, you’re at the mercy of someone eventually saying, “Okay, you are allowed to make money from your skills.” The Gatekeepers as Chris Guillebeau calls them in his book.. They exist in every job but in the entertainment world they are EVERYWHERE on EVERY level.

I’m just coming to the realization that none of these skills, in their present forms, are going to make me enough money to live on. Now, I’m not giving up on any of these, except for maybe the commercial auditions because I hate driving to Santa Monica. I’m just trying to focus and think through how I can earn a living using the skills above outside of trying to tackle the entertainment world.

I’ve applied at a ton of places as Social Media Coordinator (or similar title) and have had a response here or there. I did score one interview to do social media for a financial company, but I got the impression I was a little too ‘creative’ for their tastes. And seeing as they haven’t called me back, I believe that is true. When I realized they weren’t gonna call back, I thought to myself, “Would I really be fulfilled doing social media for a financial company?” The answer is , “Probably not.” But it would be a job and regular money would be coming in.

I will say, without mentioning any names, I would love to be handed the social media control for an entertainment company I work with regularly. It is sad seeing such a creative company being left in the dust by every other entertainment company out there. I know I have strategies that would help them spread the word of the projects they are working on but whenever I pitch these ideas I’m told, “No.” or “We’d NEVER do that.” Well, then they are going to be left behind. And it’s sad. But what can you do when the gatekeepers are stuck on being gatekeepers?

Anyway, the search on how to earn a regular income from these skills continues. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

There’s always retail (and yes, I’m actually looking there too).

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Value”

  1. Grant,
    I’m very sorry to hear that a certain entertainment company is not responding to your suggestions. Since the most recent person left the post that covered social media, I have noticed a distinct decline in postings and pressence on twitter, etc. I wish you had a permanent position with said company to promote their work and creative endeavours. I know from your previous work that it would be wonderful and I’d certainly enjoy hearing more about their activities. Keep on plugging. If I lived near you, I’d attend one of your podcasting workshops for certain. I think you’re brilliant. Sad you aren’t filming in England right now, frankly.

    1. Ceris, thanks for you support! What I wouldn’t give to be in England filming right now, then again I know I’m way far down on that totem pole (though it’d still be cool). Again, thanks for the support. Not giving up!

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