The Office is one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. One reason the show succeeded, in addition to its brilliance, is that the actors fought for it. In seasons one and two, they had to shoot hours of B-roll with the characters doing work at their desks. In order to make the scenes look real, the writers encouraged the actors to do actual work at their desks.
During those scenes, the actors communicated with fans on MySpace (this was 2004-5). They also reached out to their agents and asked to be on David Letterman and Jay Leno. According to Kim Ferry, a hair stylist for The Office, “my experience with actors, normally, is they don’t ask for that, but they were very proactive, for sure. I think it saved our show” (emphasis mine).
The Office faced a ton of pushback due to its unconventional mockumentary style, and it took two seasons for people to embrace the show. There is no doubt that strong promotional efforts by the actors kept the show alive. They fought for what they believed in.
When you’re a young artist, it’s easy to believe that you aren’t succeeding because you don’t have an agent, or you don’t have enough name recognition. The reality is, even if you do have an agent, you are still the best person to advocate on your own behalf. If you believe in something, you have to fight for it.
If you’re in college, you probably don’t have an agent or a big network like NBC fighting for you. But you also don't have bureaucratic red tape that can hold you back. For example, in less than two weeks, I’m doing my final magic show at GW, Everything I Don’t Know. Going on The Tonight Show won’t help me sell tickets--my target audience is at GW. So I’m working on a few strategies that, if you are also an artist trying to promote your work at school, will hopefully be of use to you. Here they are:
Performing magic in all of my classes. My professors have all been hugely receptive to this idea.
Reaching out to my professors from past semesters and asking to perform in their current classes.
Offering two free tickets to each professor for letting me perform. The cost of this has been far outweighed by the tickets I’ve sold in each class.
Organizing a publicity stunt with the class president in the University Student Center.
Going on my school’s radio. Not only will people listen in the moment, this will give you free, professionally recorded audio to put on your website.
Performing at club meetings.
Performing socially. It’s amazing how my best advertising tool is in my back pocket–everyone wants to see magic. Each time I do magic socially (at a bar, a friend’s apartment, etc), I sell a ticket or two. That is small, but as we’ve talked about in the past, consistency will get you massive results over time. Not a magician? Take pictures for people if you’re a photographer. Organize an open mic if you’re a comedian. Cook food for your friends if you’re a chef. You can always showcase what you’re doing without being egotistical and making people watch you.
If you believe in something, and I certainly believe in this show, you not only have to fight for it, you get the privilege of fighting for it. You get the opportunity to say, earnestly, “I made this and I want you to see it too.” So go do it!
Thanks for reading! By the way, if you're in D.C., make sure to grab tickets to my LAST SHOW at GW, Everything I Don't Know, on April 23rd. See you there!