Unsolicited: Self-Promotion Blues

Hey welcome to Unsolicited, a new monthly addition to Mindful of Madness where I’ll spend a bit of time every month talking about what’s going on in my life and artistic pursuits. I’ll talk about writing and comedy and maybe even photography, always with the cynical, hard-nosed humor I work really hard to keep out of my short stories.

“But, Andrew,” you may be thinking. “Why are you writing about yourself? You’re about as exciting as the concept of mayonnaise.”

To which I’d respond, “Fair.”

But I’m also a decent hand at making the mundane moderately amusing and apparently one blog post a month is not the best way to become a rich and famous writer. So here we are. Expanding the brand Baybeee.

Today I want to talk about self-promotion. 

I hate it.

On one hand it makes me feel slimy, like a used car salesman or that guy who tried to sell you a gold-plated coffin after your estranged uncle died. On the other, asking people opens you up to criticism. I don’t know if you’ve ever met an artistic person, but we don’t like that shit.

If I’m being honest, I’d rather stick my hand in a tank full of live tarantulas than hand a show-flyer to a stranger.

One time I tried to hand a comedy show flyer to some 20-year-old hipster with a full head of hair and he said, “Hard Pass.” 

So, I hit him with my car… ok I really just shouted, “Fuck you too!” which made him laugh very hard. I was the highlight of his day, I bet he went home and told his 12 roommates about this hilarious guy he owned on the way to the microbrewery that day, and he didn’t even pay 5 dollars to see my awesome comedy show. 

Since then I’ve avoided telling people about my shows or projects in person. At least when you laugh at a Facebook event, I don’t have to hear it. For the most part this has worked out for me. I’m hardly making a living, but I’ve also been able to grow and improve my skills with a minimum amount of beautifully coiffed young people judging me for taking a shot.

But that’s got to change.

In December I released my first comedy album, “This Was A Bad Idea,” and just telling you about it now makes me feel like that dude in the park selling “Real Rolex Watches (And coke if you like to party.)”

It isn’t that I’m ashamed of the thing, on the contrary, I honestly believe “This Was A Bad Idea” (Now streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon music) is the best work I’ve ever done. It’s just that my self-esteem is so low, asking you to go to CDbaby.com and buy it so I can finance future artistic endeavors makes me want to stick my head in an oven. 

 Self-promotion has been a struggle for me since day one of comedy. I love performing. In a lot of ways I am more comfortable on stage than I am off. I’d rather spend my time bombing at an open mic than receiving a commendation at work.

Is this a sign of latent emotional damage?

Probably.

Is it something I’m willing to work on?

Nah man. 

But as much as I love doing comedy, asking somebody to come to a show seems like a huge ask. Why would anybody want to see me at Comedy Below every third Friday of the month at the Gallery Below when they could stay home and re-watch Back to the Future? Have you seen that movie? It’s about time travel, there’s a pretty cool car in it and like a weird incest subplot and… ok you get the bit here.

For years I’ve promoted shows and projects poorly because it just made me straight up uncomfortable, which is a problem for anybody who wants to make things. 

The good news is, I’m getting better. Writing this little advertisement cleverly disguised as self-analysis is only making me slightly nauseous, and over the past year my show (Comedy Below at the Gallery Below, Feb 21st at 8pm) has grown into one of the best shows in Colorado Springs. I’m also just a few sales away from breaking even on my album (This Was A Bad Idea CDs available at all of my shows or via mail if you Venmo me $15). 

With all that in mind (and because this entry isn’t quite long enough yet) I’d like to share some words of wisdom about how to overcome insecurity and become an unapologetic huckster of low-tear comedy gold.

  • Swallow the vomit in your mouth and hand that hipster a flyer. Look at him! He’s got a beard AND glasses. He for sure drinks beer and your show is for sure in a brewery. If your show isn’t the same night as a pop punk revival tour, he’ll be there, it’s the law of bearded glasses guys.
  • Post your gig on social media. Oh, you did that already? Do it again. Facebook is going to bury your show if you don’t buy ad space, so you have to be a LITTLE relentless. I’m not saying post 8 times a day, but 4-5 times in the week before your show isn’t too bad. Mix it up too. Share the event, share the poster, share a self-aware post about how you know you’ve been posting a lot about that show on Friday, but it would sure mean a lot if people came out. 
  • Guilt. Guilt, my friends is a powerful motivator. Make everybody who’s missed your last couple shows feel really crappy about it. Is this tip a joke? I don’t know, why don’t you come out to my next show and we can talk about it? I mean I haven’t seen you in a while and it meant so much when you showed up unannounced to that one show three months ago…
  •  Give away free beer. People like free stuff, people like to drink beer. Tell them you will have free beer, then provide said beer. This really isn’t rocket science. (this tip works great in tandem with tip 1.)
  • I dunno do a raffle or something. Lists need five things, right? Raffle. Boom. 5th tip. Marketing expert.

And yes, all of these tips turned out to be about promoting shows, but look, I’m going on 5 years of promoting shows poorly. I’ve only been promoting albums poorly for a couple months. Maybe cut me some slack. 

Anyway, I hope this was a fun read for you. I’m still working out the kinks in this new format, they’ll get better or maybe I’ll get bored and quit after 3 months. In the meantime, for something completely different check out my short stories here, my album here and follow me on twitter @drewjokeringram and on Instagram @andrewingram88 

Next month we’ll talk about how you, the reader, can help your artists friends get rich without actually spending any money yourself. It’ll be great!

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