By Dr. Monroe Mann, PhD, Esq, MBA, LLM, ME, EMT
Founder, Break Diving, Inc.
The Media Ladder
Years ago, I wrote and published a motivational book called, The Theatrical Juggernaut – The Psyche of the Star (which by the way has over 35 five-star reviews on Amazon).
In the third edition, which I have been working on for years and may end up just published here on this blog (haha), I have been writing about something I call The Media Ladder™.
The Media Ladder is my theory on the easiest way to ‘make it’ to the top. I came up with this theory long before I ever heard of Justin Bieber, and you’ll need to understand it before we move on to the next part of my theory.
At the top of the ladder is YOU. It progresses as follows:
It’s pretty simple to understand: You are at the top of the ladder—along with your talent—and if you follow it, rung by rung–STARTING FROM THE TOP AND MOVING DOWN–you will soon be at the top, i.e. the proverbial ‘top’.
You see, once you start performing or doing your thing, soon enough, you should have some fans.
Get enough fans, and the media is going to take notice. For instance, if suddenly you have 10,000 fans screaming at a show, the media is going to want to interview you. That’s a guarantee.
Next, if the media is publishing articles about you, and you are being interviewed on tv talk shows, you can bet that the industry too is going to start to take notice. For instance, if some unknown artist suddenly appears on the cover of People Magazine or Rolling Stone, record labels and movie producers are soon going to be calling that ‘unknown’ artist to get them into a contract.
Finally, once you’re with a record label, or in a movie, or on Broadway or whatever, the brokers (i.e. the talent agents and casting directors, etc.) are finally all going to want to work with you.
Now, this is the surefire way to make it to the top. Is it easy? Nope. But it helps explain something: most people never make it to the top because they fail to follow the rungs of the ladder consecutively, and in most cases, they simply fail to amass a large enough fan base.
Most aspiring professional actors/musicians I know constantly bemoan the fact that they don’t have an agent, and yet, where are the agents on the ladder? The bottom! Why is everyone reaching for the bottom rung on the ladder when the closest one and easiest one to grab (the fanbase ladder) is just a foot away from where they actually are?
This doesn’t mean that agents are not important—but ask yourself this question: who is ultimately more important to an artist’s career longevity—his agent or his fans? If a star has to choose between his millions of fans, or his agent… the choice should be clear. Ditch the agent. With a million-person fanbase, another agent will quickly come along.
So this is the first reason why most people do not ‘make it to the top’—they are focusing on the wrong end of the ladder. While they should be focusing on developing a fanbase, they are focusing on ‘getting an agent’, or ‘getting a publisher’. Folks: it is SO much easier to get a devoted fan than it is a devoted agent or publisher–just share the awesome stuff you are doing with others around you! And ultimately, the power of a fanbase is more powerful than the power of any agent, despite what agents would like you to believe.
That being said, can you skip the rungs on the ladder? Of course. Some people get a great agent or manager first, and that team member helps develop a larger fanbase. But don’t you realize that the agent actually became a FAN first?! And that the agent saw the potential of that artist to amass a fanbase, and get media and industry attention, and that is why the agent picked up the artist?
Folks, no agent will work with someone he is not first a fan of in some capacity first. No agent or manager will work with someone who he doesn’t think has potential to create a large fan base that will ultimately pay the agents’ commissions! Do you get this?
Yes, the whole idea is to garner the attention of the media, and ultimately the industry—but that happens most assuredly by first having a strong fanbase. Make sense? The fans create the desire within the media and the industry and the brokers to work with you—and in return the media, industry, and brokers work together to create for you an even larger fanbase. Back and forth; back and forth. Making sense?
But there’s a big caveat here: yes, you can skip rungs on the ladder, and yes, you can still become a success by skipping the middle rungs. But if you do skip rungs on the ladder, and you do become a success, the odds are that you will become a ‘one-hit wonder’. For instance, look at American Idol. This show allows artists to skip many rungs on the ladder, as it attempts to create stars without the artists first having created devoted fanbases. The show attempts to ‘manufacture stardom’. While it is indeed true that the contestants attract fans along the way, it’s not the same thing as a fanbase grown organically. Which is better: real sugar or an artificial sweetener? Many think the artificial sweetener is all the rage, but I’d prefer the real thing any day, and that’s why all the marketing labels on drinks today now are starting to say, “Made With Real Sugar”. A real organically created fanbase is better than a manufactured one. They both may sorta do the same thing, but the real one is better, and I’ll explain.
You see, this ‘manufactured stardom’ is why—in my opinion—most (but not all) of the contestants (and even the winners) are no longer in the limelight a couple years after their appearances on the show—the fans were manufactured so quickly that they disappeared just as fast. These fans were not there through the artist’s many years of difficult struggle so they don’t have all that much invested in this artist’s longevity.
Have some American Idol contestants gone on to stardom? Yes, but the biggest stars in the music business (and also showbusiness and entertainment in general) still appear to be those who followed the rungs of the ladder consecutively, or at the very least, amassed an appreciable fanbase independent of and prior to any major manufacturing help from the industry.
Take note: this applies not only to music, but also books (John Grisham, who sold thousands of copies of his books out of the trunk of his car before becoming a bestselling author) and movies (Jim Carrey and Steve Martin, who toured for years as struggling standup comics before becoming movie stars). But does it apply to up-and-coming actors too, I am often asked? Many up and coming actors bemoan this theory, telling me, “But authors and bands and comics are different—they all create their own “shows” so it’s easy to get fans!” And my response is always the same: “Then produce your own shows you lazy bums!”
First off, if becoming a professional actor really means that much to you, then get off your ass and produce your own shows and films in which you star so you too can amass fans! Hello?! What are you waiting for?
Second, they are not different. There is absolutely NO movie or Broadway star today who doesn’t have thousands and thousands of fans—the fans may be audience members visiting from Kansas… or those within the industry that had faith enough in the actor to cast him—BUT ALL SUCCESSFUL ACTORS HAD FANS TOO ON THEIR RISE TO THE TOP.
And incidentally, sometimes, it just takes one fan to get on the road to stardom. Buuuut, it’s a very special fan with four very special qualities that I call the four pillars of stardom—which I’ll be talking about in the next blog post in this series.
Bottom line: when it comes to success, and to amassing a fanbase, you can’t focus on the reasons it won’t work and the obstacles in your way—you need to focus on the reasons it will work, and figure out ways to overcome those obstacles. I read recently that when President John F. Kennedy said to his think-tank of scientists, “I want a man on the moon,” they all responded, “It can’t be done.” Kennedy apparently then asked them to make a full list of every reason why it could not be done. Then, he thanked them, and took that list, and gave it to a new think-tank of scientists and said, “Here are the reasons it won’t work—I want you to find a solution to each obstacle.” And… they did. And the rest is history. [In case you didn’t know, yes, we put a man on the moon!]
Are there exceptions, i.e. those who made it to the top in other ways besides amassing a fanbase? Yes, of course, and if you can do it in some other way—great! But you’re now banking on luck (which is a poor investment of your time). The better strategy is to invest your time pursuing a strategy that is guaranteed to succeed. I don’t want to tell you ‘good luck’—I want to tell you ‘put this surefire plan into action’. And I am going to do that in this article by providing you with something tangible—a formula that you can follow. I want to provide you with some type of blueprint that you can emulate to get noticed, and ultimately get to the top.
And that—ladies and gentlemen—is coming up in part 3. Stay tuned!