REPRINT: Exposure

Meme Exposure

Image acquired from the internet hive mind

Exposure will Burn

Have you ever been asked to do something for free and the person sells it to you as “exposure”? Happens all the time for writers, artists, musicians, and web programmers. And while some exposure is good, having only exposure goes from getting a good tan to receiving third degree burns. Frankly, most creative people are getting tired of being burned by exposure.

The above meme is a recent reaction to exposure burn.

Why the strong reaction from the musicians? Well, I know several amazing singers who are expected to sing at family weddings for free. The bridal couple chooses a song, the singer has to learn the song, practice it either to music or a live musician, present it at the recital wedding, and then finally perform it at the wedding. Basically a total of 10 to 20 hours effort, not including travel time, getting a hotel room if required, etc. All for free. Maybe getting a meal out of it for the wedding reception; the singer rarely gets to attend the recital dinner. Oh, and if they actually attend that reception, half the time they are asked to sing again. Something off the cuff.

And what do they get from this “exposure?” Another family obligation when the next person gets married when they have to do it all for free again.

Make a website for free, other people expect to get the same results. Give massages to your friends; they talk to their friends who also want free massages. Make art, expect to give it away. Edit for friends, and continue to edit for friends. No food on the table, no roof over the head, and no giving up the day job.

That is not to say “exposure” is not part of creative people’s advertising plans. For example, a writer rolling out a new book may go on a blog tour providing content to dozens of sites. Words written without pay. But it is “pay”, because it is part of the advertising; instead of renting billboards with money, the writer is spending time to advertise. In other words instead of spending $21 on Facebook to expand a post, they spend three hours (worth $7 per hour) to find bloggers willing to host them, write four posts, send them out, and then respond to any comments. Instead of spending money out-of-pocket, they spend time-off-the-clock. And practically anyone in the modern world will tell you they have even less time than money. Time is expensive.

Exposure is expensive because it is time not spent earning money or being with family and friends. The object for artists is to have exposure make them look good, be useful, like a tan. Which means they need to choose and prepare for that exposure like time at a beach. Does the exposure produce the results they need, or is it just going to produce a burn?

If you know creative people and ask them to do things, think about the cost they are incurring, not just money-wise but time-wise. Don’t try to sell it as “exposure.” If at all possible, reimburse their money costs. Accept it if they say “no” the same way you would if you asked for money and they had to turn you down. Sometimes they are “broke” and have nothing to give for the occasion.

And realize just what a “yes” means. They are offering is a true gift to you.  It is a wedding gift, birthday gift, … a gift from the heart … and treat it as such … because they are giving themselves to you.


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