By the early 1920s Hollywood had become the world’s film capital. Wannabe stars began packing up their lives and moving to Los Angeles soon after dreaming of fame and fortune.
Everybody that moved to Hollywood knew the rules of engagement: odds of success are low, if it does work it’s going to likely take a long time, and most will struggle to pay their rent and fail.
As the filmmaker George A. Romero of Night of the Living Dead fame once said, “If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.’
Don’t get me wrong, there’s something fantastically admirable in persevering against all odds to make your dreams come true, even if it doesn’t work out. The problem is that in our new social media world, the rules of engagement are not clear.
We’re tricked into thinking that this time it’s different; that this time the odds are better; that this time it’s quick and won’t take years of working for free for somebody else while struggling to pay our bills in the hopes that we’ll make it big one day.
The only thing that’s different this time is that we don’t have to move to Hollywood. This time we can work for free for years from the comfort of our own home in the hopes of becoming famous on the internet.
Judd Apatow best known for Bridesmaids and The 40-Year-Old Virgin said that “I think a lot of Hollywood is in retreat right now trying to figure out how to make money and make the safest bets.”
It’s true that social media and online streaming TV and movies have added more space for entertainers but the competition for attention has also exploded. Instead of making big bets, even the Hollywood elite are in retreat.
Let’s stop pretending and call social media influencers (and creators) what they are: entertainers.
Entertainers are fun to watch and good at grabbing attention.
Lacking depth, the only way for most of them to make money is to advertise low-price commoditized items. Many do, and it’s true that a few are able to build huge businesses selling things like super low cost memberships, supplements, and clothing.
Most don’t make it big though, because entertainment is an outlier business. Here, too, everything seems new, but nothing has really changed.