The most useful resources for online entertainers are comprised of experienced entertainers and colleagues, strategically-placed groups and organizations, and efficiently-composed informational resources. You will find a compilation of our favorite resources for video creators, podcasters, webcomic creators, and musicians below.
Using Fellow Online Entertainers as a Resource
As is the case with any profession, no single resource can hold a candle to robust personal network. In addition to internalizing tactics used by top entertainers, developing ties with other online entertainers, and working more closely with your fans, consider getting (and even paying for) a mentor who is willing to show you the ropes and introduce you to key partners.
Treating Niche Leaders as Case Studies
Leaders in the specific niche you seek to dominate as an entertainer can serve as excellent resources should you use them as case studies. Carefully observe:
- The social media channels on which they are most active
- The types of fans with whom they interact with the most
- The average length of content they produce
- The production tools and equipment they use and recommend
- The manner in which they interact with fans (do they mention them in blog posts, hold contests, host Hangouts, or encourage fans to recommend new types of content?)
- The types of content they produce that garners the highest number of views (are there certain types of videos, songs, comics, or podcasts that get a disproportionately high number of views?)
Tactics used by top entertainers within your niche are likely to be optimized for your unique target demographic, which makes them well worth testing. You should, of course, also test your own theories and novel tactics to ensure that, in addition to gaining all of your niche's present leaders' advantages, you carve out a unique competitive advantage of your own.
Collaborating with Other Entertainers
In addition to observing the behavior of other entertainers, you stand to gain from establishing collaborative ventures with fellow entertainers. The benefits of doing so include:
- Tapping in to new audiences
- Learning new skills, tricks, and tactics
- Strengthening your brand
- Making new friends
- Adding legitimacy to your work
- Widening and boosting coverage
- Doubling (or tripling, or quadrupling) the number of content creators promoting your work
Most entertainment-based professional communities are incredibly open and friendly, plus many active artists are constantly engaged in collaborative ventures. Do not be afraid to reach out to other video producers, podcasters, comic creators, or musicians within your niche. Even if they seem like big deals, they might be open to working on something with you. Should you be turned down, you will have lost nothing but the time spent to send a friendly email.
Using Audience Members as Creative Resources
Use your fan base as a source of inspiration and criticism. By actively responding to their requests and suggestions, you will not only develop stronger ties with your followers, but also create content that is more likely to succeed.
Some simple means by which you can utilize your audience as a creative resource include:
- Asking for feedback in comment threads attached to content you share online
- Asking fans for tips and suggestions via social media
- Launching campaigns, contests, or challenges encouraging your audience to submit ideas
- Encouraging audience members to edit and remix the work you produce (be sure to give your work a license that makes it possible to do so)
- Collaboratively creating work with audience members
- Using audience members' contributions in your content
Examples of entertainers using audience members' contributions include the use of suggested lines in a video short, incorporation of a musical riff in a new song, the assimilation of a fan-made original character into a series, and the inclusion of a specific character design or submitted background in a comic or video, as well as production of content featuring guest posts or appearances.
Selecting and Reaching Out to a Mentor
Though you can learn a great deal from top entertainers just by observing them, you can gain even more by snagging one as a mentor. Having the right insider knowledge and connections within the entertainment industry (be it old school or internet based) can make all the difference in the world.
Should you be intrigued by the concept of having a mentor:
- Look for someone within the niche you wish to enter who is at a level of access you hope to achieve within the next couple of years
- Send this person an email
- Explain why you are reaching out to this person in particular
- Explain what you are working on and what you hope to achieve
- Explain what you want from this person in terms of advice, connections, and time investment
- Ask if this person might be available
- Express willingness to pay for mentorship
An example of an email you might send would be:
Dear Jane Doe,
I have been reading your webcomic for the past five years. The blog post you published in April 2012 about your experience as a webcomic artist was what ultimately inspired me to follow in your professional footsteps, so suffice it to say that I have been profoundly affected by your work.
I hope to start my own photo-based webcomic in the next six months. It will be about the secret adventures on which my overweight cat embarks when I leave for work every day. I plan to target both typical webcomic audiences as well as cat and photography fans (I'm pretty good with well-lit, well-framed, adorable cat shots). The comic will run three times a week, and I plan to produce four comics each week to make sure I stick to my schedule. My goal is to have around 2,000 daily views after six months and to sell my first book after ten.
I am looking for a mentor who has also found success in the webcomic and photography world who can introduce me to some helpful people and offer guidance as I set up and launch my venture. Would you be willing to mentor me, and if so, how much might you charge for something along the lines of two hour-long calls and around ten back-and-forth emails each month?
You might be hesitant to ask a potential mentor what he or she might charge for mentorship, as artists aren't famous for having a ton of extra cash lying around. Offering to pay a mentor for help does three important things: it shows that you are respectful of that person's time, that you truly value the advice he or she might give, and that you are serious about internalizing it. Even if a potential mentor would never intend to charge you for advice, it helps for him or her to know that you are respectful and earnest.
Working with a mentor before you launch your venture (so long as you choose a good mentor who is committed to you and knows what you need) may ultimately save you more money than you might eventually spend on last-ditch attempts to recover from an ill-advised, lackluster launch. Mentors who have achieved the successes to which you aspire can introduce you to record labels, producers, publishers, and collaborators. Mentors can teach you about lesser-known promotional tactics that helped them make it big before they had made a reputation for themselves. What's more, mentors can clarify which tasks and diversions are worth your time and which are best ignored.
Leveraging Local Groups and Meetings
Local In-Person Resources
If you live in an even slightly urban area, you will be surprised by the number of nearby groups related to musicians, video producers, comic artists, and podcasters. An easy means by which you might discover them is by searching for relevant keywords (e.g. podcast, Final Cut Pro, etc.) on Meetup.com.
Though many groups are hit or miss, you might find something in your area that boasts a great community and yields tons of insider advice on making money, leveraging trends, and reaching untapped audiences. Local groups also offer another means by which you might meet fellow entertainers with whom you can launch collaborative ventures.
Conferences, Trade Shows, and Seminars
Conferences, trade shows, and seminars may yield:
- Valuable lessons learned
- Useful new connections
- A better understanding of the competitive landscape
- Inspiration on production, marketing, and fan relations
Don't hesitate to research relevant events in your area.
Resources for Video Producers
Informational Resources for Creators of Video Content
Some of our favorite educational and instructional resources for video creators include:
- Vimeo's Video School: A collection offering top notch videos on everything from lighting to editing
- MediaCollege.com: A website with text-based lessons on video editing fundamentals
- Digital Hotcakes: Listings of video tutorials covering major video editing software programs
- YouTube's Educational Resources: An official zone of YouTube packed with tutorials not only addressing video production but also fan engagement, general safety, and production strategy
- YouTube's Creator Academy: A series of free courses designed to help you create a thriving and popular YouTube channel
Though most online video creators choose to be independent, studios are on the rise and offer compelling perks. In addition to helping with promotion and production, many studios offer easy access to software, music, sponsorships, detailed analytics, and collaborative partnerships.
Some of the top studios include:
- Machinima: Focuses on content relevant to the gaming community and targets young male audiences
- Maker Studios: Covers a broad array of genres and features some of the online world's top video stars
- Fullscreen: Features a variety of channels and offers very useful monetization, audience development, and community resources
- StyleHaul: Devoted entirely to fashion and style-related content
- AwesomenessTV: Oriented around younger audiences
- DanceON: Focused on dancing and choreography
- SocialBlade: Offers tools to check your YouTube stats and places to chat with other video creators (via chat rooms and forums) even if you're not a partner
- Collective Digital Studio: Actively looking to recruit unique creators
Resources for Podcasters
The more connections you form with other podcasters, the better. If you are starting from scratch, consider making your first friends here:
- The podcasters community on Google+: Great if you prefer to use Google+, this community already features thousands of members
- Facebook's podcasting groups: Though many are closed and require for you to apply, restricted groups are often the groups most worth joining
- LinkedIn's podcasting groups: As with groups for podcasters on Facebook, some are open and others are closed; look for good matches and don't be shy to apply when necessary
Informational Indexes on Podcasts
You need not splurge on an expensive podcast seminar to become a well-informed podcaster. The following online indexes will provide you with more free information than you'll know how to handle:
- Podcasting Tools: Neatly-organized links to information that will help you understand, create, promote, display, validate, syndicate, and discuss podcasts
- Austin Community College's index of podcasting resources: An extensive index of podcasting resources on websites covering everything from the history of podcasting to planning a podcast and dealing with podcast-related legalities
- Podcasting resources compiled by the University of Illinois: Another convenient compendium of articles and resources related to podcasting
- Mashable's listing of 70+ podcasting tools and resources: Links pared with succinct descriptions that serve as helpful jumping off points
Resources for Comic Artists
We defer to the expertise of established experts within the field for curation and advice. The following resources and compilations offer excellent starting points:
- 23 Ways for a Comic Artist to Survive and Thrive in any Economy by Jason Thiabault: A well-written and thorough guide to making it as a serious comic artist featuring a wealth of links to cases, resources, and examples
- Creative Comic Art: A fantastic educational resource for comic artists just getting started
- ComicsCareer.com: A helpful guide to those hoping to build careers as comic creators, complete with a large body of interviews with experienced professionals
- Webcomic Underdog's Recommended Resources: Links to the website's favorite art suppliers, forums, webcomic hosts, printers, merchandise providers, lettering tools, illustration software, fundraising resources, conventions, stock photos, and publishing companies
- Malaak's Resources for Comickers: Links to Lebanese comic author Joumana Medlej's favorite articles and websites related to writing, sequencing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, printing, publishing, and marketing
- Comic artist resources compiled by misskittyoooo on deviantART: Includes links to resources on writing, lettering, paneling, characters, perspective, penciling, lineart, coloring, effects, printing, and publishing
Places for Comic Artists to Garner Feedback and Meet Other Artists
The websites we have found to be most useful when it comes to garnering feedback and finding friends include:
- DeviantART: In addition to boasting a robust community of artists, deviantART offers excellent built-in feedback features
- Webcomic Underdogs' forum: A friendly place to interact with and find support from fellow comic creators
- Comic Fury's forums: Forums associated with the popular webcomic hosting platform (that have sections dedicated to general comic issues unrelated to the platform)
- Comic Genesis' forums: Another platform-related forum; useful even if you do not distribute your webcomic through Comic Genesis
- The Smack Jeeves forums: Also related to a popular hosting platform, these forums host a decent amount of platform-agnostic discussions
- ComicsSherpa: A service of GoComics, ComicsSherpa enables you to gain exposure and feedback via GoComics.com
Want to get up to speed on best practices and top resources without spending hours poking around the internet? Make use of the following starting points:
- Sell Your Band: An index of resources (paired with helpful overviews) designed to help bands with pretty much every aspect of their business, be it sales, storage, fundraising, management, design, touring, or ticketing
- Music Think Tank: An informative blog (to which anyone can contribute) managed by Hypebot.com that features insightful discussions relevant to professional and aspiring musicians alike
- The DIY Musician Podcast: Produced by CD Baby (a music distribution service), this podcast features roundtable discussions on the music industry
- MusiciansWay.com: A collection of articles on the craftsmanship side of being a professional musician, addressing issues such as practice, performance, wellness, and creativity
- Pitchfork: If you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the music world while minimizing time spent skipping from one blog to the next, use Pitchfork as a sufficiently-thorough all-in-one resource
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