Dissecting Internet Fame with Steam Powered Giraffe
The internet is becoming a bigger part of everyone’s lives. There’s no denying it. You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the latest YouTube video, who has the hottest new blog or who said what on Facebook.
So it only makes sense that people are using the internet to get themselves out there. Whether it be writing a comic, performing your own songs or having a comedy act, if you have a talent, it’s not hard to get it out there so people can see it.
Some people might just be restricted to becoming well known on the internet, while others may go out and achieve worldwide stardom in whatever they choose to do. Either way it’s making more and more sense to take a chance and put that video on YouTube, or start that blog about your favourite thing.
Even Youth Central has opened the path for budding young writers keen to get their articles or reviews out there (hint, hint).
What's a Steam Powered Giraffe?
Recently I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Bunny Bennett, a member of the San Diego band Steam Powered Giraffe (new window). The band sings, acts and performs skits for audiences in America with a show about a group of robots built to entertain, but thanks to YouTube and blogging sites like Tumblr, they’ve made a name for themselves in countries all over the world.
So here’s what Bunny had to say regarding her band, using the internet to get her work out there and some words of wisdom for anyone who’s thinking about doing the same thing.
In your own words, how would you describe Steam Powered Giraffe?
Steam Powered Giraffe is a musical pantomime act which portrays a band of malfunctioning antique robots. It's not just a band. It's a theatrical experience.
Why did you choose the internet as the platform for getting yourselves out there?
This is the age of the information superhighway. We grew up in a time when the internet was still gaining popularity and we've naturally seen it progress. Social media sites have started to change everything. There are quite a few up-and-coming people of note who have gained attention through online videos, music, and generally making their web presence known. It seemed like a smart idea to us to make our internet existence a priority
How has it boosted your profile?
We've gained a dedicated following since 2008 by having a place for folks who saw us in person to congregate digitally. This started simply as a Myspace page and a chat room, and through the years it began to expand to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even our own fan site. Even more recently Tumblr has taken note of us.
All of these places have done wonders for boosting our profile. It's no surprise how quickly word of mouth can travel - especially on the internet. One reblog can turn into twenty, can turn into obscene amounts. Of course our internet popularity is still tiny at this point, but we've seen it grow slowly and steadily year by year.
What are some of the advantages of using the internet over other forms of media?
Our society has changed the way it does things. People are generally a little more impatient. We want things now. If you don't have an internet presence you're going to be lost in the dust. Of course playing shows and maintaining a good in-person relationship with music lovers that come to see you or happen upon you is the meat of it all. But without social sites like Facebook, I can't imagine how we'd keep pulling in audiences.
You need the instantaneous gratification of having all your information readily available for people to see. Your show schedule, your charity events, your album releases. There's nothing like the internet that can do it all as quickly or effectively. It is the tool that has changed everything.
Are there any challenges you've encountered?
Certainly getting your stuff noticed is probably the biggest challenge. While I think it's definitely possible to go from 15 YouTube views to over a million almost overnight, the reality is that it's probably going to take some time to develop a following.
I see artists online all the time with next to nothing in the form of followers or view counts, and in my mind they're too talented to not have all of that. But that's how the internet works. As much as information is readily available to all, there's so much of it, so how do you get your stuff noticed so it doesn't fall into the abyss?
That's the greatest challenge. I think by having an aggressive presence on every major social site, and keeping people constantly updated with information we eventually got enough rope to pull ourselves out of being overlooked.
We've still got a ways to go. If we don't do anything for a few months it's entirely possible for Steam Powered Giraffe to vamp out of existence in the minds of our followers. It can be scary. There is simply too much content on the internet for an artist to slack off. People will forget about you even if you do make regular posts.
It's your job to keep making them so when the day comes that they do happen upon a blog update, that connection will rekindle.
How do you feel about suddenly having so many fans thanks to your internet exposure?
Like I said, it has been a gradual increase in our minds. A lot of people who saw us back at our roots look at us now and might see "overnight success", but that's far from the truth. We're on the verge of big time, but we've been climbing this staircase for years. Every day gets a little better. Every day is one more step you've climbed.
The magic comes when you get these moments of explosions due to sticking with it. What happens is that as your followers increase, the exposure begins to double and then triple. Suddenly five new people a month turns into ten, and then one day you get 100.
These little bursts have happened throughout our career, and the exciting part is that they keep escalating in magnitude. It's amazing how we've grown and we simply cannot believe how many people enjoy our work.
I think more often than not we're unaware of the numbers. We're too deep in the process to be able to step back and look at what we've already done. We just keep moving forward and keep that vision in our mind's eye: climbing the stairs to the next project, the next goal.
What kind of things do you think a good performer needs to know?
Playing for the audience is key. And it can be hard. The audience isn't always excited to see you - especially when you're just starting out. My best advice would be to expect to fail, but to not let it get you down.
I can't tell you how many bad shows we've played where we've sounded terrible for one reason or another, or played to a room of two people, or flubbed up so badly on stage we wanted to die of embarrassment. Embrace it. Live it. At the end of the day at least you're still up there doing it, and that's more than some people can say!
So what have you learned from the whole experience?
Personally I think I've learned what I knew already when I was a kid, but in the process of growing up I got some misinformation and bad advice that ultimately I was able to learn from.
I already knew what I wanted to do when I was a kid, and this was it. I certainly didn't have the details worked out and never would have imagined it'd be like this, but entertaining is in my soul. I'm an artist until the day I die and I can't function if I can't do what I love.
Do you have any words of advice for people who want to get their own works out there through the internet, or anything you wish you knew before you started?
Get an iron skin. The repercussions of putting your stuff out there for thousands of people to see is that thousands of people will see it. And of course not everyone is going to like it, and not everyone who doesn't like it will be chivalrous.
All critique should be considered, but none should get you down. Remember that everyone has an opinion, and maybe some have valid points to make, but deflecting the negative from your spirit can go a long way.
You've got to do what you love first. If anything makes you sacrifice that, it's probably not worth taking to heart.
Finally, do you have any parting words of wisdom for us?
As cheesy as it sounds: knowledge is power. Don't stop learning. I couldn't do what I do today without an education. Without tearing apart the seams of the process and analysing the metaphorical schematics.
Begin building your personal experience early on, especially in terms of working with people. Social skills are invaluable, and every new person you meet has something to teach you.
Absorb this world, because it is here for your benefit!
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Articles Written by Grace H
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