“People are working hard online to further their careers. They are forgetting that if you don’t get off your computer especially in this industry, it’s killing the art of conversation.” – Todd Wharton
Todd Wharton is the CEO of Local Talent Connect, a global network that brings together artists from across the industry. In this interview, he talks about looking at yourself as a business and brand, getting offline and bringing back the art of conversation.
Todd gives us the bite on your 6 hot questions.
You set up this incredible network for artists to come together and network. What inspired you to create it?
Todd Wharton: Basically you guys. I worked in the restaurant industry for at least 20yrs. And 90% of the people I worked with are some type of artist or businesses in the industry, from actors to musicians to chefs. They are all part of the genre of the arts. The great thing about that was these people became family. I was around them all the time, I saw their ups and downs, their lifestyle and the reality of being an artist. I noticed there was a ‘Downfall of passion’. It’s a term I came up with that describes how overwhelmed artists are. They (artists) are mostly working two jobs, paying bills and even though they are trying to build their careers, they didn’t have the tools. They didn’t know where to go as there were at least 1 million people in their industry no matter where they lived. I was losing friends because they simply gave up and moved away.
I thought there really must be a better way for unknown artist to make a career of their passion. I interviewed over 200 artists and businesses in the arts. I did my homework and found out that everyone had the same issues. It was about exposure. It was about ‘I don’t know where to go, who to meet’. Or ‘I keep going to these small events but keep meeting the same people, it’s not helping me.’ It hit me that this is an industry that could benefit from its own network, own Facebook, own mixers. This is the first network that is online and offline that bridges the gap across the arts, in order to bring those tools together.
There were hundreds of people at your NYC mixer. What makes a mixer work?
Todd Wharton: Having a mixer was just one of the ideas that I came up with and it’s about letting the doors open. Letting the ideas flow. If you’re meeting the same people, there’s no value to a mixer at all. If you are looking to expand your world and your vision of what you see in your career, you need to constantly meet new people, as well as old people. That’s how you build. Our monthly mixer night has an average of 700 people. It works because there are no gimmicks, no fees, no name dropping, just artists meeting other artists. Sometimes people name drop like ‘this casting director is gonna be there’ to get artists to pay for mixers. But you know in the business, most casting directors don’t even wanna talk to people outside their job because they do that all day. Celebrities will take a picture with you but they’re not gonna just hand you their agent. I always say networking is all about you.
What are the top three pet peeves that artists do in general when trying to promote themselves?
Todd Wharton: Well let’s talk about the money side first. Artists for some reason always try to hit people up for money without a business plan. It could be a new company or to fund a movie. They forget that it may have been a passion for them when they were at college or high school, but now they are a part of society. They become a business. They become a brand. You can’t just approach people like that. You’ve got to invest in yourself before anyone invests in you. If you wanna grow, you’ve got to hustle. You’ve gotta grind.
The next thing is they expect people to look at everything that they post. It happens everyday. Sometimes people post things and they don’t even put any descriptions. They’ll just send you a link. They don’t even know you sometimes. They’ll just start sending you links and they don’t take that time to build the relationship. Your business should be like your personal life. You are not gonna throw someone the wedding ring on the first date.
People are working hard online to further their careers. They are forgetting that if you don’t get off your computer especially in this industry, it’s killing the art of conversation. Many people who I meet, young and old, don’t know how to hold a conversation, because they are so uninteresting unless they are talking about what they love to do. There’s billions of topics they should be able to talk about. The scary thing is that uncomfortable silence is happening a lot more. People wanna hire you, because you are good at what you do, you have a look , a style and you’re easy to be around. The minute you start developing that ‘conceitedness’ is the minute you’ll start losing jobs. Nobody wants to be around that.
The third pet peeve is when someone is in a conversation, and they forget it’s a conversation that exist between two people. As much as you talk you should listen. If someone is taking the time to learn about you, you should respect them and take the time to learn about them. Too many artists either name drop or they resume drop. Artists need to remember that generally in a conversation, people remember the first thing and the last thing that’s said. The whole middle section is normally a blur. Make it count. Connect with someone.
What are the top three things that artists should do when trying to promote themselves?
Todd Wharton: They should take their time. You care that much about who you are and what you love to do. Take your time with it. You have access to social media outlets and about 6 or 7 of them are giving you free publicity. Don’t abuse it by constantly posting spam that no one is interested in.
The second thing is being offline is so much more important than being online. When you do gain friends, those are the people that will truly support you. You can’t rely on people you’ve never met.
The third thing is artists always wanna be represented or branded by somebody. Invest in yourself before anyone else invests in you. Make sure people know who you are for you. Stop relying on ‘I need an agent, I need this or that’. Create value for yourself.
How can actors get involved with the network and everything that you do?
Todd Wharton: Well obviously they should come to a mixer, reach me on Facebook or Twitter. But most importantly bring yourself. Never stop the grind and never stop the hustle.
You can get involved with Local Talent Connect on Facebook