How to Market Your Talents & Searching for Sugarman

The other day I saw the most incredible movie. It made me pissed, puzzled and in awe.

Have you ever heard of [Sixto] Rodriguez? Probably not—most ALL of the United States hasn’t, though he is an American…and the biggest music icon in South African history. (He wrote his songs nearby the Cass City Cinema where I saw the documentary.)

What is this about?

Rodriguez made two albums (1970-71). He worked with the top producers in the world at the time; they were all blown away by his talent and lyrics. (Some compared him to, and said he was better than, Bob Dylan.) Ironically though, his songs flat out flopped in the U.S. and no one has reasons why.

The story goes on to say that a girl from Michigan went to visit her boyfriend in South Africa and brought the record. People were way into it and it spread like wildfire!

This was during Apartheid in South Africa—so the nation was “cut off” from the rest of the world. What the people listened to and read was strictly controlled by their government. Music shop owners told the cameras that Rodriguez’s songs were particularly influential because it gave people the ideals and courage to protest again what they believed was wrong (segregation).

Photo: sugarman.org

During the twenty-five years South Africans were enjoying his music, Rodriguez remained working odd jobs in construction and living a life of poverty. He played at dive bars in the city and the frequent patrons and bartenders interviewed said they thought he was homeless; he had a wondering soul.

In 1997, a couple fans started a quest to find Rodriguez after a friend who had been living in Los Angeles told them you couldn’t find his music anywhere. Long story short, they found him, dialed him up in Detroit from South Africa and told him he was more popular than Elvis. Can you imagine getting that call? Thinking your music career just never panned out, then hearing you’ve been such a huge influence on an entire nation for so long?

Photo: sugarman.org

There’s much to take away from this film: the power behind big media marketing (or lack there of), the stronger force of WOM (word of mouth)/recommendations from your peers, corrupt people, honest people, how the world can be so big and isolated and also so small and easy to connect. Now I’m not trying to be a student writing a review for class, but I think there’s something we all can use from this movie to make ourselves better, happier people.

For example, I was recently interviewed by my Alma Mater and asked to give advice to their energetic fashion minds. Once that chat comes out in print, I’ll see what exactly I said, but I do remember encouraging them to make their passion known. If you are skilled at shooting unique photos, showcase it on Tumblr. Are you well-versed? Start a blog. Have a knack for trend forecasting? Get on Pinterest!

My point is that now, more than EVER before, you don’t have to hope and pray your record label ‘pushes’ your songs on the radio (Rodriguez), you can have your mom post you singing on You Tube and you’ll make millions! (Justin Bieber) Kidding—let’s not strive for that. But if you display your talent and continue to do what you love, doors will open and opportunities will present themselves.

 

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