Indie Sponsor will be highlighting various people in the entertainment industry from different backgrounds, in different fields, from performing artists to fine artists to literary artists, and people behind the scenes. We love finding artists who exemplify the entrepreneurial artist lifestyle and can make a living in their field.

Entrepreneurial Artist Wil-son Williams

One such artist is dancer and entrepreneur Wil-son Williams. I’ve watched Wil since he opened his studio in Westwood, L.A. Dancefit, and turned it into one of the hottest dance studios in the city. Wil is a savvy bootstrapping entrepreneur who gets to live every day on his own terms. He was kind enough to share some of his tips for living the entrepreneurial artist lifestyle.

 

Can you tell us a little about your background and why you started L.A. DanceFit?

I started teaching Hip-Hop and Latin workout classes. Everywhere from elementary schools, high schools, county fairs, celebrity homes, night clubs, restaurants, television commercials, colleges, dance studios and gyms. This created a fan base of fun loving students that cheerfully pack into my dance studio every day.

I see. That’s smart. You got the fans first.

Right.

When did you start dancing?

I started dancing at age 8 in Philadelphia when my Mom took me to her Jazz exercise classes. The studio offered me a scholarship to their kid’s dance program. I’ve been dancing Tap, Jazz, Modern and various other styles ever since.

What kind of jobs are there out there for dancers in the entertainment industry? 

Instructors can teach at fitness gyms, dance studios, after school programs, colleges, health expos, community centers and night clubs and restaurants. The pay options are to collect fees directly from students or to teach as an employee at different establishments and get paid by check.
I am happy to announce the opening of the LA Dance Fit Instructor Training Academy. This academy trains dance fitness instructors to enhance their earning power, grow their student attendance, promote themselves and compete as a Top level instructor.
That’s brilliant. One more spin-off business for you that puts other dancers to work. And the more artists who are working, the better, right?
Exactly.
Is there a special agency just for dancers?

Similar to acting agencies there are talent agencies for dancers to audition with. These agencies represent dancers for TV, movie and professional performance work. These are Hollywood dance agencies. TRIO Talent Agency, Bloc Agency and DDO Artist Agency are some renowned LA dance agencies.

Indie Sponsor is all about the artist as an entrepreneur. About not waiting around for someone to give you a job. You literally created your own job and now you get paid to dance. I love it! What is your advice for other artists who would like to get paid to dance, act, write, or whatever, but who have never run a business?

My advice for running your own business from your talent is to offer your talent in as many places and outlets as possible. The choice is yours! Invest lots of money on promoting your business. Or invest your time and talents performing for as wide of an audience as possible at every opportunity at every pay rate high or low.

Did you have any kind of background in running a business before starting L.A. DanceFit?

My business knowledge comes from 14 years of experience in working closely with and working for business owners, dance company owners, fitness gym owners and dance studio owners. These years of doing the work that makes the business run has taught me the do’s and don’ts of student satisfaction in the studio owner world.

I’ve spent years providing the product that keeps these businesses going. All I needed now was to transition from employee to owner. I learned the costs of the bills, insurance, promotions, employees, repairs and most importantly how to attract clientele.

How would you use innovation in the entertainment industry, especially in the areas of dance?

I would innovate the dance industry by focusing on health and wellness. Bridging the gap of dance and fitness by infusing true artistic expressions with sound exercise science.

Last question. If you had a time machine, what period in history would you go back to and why?

I would not go to any other place in time, I feel that there is no time like the present.

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Check out Wil’s Westwood studio L.A. DanceFit at: www.ladancefit.com

As an artist, whether it’s in the fine arts, performing arts, or literary arts, we all go through that exhilarating, but exasperating process of creativity. Putting our hearts and souls, and sweat and blood into a piece of art that will hopefully touch other people when they view it or listen to it.

But what if you put all of that time and energy into something just to have it destroyed? What if you were to destroy your own art?

The Cardboard Benini

That is the theme of a great documentary called “The Cardboard Benini”, the story of artist Jimmy Crashow. Crashow showed his artistic talent early in life, when he started making artwork out of discarded cardboard boxes. What everyone else thought was trash, Jimmy saw as a wonderful opportunity to apply his skills to a material that was going to be thrown away.

Throughout his life he supported himself with his illustrations and wood carvings, but it was the cardboard sculptures that were really his passion. He would spend hours in his studio creating unique sculptures that were up to 15 feet tall. One of these sculptures caught the attention of an art dealer Allan Stone, who would later become Jimmy’s dealer.

Stone, an avid art collector ended up with several of the massive sculptures in his house. But after he ran out of room he put them in the backyard, totally exposed to the elements.

Destroy Your Own Art

After Stone died, Crashow went by the house to pay his respects and found the artwork he labored over and cherished was tarnished and melted into a heap of mush. It was then that he got the idea to speed up the process. If cardboard comes from the trash, what if it returned to the trash? And what if the artist who created it also helped destroy it?

In the documentary “The Cardboard Benini”, you see the whole process from conception to death, a purposeful metaphor for life. It will force you to ask the question “As an artist, could you destroy your own creativity”?

 

After being in the entertainment industry long enough you come across a lot of talented people. Being on the casting, distribution and development side, it always surprised me when I met an artist with incredible talent that no one had ever heard of, including me. You could be the next Oprah, or Madonna, or Spielberg, but if you don’t have a fan base, you may just be destined to be a legend in your own mind. And that would be a terrible waste of talent.

How to Get More Fans

Here are 3 ways to get more fans:

Get Seen

The first thing is that you simply have to get out there and get out a LOT. If you’re a musician, play everywhere you can as often as you can. If you’re an actor, audition for plays, films, or staged readings. Produce your own projects. Volunteer for your friend’s projects. Don’t sit around waiting for them to come to you. Make them happen.

If you’re a filmmaker, make films. Make more films and get them out everywhere you can. If you’re a writer, write. Yes, this sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people claim to be writers who rarely write. People who claim to be actors, yet sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Also, don’t hide behind your computer and don’t communicate solely through texting and email. Let people see that you’re human.

Give People Incentive

There was an old shampoo commercial that said “…and they tell 2 friends, and they tell 2 friends…” The point is, if you want fans you have to find ways to multiple them, and that means they have to tell 2 friends and those friends tell 2 more, and so on. You could just count on waiting for enough fans who really like your stuff to eventually pass it on. Or you could do it the free market way and give people a little incentive. Am I saying you should bribe them? No, not at all.

But if they are your fans anyway they would probably be happy to pass your art along. They would be even happier and more driven to do it if you gave them some incentive. ¬†Check out Fandistro. Musicians reward their fans with a 20% commission when they introduce others to their music. This is the whole premise behind affiliate programs online, and that “buy 10 frozen yogurts, get 1 free” card offline. You would have gone there anyway, but getting a free yogurt is just extra incentive.

Stay in Touch

One way to stay in touch with your fans is through social media. This is one reason why you should always be doing something to further your career. You need to constantly have something to talk about other than what you had for lunch. Do you have a newsletter? If you don’t, you should. Occasionally give out some cool freebies and secret VIP backstage passes to your very best fans.

People love free stuff. And if they already love your work, they’ll also love your free CD, or book, or T-shirt, or fill in the blank with something cool and unique. Give them a two for one ticket to your next concert or play. That way they’ll bring a friend. Make sure you say it should be a friend who’s never seen your work before. BAM! Now you’ve added even more fans. And hopefully they’ll tell 2 friends, and they’ll tell 2 friends…

 

For years independent artists have had to rely on gatekeepers to give them their shot at having their voices heard. But finally the old gatekeeper system is coming down. Book publishers no longer have the kind of power they used to have. Record companies are giving way to independent artists who can bypass the old system and take their music straight to the customer. TV is breaking into many different niches, and film distribution is no longer just for the major studios.

Money for Independent Artists

So, distribution has become more accessible, but the one thing that’s missing is the money. That’s where Indie Sponsor comes in.

New Distribution Models

I created Indie Sponsor as a former TV/film distributor, casting director and development executive. I was tired of seeing really talented artists who would never getting a shot because they didn’t have the contacts in the industry. But now things have changed. Artists no longer have to go through the regular channels to get their work out there. The old TV and film distribution model is giving way to whole Internet networks. Now up and coming artists can launch their own TV show or film without begging for distribution from a gatekeeper.

Small Business Sponsorship for Artists

Also, regular TV and film marketing has become too costly for the small business owner. A 30 second spot on a national morning TV show goes for $16,000. But a small business owner can sponsor a whole Internet TV show for much less. Indie Sponsor’s goal is to bring the indie artist together with the small and large business community to provide funding for their projects. Indie artists’ voices need to be heard and talented artists will finally get their chance.

There has never been a better, more exciting time to be an artist as we enter a new artistic Renaissance. And Indie Sponsor wants to start the conversation. We can’t wait to see what you have to bring to the table.