Berni Mayer is a popular German media writer, novelist, musician, and blogger. We met on a cold December night in the East End (Berlin) industrial area while we desperately searched for a tram. An unfinished conversation and exchange of emails motivated me to invite Berni for lunch and pick his brain on staying true and how people can either make it or break it using social networks to promote themselves.
It is possible to stay true to yourself and be successful as an artist of any genre as long as your values are clear. I mean, it’s a democracy, everyone can post on the web and that’s a good thing. I don’t have to like it though. Promoting your work online is still a powerful way of getting your message across. If you develop the skills, post properly and effectively, your work will get noticed, and if it appeals to a large enough mass of people, you can live from it. Many people live that way now.
I started blogging about the perils of egotism, drinking and crazy women in Berlin, but it wasn’t just whining in my diary, it was painting a dark landscape without hope, but with room for weird people and a lot of comic relief.
There was a style to it. That’s how I started out with my first blog. Honestly, I still wonder how it’s done. I never get 179 likes on any item. I know I don’t suck but I’m still a million miles away from being a beloved social media entertainer like some of my “friends”.
I became chief editor of MTV Germany Online at an early age. I was 25, and it was a great experience. I think it’s every kid’s dream, who has a passion for music, to be involved in such a musical media giant as MTV. You can learn a lot about writing, like how to present boring facts about music and the pop business in a funny, mildly ironic way, without getting sarcastic or “cheap-shotted.” Although we wrote everything MTV required; that was only 20% of what we did. The other 80% was what we wanted to write, what we cared about. The music. We wrote about indie bands and gave them a chance to get heard. Music has always been a passion of mine, but working at MTV can let you see what the music business is really like and plans of pursuing a career as a recording artist can change.
All the stuff going on in the music business, the strings that are pulled, all the structures, along with negotiations with the record labels and sponsors make it really difficult to be creative. When you’re with a label, you are no longer in control of your own work. Some people, including me, are not fit for the industry, not fit for the touring and for the compromises you have to make. I’m a work horse when it comes to writing, playing and rehearsing. My bands, The Sea Level and currently Gebruder Grim have achieved a moderate level of success thanks to social media and publishing skills. What’s a publishing skill? Simply a way to post something on the internet that is interesting, relevant, funny or cleverly written. Or frankly put: not to annoy people with your everyday shit.
Last year we shot a video for Gebruder Grim. Earlier, I had met this funny rapper, MC Fitti. He was very charismatic and humorous, so I thought I’d do him a favor and somehow involve him in the video. What I didn’t know was that he was already under management and on his way to be mass marketed, so in all reality, he did us a favor. Our video got a fair share of views on Youtube and many people shared it on Facebook and other social networks.
Although Facebook is a powerful tool for promotion, enabling you to invite more people to events, inform about innovative products and services, and music of course, it’s downside is not actually its purpose, but its users. Publishing is a skill that is learned and takes time to become effective, and honestly, most people have no clue about how to do it because Facebook depicts two sides of people you never would have known if you just met them for a drink. You get to know the stuff they like, the stupid songs they listen to, their kids. Their kids are probably nice people but I’m not interested in meeting them. I feel intrusive, I feel like I’m intruding on their private life which I don’t want to. I don’t wanna know about their holiday. Not because I’m jealous, its their private business, it makes me feel like a voyeur. I think that there’s a lack of etiquette. You shouldn’t make an ass out of yourself by posting the same shit five times a day. Never show off your family. Never take your self seriously. Stay modest but subliminally confident like a young god. Not sure if modesty is a recipe for success. But I want to look back on anything in life with a sense of not having to be embarrassed, even if it means less success or less scope. That’s just how I roll.
Some people have a misinterpretation of what art is. Promoting an artificial profile on MTV, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. One is an artist, the other is not. There’s a concrete line, which as an effective publisher you need to know when to cross, when not to cross and when not to and how not to cross it. Everyone seems to be inviting each other and promoting themselves on different social networks and it’s becoming the sole tool for everything to do with connecting to others. You get lost in the masses, unintentionally exploit yourself, your family, your art, and if you post too many times, you just start bugging people.
Don’t hurt people. You may hurt companies but not people. If in doubt, shut up. No one is waiting on your call on every topic.