Commentary: Golden Age of Nothing Becoming the New Something

Posted on October 7, 2012 by


Did you ever look at a web video, reality TV show, meme, or some form of social media effort that has become wildly popular, and wonder:

  • “What’s the big deal? It looks like they did nothing. Why are people talking about it so much?”.

I often do. I am from Staten Island, New York, and in the past 5 years I have seen TV shows such as “Mob Wives” and “Jersey Shore” become huge hits by celebrating things most in my neighborhood would like to forget. I think about what they do and how they get paid when I read Voice123 voice talent in discussions about budgets, or charging voice seekers the right price. What gets lost is the understanding that this is the Golden Age of “nothing is the new something”. “Nothing” seems to become the “new something”, when something never seen before, effortlessly displays passion, and sincerity, leading to a wide celebration of it.

Andy Warhol stated once, “Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”. If you think about entertainment today, there are one billion users on Facebook, enough to be the population of the 3rd largest country. Now, you have 15 minutes of online fame obligated for each of the one billion users of Facebook. This is a supply of entertainment to last a life time at almost no cost to anyone viewing the content. The creators of any reality TV program already figured this out years ago…Anyone will do something for their 15 minutes of fame. It is frightening, if you are a person working online full-time. It seems everyone wants to be paid well, while at the same time, we ALL expect everything online to be free. However, nothing is “free”, and you certainly cannot pay a person well, if you are not being paid. Yet, these expectations are changing the ecosystem of online work, and if it has not already, online work is destined to merge with those who work in a traditional market. The market paying the most money will always dominate simply because human beings are hard-wired to expect payment for a day’s worth of work.  The content has to come from somewhere, and if those in a traditional market will not provide it online, or won’t out of traditional beliefs, we will enter the “Golden Age of Nothing Becoming the New Something”.

Why? The “new nothing” is usually the “passionate champion of the everyday person we have an unspoken bond with for some reason”. The “traditional something” is usually thought to be untouchable, unrelated, or unrealistic (or at least acts that way), a status most would like to experience, but not everyone will because of what is required to be the “traditional something”. The “new nothing” is usually an “inspired thought or action that comes from the heart”, while the “traditional something” can produce inspiration on a whim because it is his/her career choice.  The “traditional something” is usually famous, ultimately, due to education and dedication to a career that led to success in public view. The “new nothing” is something we see once, celebrate it, and just as fast as it appeared, it goes away. In that sense, being “the traditional something” is a healthier career choice, while the “new nothing” is that flash-in-the-pan rebel who loves freely, never pays for anything or gets paid, and believes they can live that way for a couple of years, until reality sets in…”Wait, I am getting older. I can’t operate this way forever. I need more than this”. They hit a plateau where they must decide, “Am I just a fan of this career, or a competitor in it.” The “traditional something” can reinvent him or herself, and will have a fan club each time. The new “nothing” may simply record a world-changing event on his or her cell phone, and have that moment forever. But after the buzz dies down from the video, the “nothing” that became “something” due to the video, may not possess the nucleus, business skill or momentum to build on “something” in the career they just infiltrated. Success came quick, and left equally as fast.

The Golden Age of Nothing Becoming the New Something comes from one simple, single, and solitary reason that is vital to the human soul…The majority of the human race felt like no one was listening to what they needed, and “everyday people” staged a rebellion in the form of massive, global usage of the Internet.

Now, looking back 10 years, our friend’s cat, Star Wars Kid, Afro Ninja, Shakeweight, Ted Williams, Jake Foushee, and a Facebook commenter who wrote about his opinions on obesity,  all experienced fame (or infamy) when the “traditional something” picked up on the passion behind the expression, and found people could not stop talking about it. There is another thing to consider, the “new nothing” is a person just like me and you. They used a community and technology provided to creatively express an action or belief. For example, good luck getting tickets to Comic-Con in New York City in 2012, yet I remember when it first started, and most people called it a freak show. I am sure die-hard fans of the event may not appreciate those new converted fans, who appear to have jumped on a band wagon, but at first condemned it.

Being the “everyman” is important online. I have come across two well-known producers and casting directors in the past two months, who stated almost the same exact thing to me:

  • “When I work in traditional media, I deal with difficult people. When I work with web videos or new media, I not only get back to my creative roots, but the cost is much lower AND the production quality is much higher. I still get asked to do both big budget and low budget work, but I have more fun and creative freedom with lower budget work.”

One of the people who expressed this to me is a person directly connected to why I got into voice overs. To have him referred to me was mind-blowing. This leads me to recognize that the challenges ahead for maintaining a career in the voice over business online may require a voice artist to return to his/her roots, find out why certain people rebelled, why “money” is not always the issue, and why you cannot just expect something from someone because you want it.

Perhaps the perfect combo here for the online voice talent who is also a “traditional something”…

  • Be a regular person, remember where you came from, work hard, don’t listen to critics or trolls, focus on what you love and why you started to do it, for better or worse.
  • When someone upsets you, keep the stories for your inner circles because you never know who is reading what you say in public.
  • Recognize the personality of the people has not changed as much as we think. You are just exposed to more opinions than ever before.

Artists are well-known for “playing roles”. If you become the “traditional something” online by getting paid well to play the role of the “newest nothing”, have you done anything outside the boundaries of what an actor always does for pay? Maybe the red carpet treatment is not fitting into this economy with everyone, or it needs to be reinvented elsewhere. Above all, the next time someone creates something you do not understand, investigate why they did it. Do not condemn it. You may find the “new nothing” is onto “something really special”.

“The living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.” – Bruce Lee

May the odds be in your favor

Steven Lowell Steven is the Community Manager of Voice123