I was presented with an opportunity to join a franchise-like showcase for independent artists. RAW Artists presented itself as the embodiment of artistic culture, and I was lured in strictly based on their marketing value. These pay-to-play events had not yet taught me the lessons that I needed to learn, so I enthusiastically sold $200 worth of tickets for the opportunity to take the stage in their spotlight. Thinking this would be a turning point in my life, I arrived that night with high expectations. Stage time, a video package, and a booth were all included in my participation. So after displaying my wife’s original artwork, I would rehearse my short set in the corner of the venue. It was go-time, and I had been too buzzed and too focused to have seen all the red flags that night. As artists before me had gone through their performances, it went largely unnoticed to the crowd of patrons, drinks in hand, circulating the exhibits in this enormous gallery showing. So as I took the stage that night, disheartened by the lack of attention I was about to receive, I catered my performance instead to the recording camera that would surely add this footage to my EPK. As I make my way off the stage, I’m guided to the back area, where the interview section would be filmed. I understood what they were trying to do, and in many ways, I appreciated the efforts of their staff that night. You can’t make people listen, and their job was complete upon producing this large gathering. Nonetheless, I envisioned a future of fame and riches and this night would leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

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