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Years ago, I was sitting in the makeup room of a widely known conservative media outlet. I was a constant on a show there to the point where I was effectively a given part of it. Being young and hungry, I spent quite a bit of time driving back and forth from home to the studio every night to get my face in front of the cameras and was doing so for free. As grateful as I was for the chance at the spotlight, time and effort cost resources, and eventually I got to the point where I needed a paycheck. Moreover, I thought I’d earned one.
Naturally, I began asking for compensation for my time as any capitalist conservative would and should. It was around that time that the show’s producer walked into the makeup room and I asked about where we were at on setting me up with payment.
“You’re getting paid in publicity,” he said to me.
I can remember feeling my stomach give out from under me. I knew I couldn’t keep putting so much time and effort into the show without payment, and soon I’d have to walk away. I loved doing the show, the people who worked on it, and the adventures we’d go on, so this was a heartbreaking prospect. Eventually, I would and a valuable lesson was learned that I’d never forget.
It was my mom that drove the lesson home when she asked me: “Is the producer getting paid in publicity?”
He wasn’t, nor were most of the people around me. I felt foolish for committing so much time and effort to a company that clearly didn’t appreciate it enough. I became bitter and a bit disenchanted, but I’d never make that mistake again and, to this day, I haven’t. I would consider myself one of the lucky ones, however. I was picked up by RedState and Townhall Media recognized my penchant for creativity and they have given me what’s necessary to keep me creating for them.
Others aren’t so lucky. Not every creative gets paid to create, and sadly, many conservative creators find themselves facing the same problem I did. Conservative media organizations naturally want the best work and unwavering commitment, but they want to pay them less money than a Chinese sweatshop while dangling the promise of publicity and exposure over their heads. The issue, as many creatives know or soon learn, is that you can die of exposure.
It’s here that we see one of the biggest mistakes conservatives make, and one the left typically doesn’t. Leftist organizations spend a lot of time and money seeking the best creative talent and making it worth their while to stick around and keep creating more, whether it be the acting talent or the dude who writes algorithms. They all lend to the creation of narratives that aren’t just interesting, but also have a long shelf life.
To be sure, the “creative” types on the left have begun losing their creative edge as they lean more and more into messaging than actual storytelling, but that’s beside the point. At any moment, the left could recognize their mistake and they’d still have an infrastructure ready to get back on track and begin winning hearts and minds again.
Meanwhile, conservatives are staying in their lane. They think getting behind a microphone and maybe a camera and talking for an hour will change the course of history. To be sure, there are a few out there that will and are pretty successful, but not everyone is a Steven Crowder or a Ben Shapiro. The “talk about your ideas” market is so oversaturated on the conservative side that it’s a dime for three dozen podcasts, most of which are saying what someone like Mark Levin said already.
But what other choice do many of these people have? Most conservative organizations aren’t ready or willing to veer out of their rut and invest in real creativity. They don’t want to take a chance at a new approach. They want to fund more of what’s safe. It’s understandable as to why, but in doing so they lose out on what could be some really great opportunities to do what the primary goal should be in the first place; win hearts and minds.
The conservative movement is full of talent with great ideas but can’t find an organization willing to invest in them. Their out-of-the-box thinking that could have really shifted the balance in the culture war dies and stagnates as they are either ignored or worse, told to work for little to no pay and the promise of “publicity.” They become embittered, disillusioned, and unwilling to further contribute, or they’re courted by leftist organizations where their talents are utilized and they slowly drift away from their initial beliefs under the natural pressure of their peers.
This shouldn’t be an issue, yet it is. Conservative organizations should be far more business savvy given their capitalist leanings, and yet they fail to grasp that creating a supply leads to more demand. If you supply your audience with creativity, entertainment, and innovation, this will create a demand for more content and people willing to fork over cash for it. This will also attract talent that can bolster any further ventures.
All you have to do is pay the creatives currently doing the heavy lifting and use what you have left after bills to attract more talent.
How is it that the left knows how to utilize this for its own narrative creation purposes and the right largely doesn’t?
I’m loath to use the word “cowardice,” but I can’t find a better one. Conservatives with money (and I use the term “most” here knowing there are exceptions) are too scared to try something wholly out of the box for fear that their money won’t return and the venture will crash and burn. They’re probably right, but that’s not because of a lack of creative talent, it’s a lack of infrastructure and demand. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a conservative media that weighs its creativity with its good ideas.
Invest in creativity. Give recognition to artists. Focus on telling good stories. Make a supply. Generate demand. Win people. Secure the future.