The Story Economy Blog

The Stuff Katy Perry and I Do For Free

katy perryIt may or may not be a surprise to you that Katy Perry didn’t get paid a dime to play the Super Bowl this past weekend. Neither did performers in recent years like Bruno Mars or Beyonc√©.

It’s not a surprise to me at all. There was a rumor that the NFL even tried to get her to pay for it. Also not surprising.

Everything about everything to do with content, influence, and the money trail has changed.

It’s neither good nor bad in my eyes. It just IS. And it filters down from mega-supers like Katy Perry to not-so-much-superstars like me. Which means that Katy and I both have to understand the way things work today.

(Here, I must credit Jay Heinrichs and his keynote at ASJA’s Content Connections Conference this past November for getting me thinking more about these issues.)

So, no dough for Katy. How come?

Katy herself put it perfectly when telling ABC News how excited she was. “I'll be performing maybe for the first time for some of these people,” she said.

The Super Bowl’s built-in audience of 100-plus million people is more exposure than she would get at any music awards show or concert. The potential for non-fans to convert to fans who buy her music and go on to buy concert tickets (the real moneymaker) is HUGE.

If I were the NFL, I wouldn’t pay Katy either. They have something to gain from her, for sure. But she has more to gain.

So, this is all interesting and everything, but who cares, right?

Well, it has to do with the relationship between money and audiences and creative work (something you might care about). Because the whole system is shifting under our feet.

The New Influence (Two Kinds)

Ideas about worth are shifting for performers and other creatives, who see the chance to get in front of a wider audience is now of more value than the money the performance or work might command.

Many of us (who are not famous) have changed how we think about it. I used to get paid $1 - $2 word to write for magazines. Now, I write this blog for free (and sometimes write blogs on LinkedIn, also for free). The value of it isn’t my time or the word count. It’s the audience and the potential there. I’m gathering my audience, which gives me far more leverage in the long run than the older model of being paid to write for someone else’s audience.

And that’s where influencers come in. For big and small brands, getting in front of influencers often turns out to be more valuable than traditional publishing or buying ad space.

This new space of worth in our culture, this middle tier of influence: it isn’t controllable or predictable in any of the traditional ways.

So how do you tap into it? The first answer is what the big brands do: strategically hire influencers—the Pinners and Instagrammers and Viners and YouTubers with huge audiences—and give them a creative challenge related to the big brand. Influencers spread that content to their audience, who might otherwise never have paid attention to the brand. GE is doing this masterfully.

The second answer I like better, and that’s to focus on making your content extraordinary.

The reason influencers are influencers is because they have a quality—people want to listen to them, follow them, see what they do next. I don’t think it’s as much to do with the cult of popularity as it is to do with something more organic: many influencers simply have an eye for extraordinary. And we want people to show us extraordinary. Extraordinary makes our day better.

The beautiful thing is: you don’t have to be GE. You don’t have to go after the big time influencers. In fact, I’m not even sure how sustainable that is.

There is top-heavy influence (1 person who has a million followers) and exponential influence (one person who influences two people, and each of those two people influence two people, and so on). Extraordinary will speak to them both.

I’m working the exponential influence model myself. I’m not banking on ONE person “noticing” me and suddenly telling their minions about me. I’m banking on one person who tells one person who tells two people, and so on.

It takes time and effort to keep creating—and it’s all for free. But free is no longer a bad thing. Free is smart. Free has an end game.

Which model of influence are you trying to work? And more importantly, what extraordinary things are you putting out there?


  • Kathleen Case

    Posted by Kathleen Case on 02/04/15 3:06pm

    Thanks, Judi - I am inspired that I can be like Katy Perry…and you!

    • Judi Ketteler

      Posted by Judi Ketteler on 02/04/15 3:09pm

      Thanks, Kathleen!

  • Kathleen Case

    Posted by Kathleen Case on 02/04/15 3:06pm

    Thanks, Judi - I'm inspired that I can be like Katy Perry…and you!

  • Antoinette

    Posted by Antoinette on 02/15/15 3:39am

    Really digging this post -- thank you for writing and sharing it. I am a public speaker and have built a large network on FB, but I do keep things pretty social there and don't do any self-promotion. The good news is that I have a good sense from engagement that there is an audience for what I have to say. The challenge is that I'm exploring how to craft that same voice for a larger audience, accessible through Twitter and LinkedIn and a blog. And I am not sure I am confident I can establish my worth through those newer channels, with audiences I don't know IRL. So, what model of influence am I trying to work? Exponential influence. What extraordinary things am I putting out there? Still figuring out if what works with IRL audiences works with an online audience I don't know (yet).

    • Judi Ketteler

      Posted by Judi Ketteler on 02/17/15 2:25pm

      Antoinette, you'll figure it out! I checked out your blog, and clearly, you have great things to say!

      -- Judi

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