If you want to be successful as a professional media maker, you have to think of yourself as a ‘business of one’: always managing, promoting, and performing yourself as a brand. This is a truism throughout all media industries. However, such constant self-branding comes at a cost. This chapter discusses the origin of self-branding and offers an alternative way of finding work in media by focusing on craftsmanship.
Especially since the early 2000s, being a professional media maker has meant being conscious of the fact that you have and are a personal brand. Branding yourself has become a ubiquitous task. The reason for this shift may seem obvious: new communicative technologies. Without technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, or earlier predecessors like MySpace, media workers did not have the tools to brand themselves. Yet, suggesting that journalists, advertising creatives, game developers, and all the other professionals across the media industries brand themselves because it is now technologically possible to do so overlooks the history of self-branding as a perceived prerequisite for success in the media industries, and especially bypasses a deeper question: why would anyone think that this was a good idea or a necessary practice in the first place?
Media workers – such as professionals in film and television, advertising, and music – to some extent have always adopted branding tactics for themselves: creating and managing a certain persona, doing the emotional labour necessary in largely informal and reputation-driven working environments to suggest a persona, performing this identity dutifully in order to make it work. The twin developments of precarization of work in the media industries and the rise of digital media have amplified and accelerated the branding trend, often raising the level of self-promotion to stressful levels.
However, branding is not an inevitable practice – it is not even all that measurably effective. In this chapter, we argue that the notion of branding accompanied a shift in how people understand the nature of work and, more specifically, a shift in how people understood what it meant to work for others. People are now expected to view themselves as a business of one (Lane, 2011), seeking to enter into business alliances with others.