[Welcome to Beyond The Workweek, a series of profiles featuring young people doing cool work beyond their day jobs. I had the opportunity to meet with creatives in order to pick their brains about how they work and what gets them excited. Quotes are paraphrased then fact-checked because recording and transcribing is tedious. Enjoy!]
Jeremiah Craig wanted to be a history teacher. “In high school, I had a history teacher that got away with doing his own thing. He was such a good storyteller that I wanted to do what he did. But once I got to school, I didn’t like how they trained teachers to teach. It’s uncomfortable and closed off. So I decided to focus on music instead.”
As opposed to studying music in school, Jeremiah majored in communications in order to learn how to market his art. “I really like data,” he tells me. “Everything I do comes from a place of data.” While he spends a lot of his time making music that resonates with him, Jeremiah also does keyword research to see where there are opportunities to make content for what people are searching for.
“I use Google Keyword Planner to see what people are searching for. I get to see the competition on keywords and how often people are searching for those terms.” Using this information, Jeremiah then begins to write music, make videos, and animate. “I make content based on this because I know people are already searching for it.”
When I saw Jeremiah perform, his songs were filled with historical tidbits. He tells the audience where the term “saved by the bell” originated (from people who were accidentally buried alive in olden times). Next, he explains what the term “bobtailing” means, which is when truck drivers drive just the front car end of a truck with no cargo in order to pick up their next freight. It leads into a song called “We’ve Bobtailed Further For Less”. He performs solo, with a guitar and a harmonica rig resting on his shoulders, and between each musical number is a somewhat theatrical introduction that feels polished and exciting.
Jeremiah works 40 hours a week as a digital marketing specialist. “It wasn’t always this good,” he tells me. “For a period of time I had to do roof cleaning. I had to scrape moss off of people’s roofs in the rain… in January.” He has lived off his creative income before and plans to do it again. Right now, he is adjusting his strategy since living expenses in Seattle haven’t made living off his art. “My goal isn’t $100k a year. All I need is $50k a year, which is totally within reach. And I could make $30k a year work if I wanted to scrounge by. When I went full time with music before, I made less than $30k and it was hard, but I think I could do it again in a sustainable way at that level of income. I am willing to take half of what I’m making now in order to do what I want to do.”
Making money is an interesting dilemma for Jeremiah, since he ideally does not want his audience to pay for any of his content. “That’s where I believe music is going. I think the musicians who succeed will be the ones who put all their stuff out there for free.” The way he’d like to make money is through brand sponsorships from companies that he’d promote anyway. “I want to be a spokesperson for stuff I already like.”
“Do you think it’s possible?” I ask him at the end of our interview. “Do you think it’s possible for us to live off our art?” “Yes,” he replies immediately. “I’ve done it with music and I know I’ll do it again, hopefully through social media. I work for a public relations company and I see people doing this kind of work every day. I’ve witnessed huge operations with full camera crews and food stylists, renting out a multi-million-dollar suite just for the client’s instagram. This kind of stuff exists because of the power social media influencers have.”
As we pack up and finish the last of our coffee, I ask him who is doing social media in new and creative ways. He laughs. “You know who is killin’ it? Will Smith. His online presence is so goofy and he’s doing a lot of fun stuff, like interviewing people on the international space station, asking them questions no one else would ask. Yeah… he’s killin’ it.”
You can check out more of Jeremiah Craig’s work at http://jeremiahcraig.com/.