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Part 2 : Interview with The Creator of Audition Update Tom Lapke

Written By LimeLight App—

Picking up from our last Blog post. Tom shares with me his experience working with Backstage.

Spencer: When you sold your site to Backstage, What was that like when they contacted you? Were you like, oh, great, Backstage is such a big name I would love to get more eyes on my site.

Tom: Yes, absolutely. I was at home in the middle of the afternoon, working on the site and I just got a popup in my LinkedIn. I opened it up and it was from the CEO of Backstage, like, “Hey, do you have time to jump on a call?” I figured they wanted to write a story about it or something. Um, so I jumped on the call with him and he started asking me questions about the site and about the business. His assistant was an actor and saw that she was on it. So his interest peaked. He said they were interested and wanted me to come down and meet them. I went down and met with them. Then I heard nothing for months. I figured they weren't interested. Then five, six months later, he just called me again and was like, “Hey, we're ready to pull the trigger on this. Uh, sorry, we've just been busy”. This was at the time where they were switching over from being a newspaper to a magazine.

Spencer: You never know what's going on.

Tom: You never assume, because they were just too busy to deal with me at that point. Backstage bought it and I negotiated a job for myself so I didn't have to wait tables anymore. I had already at that point, kind of actively made the decision that I was stepping away from acting to work on this. It became too much. I was selling ads at the time on Audition Update around $1,500/$2,000 worth of ads a month on the site. So it was generating some revenue.

Spencer: Wow. but that's not what they wanted.

Tom: They wanted it for access to the users. It was a good fit at the time because I knew okay, this could then reach a much larger audience. It could also then have some more money backing it. And then like, also gimme a job.

Spencer: Absolutely! Did you see it morph into something that you wanted? If you don't have a Backstage account, you can still look at the forums which is great.

Tom: So when they hired me, they didn't know what they wanted to do with me. I was doing a bunch of random projects for them as well, being the administrator for Audition Update and being the administrator for all the Backstage forums.

Spencer: Wow.

Tom: For the entirety of my tenure there, they didn't touch the site in any way that I didn't want them to. They basically let me run it however I wanted to run it. It wasn't until after I left and it was kind of being run by customer service at that time. They really didn't know what to do with it. Then they decided to kind of fold it into their forums. Which unfortunately, I think kind of killed it. I certainly would've fought to keep it separate. But I didn't own it. I didn't work there anymore. It wasn't my business anymore.

Spencer: Interesting. I know the CEO of Backstage Isn’t an actor, so I don't know how his brain works. But you understand what it's like to audition and what that takes. So when you were working at Backstage, did you feel like you still had a hold on what the user wanted?

Tom: Yes. And that was because of my own due diligence, and tried to make sure that I did. But also it was only a few months that I was there before I actually developed a position, which was a brand new position there, which was director of education and events. They were interested in getting into the classroom, like Actors Connection and Growing Studio, that sort of thing. We had just come from a meeting with Ripley Greer at the time for something else. They were talking about it and I said, well, if you're gonna do A, B and C, then you need to do one, two, and three. So we built Backstage University and we did classes and events and workshops with casting directors and agents and managers very much like you would see at Actors Connection. We also did a lot of actor networking events, which were really great. There were these huge parties that we threw, usually like once a month. It was great marketing for Backstage. A completely social event. It wasn't like you weren't showing up with your headshot or anything like that, <laugh>. So you got to sort of interact with them on a human level. Right. So that when you did go into the room, you'd be like, oh yeah. You know, we met at the event. Those were really, really popular. We did some, we had like 250, 300 people there. It was wild.

Spencer: Why don't they do that anymore?

Tom: oh, we'll get there. <laugh>.

Spencer: Okay. Great. <laugh>.

Tom: We grew Backstage University very, very quickly. So I was running Backstage University doing the admin for Audition update. I was the liaison for all of their sort of college outreach and

a sort of educational outreach. We grew it to a point, and the next step if we wanted it to make any more money we needed to start doing more classes, but not spending money renting space at Ripley Grier, or Pearl. Then it was a matter of, well, now we need to start renting our own space. They just were not interested in getting into the real estate space. They were trying to get into doing webinars and things like that, and it wasn't catching on really. My job kind of became obsolete, so it was time for me to leave. So I left and started, Six Legions Media with the guys from Real Arc and started Actors Launchpad, which we rented our own studio and we were doing classes in the daytime and things like that because if you have your own space and you're doing multiple classes a day, the cost per class suddenly starts dropping.

Spencer: That absolutely makes sense.

Tom: Right. But the reason why they don't do networking events and things like that at Backstage was I left and I was the one running them.

Spencer: And you had all the connections

Tom: But then we did them with Six Legions Media, with Actors Launchpad. We did tons of networking events. They were, again, very popular.

Spencer: I think people need to actually meet each other instead of seeing each other on social media. Why do you think they got rid for Gig and Tell

Tom: Well, the thing is, it's a double-edged sword. The theaters will want to have a post there if people are singing their praises. But if they're not a good place to work, even if they think that they are and actors are saying that it's not. Well now they don't want that post up there.

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