Welcome to an update with chap hop star, writer and one of the most entertaining people I know, Paul Alborough, or as you will know him better, Professor Elemental. When I met him back in the 1990s, he was rapping like a pro but hadn’t quite achieved worldwide fame. Flash forward and here he is with comics, a tea brand, a novel and more. I was lucky enough to persuade him to join this series in February 2013, catching up in February 2014 and February 2015, March 2016 and March 2017, and here he is again – I definitely recommend popping back through those links and reading his earlier interviews, too! When I asked the Prof where he wanted to be by now back in March last year, he replied ” I have a really big project that I want to complete this year. I want to use a new album as a springboard into making a creative hub where people can share ideas and tips (much as you are doing now I guess). Plus I have a plan to use some of that to fund charities. It’s very ambitious, but achievable with the help of friends and collaborators. We’ll see how I managed it next year.” So, is that what he’s been getting up to? Read on to find out!
Hello again, Prof! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Nope. Not in the slightest. I mean, in terms of the overall picture, it’s going really well, but the specific and ambitious project I had in mind last year hasn’t really taken off. On the plus side, I’ve got so many smaller projects that there should be more than enough to compensate. At the moment there are four books, three albums, two videos, Patreon, a lengthy tour and some new merch – that should do nicely. Small is beautiful, as they say and lots of smaller manageable projects are a lot easier for me to deal with than one large one I think. Stops me getting bored, too.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
I think I’ve grown more at ease with my status, as well as the idea of maintaining and diversifying without the business necessarily growing larger. I’ve got a decent office space of my own now which allows for much more writing and actual creativity (rather than just admin) and I’ve worked out how many shows I need to do to maintain finances. I’ve also spent more time working on individual themes for shows – working on my best stand-up material rather than creating a whole new show for each event. That process has been a lot of fun. I’m still collaborating like crazy, travelling the world and spending a lot of time working my way through emails and chatting rubbish on social media though – it’s all very nice.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
Hmm. Not much. I mean, I’ve had lots of adventures, but they are quite specific cautionary tales and their mishaps are usually only applicable to me. I have definitely learned to worry less and follow a more stoic approach to business. It might be a dangerous thing for a creative person to say, but I am pretty content.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Here are five tips vital tips for anyone considering making their living rapping as a Victorian steampunk explorer:
- The people of Cambodia who come out to see large-scale pop concerts do not want to be introduced to chap hop, particularly after the main act has already been on. In fact, if you try it they will run away screaming and crying. Literally. It’s a really bad idea.
- If you’re going to let your children introduce a band of pirates in front of a thousand people, it helps to learn the band’s name before going out, or you run the risk of scarring the children for life as they stand there staring into the abyss without anything to say.
- It is possible to wear silver leggings that cross the boundary from ‘fun’ to ‘obscene’.
- Never, ever go on to the after-party. And particularly a party that goes on after the after party.
- Corporate gigs are usually a bad idea. But corporate gigs where the business writes your script are the worst idea of all.
I always love your hints and tips! And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Is it possible to maintain a small business without expanding and ruining what made it good or shrinking so it becomes untenable? Can a creative business remain contented without losing its spark? Why didn’t I spend the previous 5 years taking the train to shows instead of the car? Find out the answers to these questions and probably less in exactly 365 days’ time …
As usual with the Prof, a fab mix of important learning points and laughs – great stuff! I think it is possible to maintain your small business but it’s hard. I was chatting to someone the other day who’d reached the point with her food business where it had taken over her life and she didn’t know where to go to next, so she stopped! It’s hard after those first few years to decide what to do – and although Paul and I have VERY different businesses and business models, they’re both based around ourselves and the services we provide, so it’s hard to know how to move forward sometimes (I’ve done it by diversifying but also specialising, Paul’s done the same and collaborated, and my good editing friend, Laura Ripper, has recently started a collaboration project, so that’s a way you can go in our business, too). I can’t wait to read the next update from Professor Elemental, whatever he gets up to in this coming year!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.