Blogger Spotlight: Tyler Hanan

Hello and welcome to a new week of music industry insight and advice here on the official blog of Haulix. We have a lot of great content planned in the days ahead, including the story which you’re about to read. If you know of a website or journalist you feel deserves to be highlighted, or if you have a recommendation for a future installment of our ‘Advice’ series, please do not hesitate to email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts.

There was a time not too long ago where those hoping to find a career in the music industry only needed to know a few well-positioned individuals in order to make that dream a reality. Networking is still a major factor in finding success these days, but there is certainly something to be said for having a good education as well. A growing number of universities have begun offering music industry themed studies in recent years, and today we’re going to learn how a student currently enrolled in one of these programs views the future of the business.

Tyler Hanan is yet another highlighted talent who hails from a land most would not associated with being on the forefront of the music business. Writing to us from his current home on the campus of Ferris State University, Tyler spoke with us about growing up with a love for music and transitioning that interest from a hobby to a career. He’s still finding his footing on the national level, but for someone with over a year of school left to go Tyler is well along the way towards become a staple in alternative music circles, and I have no doubt he’ll soon be tackling other areas as well. You can learn about his life with music, as well as where see the industry headed in the years to come, below.

We highlight a lot of talent on this blog, but Tyler Hanan is without question a name you will need to know in the years to come. If you want to stay up-to-date with everything he has going on, please be sure to check out his Twitter account after you read the following interview. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: State your name, job title(s), and publications you currently write for:

TH: I’m Tyler Hanan. I’m the Arts and Entertainment/Lifestyles section editor for the Ferris State Torch, head writer and editor for Nothing Sounds Better, and I’m a news and review writer for Under the Gun.

H: You’re currently studying Music Industry Management in college so I have to imagine music has played a major role in your life (no pun intended). To what or whom do you attribute your interest in music?

TH: I suppose my dad was probably my biggest influence there, though a subtle one. He loves to sing and an ability to casually appreciate different artists and styles without making a big deal of it. He could love both early Metallica and Evanescene without a second thought.

It was actually his copy of System of a Down’s Toxicity (which he spun when my mom wasn’t around) that was probably the first thing to ever blow my mind or drastically shift my music paradigm. My friends have him to thank for my frequent, unannounced bursting into song.

Also, movies. I love movies. I love music in movies. That union is consistently one of my favorite things.

H: Do you recall the first album you purchased with your own money? Do you still own that record?

TH: I can’t recall specifically. I can only tell you that its singles were probably played on country radio regularly and that I definitely don’t own it anymore. The first Josh Turner and Dierks Bentley albums come to mind.

H: Most people at least appreciate music, but you’ve chosen to more or less dedicate your life to it. What lead you to chase a career in this industry?

TH: My love of music has been a slow burn, growing steadily over the years. Betweern high school and college, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do “when I grew up.” It always made sense to pursue a field that I already loved. Psychology and journalism were possibilities for a while; I still think about how I wanted to go to the University of Michigan for psychology.

In the end, though, a friend of mine off-handedly mentioned a “music industry management program.” After overcoming my shock that that’s a thing that exists, I just dove in. Everything I’ve done since that first decision has only reinforced my desire to work in some aspect of the music industry.

H: You’re already a head of many of your academic peers thanks to your efforts outside the classroom, including a pretty major role with your campus paper. Can you tell us a bit about your position and how it came to be?

TH: I was walking past the Starbucks during my first (summer) semester, and there was a sign that mentioned jobs. One of those was for the school paper. I’d already been blogging at Nothing Sounds Better for a while at that point, and I had previously been interested in journalism. It seemed like a logical step; college newspapers, like college radio stations, had become romanticized in my mind by movies and television.

Getting used to journalistic writing took a while, and coming up with interesting content with local ties can be a challenge in this area, but I’ve been working on it. The editor position opened up for the Arts and Entertainment section after my first year and the other returning writer for the section wasn’t interested in it. Again, it seemed like the logical step. Managing the content has always been at least almost as interesting to me as writing it, and this was a prime opportunity to learn.

H: Was The Torch your first experience in writing? If not, here did your cut your teeth as a journalist?

TH: I wrote a few contributor reviews for AbsolutePunk first. They were pretty terrible, but it was my entrypoint into music journalism. I thought that if I studied and wrote about music more often, my knowledge and taste would improve – and they did! A few AP users formed this tumblr called Nothing Sounds Better, and I was brought on as the sixth guy, someone to help provide some content. Somehow, I’ve worked my way up to running it, though it’s not as active as it once was. That ongoing experience has already opened a lot of doors for me.

H: What inspires you as a writer?

TH: I love words. For some, a smooth stroke of a baseball bat is what makes them swoon, or the successfully benching a weight they’ve never lifted before. Clever turns of phrase have always done that for me. As I read and write more, I grow to love even more things about writing, and the people who do it well are the ones who really inspire me.

The ability to tell a story or convey an emotion, to execute a complicated concept or maintain a theme – those are things I find fantastic. The ability to adapt to the proper writing style for the subject or medium (or, in my case, the ability to sneak some wit in wherever possible) is such a fun thing. It’s not just music journalism, either; I loved novels as a child, and now, with an always full schedule, I’ve grown to appreciate truly great short stories. Anything involving words, written or spoken, is a thing I probably devour.

H: As someone in college for the purpose of studying the music business you’re in a unique position to offer perspective on the industry. Do you think music as a whole is ‘doomed’ as people in the media like to claim?

TH: No, not at all! I think that’s preposterous. Music adapts, it always does. Physical media didn’t kill it, digital media didn’t kill it, pirating didn’t kill it. With the dips in sales, concerts have become the bigger moneymakers. People love music too much to let it die and, much to the chagrin of many of my favorite artists, I’m not sure the industry will ever collapse the way they hope and expect. It’ll continue to evolve. Sometimes it’ll do so quickly, sometimes poorly, and often in ways that those same small artists will despise, but it will survive. We just have to be better, smarter, more clever.

H: I know you’re still building your name, but you’ve already got a wealth of experience under your belt in multiple areas of the business. What is your current career goal, and how (if at all) has that changed or evolved since you started school?

TH: I’m open to a lot of things, but I’d ultimately love to have a steady job at a media outlet that covers music and other forms of entertainment (as steady as those jobs can ever really be). I’m not nearly the writer I need to be yet, but it gives me something to shoot for. I’ve been poor my whole life and lived off Wal-Mart wages for a while, so the low pay isn’t something that scares me.

It hasn’t changed a lot since school started. My eyes have just been opened to the many other areas I could work in and be happy.

H: There are a number of people who think the age of social media empowering everyone to share their voice has made professional critics somewhat unneeded. Do you agree? Explain your answer.

TH: I mean, it’s certainly something I think about. Much of my time is spent pouring through tumblrs run by kids who make nothing off this. I don’t wholly agree, though. Some people are simply so good at what they do, so skilled at conceiving a narrative and finding connections and all that, that I feel they’ll have a place as long as media itself is a thing. There’s always a niche market.

Also, I feel having those professionals (or “professionals,” depending on who you talk to) is important for the structure of media. I like having the big and small options, the expert and the amateur, the mainstream and the underground. They all have value and serve certain needs. They complement each other.

H: As someone graduating into this industry, what are your biggest fears? (aside from finding work, of course)

TH: Finding work is the big thing, really, because I’m open for working so many different jobs. I’m aware of low pay and high turnover, and as someone not interested in settling down or staying put, that excites me. I

I suppose I do have one fear bigger than that: failure. I want to succeed and take pride in my work, to know that what I’m doing is appreciated by and worthwhile to at least a few people out there.

H: You, like many people writing about music online, make little-to-no money for your efforts. With that in mind, why do it?

TH: I just love doing it. I learn so much, I find new music, I meet new people. Everyone needs a hobby. I just approach my hobby in the hopes of turning it into a job. Without music, writing, and reading, if you’re not having fun and doing what you love, what’s the point?

H: If you could offer one piece of advice to unsigned artists hoping to garner more attention for their efforts, what would it be?

TH: Either be interesting, good, or professional and concise. Don’t all-caps your emails, or send physical demos, or overdo it. Show interest and knowledge of the people you’re sharing your work with. “Hey, I love [insert site name],” “I loved that post you did on Kanye,” things like that.

H: When it comes to receiving new music for review or preview purposes, which service(s) do you prefer?

TH: It takes everything I have to avoid the caps lock here, but please please please include a soundcloud or bandcamp stream, or embed a youtube video. Don’t make people download or “like” anything. Make it as easy as possible. Reduce the amount of clicks needed.

H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

TH: Man, this is hard. I’ve taught myself to work with everything. Negativity. I love being as cutting and snarky as the next sassy blogger, but I try to keep it good-natured. Negative stories are an important part of the narrative – as with the amateur/professional writers, it’s important to have both sides present or represented – but I hate when we beat the negative stuff over everyone’s head when there are so many good stories to be shared.

H: Before we let you go, do you have any final thoughts to share or articles on the horizon we should look out for?

TH: Stay positive, be creative, expand your perspective, never stop working. Those are the big things I tell myself. Other than that, I’ll be keeping on with the Torch, NSB, and UTG for the foreseeable future. I’ll probably continue to brainstorm podcast ideas that I never get around to recording and cover Julia Holter’s music far more than anyone else’s.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.