Industry Spotlight: Tyler Osborne (ToZ Productions)

Hello and welcome to the final Haulix spotlight feature of the week. We have covered a lot of new ground in the last few days, and that continues to be the case this afternoon as we learn the story of an aspiring filmmaking whose currently cutting his teeth as a journalist for one of Spin Media’s newest entertainment properties. If you have a website or writer you would like to see featured in an upcoming installment of this column, please email james@haulix.com and share your idea.

There comes a time in each of our lives when we have to face the harsh truth that everyone eventually needs to get a job, earn money, and more or less provide for themselves. It’s the moment when childhood dreams of becoming astronauts and movie stars are put to the test, and for the most part people tend to decide choosing a more conventional career path is the better option. I can’t blame them and neither should you, but those who eventually end up with a career in music are the same kids who refuse to let go of those childhood ambitions that fueled countless hours of imagination. They’re dreamers from day one, or at least the first day they can remember, and today’s talent is no different.

Tyler Osborne has been in love with music and film for as long as he can remember. Nights spent at the movies were major bonding moments for he and his family, which instilled in him a love for art’s ability to create those shared experiences that eventually lead him to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. His eyes are set on filmmaking, but for now he’s content booking shows, performing in bands, writing album reviews, and, of course, filming video features for a variety of small projects. He’s not where he wants to be, but he’s getting closer every day.

I’v had the pleasure of knowing Tyler for a number of years now and can speak at length about his continued progress towards achieving the dreams he’s had since he was a child, but if you ask me it’s always better to hear someone tell their own story. I interviewed Tyler about finding his start in the entertainment industry, his current effort, and what he plans to do in the future. You can read his responses below.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with everything Tyler has going on, make sure you follow him on Twitter. He’s most definitely a need-to-know figure in music, and I have no doubt the same will soon be true about film. Any questions or comments you have can be left at the end of this post.

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H: For those unaware, please state your name, the company you work for, and your role at said business:

TO: My name is Tyler Osborne, and I’m the Head of Videography, as well as a writer, at Under the Gun Review. Thanks for having me.

H: When you think about your earliest memories with music, what comes to mind?

TO: My earliest memories with music all have to do with being in the car. It was where I really fell in love with music, because I was always a quiet kid. Everyone would be talking, and I would just listen to whatever was on the radio, or in the cd player, because I found it to be incredibly relaxing, regardless of what was actually on. May it have been Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell Live tape in my Dad’s car or Norah Jones and Van Halen in my Mom’s, there always something on, and I’d just get lost in it.

H: What was the first album you purchased with your own money? Do you still own it today?

TO: There’s two albums that come to mind, and that’s because I’m a bit hazy on if my brother bought them or if I did. I know for certain that I bought Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless, but I’m pretty sure I also bought Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, but he claims he did, but his memory is just as bad as mine, so I don’t trust it. Regardless, of course I still own both, because I’m a pack rat. They’re in two huge shelves of CD’s I’ve collected over the years, but admittedly, they’re probably both trashed. My two brothers and sister had a habit of stepping on them when they got into the car, but that’s my fault.

H: You’re into video as much as music, if not more. What first attracted you to the entertainment industry?

TO: First off, I’m not totally sure which one I’m more into either, music or film, but I really like that battle for my attention. But I have to say, my first love will always be film. From a very young age, my Mom and Dad took me to the theaters to see what was out, and I really fell hard for sitting in a dark theater, experiencing the same thing with my family and completely strangers, because they’re something bonding over that. It’s the conversation after that I always enjoyed. I really value a sense of community, and film brought that to me from an early age. As I grew older, I became increasingly more interested in how films were made, which led me down this path I’m currently on as a video editor and filmmaker. In terms of the music-side of the entertainment industry, I always loved reading and learning about my favorite bands, and then when I found my local punk community, I just had to contribute in every way possible. So in short, it’s the sense of community around a common love is what attracted me to the entertainment industry.

H: What was your first gig in the music business? Unpaid work counts.

TO: I guess my first real foray into the music business was just doing street team work. I did local street team stuff for bands during the MySpace era, you know, the usual hanging up flyers and posting about shows and what not.

H: You currently write for Under The Gun Review. What lead you to the world of journalism?

TO: Well, when I first started working for Under the Gun Review, I signed on to do more video work. Right around the time that I signed on though, I had to drop out of school for a semester, so I found myself incredibly busy working as an editor to make some money to go back to school. Because of the restrictions of working on other people’s projects all day every day, I found myself doing more and more writing for Under the Gun, to the point where I find myself doing just as much of that as I do video work. So really, I fell into it, but I’ve always had an interest in the traditional “journalist” as my Dad was one for a while. There’s something kind of romantic about it. While I’m not a journalist who writes about the economy or a war in a different country, I do like getting to the bottom of things and giving my take on it, regardless of the medium, may it be through videos, reviews, or music.

H: Who or what inspires you as a writer?

TO: What inspires me as a journalist is frankly frustration. Some music is just not good, and people are afraid to say that. Sure, when I openly hate something, I wont be the first person to volunteer to review it, but I think what inspires me the most is wanting to bring a level of transparency to writing, and using that transparency to connect with the people who read it. I feed off of people saying “hey, I really liked your review, it made me want to check this out,” because there is no greater compliment, at least to me, then someone valuing your own creative opinion or work.

H: You’ve been applying your video skills more frequently to your journalistic endeavors. Do you see yourself moving away from writing altogether at any point?

TO: Journalistic writing? Yeah, probably. At my core, I’m a filmmaker, so I’m always going to be more prone to doing visual work and thinking that way. I love writing, I find it to be a great exercise in figuring out why I like the music and film that I do, but yeah, I think it’d be fair to say that in the coming years I’ll have a more singular, focused effort on storytelling through video content. I’ll always be writing, but probably in the coming years I’ll shift gears towards writing scripts and treatments for film and video. I also find video journalism to be incredibly moving, so I could definitely see that being a route that I take in my career. When you boil it down, I don’t want to be on the outside. I don’t want to be the one waiting for someone else to make something and for me to report or review it. I want to create.

H: You, like many, do not get paid to be a blog contributor. Why do you do it?

TO: A mix of development of self and an innate love. On one hand, you don’t become the best at anything by sitting around and doing nothing. Sure, I’m not getting paid, but if I was my editor when I first started I wouldn’t pay me either. In the year and a half that I’ve been with Under the Gun, my writing has gotten exponentially stronger, not just as a journalist, but within all aspects of my writing. I didn’t know how long I would be with Under the Gun, but I have to say, once I got to know the staff and bonded with them, being a contributor for them has become something of a weird, incredibly close family to me. I write without pay because I believe in what we’re doing as a staff, that is, highlighting both the good and bad of the industry. Yeah, on paper it may not make sense to put so much time into something that doesn’t reward you monetarily, but I feel the benefits. I see the connections I’m making. Contributing to UTG has taken me a lot of places in the past year and a half. I not only get to meet and talk with some of my favorite bands, but I also get to listen to their records before everyone else. That sounds lame and childish, but it’s a major perk, and any other unpaid contributor who says otherwise is a liar. All that being said, if some fancy benefactor or corporate overlord wants to pay me and the UTG staff without making us sacrifice our journalistic integrity, I’ll gladly sell out.

H: Some people believe there is no need for critics in the digital age. Do you agree? (Support your response)

TO: Yes and no. No, because my opinion is no better than yours. It’s an opinion, you can like that new Wonder Years record, hell it could be your favorite record on the planet, but that’s not going to change the way I don’t care for it that much. I’m here to give perspective, not give a definitive answer to the question, “is this or that good.” That being said, I do think critics are necessary. I think the role of critics has definitely changed. I think that as a reader in a new digital community, critics and sites should be utilized in a more aggregated manner. From my experience, if I want to know if something is worth a listen or not, I won’t just read one writer’s opinion, but rather, a bunch of different perspectives from different sources I deem trustworthy to me. I think that if you critically look at works of art through not just one lens, but multiple, you can receive a less biased picture of the worth of the work. Sure, there are certain writers who I follow who I almost always agree with, and when they suggest or speak highly of something it’ll sway me to check something out. But I think the role of the critic in today’s day and age is to give a (hopefully) unbiased opinion on a work, so that the reader can figure out if its something they’d be interested in, then the reader can form their own opinion. Yeah leaks and streams kinda mess that whole process up, but when it’s all said and done, I know I check out what people think of records and films. If you listened to every single record or watched every single movie, your brain would fry and you probably wouldn’t be a human. Critics are here to help cut through the clutter, and help you to figure out what you should be paying attention to.

H: When it comes to receiving music for feature consideration, which services do you prefer and why?

TO: First of all, I don’t care at all about press kits. They’re always corny and super weird, and I never read the entire thing. I’ll maybe read it after I started writing a review just to get some history, but the thing I care about most is ease of accessing content, and I don’t think I’ve found a better service than Haulix to do that. When it comes down to it, I just want to listen to the record, and Haulix makes that incredibly easy and simple for me to access a stream or download. Sometimes you gotta jump through hoops to get the content you want, and I know if you give me more roadblocks, It’s going to make me a lot less likely to try and listen. With Haulix, it’s a quick download or a quick click of play, and I’m listening to the record. I know that sounds a bit like a commercial, but it’s true. When I see that Haulix logo in my inbox from a press company, it always makes me smile, because I know things are going to work, and it’s that consistency that I really appreciate.

H: What is the hardest part of this ‘job’ you’ve made for yourself?

TO: Making sure I have enough time to do it, honestly. I am not ashamed to say I love or hate a record, I’m not scared of talking to bands. What is hard is making sure I have enough time to actually do it, because I don’t like half-assing anything. I have a full-time job as a video editor, I’m finishing up my Senior year in college with six classes, and I’m also an RA on my college campus. I wish I could be devoting more full time, round the clock effort towards writing and videography for UTG, but I got to pay the bills so I can live first. Making sure I can get everything done with a level of quality I can be proud of is probably my biggest struggle, but it’s a struggle I’m okay with, because I love the work that I do for the site, and every single time I write a piece, take photos, or make a video, I know it’s something I wouldn’t be afraid to show anyone.

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

TO: Stop praising mediocrity. I always hear people complaining something to the effect of “Oh, we don’t have that many mind-blowing bands in this generation of musicians. I wish it was 2003,” and so forth. And while I’d disagree with that statement to an extent because there are most certainly bands doing really fantastic things, the fact is a lot of the music we listen to and praise simply isn’t anything new, or frankly, good. I feel like the music industry coddles bands a lot more than they should feel obligated to do, and that’s across the board. However since I’m in a “rammy mood” as my parents say, I’d say a lot of that blame goes towards the critic community. Sometimes, bands need a bad review. They need you to tell them straight to their face, “hey I think this is boring and kind of sucks.” For all you know, that review is what could inspire them to write the next Deja Entendu. I know it’s hard because the way this industry works these bands and artists often become your actual friends, but if I could urge the music industry to do one thing, it’d be to stop praising mediocrity, don’t coddle artists, and praise those who are doing something extraordinary.

H: You’ve been in bands, booked shows, worked in journalism, made music videos, and helped promote an unknown number of unsigned bands. Are there any area of the music business you’ve yet to explore that you hope to one day try?

TO: Yeah, I’d love to have my own record label. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but considering I’m funding a large portion of my college, it’s not something that’s really financially smart for me at this point. But once I settle myself down a bit, I would love to have my hand in putting some records out on vinyl for bands as somewhat of a side-project, may it be friends’ bands or just people I’ve booked in the past. I’d love to give back and have some fun putting together really fun, meaningful releases.

H: What is your ultimate career goal?

TO: My career goal is to see a film that I created with my family in your standard run of the mill movie theater. I don’t care if every critic thinks it’s awful, if I can sit down in a dark theater with my Mom, Dad, two brothers and sister, and have a great time watching something that I can say is a part of me, that would be the most satisfying thing I could possibly do.

H: Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about what you have planned in the months ahead?

TO: A lot of stress and sleepless nights. But in all seriousness, in terms of UTG, I, as well as other staff members, are planning on bringing more and more video content to the site that is both informative and high quality. I’ll also be continuing to write reviews every free second that I have. Personally, I’ll also be booking tons of shows around DC, shooting more music videos, editing for the communications firm I work for, and sometime in between all of that, hopefully finishing writing a script for a film I’m going to shoot this Summer post-graduation. And thanks again for the interview, I really enjoyed this a lot.

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.