Automation Will Not Make You A Star (But It Might Help)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the beginning of a new week here on the official blog of Haulix. We are thrilled to know you have chosen to spend a few minutes of your time with us. This is the final week of August and we have done everything in our power to plan content that helps us end the month strong. Today, we’re taking a look at automation and how it may or may not be the answer to every problem you have.

This blog exists to promote the future of the music industry, and to do that we need input from people like you and your music-loving friends. If you have any questions about the content in this article, or if you have an artist you would like to see featured on this blog, please contact james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

The internet and the idea that automation will somehow save us all have long walked hand in hand through the world of business. Automation is the older of the two, with a history that dates back to the beginning of the 1900s, but it’s just as feisty today as ever before. The birth of apps, which came about as a direct result of the internet, created countless new paths to automation success for consumers and entrepreneurs alike. You can find apps to wake you up, send you reminders, check your blood alcohol content, check your blood sugar, track your steps, track your pregnancy, control your television, control your stereo, control your car stereo, start your car, pay bills, and a million other tasks – big and large – in between. The one thing no app can do, however, is make you a successful musician. They can help you, yes, but they cannot do the real work for you. 

What’s the real work? Good question.

In the last six months I have been sent press releases for apps that automate everything from tweeting and updating social networks, to booking, keeping track of merchandise stock, songwriting, and even responding to fan emails. Yes, you can even automate fan engagement in 2014. Welcome to the future.

I would never discourage the use of automation, but like all the best parts of life it is something that is best when used and experienced in moderation. We may one day reach a point where machines no longer need people in order to make the world spin, but for the time being there are limits to the capabilities of even the best coded device, especially where creativity is concerned. The key to success today is not only being talented, but also possessing a personality that people want to experience. This goes for fan engagement, as well as the way you interact with members of the music industry at large, and there is no machine or app on the planet that can handle that task.

If you want to simplify your life, embrace the apps that make it easier for you to focus on creativity and engagement, but not those that try and replace actual conversation with pre-selected responses. Automated booking may sound like a good idea, just like the idea of an application that can help you write songs with better rhymes, but neither will help you actually improve your skills as an artist or business person. In order to do that you have to get your hands dirty a bit, and by that I mean you need to risk messing up if you ever want to grow. Those who play in arenas today one day performed for the wall of their bedroom and whatever stuffed animals were within earshot. Eventually, they took it upon themselves to get the word out about their efforts, and over time – with a lot of hard work – people began to take notice. As they continued to work, things like songwriting and communication became second nature because it’s what those individuals chose to focus on day in and day out. You can reach that point too, but it takes time. 

Even more important than the need to better your business skills, however, is the need to remember that fans come first. This is a fact that should be cemented into your longterm memory alongside your first Christmas and the name of that pet you loved as a child that mysteriously went to ‘greener pastures’ when it reached a certain age. Fans are the lifeblood of your career, and without them all the automation in the world will not be able to get your name in front of influential industry professionals. You need to set aside time to engage with your followers on a regular basis, and you need to make an effort to let them know you care about the feedback they have to offer. Listen to them and, when time allows, reply to them as well. As your popularity grows it may become increasingly difficult to respond to every message of support you receive, but you should still make an effort to let those who give up a part of their financial stability to support your dreams know their sacrifice is not a mistake.

As sure as I am that the world will continue turning I am confident there will be even more apps promising crazier types of automation in the years ahead. I don’t think it’s all that hard to imagine an app that records songs, masters them automatically, then within minutes submits that recording to every major online retailer. That’s just one of a million possibilities, but unless it somehow allows you to be a better creator or promoter then what is the point? Quantity means nothing without quality, just like messaging means nothing without substance, and machines do not create substance. We do.

If you want to get ahead in this business you need to put your music and fans first. If there are apps that make it easier for you to do that then you should most certainly consider using them in your day to day efforts. That said, if you come across apps that promise to forge connections that would otherwise require actual human interaction it’s far better to do the work yourself. Machines can do a lot of things, but they cannot use a personality they do not possess, and it’s personality that ultimately makes someone a star.

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.