The past month has been a weird one for me. After just over seven years of running my own music blog I was faced with the question of whether or not to continue, and it wasn’t brought about by anything I did. Several years ago I sold my site to a media company in exchange for hosting, a larger chunk of ad revenue, and a general backbone of support to aide whenever a problem should arise. The relationship was never what I thought it would be, but it did take care of the costs associated with running a website (hosting fees, etc).
To make a long story short because 1) it’s not all that important to this post, and 2) I’m still not sure what I can legally discuss at length, the company is cutting back the number of properties they own and I am being given my site back, in full, free of charge. This is great news with respect to my desire as the site’s creator to also be the one who decides how, when, and/or if it dies, but it also created a problem as I had not been planning to begin paying out of pocket to continue running the site. I always assumed I would when my contract ended (if it ever did, and if I got my site back when that happened), but actually having to face the reality of taking on yet another bill was something I had to think long and hard about. For the first time in over half a decade I had to make a conscious decision whether or not I wanted to continue running a site had long surpassed its original goal of simply aiding me in meeting people who could potentially point me in the direction of places looking to hire within the music business.
If you listen to the Haulix podcast, Inside Music, then you may have heard our most recent episode with former music writer Chris Harris. After nearly two decades in music writing Chris recently decided to walk away from everything after coming to the realization he has more or less wasted numerous years of his life pursuing a time consuming passion that was yielding little to nothing in the form of financial gain. He never set out to write strictly for profit, of course, but there is a big difference between writing about music while in high school or college and writing about music when you also have to juggle a full time job (or multiple part-time roles) alongside other real world, post-college obligations.
I should be clear: Chris’ breaking point came not from simply contributing to music sites, but from running his own site. You see, writing is just the tip of the iceberg when you’re the guy who calls himself ‘editor.’ There is new writer recruitment, pitches to be fielded, industry contacts to be made, events to attend, content to plan, social networks to establish, and a number of additional things that must be done in order to ever develop something that may in some small way possess the ability to either 1) become financially successful, or 2) become popular. (Preferably both.)
What we don’t say enough in the podcast, and what I sincerely want to stress today is that you should absolutely, 100% write about music if it is something you feel called to do. If you have even a slight interest in trying it just for fun you should give it a chance. If you just need something to change up the repetition of daily life, you should close your browser, bust out some paper (real paper), and lay some pen to it as soon as possible. You could type it instead, but why not go all in?
What you should think twice about is launching your own music blog. I know I’ve written about this before, but the purpose of this post is different. This isn’t about the horrors of running a blog, but rather the joy of committing yourself fully to writing. If you really want to change the world through your work it will be accomplished much faster if you pen something of quality that garners exposure on the largest networks available today. Who runs it should matter little in your mind as long as the words you wrote appear as you intended.
More importantly, focusing solely on writing gives you more room to develop quality material without the distractions of ‘building a new digital empire.’ Don’t stress about how many followers your recently-purchased URL has reading its automatically posted headlines, or how many of your friends from high school are still cool enough to ‘Like’ a budding music publication on Facebook (hint: Not the ones with kids), and instead dedicate the vast majority of your time to better understanding, describing, and discussing the music and artists you claim to want to share with the world. There, and only there, can you find the kind of longterm satisfaction so many blog owners yearn to find while duking it out with other, equally young blogs for exclusive premiere from bands with only slightly larger or smaller followings than the site(s) looking for their content.
If you want to be a writer, be a writer. You don’t need a site of your own in order to achieve that goal. If you begin writing and find a demand for your work to have its own hub, then maybe you should consider launching a site. Most people, and in hindsight I should be included in this group myself, don’t really need their own site. All they and you need is to work as much as possible to further refine their craft. Keep working, keep creating, and keep distributing your content. In time, if you continue to push yourself to be the best you can possibly be, there will be others who recognize your hustle and want to help you succeed. All it takes is a lot of hard work and patience, both of which I believe you are capable of finding within yourself.
So please, write. If you have even the slightest notion that maybe writing is for you, or if you just want to share your thoughts on the last band that changed your life, write. Don’t let me or anyone else stop you.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.