If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.
Nothing you have ever read or been told about life in the music business can prepare for the day when you realize it is possible for you to make a career in this business. Maybe that is due to the fact that so few ever find themselves in a place where they truly feel as if they belong in the world of music, or maybe it’s because the individual journeys we all take to become the people we are meant to be are so different that know two paths to success are the same. Instinct tells us it’s probably the latter, but emotions leads to believe the former. Wherever you stand, don’t worry. You are not alone.
The longer you live and work in the world of music the stranger a place the industry becomes, and that is largely through no fault of your own. We each decide to chase the dream of a life dedicated to music for our reasons, but somewhere along the way we come in contact with other dreamers whose success we wish to see just as much as our own. We believe, on some level, that if one of us succeeds then there is a chance we all can do the same, but time has proven again and again that is rarely the truth. What usually happens, as hard as it may be to admit, is that a select few achieve lasting success while everyone else, including those who earn fleeting notoriety with a hit song or album, find an alternative path or career. This is neither good or bad, but rather the way things are. It’s life, plain and simple.
What separates those who work on the business side of the industry from those one the artistic side during this time is what motivates you to continue fighting for your place in music with each passing year. Where artists typically attempt a career in hopes of sharing their ideas and creations with the world, those working behind the scenes often enter the industry to help others succeed. The publicists, managers, bloggers, journalists, podcasters, lighting techs, guitar techs, and even label owners in this business usually got their start in music because of their love for a specific band or genre of music. They didn’t attempt to spend their lives behind keyboards or sitting backstage to work with just anyone, but rather with someone or some group they believed could change the world with their music. Those professionals dedicate their lives, especially early on in their careers, to making the talent that lead them into music as widely recognized as possible. It’s how they cut their teeth, so to say, and it’s how they began networking toward the jobs they will have in the future.
The things is, not every artist that every professional believes in will become a talent whose career spans several decades and numerous albums. A few will succeed, but the vast majority will not, and as time passes those individuals who started toward a life in music because of a specific band or sound begin question why they remain. If the world has moved on from the music that gave them a door into the music business, why should the business keep a place for them? Professionals, whether intentionally or subconsciously, often tie their success to the success of those they aim to help the most. Be it PR clients, a band signed to a new indie label, or even the seven bands a blogger covers on their site each and every week, the success or failure of those artists reflects on the individuals who dedicate their lives to making them a household name.
When the artists you loved one day one begin to fade away, the key to keeping your passion alive lies in the world of new music discovery. Regardless of the genre you claim to love or work in, allow yourself to entertain the notion that something completely different may take you by surprise. Scour the net, listen to every promo you can, and do you best to take in the ever-evolving world of popular music. You probably won’t love most of what you hear, but somewhere along the line you will hear an album, artist, or sound that fills you with the same passion for music that first lead you into this industry. Who knows? Maybe the artist you discover has been around for a decade, but their music is knew to you. Use that renewed faith in the arts to fuel your work, and look for ways to further align yourself with whatever it is you’ve begun to adore.
Slingshot Dakota, a two-piece group from Pennsylvania with an indie rock sound that isn’t afraid of sonic exploration, recently saved my professional life. As the new year began I felt an overwhelming sense of loss in regards to the bands who had inspired me to pursue a life in music. Pop-punk was the place I had called home for over a decade, but after seeing even the biggest acts from my early days begin to hang it up I thought that perhaps I too needed to reevaluate my life’s work. If bands with fans around the world were capable of reaching a point where they could no longer support themselves then how was I, a blogger who had made his mark on the industry by promoting those same bands, going to stay afloat? My current job isn’t connected to pop punk per se, but my passion to music is, and I worried that aspect of myself would begin to fade as I found myself working with more and more artists that were unlike anything I had gotten in this business to help succeed.
Around this very same time a friend at Topshelf Records sent me Break, the fourth full-length album from Slingshot Dakota. I had seen the band’s name floating around the alternative music scene for as long as I could remember, but I could not recall if I had ever given them a chance, so on a Monday with temperatures in the low teens I put the album on with not a single expectation on my mind. “You,” the album’s shimmering opener, poured through my headphones with an inherent sense of urgency that was hard to deny. My toes began to tap along with the music, and my head began to bob. By the time the fourth song, “Stay,” began, I discovered I had essentially stopped working altogether. My monitor was open, an email was half-written, and my eyes were glued to the screen, but my mind was a million miles away. For the first time in what felt like years I was completely carried away by the music of a band who I had only just discovered, and as the album carried on I allowed myself to drift further and further out to sea in hopes of being fully engulfed by their sound. If music can cast a spell, then Slingshot Dakota had me in a trance, and though I was aware of what was happening I had no desire to see it end.
By the time I reached “Storytellers,” Break’s killer second to last track, I knew my life would never be the same. Slingshot Dakota had entered my world with the ferocity and catchiness of Miley’s “Wrecking Ball” and left me emotionally devastated, yet begging for more. In one album with just nine tracks the duo of Carly Comando and Tom Patterson had flipped my world upside down in the same manner Blink-182 did when I was just twelve years old. For about an hour I was that same kid who first fell in love with music, and when the album was over I immediately reached for the repeat button while also grabbing my phone to tweet about how great my first impression had been. I was hooked, and I remain that way to this day.
Break finally arrives in stores this Friday, and next week I have my first chance to see Slingshot Dakota live. I imagine myself being calm, cool, and collected while shaking their hands, but in reality I will probably resemble Wayne and Garth falling at the feet of Steven Tyler in Wayne’s World 2. If Break hadn’t entered my life I don’t know that the fire required to make a life in this industry work would still be burning inside my soul. Slingshot Dakota saved my life, and they did so by reminding me why I got in this industry in the first place. They can do the same for you too, if you only give them your time.
James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager 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.