Finding magic in the business of music

The first half of 2016 has burnt out everyone I know. Okay, not everyone, but a bunch of people I’ve spoken with have talked about the jobs that are gone, cruel bosses, dried up press opportunities, all while rents keep going up.

Facebook is changing their algorithms again (and Instagram, which they own), and Twitter is filled with countless tragedies – and we keep seeing “NEW SONG!” competing with that. Good luck with that.

Are we just going to refocus efforts on Snapchat? Get more into email marketing? Develop 16 cool new ways to reach music blog editors (all while we mourn the death of music blogs)?

People “binge watch” seasons of TV shows. Like, hour upon hour of staring at Netflix. They’re listening to more podcasts than ever. They’re watching Game 7 of the NBA finals. Heck, they’re in the streets staring at their phones while catching Pokemon.

Tweeting “check out our new song" worked in 2008 when not a lot of bands were on Twitter, but now every band and every label is on everything, everywhere, all the time.

So it’s fun seeing people deliberately move away from that. Shops that have ignored the allure of social media (and promoted posts), and instead focus soley on the people that walk through the door. Some bands aren’t even online but they still maintain a buzz. People have quit paid music industry jobs for simpler lives without the 24/7 grind. Life goes on even when we’re not trying to keep up with the never ending flurry of VEVO video, new songs, and the latest “gossip.“

But music can always make someone’s day, so it’s worth fighting for. Even if Spotify won’t compensate you fairly for it, find ways to present it in a way where it has more value. Think beyond a music video, think beyond albums. Create things people will find on their iPhones, then be so compelled to get their friends together and stream it on their Apple TV connected big screen. Just as strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a melody ain’t all that special these days, neither is a music video of four dudes playing a song in a room. That’s what led to bands like OKGO and Hollerado pushing the term “music video” to new heights.

Neither of those bands sat around waiting for their break, they just made fun stuff that went along with their music. Making that sort of magic doesn’t come from how-to guides, but from trial and error, and making it up as we go along. If there were a manual, a map, then everyone could do it, and even “hit song writers” don’t get it right 100% of the time. Put your slant on it, work with good people, and do the best you can. There’s magic in that.


Seth Werkheiser is the quiz master of metal trivia at Skulltoaster. He’s also the founder of some music sites you may have heard of, including Noise Creep (2009) + Buzzgrinder (2001). He’s anti-Facebook, anti-clickbait, and anti-growth hacking. You should most definitely follow him on Twitter. Yes, right now.

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.