The only piece of advice you need to find work in the music industry

Looking for a job is one of the most grueling things you will go through in life. It’s a process that is hard for everyone regardless of their professional aspirations, but there is an added degree of difficulty for those who yearn to work in the entertainment business. The number of people looking for work in entertainment at any given time vastly outweighs the number of job openings, and the quality of talent found among applicants has grown consistently year over year since the dawn of the digital age. Anyone can be a self-starter in this industry, whether you launch your own project or help a friend with theirs, and because of that  trying your hand at management, writing, publicity, label ownership, etc. on your own before seeking work at an established company is typically considered a bare minimum requirement for any new hire.

As someone who has found himself desperately seeking industry work at several times in his life, allow me to tell you that I understand the stress you’re feeling right now. I too have laid awake late at night wondering if I have been wasting my time and energy on a passion that is rewarding, but ultimately unable to help me keep a roof over my head. You have to learn to find comfort in the fact everyone in your position feels this way from time to time because that struggle to progress is what keeps this industry running, but I have another tip for you that in just six words can help you find work far quicker than any amount of applications or job boards could hope to promise:

“Find a need and fill it”

To be honest, this isn’t something I came up with last night. The first person to be credited for telling people this timeless piece of business advice is Robert H. Schuller, who wrote “Anybody who succeeds is helping people. The secret to success is find a need and fill it; find a hurt and heal it; find a problem and solve it.” This applies to life as much as it does business, and in the music industry helping people is pretty much all anyone who is successful ever does with their time. You’re either helping people connect with music or you’re helping artists get their music to people. Anything else is a selfish endeavor that will ultimately stall out long before becoming anything of note.

The job I have now that allows me to give you this advice came about as a result of following Schuller’s quote. I was working at a dying music startup when I first thought to look into the company behind the music industry’s biggest promotional distribution platform. I initially tweeted at the official Haulix account to inquire as to why I never saw them advertising their services or working to engage the industry at large. Unbeknownst to me, the person who received my tweet was company CEO Matt Brown. He replied to tell me the company had no marketing person, and then asked what I would do if I had that position. We exchanged emails, I sent over some ideas, and the rest – as they say – is history. I’ve been working for Haulix for more than three years now, and I can say without a sliver of doubt in my body that it is the best job I have ever had.

As you think about where you want to end up in this industry, look at the connection you already have an ask what you could do to make their lives better. Maybe you offer to takeover the social media efforts of a local band on the rise, or maybe you email your favorite label with a cheap idea to effectively market an upcoming release. Look for opportunities to do the thing you want to do while helping others grow their business and they, in turn, will look at for you and your professional aspirations. Not every good deed will result in a paycheck, but in time you will find opportunities that could lead to a longterm, mutually beneficial professional relationship.


James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also the Film Editor for Substream Music and a 10-year music writing veteran. You should follow him on Twitter.

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.