How to prevent – and recover from – music industry burnout

If 100 people decided to pursue a career in music industry at the same time, how many would actually have a career? Of those that make it, how many would last more than five years?

These are questions I think about a lot. Having worked in music for a decade now, longer if you count unpaid work, I’ve lost count of how many friends and acquaintances have chosen to pursue other careers. Some feel they will never find stable employment, while others run themselves ragged trying to establish a presence in the industry.

Just last week, a magazine editor I had worked with for nearly six years abruptly exited his role. When I inquired as to  why he stepped down his response was simple, “I’m just tired.”

Anyone who chooses to pursue a career in music is told from the day they make their desires known that success is a rarity guaranteed to no one. We are trained to believe music is a battleground where the hardest working people trample one another in order to uplift the most creative minds we can uncover. We are told to network, but also keep our cards close to our chest, and because of all this the stress involved in pursuing a music career can be downright overwhelming.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Everyone, regardless of their role, experiences burnout from time to time.

Burnout in the music business is as inevitable as one day dancing to “Thriller” at someone’s wedding, but there are steps you can take to ensure you make it through with your sanity and passion for music in tact.

1. Put a priority on face-to-face social contact with supportive people

Social media is an amazing innovation, but all too often we confuse the connections the digital world provides with being a replacement for legitimate human contact. Too much time alone can cause legitimate sickness, sometimes with life-altering consequences.

2. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect from technology

You are addicted to technology. We all are, in fact, and because of this our brains are rarely given a chance to decompress. Set aside a part of each day, even just 30 minutes, where you exist without the aide of a screen or device. 

3. Move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour

You don’t have to go to the gym, but it certainly won’t hurt. Physical activity increases the endorphins in your body, which in turn alleviates stress. Try to never go more than two-hours without physical activity of some kind. Take a walk. Try yoga. Be active.

4. Reduce your intake of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine

In other words, “control your high.” You may think you need these things to function or fit in, but too much of anything is not good for you. In certain cases, as with cigarettes, any amount is not good for you. Try to limit mind/body altering substances so that your body does not have to work as hard to reset your system from day to day.

5. Get all the restful sleep that you need to feel your best

The average American adult currently gets just 6.7 hours of sleep per night. Medical studies have related a lack of sleep to health problems and cognitive impairment. With this in mind, try to get anywhere from 7-9 hours a night. If you cannot make that work, maybe carve out a cat nap in the afternoon.

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.