Don’t lose sight of the future

Ten years ago no one could have predicted what the music landscape would look like today. We knew streaming was going to be a game-changer, but that is just one of maybe a thousand changes the industry has undergone in the last decade. In today’s market a single song or day can legitimately turn a nobody into a Billboard charting talent. Likewise, bands that have spent years building a following from the ground up can find themselves hitting a glass ceiling simply because they do not understand how to leverage digital media for their personal gain.

Industry professionals used to joke about never having a moment to catch their breath, both on the business and artist side of music, but today that once humorous remark is not far from the truth. If you’re not working on the next release then you’re expected to be engaging an audience, promoting to reach a new audience, or developing materials for the next big promotional push. It’s a nonstop cycle that in recent years has put more and more focus on the day to day attempts at success instead of considering what it will take to make a career last for months, years, or even decades.

With all the chaos of day to day existence only becoming more complicated over time it seems less and less people are putting serious thought into longterm goals and how to reach them. This is true in many areas of life, but it has special meaning in entertainment. Everyone who pursues a career in this corner of the business world is told from day one that the chances of making it are slim, and when the day comes that a job does present itself many are so thankful for the opportunity that they accept less than they’re worth just to say they are working in their desired field. This may work out okay in the short term, but if all a professional ever thinks about is the job or tasks in front of them how can they ever be prepared for what might come next?

As hard as it may be in an age of constant connectivity the need to unplug and consider the big picture cannot be overstated. The people who have long-lasting careers in music do not achieve such rare success through chance and luck alone. No, those who find a permanent place in this business do so because they are constantly working to make themselves indispensable. They consider the future, prepare for it, and know what to do when it arrives. They appreciate the fleeting nature of any career in this field and keep their skills sharpened just in case the bottom unexpected falls out (and it will).

There are countless tips on how to make short term gains in the music business, but those seeking a sustainable career in this field need more than quick fix solutions. This weekend, take time to unplug and seriously consider what you want to be doing as your time in this field progresses. Not everyone can tour and/or write forever. You are going to continue developing as a human and your role in this industry should as well. Where do you see yourself in five year, or perhaps even ten? What do you need to do now and in the months/years ahead to make sure you achieve that goal? Be specific in your answers and the path to a long-lasting career will show itself through your effort.

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.