…But what if the music stops?

If every aspiring music professional were asked to list their biggest concerns regarding their chosen career path the top response would undoubtedly be the unpredictability of the industry. Even if you do everything right there is no guarantee there will be a place for you six months from now, let alone five or ten years down the line. That ambiguity is hard for many, and for good reason. Humans are conditioned to seek comfort and security. We want to make careers out of what we love and we want those careers to last as long as we have to work. Many jobs work this way, but not music.

Professional comfort zones do not exist in the world of music. The sound that sells well today may not sell at all in six months. The startup you move across the country to work at could lose funding overnight. The venue you launch to build a local scene close or lose its license. The band you hitch your career to may fall apart before they achieve greatness. The possibilities are endless, and each will leave you questioning what to do next.

If anyone tell you this fear does not keep them up at night they are either a liar or someone using sleep aides. The fear of music industry downturn lives inside every current professional because they or someone they know has experience such hardship in the past. It happens regularly, not all at once across the business, but in various pockets as the ebb and flow of consumerism dictates. Even the best in their field feel the pinch, and for some it becomes too much to bare.

Industry influencers love to speak of a day in the distant future where such concerns do not exist, but  the realty of right now is that no one knows what the next year will bring. Maybe streaming services will continue to grow, and in doing so be able to better compensate talent, but that is not a guarantee. Maybe festivals will continue to be lucrative events, or maybe the recent massacre in Las Vegas will keep average consumers away. Again, the possibilities are endless.

You cannot stop living today due to fear over what may happen in the future. There are no guarantees things will work out, but the fact you know that going in is an advantage. When others give up because things become difficult you will persevere because the struggle is part of the journey. The loss of an opportunity will not devastate you because you will understand another lies just around the corner. The odds will always be stacked against you, but that does not mean your dreams are impossible.

Most people do not realize just how cutthroat the entertainment business really is until they’ve spent years of their lives trying to make their dreams work. Don’t be one of those who find themselves feeling burnt out by twenty-five with nothing to show for all your hard effort. Dig in deep now, push forward, and do not let up. There will always be a chance the music stops, leaving you without a paycheck and a lot of necessary sacrifices, but that possibility can inspire as much at scares. Use the knowledge nothing is guaranteed to your advantage and work to share the reality you seek in life. You might not get there, but it is better to give something your all and fall short than to never try because you fear what could go wrong. Everything is chaos. Accept this fact and forge ahead. There is no other way to live.

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.