Brace yourself: The Annual Music Industry Slowdown is Coming

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On the final Friday of October 2018 more than 120 albums were released into stores, with countless more being released by independent artists from around the globe. That number was a high point for the industry in a year that has felt flooded with new albums, but it also marked the end of what many to believe the last big ‘push’ the industry makes to grab consumers’ attention before everyone begins fighting for their cut of the holiday spending rush. There will still be albums released between now and the end of the year, of course, but the volume of releases has begun to taper off in anticipation of changing consumer behavior.

With this in mind, now is the perfect time to recognize that the seasonal music business slowdown is fast approaching. Traditionally launching one week before Christmas, this is a period where many of the industry’s most prominent corporations give their employees an extended holiday break. Those fortunate enough to be employed full time may see anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks of free time, if not an entire month. Emails will be minimal, calls will be sent to voicemail, and announcements – often the lifeblood of many music blogs – will slow to a crawl (or be nonexistent).

That is all good news for those fortunate enough to have full-time employment in music, but it is often frustrating for those on the come up. Bloggers and music writers, for example, have to work harder and harder to keep their readership up as industry announcements slow and people spend less time on their devices due to plans with family/friends.

Similar frustrations exist for independent professionals in management, publicity, production, and all other corners of the industry. Unless you are making enough money to live comfortably for a month without any new income, the end of the calendar year always seems to add a bit extra stress to daily life. Family and holidays can help to ease the mind, but such downtimes can start to feel like an attempt at financially treating water if one does not plan.

To avoid such difficulties, we want to advise everyone caught up in the struggle to begin thinking about how to use the slowdown to their advantage. Here are some ideas:

  • Starting today, make a calendar from now until the end of the year detailing all the work you hope to accomplish. If you’re an artist, outline your goals as a creator as well as your promotional ones. If you run a blog, describe your planned features and when you want them to run. Be specific.
  • Speak with any collaborators, parents, or bandmates you may have about holiday travel plans. Everyone deserves time to disconnect and be with family. Knowing when people plan to unplug prevents any problems over responsibilities and activity from interrupting someone’s time with their loved ones.
  • Make a plan to disconnect yourself. Contrary to what that crazy voice inside your head may be telling you there are very few, if any, people expecting you to be steadily churning out new work throughout the final two weeks of 2018. All websites see a decline in traffic around Christmas and New Year. Many artists see a decline in attendance at shows as well. People are still enjoying music and engaging with it, but their focus is mainly on other, far more important things. Don’t miss out on time with your family because you believe you need to be the creative that changes this global trend. For once, accept that you, like everyone else, need a break.
  • Set goals for the new year. Once you plan the remainder of 2018 and set aside time for relaxation, you might as well get a head start on your plans for 2019. You’ll no doubt want to hit the ground running once the holidays have all passed, and having a plan of action in place is a good way to ensure that happens.
  • Take time to reflect on – and take pride in – what you have accomplished this year. All creative people that I know are hard on themselves far more often than they should be because they have an insatiable thirst to see what else can be done. While a drive to keep pushing forward is admirable it can also be problematic. There will always be another task to complete or achievement to unlock. The mountain never ends, so if you’re waiting to reach the top before celebrating your successes that time will never come. The end of the year slowdown creates a unique opportunity to disengage from the day to day struggle long enough to look at your body of work as a whole. Don’t miss out.

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.