It’s been said time and again how it is nearly impossible to make a living off of music writing. As many times as I’ve heard that – and lived through the struggle of its truth – it doesn’t stop me from treating what I do as a priority. I started writing about music a little over 5 years ago and even though I may have stumbled upon it (as inevitable as it was for me personally) I have treated every single published piece that I have put out into the world with the utmost respect and professionalism. But maybe that has been my problem all along: I’m a perfectionist. But through being a perfectionist, I have learned one very crucial fact. I love what I do. If I didn’t, I most-likely would not give a single crap.
When I first started receiving email pitches for Buzznet, I was thrilled! Then again, I was a rookie and I had no idea how anything worked other than people wanted their music featured on a well-known entertainment site and that I could help with that. I had nobody in my ear telling me what I could and could not write about, so I marched head on into the unknown, working my ass off for the exposure it might have given me. I guess it all paid off as 3 years later, I was approached by Buzznet’s editor to become freelance. It was my first taste of the real freelance life where money was actually coming in. It may not be my ideal set of numbers compared to how hard I work, but it’s a start and I love working for Buzznet. Trying to find other places to freelance hasn’t been so easy, though.
Once I started The Daily Listening, things started to speed up work-wise; opportunity-wise, not so much. Even though we’re about to hit our 2 year anniversary next month, I can’t help but wonder where we should be or what I’m doing wrong. I started to experience my first taste of hardcore burnout about a year ago. Just the sight of my inbox would overwhelm me to the point where I had to walk away from the computer and get back in bed with the covers over my head. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my site. I love my writers and the awesome people we get to work with & feature. But there comes a time in every writer/blogger’s life where we start to feel unappreciated and undervalued.
I think the biggest reason why my inbox overwhelms me is because I observe an awful lot. I look at all of the demands being shoved in my face with no reciprocation involved and it eats away at me. Most days, it just doesn’t add up. I try not to pay attention to site stats and follow counts, but compared to all the emails we get, we should have a much larger following than we have. There’s only so much out-of-pocket paid promotion I can do and it never seems like enough.
My anxiety has been at an all-time high and there are days when I just want to shut everything down for good. I’m tired of being asked to feature some band in a pitch that has been copy/pasted into a million emails and sent off to zillions of other blogs. I’m tired of featuring these bands and never seeing one simple thank you or promo tweet or Facebook post. My site cannot grow if there’s no word of mouth, just like a band’s music cannot be heard by the masses if us bloggers and fans do not share their music.
I once did an in-person interview with a band I really admire. I made a huge deal out of this considering it was probably the biggest opportunity I had in a while. I stressed over every aspect and it all happened so fast. I felt pretty good afterward. I emailed the publicist the link once it went live and that was pretty much where it all ended. Not one mention from the band, PR or record company. Did I do something wrong? Give shitty questions? Did I say something that didn’t sit well with someone? Or maybe it wasn’t me after all? Maybe those in charge were just lazy? I’ll never know and it will probably bug me forever.
I’m tired of being pitched by the same PR firm time and again, featuring their artists, then discovering that they’re only sharing articles from the big name sites. Small blogs need love too. Most of the time, those bigger blogs were once in our position. Some of us take what we do seriously. We want to further our careers. We want better opportunities. Some of us turned our hobbies into jobs. We saw how hard it was to get our foot in the door, so we bossed up and created our own sites. Don’t ask us to do a job and then ignore our efforts completely.
I’m tired of opening emails that start with, “Hey there” or “Sup?” or a simple, “Hi.” I have a name. It’s Tina. Not Alison, not Rachel, not Lisa and most-definitely not Mike. My writers also have names. Research them. Check out the blogs you are pitching to make sure they’re a good fit for your artists. This job, as thankless as it is, can also be a very isolating experience. Bloggers crave connection, especially if we’ll be working closely with you and your artists. I recently received the greatest pitch from Terry Rytz of London band, Cuecliché. He actually took his time to research what we were all about and was so patient with us during a very stressful week. I realize that not everyone has the luxury of time when work is concerned, but a little heart goes a long way. Rytz was pretty stressed himself with the release of the band’s debut EP but we commiserated together which made what we were both going through a bit bearable.
As burnt out as I am, it doesn’t stop me from trying to fight past it. Deep down, I’ve always wanted this. I’ve always imagined myself as an editor. I love being in charge, as demanding as it can be. It’s so easy to pick out the real, hardcore music writers from the phonies these days and I get a sense of fulfillment when I find other like-minded souls out there who understand our struggle. They live it every day. I get so upset when people call my job a hobby or a “cushy” situation. Yes, music and writing are my two favorite hobbies. I’ve lived and breathed both since childhood. I did not give in to societal pressures by giving up on what I wanted with a boring job that pays well. I’m doing what I have always wanted and though it may be difficult to stay afloat financially right now, at least I know when I reach the end of my life, I won’t be wondering, “what if?” I’m working my ass off to get to where I want to be.
I know I want this, but right now, I am drained. It’s a sick cycle that keeps repeating itself. I did my best when I didn’t have as much pressure put on me. A day goes by without content and I feel like I’m falling behind, even though I know full well that none of this is a contest. Emails get deleted, follow-ups come in. I correct them on what my name is. They come back the same way a few days later. I update our submission guidelines and they get ignored. In an age where everyone wants something for nothing, it’s best to teach yourself that you cannot control everything and that it’s best to not worry about every damn request that comes your way.
Alanis Morissette got it right in “Hand In My Pocket.” “I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed, I’m lost but I’m hopeful,” and the famous, “I’m young and I’m underpaid, I’m tired but I’m working.” None of us really have it all figured out. Inboxes are going to overwhelm us. We’re going to keep ourselves up at night worrying about whether we’re doing enough to further our dreams. We’re going to sacrifice a lot to keep ourselves afloat. We’re going to absorb everything the naysayers dole out as “advice,” ruminate over it a thousand times, resent those people, and prove them wrong years later. Because it’s all worth it if we’re doing what we love.