Work & Identity

I would’ve wanted to work in the music industry my whole life if I wasn’t too dumb to realize it was an option until college. In hindsight, I may not have even gone to college and just pursued music.

I’ve never been able to identify as a writer, or even more frighteningly, an artist, because those terms or titles are reserved for the ‘chosen ones,’ the primordial humans who are able to tap into the global frequency and translate it for the rest of us. I’ve tasted it. I’m still chasing it. But in the end, I’m just a music guy. 

The music guy, actually. Always have been. With all my friends and family growing up, through college radio, and then turning my love for music into not just a job, but a career. A path that has and will continue to take me all over the world.

Before it could be a career, I was just a kid who loved going to shows and listening to music alone in his room or driving around with friends. Always making mixes for the next adventure or sharing new stuff with people I crossed paths with. From a very early age, being the music guy was not only embraced, but reinforced by those around me. 

Fast forward to college and it’s roughly the same. Except I’m finding ways to support myself through music, with a marketing gig at the university concert production company and promoting my own concerts with student loan money. I’m leading classes on both subjects, peers are looking to me for answers, and I’m also doing all the legwork to book, promote, manage, produce, and settle my own events. Things are going well and I’m getting noticed because of it. 

Five years later we’re back in Chicago. My hometown. I got in on the ground level with a little company with six employees at the time. Yes, there was a bunch of fucking bullshit, just like everywhere else in the industry. But there was some good too.

I booked arguably one of the top five nightclubs in the country at its peak, and an additional 100+ shows in the Chicago area annually. Within six years we produced five festivals, booked nearly every venue in the city, operated three venues, and produced upwards of 800 shows a year. At my peak, I produced about 230 concerts in 365 days and booked three festivals. I was bringing in some of the hottest emerging talent to the city at the best venues for the first time. I was right behind the bosses, at the peak of dance music, in the third largest market in the USA. 

All this is to say, I became the guy. The music guy I always thought of myself as, through hard work, an ear for cool new music, and other people’s perception of me.

And then one day I got tired. Tired of the bullshit. Tired of being on call 24/7. Tired of not getting a fraction of the money I brought in. Tired of Chicago. Tired of all of it. It felt like work. And I fucking hate work. It wasn’t fun anymore.

So I quit. Took four months off and moved to California to be with my now fiancè. 

The phone calls stopped pretty quickly. From agents and managers. From people in the scene, hangers on, and all that. People who I mistakenly thought were friends but were closer to “work acquaintances.” It’s easy to forget people like you more when you are the bank. 

Slowly that part of your identity, your Instagram bio, starts to drift away, and it can be scary. Because that’s you, right? You are the work you’ve created for yourself, people’s perception of you.

I’ve been in the music business about 13 years now. My story isn’t special. But I’ve had some unique experiences over the past three years that have allowed me to gain some much needed perspective and most importantly put my ego in check. 

I quit my dream job in May 2017. Two friends died suddenly in 2018. One in May, then I got laid off, and three days later, another died in June. And now, in 2020, at the peak of my earning potential and running my own business, this pandemic.

Now I really can’t imagine what it’s like to work in the same place for 40 years. Hell, I may never work in an office again. But what I can offer from experience is this.

Work is something that you do. It is not who you are.  Who you are, your essence and spirit, could be what drove you down that path in the first place. And I think you need to reconnect with that part of yourself. Find that part of you that would do what you want to do regardless of someone paying you to do it. Reconnect with what makes you happy outside of the traditional confines of a “job.” 

Find who that person is again and explore it with this new time you’ve worked your whole life to create.

Leave a Reply