10 Tips For Beating Burnout In The Music Industry

If you’ve worked in the music industry for some time, chances are you have experienced burnout. Whether you’re an artist, a publicist, a manager, a promoter, a marketer, a label owner, a writer, or one of the countless other professionals in the industry, working in a space that you love can be exhausting. Burnout is a result of chronic stress that has not been properly managed resulting in feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from your job, and reduced professional efficiency. If you’ve ever felt that awful trifecta, chances are you’ve been burnt out.

While following your passion feels like a recipe for success and constant inspiration, the music industry is challenging to navigate, and pursuing your passion can cause you to push yourself beyond the edge.

I’m not a psychologist or a medical doctor, but I have a fair bit of experience battling burnout. I run a music blog and record label, do freelance writing for some of the biggest labels in electronic music (last year I wrote around 150 press releases), and work a full-time job outside of music as a Marketing Manager. I’ve been doing some combination of these things for the past decade, so burnout and I are pretty well acquainted. With that being said, years of fighting with something also offers a wealth of experience.

Reflecting on the past ten years, I figured it would be fitting to share 10 of my top tips that have helped along the way. This isn’t a magic list that will make your life instantly easy, but hopefully, some of the ideas help.

1. Do Shit That You Actually Like

When you first started to get in the music industry chances are it was out of love. If you’re in it for the money, get out now, there are far easier places to make money. At first, that passion drives you, feeling like a never-ending fuel to go after your dreams. Everything is bright and glittery and every opportunity feels amazing.

Often as time goes on you start to take on things that you don’t love. A writer may pick up an interview because it’s a good opportunity, an artist might make a song that’s in a genre they don’t love in hopes of broader appeal, and the list goes on. Sometimes, those compromises are worthwhile investments in the future. And sometimes, they lead to a snowball of trade-offs that leaves you so far from your original passion, that you can’t even remember how you got there.

Don’t worry though, you just need to take a step back, recognize that, and shift your focus. Whenever you’re approaching something new, ask yourself why you are doing it. If the answer isn’t because you truly want to, maybe it’s time to rethink it.

2. You Don’t Have To Do Everything – Say No

No is a weird word. People are often so afraid of saying it. They don’t want to come off as rude or uncaring. But it’s also very freeing. Throughout the years I have said yes to things because they are a great opportunity, I don’t want to let the requestor down, it seems exciting at the time, etc.

As time goes on, continually saying yes results in having too much on your plate, leaving you filled with busy work that you may not actually be excited about (reminder of point #1). Start saying no more.

What makes you happiest may not pay the rent, but if you have enough to cover all your expenses, maybe it’s time to focus more on what brings you joy.

3. Audit You Workload

One of the best things you can do to combat burnout is to regularly audit your workload. Packed calendars and stuffed to-do lists can leave you in a state of constant busyness that drains your mental and physical energy.

It’s important to take time regularly to take a step back and look at what you’re doing more strategically. What are you spending the most time on? What’s constantly getting pushed to the side? Determine what’s important to you and measure your ongoing tasks against those metrics.

The questions I ask myself are:
1) Does this make me happy?
2) Does it fulfill me?
3) Does it make me money?

The weight and importance of those dimensions can vary with tasks and where you are in your life and career. Everyone’s situation is different and sometimes you need to embrace one dimension over the other. What makes you happiest may not pay the rent, but if you have enough to cover all your expenses, maybe it’s time to focus more on what brings you joy.

4. Connect With Others That Give You Energy

You ever have a conversation with someone and leave it feeling instantly energized? That undeniable spark that makes you feel like you can do anything and gets your creative juices flowing. When you find people who make you feel that, embrace it as much as you can.

Whether it’s coffee with a colleague, a beer with a friend, Zoom chats with industry pals, or any other form of connection that leaves you feeling uplifted, make sure to find time for more of those moments.

It’s easy to let the avalanche of pending tasks dominate all of your waking hours, but making time for these connections will have a far greater impact on your long-term success and happiness than checking whatever item #7 is off that to-do list.

5. You Don’t Always Have To Be On

Cell phones, the internet, email, and social media have revolutionized the world and music industry. The benefits of technological innovation cannot be overstated but with the good comes a long list of challenges, namely that our devices have led us to be always on.

The stresses of life live in your pocket, your hand, or on your table. Add in the social pressures and promise of grind culture and it feels like you can never take a break. I spent years working weekends, replying to emails at all hours of the night, and feeling like I needed to know about every notification. The reality is you don’t. I convinced myself that I needed to be always on so that I didn’t miss anything. What if a big opportunity comes in on Saturday night and I miss it? Nothing. Another one will come around and honestly, most things aren’t that time-sensitive. Turn off your email and notifications outside of the hours you want to be contacted, stop looking at your phone all the time, and enjoy life.

You’re not a doctor on call for life-saving surgery, that email can wait until Monday.

6. Embrace Efficiency

There are only so many hours in a day. How you choose to use them is up to you. Embracing efficiency doesn’t give you any more time but it can make those finite hours more useful. Exactly what this looks like for each person will defer.

There are a host of technology solutions that can help manage your calendars, tasks, and projects. Creating templates and bulk scheduling things like social media posts are other options.

One of the biggest wins I’ve been able to find is using otherwise unproductive downtime to get things done. For years I took the bus and train to work. I used that hour every day to scour SoundCloud for new music, reply to emails, and write blog posts. I wrote hundreds of blog posts while riding the bus and that time built the core foundation of FUXWITHIT. It also freed up time in the evening to focus on other tasks and even occasionally enjoy life outside of work.

Enjoying music in the purest sense is assured to reignite your love.

7. Enjoy Music For Fun

Working in music is a dream come true for many people. But as time wears on you can get further and further displaced from the joy it once brought. Maybe you’re an artist who spends more time making Tik-Toks than actually making beats. Or a music blogger who spends more time on Gmail replying to emails than digging on SoundCloud (I hate to admit that I’ve been there). Your to-do lists start stacking up and you lose the plot.

Remember that you actually love music (or at least you did), so start enjoying it again. This can be as simple as revisiting classic albums you love, listening to genres that you don’t work within, and getting out to shows purely for enjoyment (not networking, reviewing, interviewing, etc.).

Enjoying music in the purest sense is assured to reignite your love.

8. Find Joy Outside Of Music

Many people in music are pursuing their passion to the extreme. Your work in music, your social life revolves around music, you go to music-related events, everything is music. While having such a singular focus can help to achieve your goals it also leaves you fairly one-dimensional and with no other outlets if music-related burnout hits.

Having hobbies and joys outside of music allows you a chance to truly disconnect and recharge your batteries. Some of my best ideas have come to me while riding my bike, taking my dog for a walk, or chatting with friends over beers. Even if that isn’t the case, a nice disconnect will do wonders when you do get back to work.

9. Exercise Is A Superpower

I could write an entire article on how much exercise has changed my life and how much it benefits me daily. From your mood to your physical health, energy levels, and cognitive function, there are few things that offer more benefits in life.

People have asked me how I get so much done, truth be told exercise is the superpower that picks me up when I need it.

There are times when I have had a rough day at work and feel absolutely drained. After working a nine-hour day, the last thing I want to do is put in another two or three hours of work, but sometimes I have to (as much as I am preaching better balance, deadlines exist and sometimes you just need to get shit done). In this situation, exercise is my cheat code. Strength training is my go-to and generally results in the biggest impact but if I am strapped for time, a quick ten or fifteen minutes of yoga can offer a complete reset in stress, energy, and mental clarity. I often work from 10:00 pm to Midnight and those quick micro yoga sessions are the fuel that gets me through it.

This is the simplest solution but it’s also often the hardest to do. We live in a society that champions outworking each other, promising that hard work pays off, and pressures us to just #keepgrinding. The reality is sometimes you need a fucking break.

10. Take A Break

This is the simplest solution but it’s also often the hardest to do. We live in a society that champions outworking each other, promising that hard work pays off, and pressures us to just #keepgrinding. The reality is sometimes you need a fucking break.

If you’re doing all the things listed above (and any other tactics that work for you) and you still feel drained, unmotivated, and unwell, take a break. That may be for the night, for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months.

If you’re a workaholic (same) it can feel unnatural and even stressful at first but it’s likely just what you need. Taking time away can help you physically and mentally recover, but also allow you some time to recalibrate on what’s important and come back stronger. Take a break.

Battling burnout is an ongoing fight with an ever-moving finish line. Life is about balance, don’t forget to find yours.