The Haulix Blog is what everybody needs to read right NOW. Consider it a conversational pocket guide to the who, what, where, why and how of the arts and its business.
James Shotwell is the writer behind the Haulix Blog. His solicited advice and quality content on the Haulix Blog made me question everything I thought I knew. I simply had to find out more. Here, I pick James’ brain about music, words, Antique Records and a Blink-182 cassette.
You mentioned that a Christian rock band called Audio Adrenaline captivated you at a very young age. The one thing that pulled you into their music was their lyrical wordplay. Would you say that is the starting point of your career with words?
I don’t recall saying that is was their wordplay that pulled me in, but seeing them live as a young child certainly left an impression on me. It was the Some Kind Of Zombie tour, and I was barely in elementary school, but for whatever reason I have never been able to shake the feeling of excitement that rushed through my entire being that night. When we left, I begged for a shirt, but the only size the band had left was adult medium, which might as well been a circus tent when put on someone my age. My parents bought it anyways, however, and for the next five years or more I kept it in my dresser. If I still owned it I would still wear it regularly. I’m not sure I ever thanked my parents for that, but now that you’ve got my mind going over memories I’ll have to call home and say something.
However your career in the music industry started with a Blink-182 cassette. Tell us a bit more about your days as a booking agent?
True. My parents were fairly strict about music, and they never allowed me to buy anything with a parental advisory sticker on it. Every now and then an album would come out that should have a sticker, but for whatever reason it didn’t, and that was how Enema Of The State came to be a part of my life. I would put the tape in my Sony Walkman, hop on my bike, and ride around our tiny midwest town for hours at a time. That summer, which I believe was 1999, I only listened to Blink-182. Every single day, multiple times a day. I still know every word to that album and I doubt it’ll ever leave me.
As far as booking, it was never something I set out to do. There was a venue in my hometown that a couple had opened years prior because their son was into music. They had to close down at one point, and I immediately missed having a hub for music. I entered high school, got into playing music myself, and realized I could potentially do something to help bring the venue back to life. I reached out to the owners, they agreed to let me put on a show to see if it could turn any kind of profit. I booked all my friends and had them invite everyone they knew, which resulted in a packed house that helped bring the venue – known as The Apocalypse – back to life. For the remainder of high school I booked shows for them, and I was able to meet many touring artists as a result.
The Haulix blog is a treasure trove of good advice for people involved in the music industry. Would you say that your days as a booking agent, bleached-out musician as well as your personal experiences supply material for the Haulix blog?
Definitely. When Matt (Haulix founder) first approached me about working with the company he asked me to develop a marketing plan that I could activate in a short amount of time. As writing has been my passion and source of income for the better part of a decade, my first idea was to launch a blog and develop a more defined voice for the company. From there, I tried to figure out what type of content would play into what we do. There are only so many reasons you can give for watermarking music, but there are an endless amount of columns that can be produced on the topic of industry advice, so that felt like a natural step to take.
My initial goals for the blog were two-fold: Bring attention to those working hard every day to promote the future of the industry and help advise those who are currently aspiring to work in entertainment. I believed that if we aligned ourselves with individuals who were making a difference that others would begin to see Haulix as a company dedicated to helping the industry progress. It took a while, but I think that idea has finally started to take hold, and our success over the past year reflects that.
What is the most vital piece of advice that you would give to an individual who wishes to enter the music industry?
There is this silly country song I always get stuck in my head on rough days. The chorus includes the line “If you’re going through hell, keep on going,” and that – in my opinion – hits the nail on the head.The best advice anyone ever gave me was to fight for what I believe in and never give up unless I am willing to accept defeat.This industry will kick your ass on a daily basis, but if you stay focused and give your all to whatever it is you have chosen to do with your life results will come in time. It will not be easy, and if my own experiences are any indications there will be all sorts of setbacks along the way, but good things do come to those who put themselves fully into the projects, people, and products they believe in. You might not get paid at first, but very few people do. The ones who makes this business their life do so because they have a love for art and sharing creativity that vastly outweighs their desire for personal gain.
Besides being the social media co-ordinator/PR for Haulix, what other projects are you currently involved in?
There are a few…I am the co-founder of Antique Records, where I also handle all PR and marketing efforts, not to mention shipping and artist relations. I’m also the founder and editor of Under The Gun Review, an entertainment news site covering films and alternative music, which is owned in part by Spin Media. In addition to this, I write freelance for Substream Magazine and anyone else looking for content when time allows. It’s a lot, I know, but there is a lot more I wish I could make time to do.
One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in this business is when and how to say no. Once you begin networking, opportunities will come out of the woodwork, and it’s up to you to know your own limit. It’s very easy to take on too much and end up performing poorly across the board. This will make you look bad and decrease the likelihood of you being hired by others in the future. Know yourself and your limit. It’s a must.
Let’s discuss Under The Gun Review (UTG). I like what you have set-up there both in content and style. The site was acquired by the SpinMedia family. So, why is UTG so good and SPIN so bad in terms of journalism?
I don’t really know what you mean by this, but I think you meant it as a compliment – so thanks! ( Ed: Compliment indeed!) I cannot really speak on Spin and how they operate. We may be owned by the same company (Spin Media), but all the properties under that name operate independent of one another. The only exception is Absolutepunk and Propertyofzack, who we partnered with years ago to form a cross-promotional group known as Absolutevoices.
Every site has their own style, which is part of what makes living in the digital age so exciting. People can find the exact voice they prefer and read it every single day if they like. What works for some doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, so as much as you may enjoy UTG there are likely a few hundred who think what we do sucks. Likewise, Spin has a large following that believe they are the bees’ knees of journalism. It’s incredibly subjective.
Tell us a bit more about Antique Records and what we can expect from the vinyl market?
Antique is my child, and I love her more than I know how to express. We released our first vinyl just last month and it’s been one of the wildest learning experiences of my life. We made more mistakes than I dare try to count, but in the end we pressed a great record that people believe in and want to hear. It has taken some time to ship everyone’s orders, but I feel like we’re in a much better place for future releases.
As far as what to expect, we’ve already announced to 7” releases (I Can See Mountains and Bobby Meader). We haven’t told anyone else this yet, but we’re planning 2 more 12” releases before the end of 2014.
As a creative individual, do you see yourself walking out the industry door to become a teacher?
If there were a way for me to become a teacher or professor without having to incur more debt from the extreme cost of higher education then I would jump on it immediately. Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and through working at Haulix I have been able to develop a platform that allows me to educate others in a way that feels natural to me. I’ve told Matt many times I would gladly work for Haulix for the rest of my life, and I am hopeful he takes me up on that offer.
Where can James Shotwell be found in ten years from today?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure anyone working full time in the industry today knows where they will be in 10 years, but I like to think I will still be making a living with my creativity. I have fought as hard as I know how for as long as I can remember to get where I am today, and I do not feel like my journey is anywhere near complete. There is always more to learn, more to experience, and more to share with others. My only hope is that this industry keeps me around long enough to enjoy everything it has to offer.
Would you like to add any last words?
First off, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this series. I’ve always tried to keep the spotlight on Matt and Haulix, but every now and then it’s fun to know people care about my story as well.
Now some closing advice…
If you want to make it in music, be it as a musician or industry professional, the responsibility of kicking open doors and finding opportunities falls entirely on you. No one is going to hold your hand and show you the ropes early on. Everyone who has found their way into a career in this business has done so by never giving in and learning every step of the way. Shake every hand you can, ask questions whenever possible, and cling as fervently as humanly possible to the hope others will one day notice your hustle and give you something to do with a little financial support. In time, those opportunities will come. Believe in yourself and learn to be patient.