Working hard and partying hard? Read this
You’re talented, ambitious, fast-livin’ and fun-lovin’. You want to make it big in the music industry, you work hard for the money and you love a good party (or three).
This culture of work-hard/party-hard is intrinsic to our industry, and it may sometimes seem like it’s the only way to exist and succeed in this business. Is it, though?
Let’s examine in a little more depth the possible causes, consequences and alternatives to this lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and knowing how to enjoy yourself. You want to achieve great things in your career and you want to have fun - it would be weird not to when you work in entertainment. The issue occurs when you’re burning the candle at both ends: it’s not sustainable in the long-term, and it has definite consequences.
I’m not talking about just working hard on the job, but also regularly staying late at the office, answering emails on days off and during holidays instead of giving your brain a break, or even not taking enough time off to grieve properly. And this translates into being constantly stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
Nor do I mean partying as an essential component of a job in music, but rather going to tons of events/clubs/gigs because you feel you have to (rather than want to) or because you have fomo. Alternatively, maybe you’re partying or indulging excessively as a relief to all your hard work, or simply because you don’t want to be the odd one out. All this inevitably results in tiredness, mood swings or even serious, long-term health issues.
Not only does pretty much everyone seem to be doing it, but the surrounding culture is actively rewarding those behaviours. It rewards always being available and showing your commitment by working your ass off; it rewards going without sleep for 36 hours straight (you’re a superhuman!); it rewards being the party boy/girl who can cane it and still go to work the next day.
The thing is, the surrounding culture doesn’t care about how you feel, in body, in mind and in soul. It doesn’t care how you feel now, it doesn’t care how you’ll feel when you’re 65, and it certainly doesn’t care about what you may have sacrificed along the way - whether that’s your health, your personal relationships, or your happiness.
Maybe it’s worth paying attention when a famous agent says: “It’s too late for me – I’m fucked. I’m a workaholic. It’s shit – it’s unhealthy and I can’t get out of it. [...] I’d like the generation that comes after me to look after themselves. The music industry has got it completely wrong, and that [24/7 working culture] is why you see a lot of people fall over and break down.”
What’s interesting to explore are the underlying reasons as to why we fall into this work-hard/party-hard lifestyle in the first place. It may be fear: fear of failure, fear of not belonging, fear of not being accepted or valued. It may be escaping: escaping from our problems, from ourselves or from parts of our lives that are not working.
Work as well as play can be a wonderful place to hide.
When I was a club promoter, I spent nearly every weekend in the club I was working for, as this was part of my role. That’s how I’d spent most weekends since I was 17, so nothing new there, and I really enjoyed the social aspects of my job: dining with artists, meeting new people, seeing my favourite bands and djs play - I mean, what’s not to like?
I made few weekend plans because I’d always wake up very late and very tired. I ‘forgot’ to invest time and effort in my friendships or in having a serious romantic life because I was under the (false) impression of having my needs met through this seemingly pre-determined social life. I was hiding my commitment problem and interpersonal relationship issues under the ‘being at the club’ rug and I didn’t even know I was doing it. So now that I don’t have a cover-up I have no choice but to face myself and my issues and, more importantly, to deal with them. Hiding will never make any of our issues go away, and the more we wait the harder it’s going to be to overcome them.
If you recognise yourself in this work-hard, party-hard lifestyle and sense that something needs to change, where do you start?
The first step is to enquire within. Uncover the real reasons as to why you work and play hard, and find out what your underlying needs are. One quick tip to get you started is to ask yourself this question, before deciding to go to yet another event or to work when you’re not supposed to: do you want to do this out of love, or out of fear? If it’s out of fear, then what are better alternatives?
Ask yourself what you really want out of life, and then stay true to yourself by making choices that reflect those priorities.
Believe me, even as a club promoter - and reliability, professionalism and being damn good at my job were always key values of mine - I never checked emails on weekends, I turned off my phone the minute I went to bed, and as for anyone trying to get hold of me when I was away backpacking….. they would quickly get acquainted with my auto-responder since I backpack phone and laptop-less. I never had to partake in anything for the sole purpose of ‘feeling part of the crew’, and no artist ever got offended if I didn’t turn up for a show.
The world kept on turning, the music playing and the people dancing.
Working hard and playing hard may yield results in the short term, but it comes at a price and so it’s crucial to understand the real reasons behind our behaviours. It’s in our power to create alternatives, pave the way for a more sustainable way of working in this industry, and change the culture and some of its more damaging principles from the inside out. Fortunately for us, we are powerful beyond measure :)
* This post first appeared on the shesaid.so blog