How Was Your Summer? Ours SUCKED!

Sweetheart Pubstack #37 (for real)

We’re Rachel Hurley and Frank Keith IV, co-owners of the Sweetheart Pub. We’re music industry veterans with over 30 years of combined experience in the music business, having worked in publicity, licensing, talent buying/booking, label management, tour management, and more. Once a week, we’ll publish a new edition of this newsletter, where we’ll share some philosophy and actionable advice on all facets of the music industry. 

We’ve been putting together a weekly playlist of seven songs (just enough to keep your attention) every week — check out The Sweet Spot to hear what we’ve been listening to.

What we’re thinking about this week…

I’m fucking exhausted.

For me, the first year of the pandemic was no sweat. Even though it hit right when we started Sweetheart Pub — we had a full stable of releases, and even when some artists decided to put their campaigns on hold or drop them altogether, those slots still ended up being filled and we stayed busy. This year we have had to say no to a lot of potential clients simply because we were inundated with opportunities. In theory, it’s a great problem to have. In reality, we gave way too many accommodations and discounts in order to help everyone because Frank and I both are fully aware of the financial plight of independent musicians. 

Things began to unravel for me back in May. I started to feel like there was something in my throat and I was having a hard time swallowing. Nothing painful or keeping me from eating, just annoying, like Chinese water torture. If you’re not familiar, that’s where cold water is slowly dripped onto the scalp, forehead, or face. At first it’s not that bad, but as it goes on and on and on — it becomes mental agony.

Luckily, I have decent insurance, so I went to see my general practitioner, who sent me to a specialist, who sent me to another specialist, and then I was sent to the hospital for X-rays and then back to the hospital a second time for a CT scan. It turns out that I have an esophageal hernia, which basically means that part of my upper stomach has come up into my esophagus. Mine is very minor and is a hiatal hernia. Of course, that sounded very dire when they told me, but as it turns 60% of adults will have some degree of a hiatal hernia by age 60, and even these numbers do not reflect the real prevalence of the condition because many hiatal hernias can be asymptomatic. 

But the real kicker is — after two months of doctor’s appointments and tests — which meant two months of me obsessing over every unhealthy habit I’ve ever had and fantasizing about what I would do if they told me I only had a year left to live (because I am super dramatic), my doctor prescribed me OMEPRAZOLE (!!!) and told me not to drink coffee, tea, milk, anything carbonated, alcohol...not to eat citrus fruits, tomatoes, butter, chocolate, fried foods, garlic, onions, anything spicy, spaghetti, salsa, the list goes one. I mean, FML.

All this to say: between this RIDICULOUS health issue and the feeling of being in purgatory — all I do is go from my office to my bedroom every day as I try to stay home and be extra cautious about COVID — well...I guess I’ve not been my normal self the past few months.  

And that’s why we haven’t done a newsletter.

To be honest, I haven’t really had much to say. As soon as I was fully vaccinated, I was feeling good and started going back to Nashville to meet with clients and see shows, but the more I was out and around people, especially in bars, I could not help but notice everyone’s behaviors, including myself. I went to a re-opening at a popular venue in Nashville and the next day word was sent out that someone who worked there tested positive for COVID. I went to another venue re-opening several weeks later, and this time, two of my clients who I had invited came down with COVID. Sure, a lot of venues have their “masks required” signs up, but once you’re inside, and people start drinking, by the end of the night, almost no one is wearing a mask. 

I felt like as soon as everyone was vaccinated, things would get better. However, I remember reading about the Delta variant about two months ago, and I immediately had a bad feeling about it and stopped going out again — at all. Not only am I not interested in getting sick, if I were to get sick, it would definitely affect my ability to work.

I’ve always been a pretty straightforward person with people, especially those who trust me with their music careers. So, we simply haven’t felt great about sending out a newsletter and acting as if everything is and will be fine. I don’t know what the future holds. PR is super hard right now. Turnover at press outlets in the past year has been staggering, and budgets are still being cut. Shows are starting to get canceled again. Everyone is trying to release records right now, especially in our area of expertise because they are trying to get their albums out around Americanafest. Competition for coverage is extremely intense. 

BUT — and it’s a big BUT.

We do have a stockpile of interviews we’ve already done and the guilt of not getting those published is starting to weigh on me even more than my malaise. We started doing the newsletter and podcast as a way to market the business, but now with so much work booked, they aren’t serving the purpose intended — they are just an extra layer of anxiety. 

However, we think we’ve created something that people want and enjoy, and our subscriber list and listener stats back that claim up. So we are going to continue with both the newsletter and podcast, albeit in a slightly truncated format, in an effort to streamline both. 

We’re back in business, and we promise we have stuff to share you will definitely be interested in. 

I know this reads more like a diary entry than a music business newsletter, but I felt like being transparent. I’ve fielded many calls from musicians who have confessed to me just how lost they feel in this current situation, but we should all remember that we’ve all been going through huge life-changing experiences over the last year and a half, and no one is alone in their uneasiness about what the future holds.

— Rachel

The Latest

Music Rookie Podcast

In our most recent episode, Frank chats with Joe Swank, a freelance radio promoter who previously worked in the radio space at Yep Roc Records and Bloodshot Records.

Joe was also a touring musician in the '90s, hosts his own radio show, and co-founded the Alt-country Specialty Radio Chart — so he's got a LOT of wisdom to share not only on the radio side … but we’ll also touch on building a music industry career in general. As we've heard on other episodes; be ready to stay in it for the long haul, don't bank on overnight success, and constantly (C O N S T A N T L Y) work on developing your network. Also, be nice to people.

This was one of our favorite conversations to-date, and we hope you’ll enjoy it, too:

Listen here (also available wherever you get your podcasts — please consider subscribing & leaving a review where applicable!)

TikTok of the Week

In some personal news...

Just for Fun

Music Discovery Throughout the Ages

Previous Music Rookie Podcasts

Free Advice

Have a follow-up question for one of our guests? Got a tip? Did we (*gasp*) get something wrong? Our line is always open -- hit us up and if we use your question or response in a future newsletter, we’ll give you credit and link your socials.

Don’t Forget!

As we often receive requests to work with artists who don’t have the budget to afford a full campaign, we’ve launched an “Office Hours”-style consulting service where you can book us for blocks of one-on-one time. 

You can learn more here (scroll down past campaign details)

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