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Why I left the music industry – and came back

Fresh from joining booking agency Runway Artists, agent Zac Peters discusses why it's time for the music industry to embrace a new normal

23 May 2023

In the middle of the Covid pandemic, I made a difficult decision. I walked away from the music industry, the very industry that had been my passion and livelihood for years. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was a necessary one. Both my wife and I were struggling with our mental health, like many others around the world during those challenging times. Ultimately, the demands of the business, its relentless 24/7 nature, didn’t allow me to dedicate the time and attention to my family that they needed.

In April this year, I was able to announce my return to the music industry, with a renewed sense of purpose, a newfound appreciation for work-life balance and, crucially, a new company that matched that appreciation. I joined Matt Hanner and Steve Backman at independent booking agency Runway, which values a family-first culture, something which I feel should be a key factor in considering any job offer. We naturally ask questions about salary, bonuses, travel… how often do job descriptions highlight how the human needs of staff may be prioritised?

As an industry, we are quick to pay lip service to self-care and mental well-being, especially during times of crisis. But, all too often, these sentiments fade away as the new normal quickly becomes the old normal again. In the world of live booking, where agents often find themselves working across multiple time zones, it’s easy to slip into around the clock rhythm: Always available. Always working.

If you take a quick glance at social media, you’ll find plenty of people engaging in some kind of exhaustion Olympics, boasting about 16-hour workdays, back-to-back meetings, late night networking and little headspace for anything but the next opportunity. Does this come from a place of pride or paranoia? Anything less than 110% is failure.

Instead of glorifying a hustle culture where work becomes our entire life, shouldn’t we be striving to create work environments that promote a healthy work-life balance?

This issue goes beyond just mental health. I feel that this is the cornerstone of many of our industry’s workplace diversity challenges. By fostering a culture that is flexible and compassionate, we can attract a broader range of individuals with diverse commitments and, therefore, experiences.

“I have witnessed first-hand the toll that an industry obsessed with round-the-clock availability can take on one’s well-being and family life”

As an industry, we often launch new programmes and schemes to address these issues, but sometimes all it takes is a shift in mentality and a few influential people to set a new standard, giving implicit permission to everyone else.

The change will begin with employers who recognise the importance of holistic human health and who reward smarter work rather than harder work. It’s about embracing technology to allow for more flexible work arrangements, investing in training and new processes, and re-evaluating the notion that productivity is solely measured by the number of hours spent at the office.

My personal journey has taught me that there is a better way. I have witnessed first-hand the toll that an industry obsessed with round-the-clock availability can take on one’s well-being and family life. But I have also witnessed the positive impact of a company that understands the value of work-life balance and respects its employees’ need for personal time. That’s why I am grateful to companies like DMF Music and Runway Artists.

By prioritising the well-being of employees, we can not only foster a healthier and happier work environment but also cultivate a more diverse and inclusive industry. When individuals feel supported and valued in both their personal and professional lives, they can bring their best selves to work, resulting in enhanced creativity, productivity, and overall industry growth.

It’s time for the music industry to embrace a new norm – one that values the holistic needs of its workforce. Let’s move beyond the hustle culture and create an industry that is not only successful but also compassionate, understanding, and truly human-centric.


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