QUITTING MY DREAM JOB
If you are reading this post, then you know what is happening this summer. We’re headed out on a journey to make a an album and a documentary with unknown artists. A lot of people have responded to that by saying “that’s amazing that you’re following your dream!” But what not everybody might realize is that I’m actually walking away from one dream job to pursue another. I’ll explain.
Studying art at the University of Michigan was an interesting experience. I was at a university full of high-achieving people that live and breathe success. They studied engineering, business, and political science. They had big internships. Meanwhile, I was working on an outdated art form known as woodcut printmaking. In most of my peers’ eyes, what I was doing was pretty much worthless in the grand scheme of things.
And I let that mentality sink in a little too far toward the end of college. I knew I was a talented and hard-working individual, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop my ears from ringing with the question everybody asked me: “Art..? What are you going to do with that?” I had no idea. Truth be told, I didn’t know what anybody does with any degree. I didn’t know when I signed up for art school that I was going to have to spend years justifying that decision to people with no appreciation or understanding of the creative world. Art was at the top of every “unemployable degrees” list. I had numerous cab drivers throughout college that told me they also studied art. It was something I thought about constantly, and no matter how hard I tried to solve the puzzle in my own mind, there was no job waiting for me there.
Los Angeles was a decision I made on a whim because my Aunt Cynthia told me that it was a good city for creative people. She flew me out to visit and I met a handful of her creative friends. I was living in Detroit at the time, and wasn’t thrilled with my job, so LA was a very easy sell. I packed up and drove out with my friend Sean Bacastow and we moved into a large home with 3 other guys.
For the first two years I lived here, I was a production assistant on high budget commercial shoots. For those who are outside the industry that means that I bought coffee, delivered envelopes in high-traffic hours, picked up random props, and stood around film sets waiting for instructions. Boring as it may have been at times, it was a fun way to learn how things worked behind the scenes in LA.
The whole time I was working as a PA, I was also shooting my own videos with my roommate Billy. Music videos, comedy videos, low-budget commercials, and everything in between. Some were bad, some were good. But quality aside, we were dedicated to the craft of making videos and releasing them to the world.
I applied for a job that my friend posted on Facebook to be a designer and videographer at a creative startup called Hyper House. They were vaguely associated with the music industry. I got that job and immediately found myself getting referred to as the “creative director.” That is a very prestigious title in the agency world, so I was totally cool with it. We were making a lot of pitch decks, presentations, graphic design, and web design work. I was doing things I was generally capable of, but not particularly passionate about.
Then on March 30th, 2015, Jay Z announced that he was launching a music streaming company with 15 other household names of the music industry. The company was called TIDAL. The agency that I was creative director for, which was way too small to be involved with a company as large as TIDAL, was lucky enough to be in the conversation when things were getting started. Pretty soon, the only thing we talked about at Hyper House was TIDAL. Content schedules, marketing ideas, how they were going to compete with Spotify and Apple Music.
I told my boss at Hyper House that I could make videos, and that whenever TIDAL needed video content (every company needs video content) we should try to make it for them. That message got relayed to TIDAL, and I was given the opportunity to direct an artist spotlight video that would begin a series of videos called TIDAL Rising. I shot that video in Chicago with my best friend Billy and our friend Hope, and TIDAL loved it. From that point forward, I was filming videos for TIDAL every day.
In two years, Billy and I filmed with over 75 different artists. Rappers, folk singers, rock and roll bands, R&B singers, and on and on and on. We filmed a rapper in the Dominican Republic playing a set at 4:45AM and got a machete pulled on us. We filmed an R&B singer make a massive scene by shouting her song at the top of her lungs walking through Little Tokyo in LA. We made a commercial that featured the Beatles’ Revolution that played on national TV on Christmas morning. I stood inches away from Kanye West, aiming a camera at his face, thinking to myself how did I end up here?
We ended up there by working our asses off. We flew on red-eyes. We edited overnight. We carried hundreds of pounds of gear onto and off of airplanes. And the work paid off. We were TIDAL’s go-to guys, and they handed us more responsibility with each and every gig. By the end of it, we were the crew filming Rihanna as she premiered her fashion line in the National Library of France. I was watching Rihanna as she watched me fly a drone inside one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris.
And the day we got back to the US, Billy and I quit that job.
What we were missing with the TIDAL gig was telling our own stories. We didn’t have control of what stories we were telling, and the videos we were making weren’t as good as I wanted them to be. I wanted to do things that had never been done, and instead we were re-making the same videos over and over. We were exhausted and bored at the same time, even though we were doing a job that we never even dreamed of working.
Our goal this summer is to create that something. The something that has never been done. We’ve heard from dozens of people that they had “the same idea” as us, a while back. But nobody ever seems to have anything to show for it. That’s the difference, by the end of The Unknown Tour we are going to have a documentary to prove it. We can only live with the decision to quit our dream jobs if we achieve something greater. Failure is not an option.
We are excited to take our friends and family with us on The Unknown Tour via the internet. We will be updating this blog daily with stories from our lives on the road, and we want to make sure that our network feels connected with our journey. So wish us luck and follow along as we travel across the country and tell our own story about hardworking, undiscovered musicians on The Unknown Tour.