This month, Simon finds things are getting on top of him - then finds a way to cope
Based in the southwest UK, Simon Huxtable has 20 years' experience as a DJ, music journalist and label manager behind him. Now, in 2017, he's going it alone and launching his own label - and we're following his progress every step of the way...
This month’s column is being on World Mental Health day. I mention this simply because this month I’ve been having a wobble. Don’t worry, I’m not peeling myself off the roof or anything... it’s just that the emotional toll of running a label is not something I was particularly expecting, or indeed, prepared for.
Some context before I get into this. For 13 years, I was part of the NHS. I started at 18 as a mental health support worker in a minimum secure unit in my hometown, and for 18 months I saw things that made my hair fall out. Literally. Stress was a part of the life of a support worker, always working on the back foot and never really knowing what you ought to actually be doing aside from what the nurses told you to do.
So I moved to general nursing and worked my way up to Staff Nurse. I thought I had my life under control, everything was going fine, when over the course of a year everything unravelled. It’s insidious, too: you barely notice at first. Long story short, I’m no longer a nurse - but as it turns out, I am still susceptible to stress.
So what have I got to be stressed about now? Well, everything. And nothing. That’s the thing about stress: a lot of it is in your head and you become your own worst enemy. For me, it’s been a combination of not seeing amazing results for the label straight away, not getting interviews or premieres I was promised, and not being able to make sure my licensors’ music is shooting up the Beatport charts for them. It all mounts up. I’ve also been preoccupied with my other job - I work part-time in a restaurant - which is stressful as well because, apart from whatever else is going on there, all the time I'm at ‘work’ I can’t do the job that makes me happy. But that’s modern life. Millions of people have that problem, right?
Getting over the hump
So what did I do? Firstly, I identified the problem. I was stressed. The best way I’ve found to get past that is to write, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Spending my downtime writing, from writing about music to writing actual music (I have six tracks of an album done). The weight has lifted and I’ve been able to push forward with the label: ASTIR003 is out soon, the remixes for ASTIR004 are nearing completion, and ASTIR005 is signed as are a bunch of others for next year. I also have a compilation album planned for February. I’ll take January 'off' from other label business to focus on it - no one’s got any money then anyway!
The radio show is ready to roll, but I’ve changed my mind on who I’ll use. The thought of spending money to lock in for six months was a little daunting, mostly because it was six months upfront with no guarantee it would benefit sales or brand identity. I still have the option for synchronising the show and I may look at a pay option down the line, but for now, it makes financial sense to opt for a free option.
The good thing is, once the show is up and running, I can start a 'mix of the month' competition with the winner getting a slot on the radio show. I’m also toying with the idea of making a free download of one of my tracks available for people to remix: again, the best ones I would release. One of my many heroes in the scene, Jon Rundell, has done this as a business model for his own label, and I plan to have a chat with him on how he makes it work. I’m not sure I would want to do it all the time, but I think the value of free downloads is the connection you get to the fans. It’s a gift after all!
Words: Simon Huxtable