Tell us a bit about yourself and your side hustle.
My name is Eric Baskauskas. I’m a creative director at Upshot in Chicago. I’ve been here for a little over 8 years, which is just about as long as I’ve been designing records and merch for bands on the side. You can see some of that work at wallofyouth.com.
What inspired you to start your side hustle? How long have you been doing it?
I’ve always made visual art, and music has been a major source of inspiration for me since I was a kid. I started out long ago by making flyers and stuff for fake bands because I didn’t know any musicians. (Interestingly, one of those fake bands ended up releasing music, but maybe that’s a different story.) Eventually some of that fake work got noticed by real people and it’s been a fun ride from there.
Does your side hustle benefit the community in any way? If not, do you plan on using it to give back at some point?
One of the coolest things I’ve been involved in recently is X-Ray Arcade up in the Milwaukee area. A bunch of us from various corners of the Midwest punk scene got together to buy this mid-sized music venue that had recently gone out of business. It was about 6 months of doing-it-ourselves renovation, re-branding, etc. before opening in February. We’re still figuring out how to be businesspeople, especially when we’ve all got other jobs, but it’s been fun in general. We’ve got arcade games, a projector, a patio, food and drink, a stage, and more.
The most rewarding aspect of that project is for sure the fact that we’re able to have all ages shows, not the easiest thing to find in an otherwise bar-heavy music scene. Which is silly, because so many people discover the power of music at a very young age. So yes, in its most ideal form, this is a great benefit to the community because we offer a safe place for people of all ages / ethnicities / races / genders / identities / whatever to come and enjoy something that’s potentially life-changing.
What motivates you to keep hustling?
I guess I’d want to make sure we’re talking about the same thing when we say “side hustle,” because I know for some people it’s a way to make supplemental income or whatever. I think what I do is more like a hobby. It’s what I want to do with my time, simple as that. I find there to be no better feeling than opening a new record that I designed or seeing someone at a show wearing a shirt that I made. Since opening X-Ray, that feeling is multiplied every time someone walks in the door and has a good time. To feel like I’m contributing to a scene that means so much to me is pretty cool.
Were there any specific skills you needed to start this project? Has your day job helped in developing those skills?
I have definitely become a better designer thanks to my time at Upshot. From photographers to retouchers to keyliners to junior ADs, everyone’s got their own bag of tricks and it’s awesome to be able to steal all of them.
Does your side hustle benefit your day-to-day work?
I’d say the most valuable effect on my day-to-day is that it gives me a different perspective on working with a client. The work I do with bands is casual and fluid. It’s fun because making stuff with people is fun. And agency-client life can be that way too. I’ve seen plenty of young creatives passionately defend their work as their own precious little baby, getting frustrated when feedback encroaches upon their so-called vision. I feel like that’s only going to get you so far. Just because we are the creatives and they are the client doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable ideas and important business/communication objectives. It’s a collaboration, not an “us versus them” situation. They’ll trust and respect you more if you trust and respect them too.
What have you learned since you began your side hustle? Has it evolved over the years?
I think I’ve been too busy to stop and notice if I’ve learned anything! I guess I’ve learned that I really don’t need as much sleep as my friends and colleagues. I don’t even drink coffee.
Is there any advice you’d give to young creatives & executives on how to pursue their passion projects on the side?
No matter how much you like your job, most likely, you’re going there every day because there’s a paycheck involved. To me, the point of the off-hours passion project is that you’d be doing it no matter what. If zero people are watching. If you make no money. If you give up on some sleep. It is, in theory, what you’d be doing with your time if you didn’t have a job. Of course it rules if you can find a way to get paid for it, but that’s not the point. If you’re just trying to score some extra dough, it’s probably easier to ask your boss for a raise.