Ten Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Musicians

It’s the era of the Musicpreneur. According to the Urban Dictionary, it is “an independent, polymath musician who takes care of both their artistic and entrepreneurial aspect of their music career.”

Natalie Dawn and Jack Conte of Pomplamoose performing at Bing Concert Hall. Photo by Avi Bagla
Natalie Dawn and Jack Conte of Pomplamoose performing at Bing Concert Hall. Photo by Avi Bagla

Part of the reason of the rise of this new figure is the liberation of independent music from the gatekeepers. It means that nowadays, a successful musician needs to balance the creative and the business side of his career. Having worked as a musician, however, already puts the potential musicpreneur ahead of the curve, as the experience gained by working as a performance artist has applications even in the entrepreneurial world. And entrepreneurs, on the other hand, can learn several successful lessons from musicians too. In fact, as CD Baby founder Derek Sivers put it, “The skills needed to make a living as a musician are the exact same skills required to be a successful entrepreneur.”

1. Knowledge is power: Both musicians and entrepreneurs need to know trends in a given environment and identify an available marketing segment. After the proper research has been done, entrepreneurs choose a market positioning for their product, while musicians decide to perform certain style of music, whether with a niche or a mainstream approach.

2. Revenue Stream redesign: In times of economic crisis, businesses have the tendency to cut costs and try to increase revenue. The music had to redesign its revenue stream in recent years: first, record sales played the lion’s share: now, most of the money comes from live shows or legal digital streaming. The Business model canvas by Alexander Osterwalder is now very popular among entrepreneurs.

3. Defining success: Musicians are well aware that music is both art and commerce, and young entrepreneurs are learning to reconcile lust for profit and business ethics.

4. Getting feedback: As musicians use free and cheap demo tools to get some feedback about the prototype of their work, entrepreneurs can get feedback for their work with electronic websites building a potential portfolio of clients even before the launch of their product.

5. Teamwork: Every successful entrepreneur has a team, and, in music-industry terms, a team does not have to equal a top manager, a label, a publisher and a booking agent. On the contrary, it can be a family member or a friend who has a proclivity for websites and social marketing.

6. There’s no such thing as “failure”: it’s called practice. Just like in the music industry, being a virtuoso is a status acquired by daily, sometimes grinding practice, the entrepreneurs have to understand that practice, patience, and perseverance is what makes perfect.

7. The Show Must Go On: When technical, climatic, or health difficulties arise, musicians can improvise, and they wing it. Entrepreneurs should not see those accidents as hindrances, but, in the words of Art Gensler “unanticipated opportunities.”

8. Creativity: As musicians aim for originality and innovation (think of the variations or of the disruptions in musical traditions), entrepreneurs need to find ways to constantly create new value.

9. Tell a story: Just like a powerful musical piece and its execution tell a story (consider , as a naive example Disney’s interpretation of Beethoven’s Pastoral) an entrepreneur needs to paint a compelling narrative and picture in order to attract investors.

10. Accept the hustle: Just as musicians know it’s very hard to make it in the industry, entrepreneurs should remember that as well. As much as hustling is not the funniest thing to do, it spreads the word concerning the product, and enables the musician (and the entrepreneur) to build and nurture a clientele or a fan base.


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