“Beethoven rose at dawn and wasted little time getting down to work. His breakfast was coffee, which he prepared himself with great care – he determined that there should be sixty beans per cup, and he often counted them out one by one for a precise dose. Then he sat at his desk and worked until 2:00 or 3:00, taking the occasional break to walk outdoors, which aided his creativity. (Perhaps for this reason, Beethoven’s productivity was generally higher during the warmer months.)” -from the book, Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Curry
Berklee Today, the journal for alumni of Berklee College of Music, recently gave me the opportunity to explore the relationship between musical training and the skills of entrepreneurs. I interviewed several Berklee alumni who have gone on to create groundbreaking music technology companies serving independent artists.
- Derek Sivers – founder of CD Baby
- Panos Panay – founder of Sonicbids (recently acquired by BackStage)
- Benji Rogers and Jayce Varden – founders of PledgeMusic
- Patrick Faucher and Phil Antoniades of Nimbit (acquired by Presonus last year)
Each of these companies provides tools that help musicians distribute music, raise funds and market themselves, but what struck me was the similarity between direct-to-fan and lean startup practices. Direct-to-fan platforms give artists a strong connection with their super-fans, providing valuable feedback and ongoing engagement. In particular, early-stage pre-release platforms like PledgeMusic show artists what their fans value and how they want to be engaged. By the time the funding cycle is complete the artist knows their customer and has had the opportunity to tweak their offerings. Each person I interviewed described their musical training as fundamental preparation for working in a startup environment.
I recently had the opportunity to create a presentation for Daniel Indart’s Music Entrepreneurship students at the Cornel School of Contemporary Music at Shepherd University in Los Angeles. My presentation: Thinking Different(ly)…The Rare and Valuable Skills of Musicians discussed the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s music industry. While business and music are diametrically opposed activities, they are complimentary. The life of professional musicians is remarkably like a startup company. We may not think of ourselves in that light, but the similarities are striking. Musicians can learn a great deal by thinking metaphorically and studying lean startup practices. We are uniquely equipped to learn new skills because we understand the process of deep, deliberate practice. This also makes musicians valuable in a continually disrupted economy where innovation, flexibility, and intrinsic motivation trump past work experience and training.
The students were inspiring and I had a great time. You can check out my slides, a list of related resources, and a survey of revenue streams for musicians from the awesome folks at the Future of Music Coalition.
Please be sure to find out more about Daniel Indart and Latin Music Specialists. Daniel is one of the premier authorities on all genres of Latin music, a prolific composer/producer and a wonderful educator. Thanks for inviting me!
As musicians we spend as much time as possible working with our craft but can struggle with the business side of our careers. I think of business as the complete chain of events that brings the music out of our imaginations into the world. Money is fuel, but is only one piece of the equation. Bringing music to life requires the skills and attention of many smart people; musicians, presenters, managers, agents, marketers, labels, publishers and fundraisers. Composers and performers are musical CEOs, managing each step and partnership along the way.
Organizations like Chamber Music America (CMA) are making a huge contribution to classical, jazz, and world music by providing grants and the business education that musicians need. On January 24, 2013, Jeanette Vuocolo, Program Director for CMA Jazz led a well-attended workshop at The Blue Whale jazz club in downtown Los Angeles. Ms. Vuocolo’s presentation focused on the New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble grant application process and featured panelists, Bennie Maupin and Remy La Boeuf.
The New Jazz Works grant, which is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides funding and music business guidance to professional US jazz ensembles of 2-10 musicians in three phases:
1. CORE: Creation and Performance
The creation of a new work, the work’s world premiere, and one additional performance. Both performances must take place within the United States. This phase must be completed within eighteen months.
2. Continued Life
The second phase supports additional concerts, touring, open rehearsals, master classes, clinics, school and community visits, residencies, conference showcasing, promotion, self-presenting and recording. Activities can take place in the US or abroad.
3. Better Business
Phase three supports the ensemble leader, funding business related activities; attending conferences, meeting prospective presenters, taking classes, and working with mentors and consultants.
Both musician-panelists described what they have learned. Besides the opportunity to compose and perform a new extended work, they found that the application process itself was educational, helping them to articulate their goals and musical vision. Both Mr. Maupin and Mr. La Boeuf described the many new opportunities and business relationships that have emerged from their involvement with CMA. The program also encourages musicians to give back to their communities, mentoring others and sharing their experiences in panels and conferences.
For more information and application materials please visit: http://www.chamber-music.org/
On January 15, 2013 I gave a presentation to alumni of The Royal College of Music in Stockholm Sweden. The topic was music careers in today’s economy – musical entrepreneurship and developing multiple income streams. Here are the slides featuring case studies of several entrepreneurial musicians and a basic overview of the principles music publishing and licensing.
A list of music industry related books referenced in my recent seminar at The Royal College of Music – Stockholm, Sweden:
- All You Need to Know About the Music Business (8th edition) – Donald S. Passman
- The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing (2nd Edition) – Randall S. Wixen
- Music, Money and Success (7th edition) – Jeffrey and Todd Brabec
- Appetite for Self-Destruction – Steve Knopper
- Making Music Make Money – Eric Beall
- Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
- How Music Works – David Byrne
- Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music – Angela Beeching
Artist/Producer panel moderated by Ted Cohen with Artist Colin Hay (Compass Records, Men at Work), Producer Mike Clink (Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Metallica, Sarah Kelly), Garry West, co-founder of Compass Records, and DJ Nu-Mark of Jurrassic 5.
This diverse panel discusses the current state of music recording and marketing.
If you are interested in more of researcher Nancy Baym’s findings on the relationship between artists and fans download this pdf presentation.