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.