Thanks for visiting my little blog. I trust that you are here because you’re looking for something more than an entertaining read. This isn’t to say that I don’t want my writing to be entertaining. It’s just that the reason both of us are here – me writing and you reading – is because we want to tap into a resource that is able to produce something that reflects our authentic self – that ultimately creates Health, Wealth and Happiness. What’s the resource? It’s you. It’s me. I know it sounds corny, but within each of us is the ability to do something extraordinary, something no one else can do. If we’ll take some time to discover that unique thing and take some time to take care of ourselves, we have a chance of realizing our potential.
What follows is what I view as 5 essential qualities to BE a MusicPreneur. You’ll probably think of a few things I haven’t thought of. Maybe you’ll think that what I say is ridiculous. I’ll probably read this a few months from now and think, “What a fool I was.” Well, such is life 🙂
BE a Musician First and the Money Will Follow
Here’s a quick history of the MusicPreneur project. In June 2016, I spent a day with a pretty well known figure in the realm of online marketing and entrepreneurship. Together, we brainstormed an idea on a podcast and business model that would teach modern entrepreneurship tools and techniques to musicians. We came up with the name “MusicPreneur” and the tag line “Making Money Making Music.” It’s simple, direct and concise.
Shortly after this time, I was rehearsing my lines, i.e. I was practicing introducing the podcast. I said, “Welcome to MusicPreneur, where we talk about Making Music Making Money.”
I immediately caught it and thought, “I misspoke.” That’s why we rehearse, right? But I thought for a moment about what I had just said and an epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s really the order in which our priorities should lie as MusicPreneur’s.
Put the Music First. The Money will follow.
The MusicPreneur blog and podcast will provide instruction on things like how to build an email list, how to utilize social media, how to make a YouTube channel, among many other things. They are all essential for being a modern entrepreneur in any field. But it’s all for naught if your first priority isn’t your music. What good is an email list of 1,000 or even 10,000 addresses if you don’t have anything of any value to share with them? Or worse: What if the product you’re offering is of high quality but is something you don’t even like in the first place?
It seems so simple and obvious, but it’s important to not lose sight of that. Learning new skills such as making an email list or a YouTube channel is fun and exciting – and also very distracting. You didn’t develop your musical skills overnight, and you won’t develop your entrepreneurial skills overnight either. Both take time, energy and a lot of patience. You’ve mastered the art of patience in developing your musical skills. Give your entrepreneurial skills the same opportunity to grow and mature.
Remember to keep your priorities in order. People will not give you money because you have a great YouTube channel. They’ll give you money because you’ve affected their lives in a positive way. Money is simply a means of validation for a job well done as a musician.
BE an entrepreneur, not an employee
There’s a myth circulating around the civilized world that there’s only so much wealth, only so many jobs and gigs, only so many opportunities for a person to eke out a living. This is commonly known as a “scarcity” mindset, or “poverty” if you prefer to be a bit more straightforward. People with this mindset aren’t necessarily living in poverty. Many have jobs they enjoy, own homes, pay for their kids’ college tuition, etc. But they’ll certainly never be rich. They believe life can’t possibly get any better because of the scarcity in the “job market” for musicians (how long has that market really been around anyways?)
There was a time in my life that the only measure of success for me personally was winning an audition with a symphony orchestra. It didn’t really matter which one. I just wanted that job and no other. Today, the paradox of symphony musicians is absurd to me. Think of all the work it takes to play at a level where you can even be able to compete for a job, let alone win it. You have to be self-motivated, live a life of self-denial, work long hours knowing that the payoff is years in the future.
In other words, they show all the qualities of being an entrepreneur.
Then, they win the audition and they’re euphoric. They’ve finally achieved what they thought was their dream. But soon the reality of being an employee sets in. They have no say over the repertoire, their schedule, how to interpret the music written in front of them, even what they wear. It’s no wonder symphony musicians are among the most depressed of all musicians.
Don’t try to get a piece of “the pie.” Make your own pie.
There are more and more people writing about the need for musicians to have an entrepreneurial mindset. I’m glad to see it. But
many of them focus primarily on how to essentially become an employee, albeit minus the hassles that go with being an actual employee (joining a union, insurance, unemployment, etc.)
If you are a good networker and manage to land a few gigs in town, even if its enough to pay most of your bills, but don’t choose the music, are not allowed to really express yourself, are you an entrepreneur?
In a word: No.
This isn’t to say that you don’t need to take the low paying gigs, or that you should quit every standing gig you have. That would be foolish. But don’t settle for that. Look at those gigs as the ingredients in your pie. Don’t believe that you’re not capable of making it happen on your own. There is an audience out there who is WAITING ON YOU to reveal your true character and unique contribution to the musical landscape.
BE Innovative – But Understand that Innovation is Never Popular at First.
“Anytime you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” — Samuel Clemens
The status quo is popular because it’s comfortable. The status quo allows fortunes to be made by a select few “big fish” at the expense of the rest of the fish in the pond. But the little fish who have managed to forge a comfort zone within the status quo, even if it’s not fair or ideal, prefer it to the uncertainties of an environment marked by innovation.
A MusicPreneur understands this and expects people to be critical of his ideas and actions when they conflict with the status quo. However, he also understands that his ideas will only catch on if he works within the system he’s in. This takes a really thick skin and a heck of a lot of patience.
Think about the truly innovative people in history. Socrates was executed because his ideas differed from the status quo. Jesus was killed with the consent of his own people because he was critical of their laws and traditions which favored the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Galileo was excommunicated because he said the Earth was round and the Church disagreed. Einstein was dismissed by the academic establishment when he introduced his Theory of Relativity while a young clerk in a German patent office.
It can be downright dangerous to be right when the Status Quo is wrong.
I doubt very many people reading this will ever face that type of opposition. I mean, that’s 4 people out of how many billions of people who have lived? It’s a pretty small ratio. However, it’s not easy to challenge established or “approved” opinions and conventions. Maybe a better title for this part of the post would be, “BE sure to have a thick skin.” 🙂
“The first thing I did was join the gym.” That’s what a future guest for the podcast told me after he decided he was going leave his well-paying job and be a full-time musician. Why did he do this? He knew that if he was going to make it happen, his body and mind needed to be in shape.
Start a morning routine. If you need an example of how to start a routine, I HIGHLY recommend a book called The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Many people swear by it in changing their lives for the better. Hal uses the acronym SAVERS as a guide.
If you need an aid in meditating (Silence), I recommend Headspace. It will guide you into the habit of meditating daily, rather than just turning off a light for 10 minutes and letting your mind wander where it will.
Affirm daily that what you do is of value, that there really are people in this world who want what you have to offer them and that it’s just a matter of time until you find each other. Don’t just think it. Say it out loud.
Visualize yourself as a success. What would you do with xxx amount of dollars/pounds/yen/won per month? What will be people’s reaction when you walk into a concert or perhaps a trade conference within your niche? Do people want their picture taken with you? Do they want you to sign a CD? or a book? Visualize success and that magical thing commonly known by entrepreneurs the world over as “The Universe” will work to make it happen for you.
Exercise is of the utmost importance. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long workout at the gym. It can be walking the dog first thing in the morning. (Dogs are very good at motivating you to go for a walk.) Exercise relieves stress and enables you to be at peak performance when you need to be. I’m also going to mention sleep here. If you’re trying to be an entrepreneur on 4-5 hours of sleep a night, you’re going to burn out. Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.
Read something that will inspire, inform and (hopefully) entertain you. 10-15 minutes is sufficient.
Write down what you want to accomplish in the next 5 years, the next 30 days, the next 5 minutes. Then work to accomplish it. Your work will expand or contract according to the time you allot to it.
This is simply the morning routine but if you take care of this, you’re really taking care of the three elements of health: physical, emotional and spiritual. The life of an entrepreneur is precarious, uncertain, challenging. You’re setting yourself up for a hard fall if you don’t take care of these basic needs.
Perhaps you think you’re too busy to take this advice. Well, you don’t want to think about ways you could have changed your habits while in a hospital.
Like a marriage counselor once told me (more or less off the record): Therapy isn’t cheap, but neither are divorce lawyers. The things I’m recommending take time, energy and dedication, but it will pay off in the end.
What has made the comforts of our first-world society possible? The free market. Entrepreneurs who look for problems to fix for a profit, risking everything of value to themselves so they can provide value to others. Many times, entrepreneurs (more like “wantrepreneurs”) dream up problems that don’t really exist and pretend to solve them. Well, it’s not likely they’ll be successful, and as long as they don’t harm or defraud anyone, I say let them have at it.
Many musicians think that without things like unions, government programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the like, high quality music would disappear overnight.
I believe it’s the exact opposite. In the market exists competition. Where there’s competition, there’s motivation to be better than the other guy. When this happens, everyone wins – except for the guy who doesn’t see the need to improve his product. Baroque music, raga music, folk music, progressive rock, you name it…
Unions and government programs stifle competition. The beneficiaries of these things are the people who are better at filling out forms than the other guy. Do you really think your music is so bad and irrelevant that it can only survive with government assistance or with a coercive musicians union?
Have you ever heard someone complain that the “dumbing down” of society is the reason no one wants to hear their music? Why, their enlightened tastes are so far above that of the masses, they simply don’t “get it.”
Ready for some tough love? If you fail to grow an audience, or to convince others that your music is worth people taking out their credit card and paying a few bucks to listen, it’s your fault. Not public education, not Donald Trump, not Oprah’s Book Club. A MusicPreneur is willing to take his lumps, receive honest feedback and criticism and improve it until they can present an engaging product that people enjoy.
Be also mindful of the “blessings of liberty” which makes a free market possible. The Founding Fathers of the US set up a government and wrote an entire Constitution to preserve these blessings. Have you ever seen a photo of Korea at night? The bottom half is lit-up, the top half is dark. They’re two separate countries right next to each other. They have the same resources, the same land and the same people. But one is fabulously wealthy while the other is destitute. What is the variable that creates this disparity? One country is designed to enable wealth-building principles to flourish; the other is designed to stamp them out completely.
Free Enterprise is a relatively new concept in contrast with the history of humanity and in order to create the Music that reflects our true self and live the life we believe we’re meant to live, we must be cognizant of this.
Take a little time to educate yourself on the basic principles of free market economics (or what was once referred to as “economics”.) If you’re looking for a starting point, I recommend Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.
What is the secret sauce to your success as a MusicPreneur? It’s you. Think of how many podcasts, blogs and musicians out there… Some of them embrace the business side of things. Most do not. Even so, there’s still some pretty stiff competition among the folks who really get it, who are hustling, hard charging and providing legitimate value to the people they serve. It can be downright discouraging looking at it from a bird’s eye view.
From another view, your prospects for success aren’t nearly as glum. The key is to just quit trying to be someone you’re not. When John Lee Dumas became practically an overnight sensation in the world of podcasting, other podcasters thought that if they did what he’s doing, they’d be successful. They were wrong. The key to JLD’s success is not the sequence of questions he asks his guests, it’s not a corny tag line (“Are you prepared to ignite?!”) What made him successful is that he injected his own soul and personality into his work. He starts out each interview with a corny tag line because at the core he’s a corny guy. People dig a little bit of corny while they’re being educated and/or fed.
It took me almost 2 years to finally have the courage to be myself as a podcaster. I have some views and opinions that are by all accounts unpopular. I’ve come to realize that people don’t want to listen to someone trying to conform to a vague set of standards he doesn’t even understand, trying to say things in a way that won’t offend some guy thousands of miles away that I’ll never meet.
I decided that whether the podcast lives or dies, I’m going to be myself. I’m going to share things that I believe are important for people to understand in their efforts to monetize their musical skills. So when I say things, or discuss topics that on the surface aren’t related to music or entrepreneurship, just trust that I believe it’s in line with the overall mission of the show.
I know it sounds corny, but people are waiting for you to just be yourself, to share that unpopular opinion you know is the truth – and to share it with conviction. People are tired of the status quo. But rocking the boat goes against the sheep-like human nature. Many prefer the comforts of the status quo over the blessings of innovation. I believe you’re reading/listening to this blog because you’re an innovator. You’re looking for ways to succeed outside of what society has come to accept as normal. There are many others just like you who are waiting for the moral permission to be themselves.
Just do it. People will follow suit. And don’t forget to tell them to listen to this podcast. If you do forget, I understand. It happens all the time 🙂
SO, If you Didn’t Get All That, Get This
You read this blog and you listen to the podcast because you want to make a little money doing what you know you were put on this earth to do. Hey, let’s get real here. Not a little money – a LOT of money. There is enough money on this earth for everyone who is willing to work hard and smart to reap the financial rewards they deserve. In order for you to claim the abundance and blessings that await you, you must first and foremost be a person of value.
You can’t enjoy the warmth of a fire if you’re not willing to add some wood beforehand. The “wood” I’m talking about often comes in the form of work done for little or no pay. You’ll be doing things and providing services no one has asked you to do. Why? Because an entrepreneur has the foresight to see a need others don’t see and the courage to act on that vision when they know the time is right.
Want to make money making music? First add value. You must earn the right to charge people for your product. The MusicPreneur’s product is the experience our audience enjoys, of which our music is a surprisingly small part.
The work of an entrepreneur begins where the work of an employee ends. You must provide twice as much as you think is necessary in order to receive half as much as you think you deserve.
Does this sound unfair or unreasonable to you? You’re in the wrong place. You should stop reading this blog right now and never listen to another episode of the podcast. There is plenty of media that is created for people who prefer to be told what to think and how to conform with societal norms than to adopt the mindset you’ll read and hear about at this here website. Go read those blogs, listen to those podcasts.
If, however, something I’ve said has struck a chord with you, read and listen on. If you don’t like or disagree with something I’ve said, drop me a line.
As in every other area of my life…