It is clear that there has never been such a necessity for musicians to become entrepreneurs, a result of the sudden changes within the music industry landscape. Extreme competition, an increased accessibility to tools and platforms, financing, and the difficulty of accessing opportunity costs, are some of the biggest problems artists face currently. Now, musicians have to learn how to navigate these challenges by being proficient in a host of business roles that are tangential to music; they must learn how to balance art and entrepreneurship, an extremely tricky feat. Yet, it is evident that the more one views their venture into the music industry as a business venture, the better off one will be, using the start-up model as an outline for their activities.
Through the qualitative interviews I conducted within my thesis research, I was able to gather in-depth information about emerging musicians. Interestingly, every artist I spoke with revealed that, despite their demographic differences, they identify themselves as entrepreneurs, showed entrepreneurial attitudes, and undertook entrepreneurial activities. One specific artist, played a crucial role in outlining the difference in perspectives regarding music as hobby versus as a professional pursuit. In observing his transition from the former to the latter, it became clear that business and the recognition of entrepreneurial attitudes and activities is crucial in realizing music as a career. This is the first crucial step: recognizing that being an entrepreneur, to some extent, is necessary.
The understanding in the importance of entrepreneurship transcends race, gender, education, and socioeconomic status, standing as a unified idea. The subjects understood the value of identifying as someone that is business-minded in the industry and who would comfortably take on such a label, despite the fact that business and art have an inherent tension. All of these artists tapped into the different facets of business that they engage with the most that cause them to identify as entrepreneurs, such as promotion, opportunity evaluation, sales, marketing, networking, and financing.
The music entrepreneurs interviewed have gone about navigating the industry in both similar and different manners. Throughout the study, it is revealed that musician-entrepreneurs’ attitudes are what will guide their venture and provide it with meaning. For example, passion or a compulsion to pursue music is not merely important, it is necessary because it is what progresses the musician despite the obvious hardship they will face. Additionally, honing in on one’s authenticity, what is going to distinguish them as an artist, is critical. Creating an unreproducible message that is alluring to fans and industry executives alike is important because it is a rare quality in such a concentrated industry. In terms of feasibility, proof of concept is significant in terms of validating a musician’s passion and authenticity, granting the artist an objective opinion on their decision to pursue music. Experiencing a moment of validation will serve as a strong reference point in the future, when their convictions may falter. Overall, it is musicians’ education that seems to guide their decision-making process extensively, forming the basis for how the artist goes about the process of pursuing music. Consequently, a background or education in business might be the most beneficial in terms of opportunity evaluation, value creation, resource management, and self-awareness of core competencies, all common business practices.
Only when artists fully understand themselves and what is demanded of them can they learn to evaluate their entrepreneurial activities. Relating to the undertakings of the entrepreneur, the musicians within the study recognize four key elements to running their music venture: sales, marketing, operations, and finance. When looking at sales, it is important for the music entrepreneur to increase their visibility by providing one’s music on as many platforms as available. These platforms also provide data that can aid in helping the artist make informed decisions in terms of music releases, music quality and content, and marketing. The key here is to ensure that creative integrity and business decision making are well balanced. Similarly, marketing has never been more important to the artist. Marketing on every social media site is important; however, creating a brand should be seen as the overarching aim, highlighting the authenticity and value proposition of the musician. Relating to operations, persistence in finding a network is crucial because industry insiders have the most useful information to help musicians make informed decisions. Additionally, having a support system that is informed enough to guide a musician through their music journey, such as a business professional or savvy family member, has proved to be useful to the subjects. Lastly, because financing a music venture can be capital intensive at the outset, it has shown to be ideal to diversify one’s income with other music related activities, if necessary. This will enable the musician to utilize their music talents, while also increasing their resources within this field.
Understanding the value of a record company, if it applies to how one sees their venture scaling, could also be crucial, seeing that record companies can be both financial and opportunity resources as large conglomerates. Overall, an artist needs to understand the individual landscapes of every facet of their business in order to learn how they can best navigate. As we have seen, when musicians are able to understand where their core competencies lie, how they can be leveraged within certain activities, and apply these skills, they are able to further the reach and quality of their venture.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge the underlying tension between artistry and business, given that entrepreneurship and musicians seem to be such a counterintuitive duo to begin with. The objectives of these two professions are always at odds: marketability and staying true to oneself, profitability in mass versus niche markets, artistry and mainstream, outsourcing and personal authenticity. There are a lot of trade-offs in maximizing business growth and profitability, while retaining artist integrity. Being a true entrepreneur requires the ability to holistically evaluate opportunities, understand one’s proficiencies, compensate for deficiencies, remain steadfast regarding the original vision, and iterate these steps in order to continue growth.
So, who breaks out to become a star? No one can be sure, but those who are crazy enough to engage in the journey of entrepreneurship are headed on the right trajectory.
Originally published at http://ursuladedekind.com on December 4, 2020.