What Makes an Entrepreneurial Musician?

“Whatever you value most in music, pursue it.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 312

The rising musicians who’ll thrive in today’s economy will often do so owing to a combination of their musical and entrepreneurial skills.

What do we mean when we describe musicians as “entrepreneurial”?

I define entrepreneurship as innovative, productive enterprise undertaken by independent individuals or groups.

The core elements of that definition are innovation, productivity, enterprise, and independence. So let’s look at ways in which entrepreneurial musicians embody those 4 qualities and reap lasting artistic and financial rewards.

1. Innovation
Whether they primarily perform, teach, or compose, entrepreneurial musicians develop innovative visions and walk distinctive paths.

Their music sounds fresh, they’re compelling on stage, their concerts resound with inspired programming, they teach pioneering curricula, and so forth. They also recognize professional opportunities that others miss and thereby tap potent sources of income.

How can aspiring musicians become more innovative? Basically, by acquiring creative habits of thought and behavior. For more on that subject, see my posts in the Creativity category.

2. Productivity
The French word ‘entrepreneur’ translates as “one who undertakes.” Entrepreneurial musicians, therefore, take action and work productively for years on end. Their steady creativity sets them apart from the would-be artists who are merely imaginative.

That is, imagination is essential to creativity and entrepreneurship, but, “Imagination alone produces nothing. Creative people work.” (The Musician’s Wayp. 311)

Entrepreneurial musicians practice, compose, perform, teach, promote, network, and make things happen day after day. They also target their productivity to the needs of their audiences, ensuring that there will be demand for their work.

3. Enterprise
The art of making music and the business of making a living from music are often viewed as distinct. For entrepreneurial musicians, though, creativity and commerce intertwine.

Such musicians merge their passion for music with the practicalities of succeeding in the marketplace. They create musical products and services that they believe in, and then enthusiastically sell their work via diverse channels.

For instance, a group might earn income through, among other things, selling live performances, ringtones, CDs, exclusive downloads as well as sync and broadcast rights.

4. Independence
Whether they’re solely self-employed or also work in institutions such as orchestras and schools, entrepreneurial musicians maintain an independent streak.

They find ways to fund projects, and they take full responsibility for what they create. They become self-reliant but also excel in collaborative settings.

For example, an instrumentalist might perform with a professional orchestra and also head up a band that plays original music; a vocalist might work part time as a church music director while she pursues a career as a singer-songwriter.

In total, entrepreneurial musicians’ penchant for innovation, productivity, enterprise, and independence earns them income and the immeasurable rewards of living meaningful, self-created lives.

Examples of entrepreneurial musicians: Mark O’Connor, Mark WoodMeredith Monk, Zoe Keating, Caleb Burhans, Kronos Quartet, Marty Fort.

For more entrepreneurship resources and tips, see the Music Career Resources page at MusiciansWay.com and p. 299-307 of The Musician’s Way.

Related posts
The abundance mentality
The art-career tango
Artistic vision
Music: The practical career?
The self-motivated musician

© 2010 Gerald Klickstein

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5 Responses to “What Makes an Entrepreneurial Musician?”

  1. eugene cantera said:

    Dec 13, 10 at 17:27

    FANTASTIC! Please consider adding us to the list of music education entrepreneurs! I am going to steal then modify this line for your post: Such music-educators merge their passion for music TEACHING with the practicalities of succeeding in the marketplace. GREATNESS. Please visit us at http://www.discoverlearnandplay to read more!

  2. The Musician Dude said:

    Jan 22, 11 at 15:44

    Great post! I agree 100%. An entrepreneurial musician is the only one that will enjoy a career in the industry. In such a cut-throat world where there are more musicians than ever, it is important to understand how to distinguish yourself from the pack and stand out. These tips are a great way to do that! All the best!

  3. Entrepreneurial Musician said:

    Mar 05, 11 at 03:03

    I agree too. Nowadays, its extremely important to be active as a musician, of course if a person wants to achieve a little bit more in this sphere. Internet is a good place to start searching for more opportunities and it doesn’t need any investments except of your the musician’s own time.

  4. Tudor F. Capusan said:

    Nov 23, 11 at 15:05

    Yes, all those tips are very valuable.

    It’s also important for musicians to know their business. What legal protections can they benefit from? Is it worth the investment?

    If an entrepreneur is “one who undertakes,” then musicians should undertake the mission of finding as much as they can about how to make their business work. Making your business work means being able to make music for a living.

    To find out the legal perspective on how to become a full-time musician, you can visit http://tudorlawfirm.blogspot.com/2011/11/conversation-between-artists-and-devils.html

  5. Debashish bhattacharya said:

    Mar 28, 13 at 22:08

    In another topic ” why music of 21st century is so bad?” – does not surprise me at all. Good music and bad music differs for reasons like, original, skillful, thoughts and a story is there ,presentation, if group -arrangement, sweet, expressive , strong, inspiring, physical, emotional and spiritual… Etcs.
    An Enterprenure plus an artiste who musically produce this is impossible in one small life,
    That’s why Bernard shaw has told in an interview:
    Definition of hell – “Immature musicians trying to market and sell themselves”.
    Music is for all…. But musicians are different human race, grooming of such people can’t be done in shortcut, dedication hardship to refine and imbibing music is an art of living – through which music as service can be given for a long period of time . Music is not a short term business venture! Voice or finger tips should follow the three levels of signal of human body and mind… Then only music is strong enough to be marked as GOOD! music created with applications and software does not address other two levels than only physical… That’s why doesn’t attract listener.
    Enterprenure as well is a different skill and dedication: but is a must to have grown with the depth of music and educated taste of it…, which also takes 3 to 4 decades. Average working life if suppose 40 years, one can only be real good either of the one, not to mention- real performing musicians are born and then groomed also need time space and opportunity…
    I liked the post very much… Thank you.