Entrepreneurship: Not a Slice of the Pie

Arts entrepreneurship isn’t a slice of the educational pie – it’s the pan.

I hope that lead-off sentence strikes a chord with you as it does with me.

I adapted it from a statement attributed to Andrew Rasiej (“Innovation is not a slice of the pie – it’s the pan”).

Here are 3 reasons why I find those words and entrepreneurship education so compelling.

1. Adaptability
Entrepreneurship education provides an adaptable container in which today’s artists can build rewarding lives. Like a pan, it can accommodate limitless career recipes.

For instance, music students in entrepreneurship courses identify their individual creative interests and explore varying ways in which they can flourish artistically and economically. They forge their own routes.

In contrast, traditional music curricula, especially classical ones, have groomed students for scarce, predefined roles – say, as players in top orchestras or as touring virtuosi handled by managers.

Graduates of such old-school programs often scratch out meager livings because only the tiniest percentage succeed in the roles they were trained for and they lack the adaptable knowledge base needed to prosper in today’s scene. (For more about how U.S. music graduates fare, see the recent SNAAP data.)

Entrepreneurial graduates, though, learn to recognize emerging opportunities, create value with their art, and market their work to diverse audiences.

2. Integration
When schools add entrepreneurship education to their curricula, they do well to aim for integration as opposed to creating an entrepreneurship-studies silo (i.e., a pie slice).

Such integration can interweave both curricular and extra-curricular offerings, as I describe in “Music Education and Entrepreneurship,” to the overall benefit of students.

As an illustration, to reinforce the work students do in their entrepreneurship classes, integration-minded music history teachers can juxtapose historic and current arts economies.

Graduates of traditional curricula, by comparison, may know more about 19th-century music economies than present-day ones because their accreditor-approved coursework won’t include any study of contemporary arts ecologies.

More small examples of integration:

  • Music literature courses can include exercises in concert programming, which would challenge students to apply their coursework in creative ways that would be meaningful to them and to prospective audiences.
  • Music theory classes can incorporate more composition exercises, emphasizing creative applications of things like conventional part-writing.
  • Career-development seminars can address issues of Web culture and recording technology so that students connect their entrepreneurial roles as, say, live performers, recording artists, and online personalities.

3. Inclusiveness
Entrepreneurship education doesn’t favor the most virtuosic musicians – it enables students of all levels of accomplishment to find avenues via which they can thrive.

For instance, students who might be good but not stellar soloists can apply their entrepreneurial studies to plan portfolio careers in which, depending on their interests, they might launch small ensembles and festivals, contract, gig, and teach.

Conversely, traditional curricula have tended to lavish attention on the most virtuosic performers, granting them concerto appearances and other sorts of support while leaving the majority of students to bring up the rear.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although arts entrepreneurship education is an emerging field, we possess sufficient know-how to empower all motivated students to transform their well-considered dreams into exhilarating realities.

It still isn’t easy to flesh out a music career, but it’s probably more possible than ever. And the intrinsic rewards for doing so have never been sweeter.

Related posts can be found in the Entrepreneurship category. Complementary resources are indexed on the Music Careers page at MusiciansWay.com and throughout The Musician’s Way.

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © wavebreak media, licensed from Shutterstock.com

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4 Responses to “Entrepreneurship: Not a Slice of the Pie”

  1. Nick said:

    Dec 22, 11 at 19:21

    I’m torn by my own thoughts in response to this: yes, teaching musical entrepreneurship is a great idea for students. But as a musician who is acting as an entrepreneur myself, there’s a bit of me that thinks social Darwinism will force the musicians who are truly dedicated into figuring it out, and that those who don’t will move onto other paths, and out of the way of those who are really fighting to build an original career for themselves. Interesting dilemma.

  2. Gerald Klickstein said:

    Dec 22, 11 at 20:26

    Hi Nick – thanks for the comment. I think that many people share a similar ambivalence.
    Although I believe that schools shouldn’t force disinterested students to take demanding entrepreneurship classes, I think that all music curricula should require at least one basic career development course and make entrepreneurship minors, courses, and seminars available as electives whenever possible.
    Problems arise, though, when curricular requirements become so packed that motivated students are prohibited from acquiring entrepreneurial know-how. For ex., when scholarship-receiving instrumentalists are obliged to perform in three ensembles each semester.
    For many schools to make their programs more relevant to today’s musicians, they’ll need to rethink their values in order to resolve any ambivalence toward how they’ll integrate artistic, academic, and professional preparation.

  3. David Vining said:

    Jun 20, 12 at 09:58

    Thanks for your excellent blog – I look forward to purchasing and reading your book.

    This is a brilliant post and I am living proof of the value and importance of musicians as entrepreneurs.

    Having recovered from embouchure dystonia (a long story for a different day!), I resolved to help others avoid the trouble I encountered by sharing some new pedagogy via starting a publishing company.

    I really had no idea how to do this so I basically jumped in with both feet…made a lot of mistakes along the way but 3 years later the business is still viable (most small businesses fail by this point…)

    Courses in business, marketing, accounting, etc…would have helped me immensely. Of course, my path was unusual and unpredictable but I think the message to take away is to be open to the possibilities. Myopic blinders are not good career accessories for musicians, though as you point out, traditional curricula are set up this way.

  4. Gerald Klickstein said:

    Jun 20, 12 at 10:01

    Thanks for reading and contributing, David, as well as for the supportive words. Congrats on all the great work you do at Mountain Peak Music!