woman triumphantly raising a guitar overhead“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.

Four Attributes of Entrepreneurial Musicians

1. Innovation

Whether they primarily perform, teach, compose, produce or more, entrepreneurial musicians develop innovative artistic 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 articles in the Creativity and Entrepreneurship categories.

2. Productivity

The French word “entrepreneur” can be translated 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)The Musician's Way book cover

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. (Update: see, “Design Thinking for Audience Development“)

3. Enterprise

The art of making music and the business of making a living from music are often viewed as distinct. For entrepreneurial musicians, 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 that others will want, 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, 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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