interior of empty concert hall“Diverse careers are available to musicians because people worldwide consume huge amounts of music-related products and services every day.”
The Musician’s Way
p. 300

Are there too many musicians for the marketplace to support?

I think not.

For entrepreneurial musicians, opportunities abound, provided that we’re willing to do the work necessary to gain competitive advantages.

Connecting Artistry and Commerce

By “competitive,” I’m referring to the fact people who want to spend money on entertainment have myriad options, and we musicians compete against those options.

The “advantages” we need to gain arise when our music and marketing strategies set us apart, inspiring fans to buy our concert tickets, recordings, and merchandise.

To succeed, then – and I mean succeed personally and professionally – we need to acquire high-levels of artistry as well as smart business practices.

Taking the business perspective for a moment, in a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog, Chris Zook reveals 3 principles that enable businesses to outshine rivals, and we musicians can readily adapt his points to align our art-making with actions that generate revenue.

I summarize and adapt Zook’s 3 principles below and apply them to performers, but the concepts pertain equally to composers, presenters, independent music teachers, and diverse entrepreneurs.

Three Ways to Gain Competitive Advantages

1. Clear Differentiation

Whatever our genre, there are countless other musicians who could seem similar us. It’s vital, therefore, that we differentiate ourselves, ideally to a degree that the musical experiences we provide won’t be readily available elsewhere.

Zook claims that about 80% of company managers deem that their products are distinctive but a mere 8% of their customers share that belief – a stunning gap.

We can reasonably conclude, then, that we’re likely to deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re more distinctive than we are.

To help counteract such a tendency, we do well to seek feedback on our work – say, from listeners, fans, colleagues and mentors – and then apply the criticism we receive.

“80% of company managers deem that their products are distinctive but a mere 8% of their customers share that belief.”

2. Clarity of & Commitment to Core Values

When we map out potent artistic visions and commit to them, we work with enthusiasm and draw fans who share our values.

But, again, Zook points out that companies often operate without such clarity or commitment throughout their ranks.The Musician's Way book cover

So we need to be vigilant that we not only articulate our creative missions but also communicate them to our collaborators, supporters, and audiences.

3. Rapid Rate of Learning & Adapting

As the economic and technological aspects of the music business transform, we can either adapt or fall behind.

Better still, we can out-adapt those who compete for our audiences’ attention by embracing innovation in our performances, online marketing, and collaborations.

In truth, the possibilities for innovation have never been greater, but we need to keep on learning as new technologies and collaborative avenues appear.

Those of us who embrace lifelong learning will enjoy both competitive advantages in the music industry and the intrinsic rewards of living meaningful, self-created lives.

The Musician’s Way and detail inclusive strategies to grow artistic abilities and launch music careers.

Related posts
The Art-Career Tango 
Artistic Vision
Differentiate or Disappear

Preparing for Portfolio Careers
What Makes an Entrepreneurial Musician?

© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © F. Szelepcsenyi, licensed from