There are certain terms that get bandied about and seem designed to either impress or shame people into feeling like they’re missing out on some vital information. ‘Musician Entrepreneur’ is certainly one of them. It’s become a bit ‘cool’ to refer to being an entrepreneur when all you mean is you’re self-employed, but essentially, the two are strongly related. If you want to be fairly successful as a self-employed person, chances are, you probably will have to be a bit entrepreneurial. And as a musician in today’s music industry, being ‘a bit entrepreneurial’ would certainly be advantageous.
Here’s an example of one of my other jobs – my acting work – this is what working on a script that you have to say in German looks like:
If you want to make a living from being a self-employed musician/singer, you would do well to see your work as a business that encompasses a number of sub-businesses. In other words, you need to be the CEO of your musical ‘enterprise’. Why? Because for most people in the music industry, at least in the early stages of your career, you will need ‘multiple income streams’. In layman’s terms, that means, lots of jobs ‘on the side’. If you play an instrument as well as perform and write songs, you might need to teach that instrument or teach other aspects of music that can be incorporated into a university course syllabus. Alternatively, you might have a part-time job doing admin work that involves use of social media that you also incorporate into your own music promotion. You could also, on top of that, need to be doing freelance session work or something on the fringes of the music world, such as designing websites for other musicians. All of these could be part of your portfolio of work that brings in the money to pay the bills. The entrepreneurial bit is a) deciding which things to do, and b) organising how to get them all done or fund delegating some aspects of each area of business in order to keep things ticking over efficiently.
So, if you’re a singer practising away in your basement or bedroom and you think you’re ‘putting in the work’ by perfecting your jazz improv to an exquisite level of expertise, I have to disappoint you – it’s not enough. I know, I know, it SHOULD be, but it doesn’t work like that. If you want to become successful after you’re dead maybe that’s the way to go, just like fine artists who worked on their paintings in obscurity until they died. Then someone found all that stuff left in their studio and had to clear it and realised the artist was a genius, you too could end up only being appreciated posthumously. (Or worse, never.)
The practising will always be important, but it’s only the ‘making the product’ aspect of your business, when you also need the distribution, advertising, selling and re-investment into the business aspects too. And the trick is, if you can be good at the business side of things, and learn from the entrepreneurs in ‘regular’ businesses, you’ll have the edge over all the other musicians who only practise in their bedroom and play to their parents. This is where you have to think of your work as your product but that you can also offer services and develop other kinds of products (merchandising) too that will support the business. Because it’s not about being a sales person, it’s about running your own business. There’s a difference.
It’s like Jay-Z said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”
So if you’re a singer who’s managing a number of different streams of income and you decide where and when to work, who to hire to help you and when to re-invest your profits into your product-building, advertising or distribution, then you, my dear, are a musician entrepreneur. Congratulations!