A music business entrepreneur is someone that has set up a business to serve musicians, fans, or the industry at large.
You may have heard of people like James Moore (Independent Music Promotions), Corey Kohler (Musicgoat.com), or Christopher Sutton (Musical U). These people are all examples of music business entrepreneurs, specifically in the realms of PR, marketing and promotion, and musical training.
You too can also become a music business entrepreneur if you’re serious and determined about growing personally and building your business. How do you become one? Let’s explore together.
Venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and author James Altucher has a book titled Choose Yourself! Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream. I love this title.
Choosing themselves is something most people tend not to do. They hope, they pray, they wait. They believe that if they just keep doing what they’re doing, someone will discover them, and they’ll find their path to success.
Don’t get me wrong – many people will come alongside you on your journey, sometimes just to deliver a timely message of encouragement. And those moments are needed.
But today, you can’t wait for someone else to tell you you’re ready. You must choose yourself.
Sure, someone might discover you. But what if you spend your whole life waiting to be found? I don’t know about you, but I don’t like putting my fate in someone else’s hands!
A true entrepreneur is a rare individual. My belief is that only 20% of the world is ambitious, and only 20% of that 20% will do anything to make their dreams a reality. That means only 4% of the world will work hard enough to fulfill their dreams!
So, if you’re sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring, I’m telling you right now – you must choose yourself, because no one will tell you whether you’re ready or qualified or capable (they may even tell you that you’re not). It’s up to you. If you want to be a business owner, be self-determined.
Choose A Business Niche That’s Suited To You
Choosing a niche will be one of the most critical decisions you ever make as a music business entrepreneur. It will play a part in determining how much funding you’ll need, who you’ll need to hire, what kind of work you’ll be doing, and so much more.
Ideally, you should choose a niche where you can thrive as an owner. You may as well enjoy the process of building a business. If not, your second-best option would be to hire people who can do what you can’t do (though you might end up doing this regardless).
While not comprehensive, what follows is a list of niches for you to explore and consider.
Streaming currently represents one of the most popular modes of music consumption. You’re probably familiar with companies like Spotify, Google, Apple, and TIDAL, which all have streaming platforms.
It is possible to get your own streaming service up and running if that’s something you want to do. But it will likely be a costly and challenging process. Be prepared to go after funding sources and hire skilled and qualified people who can help you build your platform.
The business of music can be a confusing area to navigate. As musicians seek to take their careers beyond a grassroots level, they’ll inevitably find themselves knee deep in various aspects of business, including contracts, marketing, branding, and so on.
There are many great teachers, like John Oszajca, that are helping musicians gain clarity on next steps in their careers. If you entered this niche as a teacher, you certainly wouldn’t be the first on the scene, but if you’re able to bring something unique to the niche and put your own spin on it, you may uncover an opportunity worth pursuing.
The meeting place of music and entrepreneurship is gradually becoming a hot topic as musicians continue to come to the realization that it takes both artistic and business skills to achieve the success they desire. I’ve been sharing about this idea since 2011, and there are other well-established people in the niche like Tommy Darker that have had great insights to share.
It’s not an easy niche to get into right now, because there are only so many people to serve, and most already have great resources at their fingertips. If you’re thinking about getting started in this niche, I would suggest thinking outside the box and not duplicating what’s already available.
Music Instruction & Training
Every day, people make the decision to learn an instrument. This means there are always new students looking for teachers that can show them the way.
Music instruction is a crowded niche. There are music studios and instrument stores, independent teachers, online instructors, and a myriad of other ways for people to learn. Still, if you can serve as the entry point to their journey, you may have the opportunity to capture them as long-term customers.
You already know what a music studio is. It’s a place where musicians go to cut their singles, EPs, or albums. Studios are more readily available than ever – especially home-based studios – so if you’re planning to build a large, professional studio, recognize that many musicians are going to choose more cost-effective options over yours.
Sound engineering is also something you can do independently. I have a friend who is inundated with mixing and mastering work, because 1) he’s just that good, and 2) he’s built a strong reputation for himself. To be fair, this is the definition of a freelancer or self-employed individual, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as entrepreneurship.
Networking & Classifieds
Musicians need to connect with other musicians. Some people are looking for band members or jam mates. Others are looking to fill a position for a touring act. Whatever the case, connecting musicians with other musicians is a value-adding service. It’s why sites like BandMix exist.
Classified ads are also often utilized by musicians, whether it’s to sell gear they no longer need, or to find their next band member. Overall, it’s like a networking style business, which is why I’ve grouped them together.
Social media is valuable tool for connecting with others, sharing your ideas, and promoting your products. There are already numerous social networks out there – like ReverbNation – that are basically for musicians by musicians.
If you’re planning to build a social network, I believe you better clarify your value proposition. Keep in mind that Facebook is already the container of the largest audience of any social network. There better be a reason for your existence if you’re planning to launch your own platform.
Again, the above is not a comprehensive list of niches available – there are plenty of others.
There are services that help musicians develop their fan clubs and host after parties. There are businesses that sell music gear, books, and paraphernalia. There are businesses involved in the production side of live music. There are talent agencies.
If you’re simply looking for a way to be involved in music, and you don’t care in what capacity, you won’t be disappointed by the number of opportunities available. Some people say it’s hard to make money in music, and while I agree it isn’t always lucrative, if you’re on the lookout for things you can do to generate revenue, trust me you will find them!
Be Prepared To Make Mistakes & Learn From Them
The problem with the way most people think about business is that they think everything should be – and needs to be – planned out to the last detail.
I can tell you from experience that you don’t need to know everything there is to know to get started. The first step to take to get your business off the ground is not to write a business plan, unless you’re planning to get funding from investors and venture capitalists.
Granted, if you’re new to business, you will want to take some time to research and understand what will be required of you. But if you become paralyzed by the knowledge you gain, you’ve probably gone too far. Business owners can’t afford not to act. There’s no time to sit around and wonder what could happen. Daily action is what propels you forward in business.
Get your website set up. Do some market research. Develop a product you think people will buy. Legitimize your business by selling that product. To me, these are the most crucial beginning steps that some entrepreneurs completely ignore, much to their own detriment.
You will make some mistakes along the way. This is inevitable. But if you’re willing to humble yourself and learn from them, you’ll be able to make improvements to your business, so you don’t make the same mistakes again. But please avoid obvious and costly mistakes if you can – you don’t want legal trouble.
Recognize That Success Requires Time, Energy & Resources
I’m not aware of any entrepreneurs that have had an easy journey. Perhaps they exist, but I can’t imagine they had much longevity.
That’s because business is hard work. You will likely have to make significant sacrifices to make your dream of business ownership and freedom a reality. This doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it – it just means you’re deluding yourself if you think it’s going to be easy.
Freedom is attainable. But if you go looking for it too soon, you’ll probably end up stalling in your business. Your business will not progress, and you won’t grow as an individual. I’ve seen business owners do this, and while they may have enjoyed a little bit of short-term freedom, they ended up having to make up the difference under less than ideal terms later.
Last year, I achieved a degree of freedom I’d never had before. But it wasn’t until this year that I decided to take advantage of it. And, while I did end up incurring some unexpected expenses that wiped out half of my savings, I don’t regret taking some liberties with my time this year (by the way, the liberties I took had nothing to do with the unexpected expenses). After all, I didn’t even take a vacation for six years! Plus, I didn’t have much of a life outside of work.
What’s the point? The point is that success will require the best you have to offer. It doesn’t judge you. It looks at everybody the same. And, it’s looking to see whether you’re willing to pay the price necessary to get to where you want to go. That price is different for everyone, but it’s always high.
Don’t kid yourself. Business is hard, and it’s not for everyone. It will test you. It will challenge you. Things and people will come along to distract you. Your heart will break, your car will break down, you’ll lose money, and your friends and family will doubt and question you. That’s all part of the process!
The universe says, “So what? You’re an entrepreneur, right? You can figure it out!”
That’s right, entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and if you can’t solve your own problems, how do you expect to solve anyone else’s?
So, if business is for you, give it all you’ve got. Commit to it. Don’t fiddle with it. Business makes for a poor hobby.
What Is A Music Business Entrepreneur? Final Thoughts
You may have noticed that I’ve mostly shared mindset with you in this guide. That’s because entrepreneurship isn’t about theory knowledge. It’s about how you think!
I believe business is about experience. It’s not real until you start paying with real money. It’s not real until you start working with real people. It’s good to study and research and grow yourself, but that will only take you so far. Until your business is up and running, there’s nothing at stake, and you’re not going to be personally invested.
When you’ve put real effort, time, and money into your business, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Theory mostly goes out the window. The only thing you can do is do your best with the knowledge, time, and resources available to you.