This blog post by Peter Spellman originally appeared on his blog "Music Career Juice". Peter is the Director of Career Development at Berklee College of Music, and the author of several books about the music industry including "The Self-Promoting Musician" and "Indie Business Power".
Musicians are often told they have to act like a "business" to succeed. In this post, Peter proposes a completely different way to see your career. Enjoy!
Musician – Act Like a Business?
We’ve heard it before. A musician must “act like a business” or risk an impoverished existence. I appreciate the thought: Without ceaseless attention to things like planning, budgeting, organizing and marketing a music career will more often careen off course, and be thrown onto the rocks of good intentions. Granted.
But “act like a business?”
Why aim so low?
The metaphors we live by are telling.
Businesses aren’t exactly models of success. Most new businesses (7 out of 10) fail within seven years. The majority of businesses are poorly run with “management incompetence” being the primary reason for all those failures. It doesn’t take much insight to see that most businesses practice mediocrity rather than greatness. “Business” also tends to have its own set of values – values a business owner/family member would never practice at home.
So telling musicians to act like a business is like telling them to lower their standards or to “aim low”, and a lot of musicians justifiably chafe at this suggestion.
I propose a different metaphor:
Musicians should see themselves as expressive Energy Grids.
Think about it:
- Grids generate energy: Musicians generate energy through relationship-building, practicing their craft, and expressing their art;
- Grids transform energy: Musicians transform their energy through sharing their talent with audiences; and then multiplying that talent through collaborative projects (1 + 1 = 10 – synergy);
- Grids distribute energy: Musicians distribute their energy in multiple directions through multiple creative activities.
And in order for an energy grid to do its work it must be grounded – that is, connected to the dirt, rocks, water, etc. of earth. So to, optimal health comes from a practiced awareness of our inter-connection with the eco-system we inhabit.
In my book, "Indie Business Power", I refer to managing one’s business as “conducting energy”. Conducting. Conduction. Electricity. Energy. See the relationship?
Business is just one component of the multi-dimensional musician. Business can provide tools and strategies for organizing and expanding our work. But musicians (really, all creative workers) shouldn’t just act like a business. That’s too low a target. They are expressive grids – generating, transforming and distributing energy continually.
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