Most musicians I have ever known would prefer to spend their lives immersed in making music than attending to the tasks of running a business if they could. Musicians who have achieved a high level of fame and success have teams of professional staff members designated to perform every managerial function. Once upon a time, when the music industry was a very different landscape to what it is now, a greater percentage of working musicians could access this support. But times have changed.
On the surface it may appear that things are harder for the everyday musician. With the significant decline of record sales and the rise of streaming platforms, many musicians are feeling disheartened and a sense of futility. Many are convinced that they will never make a living doing what they love, and have resigned themselves to staying in their day job and doing music as a part time hobby.
But there are indie artists who are thriving in this climate and many of them are running their careers completely independently. Revenue from the independent music sector continues to grow in relation to the overall industry earnings. In 2017 it grew a whopping 27% worldwide. There has actually never been a better time to be an independent musician.
The difference between those independent musicians who are thriving and the ones who are not is one significant quality. The ability to perceive their music career as a business and operate from that perspective. In short, it’s their ability to operate as an entrepreneur. Or not.
What is the definition of an entrepreneur? It is simply — a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
‘A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.’
And that is the crux of it. When you start trading your talents as a musician for profit, you are—whether you like it or kinda don’t—operating as a business owner. Of course you hope to make a profit, yet the music industry is notoriously tenuous. We do have our own union thankfully – Musicians Union of Australia – and we actually have minimum wage also. But the industry largely remains notoriously unregulated although a number of individuals and organisations are working tirelessly to change that.
Step one is taking control of your own destiny by making the decision to operate as a business, and refusing to perceive earning good money from your art as ‘selling out’. Utilising business tools such as spreadsheets, financial forecasting, marketing strategies and career planning is the cornerstone of taking your career from hobby to professional occupation. Unleash your inner entrepreneur and make stuff happen.
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