Though classical music departments in colleges and conservatories have long avoided the concept of entrepreneurship, that avoidance factor is gradually diminishing. However, classical musicians in the world beyond training centers have long explored their options with a special focus on developing new audiences. Sometimes that means playing in new venues and other times it means taking a different approach to repertoire but, in all cases, it requires an entrepreneurial spirit to make it work.
Though an entrepreneur is typically defined as someone who takes on the risks of starting a new business, entrepreneurship today often has an additional meaning of the creation of new approaches to business. For classical musicians, whose only business training tends to be limited to how to get an orchestra gig or how to write a grant for a nonprofit endeavor, the various meanings associated with entrepreneurship tend to not enter the picture.
Classical Revolution: The Conference, April 27-29, Chicago
However, that disconnection from the world beyond the academy is gradually being erased by the efforts of such teachers as Greg Sandow, who includes business topics in his class Classical Music In An Age of Pop and cites multiple music programs developing coursework in entrepreneurship in an article for The Julliard Journal Online. He mentions the New England Conservatory's Entrepreneurial Musicianship program as one example.
"Our signature one year immersive program in entrepreneurship learning for performing musicians to learn entrepreneurship so that they can forge their own career – from managing performing careers to managing concerts and music-related business, merchandising, intellectual property."
Yet it's their Classical Crossover Showcase at SXSW that connects most closely with the reigning paradigm in discussions of classical music entrepreneurship. That paradigm might best be described as the musician taking charge of their career as a business in an environment where jobs as classical performers are rarer than ever.
A recent piece in The Economist on classical musicians as entrepreneurs focused on performances in alternative environments. The examples include Classical Revolution's "chamber music for the people" holding "casual concerts in bars and coffee shops." Classical Revolution was founded in San Francisco and now boasts at least 35 chapters in the U.S. and Europe as well as an emerging record label and an international conference (see above video).
Kimball Gallagher is "reviving the salon culture through 88 unique performances in a variety of intimate venues" with The 88-Key Concert Tour. He pursues numerous entrepreneurial activities and organizes Cocktails and Counterpoints events "connecting young business school and law school graduates with a select number of young professional artists through private concerts in various Manhattan apartments."
In an older article, Ian David Moss chronicles additional examples of Classical Music’s New Entrepreneurs. And, in keeping with current trends, a recent NPR feature considers the wide range of Kickstarter campaigns focused on classical music.
Though musicians are also involved with music tech startups, they rarely include those from classical backgrounds. When that shift happens, one is likely to see new entrepreneurial endeavors that reflect the unique world of classical music in the 21st Century.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business & Revenue Models and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.