Most Musicians Are Not Entrepreneurs
This article examines how, in the modern era, artists need to be able to not only make music but also effectively sell themselves, something which most musicians are not naturally good at, meaning they need a good entrepreneurial team on their side.
By Matt Voyno of The New Rockstar Philosophy
In my internationally published, award winning book, The New Rockstar Philosophy, I write about how artists can make simple changes to become a sustainable business. I detail how to use the tools that the internet has provided to:
- Create and cultivate your fanbase.
- Use data to make informed decisions.
- Make authentic connections to your authentic artistry.
- Appeal to your niche, not pander to the mainstream.
Great thoughts and lucid insight if I may say so myself. It was written in the late 2000s, the days when there was still optimism in what the online world could provide independent artists. If only artists could begin to see that they are entrepreneurs, and shift their thinking, they would be able to create their future with the direct fan relationships of the internet.
But now in the global warming days of the mid-teens, I see that perhaps I was naive to believe that all artists could simply adopt the mind set of the modern entrepreneur. Some artists do have this talent for business. Usually there is one in a group, the leader, someone always looking to monetize their world. But most artists are not that, they are not entrepreneurs. Most artists are people who want to make some noise, make some art, not worry too much about the rest.
This is not a revelation by any means. But back in 2009 I thought that if artists were only made aware of how simple the tools are (social media, video, email) and given a rough road map to it (New Rockstar Philosophy) they would rise up and become this mass of middle class musicians. They would use the tools, build fans, and create sustainable careers making music.
While that is still possible today, it’s looking unlikely to happen on a mass scale. That is because most artists aren’t entrepreneurs. They need help to achieve their dreams. They need the music industry to connect the dots. They need managers, promoters, booking agents, publicists, marketers, graphic designers, labels, tour managers, book keepers, accountants, they need all of the industry. Record labels used to do this but as the industry suffered and labels shut down the idea that artists could do it all grew to messianic proportions.
Now we can say that we’ve tried that. It mostly doesn’t work. We need to revise our DIY vision as the industry has changed. We need to begin to develop the other side of the middle class music industry. We need to begin to embrace the team. We need to be developing the managers, agents, publicists, etc as much as we are developing artists if we want the money invested in artists to become anything more than a one-off.
This goes doubly for granting/funding agencies because currently many of the artists who receive funding are the ones who know how to “game” the system. They’re not the best artists, just ones who have a leader with the most informed writing style. This is a meritocracy based on the formatting of grant applications more so than on raw artistic skill.
And we need to develop and embrace the industry at all levels, not just for the biggest players. By developing the music industry on a small scale we can have artists focus on their artistry, and the industry focus on the business. This cooperative partnership is critical for artists to become sustainable.
Ironically artists still have the power. They are the ones that need to embrace the team idea first. They need to look at their contacts and friend groups and engage those who would fit well on the music industry side of things. This growth needs to start from the ground up in the early stages of the artist lifecycle to be truly successful. But until we shed the DIY mantra and embrace the team we will not have true sustainable growth and fulfill the promise of the internet in creating a mass of middle class musicians.