The Mindset Of A Musicpreneur

This is a guest post by AirGigs artist Chris Dunnet

Musicpreneur seems to be becoming a popular buzzword. What does it mean exactly? It expresses the idea that many modern musicians need multiple streams of income. This has always been true to some extent. Even those outside the music industry realized working musicians have traditionally made money from a handful of sources: record sales, ticket sales, radio play, and merchandise. But recently, the need for multiple streams has increased. Even the idea of merchandise has branched out immensely. Back in the day, it was pretty much a concert shirt and a tour program…possibly buttons, and maybe a bandanna. Now, if you go to a concert, depending on the type of act you, will find everything from popsockets to coffee. So while musicians have started thinking more outside the box in terms of their merch, many are now starting to realize they need to also think outside the box with all their musical endeavors.

Case in point, many musicians on a smaller level have relied mostly on live performance for their income. Unfortunately, because of the current Covid – 19 situation that has all but ceased with the exception of Live Streaming. So many musicians are currently in dire straits (and I don’t mean the band) because that was their main or only source of income. Several have jumped on the live stream platform, but many are still trying to figure that out and were not prepared from the technical (gear) or economical (how to monetize it) standpoint. Because everyone has jumped on streaming, it now runs the risk of becoming flooded, with everyone competing for the same social space.

On the flip side, I know of several musicians who are not hurting in the least and some are actually thriving because they were not reliant on just live performance income. Some have home studios and are working on mixing or mastering projects. Others are teaching>online lessons, have had many Sync placements, or recording remote tracks for people all across the globe. I myself have a few aspects of all the above. When the Covid hit (here in Nashville it was the tornadoes first) I did have several gigs cancel, and yes that did hurt the pocket book, however I had several other seeds planted in place that are helping me get by right now.

But this is not just a financial issue. I have seen many of my friends and peers posting on social media that they haven’t played their instrument at all and some are thinking of throwing in the towel all together from discouragement of the current situation. While I understand and sympathize, much of this is because they were relying on just one source of income with music, playing live. So how do we remedy this? We need to think outside of the box and outside of our own comfort zone.

Time To Try On Some Different Hats

Being a Musicpreneur is a different mindset and usually means wearing many different hats. You really have to realize there are many other pieces to the big picture than just playing an instrument. You have to think like a traditional Record Label and then some. Most labels have multiple departments…Promotion, Publicity, Marketing, and other members of most artist’s teams outside the label include a Booking Agent and a Manager. Musicians really need to start thinking like all of those. It doesn’t mean you have to be a “Master” of all, but having at least some understanding not only gives you bargaining power and communication skills but also creeps into anything you do business wise and especially in the music biz.

It helps to have skills such as Social media, Marketing, Video editing, Copywriting (and I’m not talking about your songs), Content creation, and good Business sense and knowledge. But wait, THAT’S not being a “Musician”. Oh really? Ask Gene Simmons a man of more outside ventures than you can imagine, Rhianna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift all have perfumes, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden who’s also an Airline pilot and owns an airline company, their drummer Nicko who has his own BBQ place, every Bro-Country star that has a bar on Broadway in Nashville. In the past, this way of thinking was often left to the managers but now more and more musicians are realizing it’s all an income stream and as long as they stay in the forefront by doing music they are still thought of as a “Musician” and everything else is bonus income.

The Skills That Thrills

First, ask yourself what other skills in your immediate musical realm do you have? Can you mix? Do you have a home studio that you can record tracks for others? Are you patient enough to teach? Are you a Social Media wiz or good at video editing? Do you even like editing video? Obviously if there are tasks you simply hate, you’re probably not going to be very productive at it but now is a great time to at least try exploring different tasks. What else can you do musically to bring in income? Maybe some won’t have immediate results but they could grow into much more down the road.

Too Much Time On My Hands

Many of us often complain we never have enough time to practice, write, record and so on. Well for many of us right now that is the one thing we do have…time. Ask yourself what can you be doing right now to plant seeds for later down the road? Here are a few ideas to think about…

  • Create content – video, blogs, tutorials for your Socials
  • Take an online course – Learn some music marketing or just marketing in general, how to write better copy, how to get Sync placements, how to create a sales funnel
  • Get better at your instrument – learn some new songs or techniques, get out that Metronome and go back over your scales and modes
  • Master your gear – Learn new tricks or shortcuts for your DAW or how to finally get the most out of that Plug In or Virtual Instrument you’ve had but only tinkered with
  • Organize all those miscellaneous song files on those 8 external hard drives
  • Backup those hard drives and / or migrate to the cloud

Again, I have been doing aspects of all the above as well as transferring a bunch of old VHS tapes of early band performances to my computer to post on YouTube as I’m really trying to grow my channel. I have also been shooting and editing many other videos and content creation so that I will have plenty to keep posting for a while. This is one of the reasons many musicians fall short on posting new content. They wait until they need to post something to create it. Wouldn’t it be great to have months’ worth of video or blogs ready to go so all you have to do is post them when you want them online. There are many ways to also schedule your posts out so you could spend a few hours scheduling for the next several weeks or months and not have to worry about it. I know that is not something that will likely bring immediate revenue, but it will hopefully add up for you down the road.

Know When To Say When

Yes, I have talked about many different hats to wear, however, that doesn’t mean that YOU have to wear them all. If you are in a band, have a Skype meeting and talk about what tasks each member could be doing RIGHT NOW to keep the momentum going and assign each person a task. Find each other’s strengths or maybe even new things some of the members could learn to do.

Unfortunately for me, I’m pretty much a solo act so I don’t have other band members to chip in. But because of that I’ve also not had to rely on other band members and have acquired many skills on my own. The last year or so I have read several books on Marketing and have been following several Marketing Gurus to learn about marketing in general as I recently released my first online Guitar course.

That being said, there are only so many hours in the day, and we don’t have the time, and often the desire or skills to do them all. I’m a firm believer that pretty much anything can be taught and learned. But just because you CAN do it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. There will be some things you just hate doing so much you will either do a lousy job or find every excuse not to. I did drywall on a house I owned once…once. Never again. I’m glad there are people who do that and I will happily pay them to do it.

So, sometimes it is better to outsource. Even though the theme here is to be diverse when there’s someone better for the job, sometimes it’s better to hire that person. I play bass, but for most of my song recordings I hire a REAL Bass player. I could do it, and it would sound decent, and probably more than passable… Or I could hire a pro bass player and make it sound great! Sometimes, outsourcing is good simply because again, you can only do so much in a day. As I was building my online Guitar course and have been trying to build my YouTube channel, I had begun to learn how to edit video. I do some of my video editing now and I’m glad I learned how to do it over the last 2 years. However the majority of it I still hire out. I’ve learned that I only enjoy it in small doses and it is just too time consuming. I would rather pay someone to do that while I spend my time on other things that only I can do. Not to mention they can do in 20 minutes what would take me an hour to figure out, and the end product will be much better. However, I’m very glad I spent the time to learn what little I do know about video editing. It has given me better insight as to what they do and how to communicate my ideas to them, and, some of the easier editing I can knock pretty quickly instead of going back and forth with my editors.

Breaking The Bubble

As musicians, we often get caught in our own little bubble and yes, most of us would like nothing more than to just focus on playing and writing, but in this new music biz we need to be diverse to survive. As a past lesson, the 70’s and 80’s are filled with stories of bands getting screwed over and losing millions because they just wanted to play and party and left their business ventures to vultures. The more you know about every aspect of YOUR music business dealings, the less likely that is to happen and most if not all those additional skills could probably come in handy right now. I want to leave with 2 pieces of great news though… one, typically the single most common excuse is “I don’t have time”. Well, as I said before, that’s one thing most of us DO have, and secondly it’s never too late to learn something new.

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