My Life As A Musicpreneur: 3 Questions Answered. (1/3)

BBy Tommy Darker. The essay was originally published in The Musicpreneur on Medium. Lisa Young In, a talented and ambitious artist promoter from Germany, asked me a few things about the Musicpreneur.

I did my best to answer and now I’m sharing the answers with you. This is part 1/3.

My life as a Musicpreneur - 3 questions answered. (1:3)

What do you think are the main tasks and requirements for today’s self-sustaining musicians aka Musicpreneurs?

That’s a long question that could fill a huge book. The tasks can be unlimited for musicians, but I would sum them up to 3 axes (or pillars) that have to do with popular music:

  1. Make an awesome music brand and have a vision.

Self explanatory. A true artist takes care of their art and craft as if it’s their baby. It is their brainchild. First and foremost comes music. And without vision, music will be boring. Vision will make an artist push the limits and challenge the boundaries of conformity. The innovators that succeed always get remembered as someone to look up to and drove art to new directions. Without visionaries, music business is destined to fail.

A musician who simply thinks ‘I make music and I’m special’ — they’re not. Visionaries are special, people who write songs are not.

  1. Have strong business foundations.

Another integral aspect of popular art is business. Without the commercial nature, art is not meant to survive and thrive. By mentioning commercial aspect we can either call it a patron that commissions a classical composer to entertain their beloved ones or a consumer who enters Best Buy to get their favorite new album.

Commercialization has so many forms beyond the fancy ‘let’s buy songs on iTunes.’ Understanding business and its laws (so they can break them later) is a strong pillar for an artistic act’s success. Most artists will despise that, but unfortunately this is what makes most musicians stop dreaming. It’s a necessary evil.

  1. Connect with people.

Art without a following can be also considered as non-art.

A creation (thus musical pieces as well) gets this artistic energy around it because of the people believing in it. It’s like a symbol, it has no aura around it once people stop believing in it.

This is also what most musicians miss out. How history turned out on this subject is pretty straightforward: before an artist had to find a mediator (label), so the label can reach the major outlets, who would then reach the audience. Now things are just simple: artist -> audience. And an artist’s task is simply to find creative ways to reach out to those people, without following any canned rules.

What do you think are the main roles that musicians need to take over in today’s times? And how would you rank them in terms of priority?

I think this question gets easily answered by taking into regard the main tasks highlighted above. An independent musician who wants to build a sustainable career without a restricting company needs to be:

  1. a human (who communicates with people)
  2. a musician (who creates art)
  3. a businessman (who conducts commerce)

What are the most important and most useful web tools for musicians?

Tools are just tools, they come and go. The right tools always come out of the needs of the current era the artist lives in.

Tommy Darker

Tommy Darker

At this very moment, a musician needs tools that will accommodate their artistic world (a website and streaming services), ways to communicate their art with their fans (social media, blogs, music discovery services) and business tools (e-commerce platforms, DTF services, autoresponders).

As you see, I don’t mention names of specific tools, because these tools are made of private companies that can cease existing anytime or change their way of operating and become irrelevant. But the notion is there, musicians should use what serves their needs best.

And a little side-note: most artists see this huge plethora of tools and get overwhelmed. My advice is always to simplify things and use the tools that directly serve their goals.

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I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started ‘Think Beyond The Band’ because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems.

Comments

  • I love this interview. i agree that it’s so important not to get hung up on tools and get distracted by the wrong things. They can sap imagination, creativity, and connection.

    For me there is nothing more important than connecting with people and authentically communicating. That is the foundation of your success as an artist. The work can come later. But if you don’t connect with people as a human (which is also projected in your art) then you make it a lot harder for yourself.

  • Cheers Andy, thanks for the well-thought comment.

    Distraction has always been a killer – business and art-wise.

    Authentic communication is a bet. It cannot scale that much, as it requires a lot of hands-on time. On the other side, scaling up requires some sort of automation. Which means, it’s great and fun when you’re small, but gets more complicated as you grow. I’m still learning myself. But, if it works in theory, why won’t we be able to make it work in real life too? :)

    How does the communication aspect work for you so far?

  • Yeah, you’re totally right about the scaling issue. I’ve found it useful to use tools like Buffer and Facebook Scheduling to create ‘anchor’ posts, or conversation starters. So I spend a couple of hours every two weeks scheduling posts, and then add to Buffer (for Twitter) any interesting stuff I come across day to day. Then i know that conversations are being started but I don’t have to actively do it. Then two or three times a day I can spend a few minutes replying to responses and engaging with stuff that other people are talking about.

    In my experience it has definitely required some kind of a plan, or at least a system within which it can work. Otherwise I just get sporadic, inconsistent and pretty unreliable. I’ve just finished reading Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk, which is very useful for giving an overview of what a strategy might look like in terms of the type of communication/content you provide for each social platform.

  • Great point Andy, and in my opinion automation is greatly overlooked by many online – you shouldn’t even try to automate human conversations, of course, but it’s impossible to keep up with everything online either. Spending 15 days each day or an hour per week to schedule posts in Buffer or Hootsuite is a great example.

    Another simple one – use a service like http://ifttt.com/ to automatically distribute content to different social networks depending on specific criteria. Eg. always turn off Twitter-Facebook automation, but set it up so when you post a tweet with a special hashtag it gets reposted on Facebook (just a simple example, it can be done in a way more practical and interesting way, for example when you post to Instagram, you can send only photos with a set hashtag to your band’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts).

    It goes further, of course. And always learn specifics of different platforms, that’s for sure, as you need to have at least a basic understanding of what works better on each key one.

  • Thanks, Andrew! I’d not come across IFTTT before. That’s a great idea! It really chimes in with that need for selective (appropriate) cross-platform automation.

    One of the things I’ve realised is the need to settle on a number of social media platforms, and to get to know them inside out. Don’t try to be everywhere.

    Then on the chosen sites experiment to see what works and what doesn’t, what results in more engagement etc. Even this will be different for everyone to some extent because it depends on the nature of your own audience. There isn’t one ‘right way’ to use each platform. It requires a lot of time, effort, and failure at the start to formulate some kind of vague template.

  • Oh absolutely, you “got it”! You need to look for best practices and pay attention to the specific of the networks you are active at, but always experiment and adapt all that knowledge to your profiles and audience.