Music Business Models. Case Study #4: Sarah Michel

SSarah Michel is a musician. She’s a mother of two. She’s a freelance translator. She’s a house concert facilitator. She hosts a local radio show. She organises flash mobs. She runs her own workshops. Well… is it possible for someone to do all these things on the same time – and do them well enough to make a living out of them?

Sarah Michel

Mrs. Michel is a great project manager – she just doesn’t know it yet. She has compartmentalised her activities into standalone projects and has found ways to interconnect them – creating a system with the potential for organic growth.

What projects is she pursuing at the moment? First of all, Pandorasdiary, a living room concert platform. She organises frequent nights with guest musicians in the Greater London area, mainly focusing on folk and world music.

She’s also the host of Fearless Females, a female-centric monthly ‘open stage’ for art, music, dance, film, and spoken word performance showcases. Sarah also runs a bimonthly radio show, Pandora’s Living Room, where she showcases local artists.

Finally, she curates workshops, where she teaches various disciplines to artists, creatives and event facilitators.

Not all of these projects are for-profit, but their interconnection scales their value beyond monetary terms. Most importantly, Sarah performs her own music in all of the projects. People know her as an inventive musician, and that’s why they’re attracted to her work. If one month she runs low on cash, her freelance translation business can save the day (she speaks English, German and Indonesian fluently).

Let’s see how Sarah worked out her business model:

Music Value Propositions

Sarah offers a distinctively different MuVaP for each project. That’s what makes her business model powerful.

Pandorasdiary offers living room performances to folk and world music lovers who enjoy intimate and informal experiences. As a secondary MuVaP, she offers the sense of belonging to a broader community that connects through couchsurfing, travelling, bohemia and free spirit.

Fearless Females provides an open space to all women who wish to express something meaningful. Even if they’re just hobbyists.

Pandora’s Living Room is a stage for upcoming artists to spread the word about their work, enrich their media portfolio, show their work in public and get acquainted with small-scale, live-curated events.

Sarah’s workshops teach a multi-disciplinary set of practical skills around the artistic process and event facilitation.

Customer/Audience Groups

Sarah’s business model applies to various audiences:

Pandorasdiary attracts an audience of people and artists who love intimate and immersive experiences. Her audience usually enjoys folk-world music and is not restricted by age. A secondary group is home owners/hosts.

Fearless Females refers to (oh well…) female creatives who want to express themselves through various forms of art.

Pandora’s Living Room invites musicians who aspire to success, are not afraid of public speaking and who have an interesting story to tell.

The workshops are a call for artists, creatives and event organisers – people who want to accelerate their learning process and usually lack a consistent and organised flow of work.

Revenue $treams

Not all of Sarah’s projects bring money to the table. But that’s alright, since they all provide value to each other. Here’s how:

Pandorasdiary brings in revenue through donations (‘pass the hat’) and merch sales, and soon through the subscription platform that Sarah will launch (attendees and hosts will pay for participation). Workshop revenue comes directly from ticket sales.

Fearless Females and Pandora’s Living Room don’t make a profit. However, they work as a ‘hook’ to bring more creatives into Sarah’s ecosystem. They also help spread the word about Sarah’s brand, since they bring value to the participants.

The next revenue stream in line is a bundle of services for creatives, such as media, exposure and live performances to new audiences and connections. It’s everything that Sarah is already doing, all packaged neatly.


Sarah communicates individually with each interested party. She also has a mailing list for automated updates and makes use of social media.

Despite a small amount of automation, Sarah spends a lot of time communicating personally. This is time consuming. That’s why she plans to launch a platform for the home concerts (and maybe integrate more projects in the future). This will allow the community to engage with each other and save her valuable time.

In terms of commercial relationships, Sarah works in a ‘one-off’ fashion. But as I mentioned earlier, she will soon partially switch to a subscription model –which might generate more recurring income.

Channels of Communication

At the moment Sarah uses social media, her website and word of mouth from the participants as her main channels of communication. She also taps into existing communities (such as Darker Music Talks) and influencers in her contact list.

As the workshops scale up, she will need to find new channels to bring more customers in.

Career Assets

Her biggest assets are clearly her website/platform for house concerts, alongside her network, community and brand/reputation – which allows her to tap into a big audience of potential participants/collaborators.

Essential Activities

Sarah’s busy schedule involves a lot of social activities, such as networking, communicating and connecting people. Moreover, she composes and rehearses her music almost daily. Finally, the facilitation, promotion and PR of her events make up a big part of her week.

Which means lots of admin to do. Maybe an intern would help in her case.


Sarah has a vast network of partners. Most importantly is her media creation team – they document her activities (documentaries, flash mobs, performances, events etc.). There’s also a few and CouchSurfing groups who work closely with her. Finally, sponsors and venues make Sarah’s life easier, since she has cultivated relationships with them over time.


Despite her complicated activities, Sara’s only real expenses involve website maintenance, travelling, recording music and merch creation. Most of her other activities are run by volunteers who love her vision and work.

Sarah Michel Music Business Model

Sarah Michel Music Business Model

Key components

It looks like Sarah has a busy business model – what should we highlight?

Undoubtedly the interconnectivity of the business model’s parts: each element feeds each other and drives more value to the overall vision. Similarly, her network/community is of vital importance, since it allows Sarah to cut marketing expenses – word of mouth works just great. Last but not least, her differentiated Music Value Propositions. Each project offers different value, different revenue streams and great potential for organic growth – as a separate element or as part of a grander artistic venture.

Find more info about Sarah’s business:, and

The next day

What can you do next?

  1. If you want to get in depth about the concept of Music Business Models, read my previous essay: MBM (101 | Design).
  2. Please get in touch with me at if you think that you or an artist you know has an interesting business model.

Most importantly, since you read this all the way to the end, you’re probably interested in music business models.

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Tommy Darker is the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician and thinker about the future of the music industry. His vision is to simplify scalable concepts and make them work for independent musicians.

He is a writer about the movement of the #Musicpreneur and founder of Darker Music Talks, a global series of discussions between experts and musicians. He and his work have been featured in Berklee, TEDx, Berlin Music Week, Midem, SAEInstitute, Westminster University, Hypebot and Topspin Media.

Find him on Facebook and Twitter.