Have you ever received a compliment that sticks with you? I received a compliment recently that stuck with me and has inspired me to write this article. At Country Music Week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a musician came up to me and said "Sam, I consider you one of us. You might not be a musician or an artist, but you have the heart of one and I don't say that too many non-artists".
It's true that I love music, but I don't play any instruments, write or sing songs. The last time I played an instrument in a meaningful way was in grade 5 at St. Augustine Elementary School when I played the drums for three classes. They kicked me out after that because they couldn't handle my awesomeness.
This comment stuck with me because many music industry people advise me that musicians and artists don’t get business and don’t want to get business. This is supposedly because they’re creative types and are in it for the music and not the money. Unfortunately, the money is hard to come by in the industry, so very few are in it for the money. One of my passions is to help artists and creative types figure out a way to build sustainable music businesses or careers. This comment reinforced the idea that there is clear divide between the business people and the creatives. Many artists, and possibly business people, still think that there’s an “US” versus “THEM” mentality.
Then it struck me. The most successful business people are artists as well. Let’s look at Steve Jobs, who is credited for driving some of the most innovative tools known to man, the personal computer and then later the iPhone, both of which were driven by his creativity and his passion for design. How about Elon Musk, whose revolutionary businesses (Tesla Motors and Space X) could end up saving mankind one day? Also, what about Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and many more who are all business people, but are also creative people who changed the world for the better. Their success was driven by their creativity and their ability to turn that creativity into sustainable revolutionary businesses.
If you look at it from the music side, some of the most successful artists are also business people. Some examples are:
John Francis Bongiovi Jr. (Jon Bon Jovi), singer-songwriter, record producer, philanthropist, and actor, best known as the founder and frontman of rock band Bon Jovi, which was formed in 1983. He’s involved in management of the band and owns various businesses;
Andre Romelle, known as Dr. Dre, who is a record producer, rapper and entrepreneur. He is the founder and current CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics. He’s also been labeled by many media outlets as “Hip Hops first Billionaire”;
Taylor Alison Swift, singer-songwriter, actress, philanthropist and a money making machine; she has annual endorsements of close to $33 million dollars annually and her empire owns approximately $86 million dollars in real estate;
Chaim Witz, known by his stage name Gene Simmons, is an Israeli-American rock bass guitarist, singer-songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, actor, and television personality;
Justin Randall Timberlake (born January 31, 1981) is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. Timberlake has co-owned or provided celebrity endorsement for three restaurants in the United States.
The music is a very important part of what they do, but they also focus on running a successful business that will allow them to continue to produce their art at the highest level or to continue to do what they love for a living.
What is a business anyways? Well it’s the practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce. On a deeper level, a business is a bunch of systems and infrastructure that allows an individual to earn money from a product or service. If you’re producing music to be heard by an audience, then you are creating a product that contains a degree of value. If you don’t think music has any value, then that’s a different discussion that I will get into another time.
Ultimately, my friends, no matter what you do in today’s environment, you need to be a multi-disciplined individual in order to thrive. If the most successful business people could embrace creativity and change the world, why shouldn’t creative people embrace business disciplines to let the world see what they were put on this earth to do?
You’re probably wondering who has the time to learn about business and doesn’t take years of school to master the subject of business. No you don’t need a degree in business to be good at business. You just need to take it seriously and learn a small bit at a time and be engaged with your business on an overall basis.
Some of the core functions of a business are as follows:
Accounting system – allows you to keep score and helps you to make better business decisions based on financial information rather than gut feeling
Financial Compliance - makes sure you are meeting investor, government and granting agency requirements
Product development – the process of bringing a product to market. This could be your music, merchandise or any other product or service
Sales and Marketing: Marketing is finding out what people want, why they want it and how much they'll spend. Sales is converting the fans want and need into money
Distribution: the network and infrastructure that allows you to make your product available to your fans and audience
Human Resources: The process of keeping a great team in place and developing a system that motivates them financially and non-financially to help the organization achieve its goals
Risk Management: the function analyzes risk and puts procedures in place to ensure that the organization can continue as a going concern, whether by buying insurance or consulting a legal counsel to have proper agreements in place
The above are the basic functions of a business that are meant to make you think a little more. All in all, don’t get caught up in the labels that we put on ourselves that limit your capabilities.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.” - Steve Jobs