How to Embrace the Business Side of Your Music Career Without Feeling Like a Sellout

Many musicians recoil when they think of their artistic career as a business.

Do you? It’s understandable if you do.

That’s because the word “business,” especially among musicians, can feel like a dirty word. It often represents selling out and sidelining your creativity.

But what if the assumptions you’re making about business are actually holding you back in your music career?

What if ignoring the business side of things is actually costing you opportunities (and money)?

It’s time to awaken your “business brain.”

Keep reading to learn how you can reframe what the word “business” means as an artist.

What’s Expected of You

As a musician, you’ve had to work for years, if not decades, on honing your craft. It’s a little painful to think about all those hours spent in the practice room, all the lost sleep, all those party invitations that you had to pass on… so much sacrifice in service of creating something extraordinary onstage.

And now you’re expected to be an effective business person, capable of “selling yourself,” being an entrepreneur, and understanding all the administrative and marketing tasks that go along with that.

It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and lose faith in your dream.

But that’s only if you look at the business of music as something negative. Instead, we invite you to look at business as empowering, creative, and fun.

Here’s how…

Business Isn’t a Betrayal

If you see business as a selling out, it’s time to flip your perspective.

Think about it this way. Most performers want their work to be seen by as many people as possible so that they can share their message. (That’s the goal, right?)

In order to do that, you must get the word out to those who would enjoy your work. That means you have to market yourself online and in person.

If you hide out or play small, people will miss out on what you have to offer! It’s like practicing in your living room versus performing in front of an audience. If you don’t promote yourself, your four walls will be the only things that know you exist.

So rather than see entrepreneurship as selling out, look at it as the fastest way to get the word out about what you’re doing so that more people can be positively affected by your art.

Business Isn’t Boring

Many artists assume that “business-y” stuff is boring. The notion of writing a dry, colorless business plan is only slightly less painful than a wisdom tooth extraction. As an artist, you want to grow, develop, and be open to change — and that can seem antithetical to the rigidity of business planning.

The truth is that engaging with the “business” side of your career can be an exciting activity. It’s your opportunity to bring something new into the world. It’s your chance to take an idea and turn it into an actionable plan.

We don’t know much about the very secretive process of building the Apple Watch, which took over three years to develop. But there’s no doubt that the process was very creative.

Developing a concept for an entirely new “product,” whether it be an album, a tour, a book, or a production, requires considerable ingenuity.

Taking a business-minded approach to your project doesn’t mean pandering to financial concerns. It does, however, ensure that the product that you’re creating is something that people will a) want and b) know about so that they can get it. Caring about those things is not at all at odds with creativity.

Business Isn’t Slimey

You probably know someone who thinks they’re rocking social media by posting about how great they are doing. But maybe it’s over the top and a little off-putting.

In our experience, there are just as many, if not more, humble artists who would rather not toot their own horn. However, the ones who make all the noise tend to have a bigger presence.

We talk to many artists who understand that they need to promote themselves, not just online, but offline as well. They know they need to build contacts and relationships, as well as seek partners, collaborators, and supporters, but they don’t want to be “that guy.”

You might be in this camp. Self-promoting, if that means acting in a way that feels arrogant and pushy, might feel totally foreign to your DNA.

The problem is that a common reaction to seeing an unsavory version of self-promotion is to do the most extreme opposite — not promoting yourself at all. Many musicians carry a belief that there’s no middle ground, that self-promotion can only come across one way — and not a good way.

With every artist we’ve worked with, we’ve found that there is another way to approach self-promotion that is both effective and feels good. The key is to tap into your authenticity.

The qualities that make you special as a musician are unique to your personality, interests, passions, and history. By tapping into your authentic voice and speaking from a place of passion, you can discover a vast array of promotional opportunities that don’t violate your principles.

What Do You Think?

How do you feel about the business of music?

What advice do you have for musicians who are hesitant to embrace their business brain?

Leave a comment below.

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