The Mindset of Today’s Music Entrepreneur:  The 4 Elements of Success

What’s the starting point for creating a successful career in today’s music world?

To me, it’s having the mindset of success.

I define mindset as your attitude and how you perceive the world based on your experiences:  how you feel about your ability to translate your musical talent into a successful career as opposed to the FACT of what instrument you play.

And to be a successful arts entrepreneur, you need the right mindset consisting of the following 4 elements:

  • A passion for what you do
  • A positive attitude where you believe in yourself and you are inspired to create your success
  • Persevering and being resilient in the face of challenges, risks, and mistakes and learning from your setbacks; and
  • Being proactive and looking for opportunities and making things happen.

In other words, the 4 Ps

  • Passion
  • Positivity
  • Perseverance
  • Proactivity

These four elements are essential to guide you in our world, a fascinating, complicated interesting time place where the conventions on which we have relied are changing rapidly and it’s hard to predict the future.

Success in the music world today is not a linear process. Rather, it is highly creative and requires that musicians master a lot of skills on top of their musical talent from setting goals, to making a financial plan, to networking, public speaking, marketing, branding and being able to persuade others to get on board with you.

My favorite example of the mindset of success is my friend Adam Sliwinski of the percussion quartet So Percussion who likes to say:

“Someone has to get up every day and make new music!”

How can YOU start to work on your entrepreneurial mindset of success?

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four elements.

  1. Passion

One of the things I love about working with musicians is that you are pursuing your passion!  Passion is an inherent part of you and comes from a deep place.  It’s your energy, drive, enthusiasm and sheer love for what you do.

Passion is incredibly fulfilling. Many musicians I know feel that music is what they are meant to be doing with their lives.   And that passion can inspire you to take that journey towards success and inspire others to join you on that journey.

So tap into the passion that led you to music in the first place and let that be your source of inspiration as you create your career and embrace the mindset of success.

  1. Positivity

Positivity stems from doing things or having experiences that give rise to positive emotions.  It’s at the heart of positive psychology:  the study of what makes us happy and what we can do to foster fulfilling lives.

In fact, research from positive psychology and neuroscience shows that when you are happy and optimistic and experience positive emotions, you are able to cultivate the kind of mindset and engage in behaviors that give rise to greater success and fulfillment.  In other words, success flows from happiness! Why?  Because when you are actively engaged in pursing what you love, you are more motivated and inspired to do whatever it takes to create that success.

Research also shows that we have control over 40% of our capacity to be happy (50% is inherited and 10% arises from our life circumstances) and that we can actively do things to cultivate greater happiness.

One of the most powerful ways that musicians can boost their happiness is by embracing and deepening their capacity for Flow.

Flow is the brainchild of psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi who studied what it took for people to be at their optimal level of performance.  He defines Flow as the experience of intense focus and joy where your skill level meets the challenge at hand and you lose all track of time as you work towards achieving that higher level of challenge, with the confidence that you can control the experience.

Music is an obvious experience of Flow. In fact, it is so powerful that it is known as “super flow”.  No wonder you and your fellow musicians love doing it!

With Flow comes the confidence that you can be your best self and that confidence inspires you to work harder in order to get even better at your Flow activity.

The good news is that you can maximize your flow to bring more Flow into your life.  As you cultivate more Flow, you are increasing your capacity for happiness and cultivating that positive mindset of success in the process!

  1. Perseverance and the Growth Mindset

One of the hallmarks of successful musicians is how resilient they are, even when things do not go their way like not advancing in an audition or competition. Instead of throwing in the towel,  they get over their initial disappointment and examine what went wrong, they experiment with new strategies, they reach out to mentors and friends for guidance and new suggestions and they learn to work smarter, not harder.

This attitude stems from the growth mindset, the belief that your talent and intelligence are the starting points of success and that true success comes from taking risks, learning from mistakes, working hard with smart strategies and resiliently picking yourself up after your setbacks. In other words, you believe that you can grow and change with experience.

This is in contrast to the fixed mindset, the belief that you are born with a certain amount of talent and intelligence and that you cannot change how talented or smart you are. As a result, you rely on talent to get ahead, you are afraid to make mistakes, you avoid taking risks and you perceive the need to do everything perfectly or else you are a failure.

The growth mindset comes to us from Dr. Carol Dweck whose research confirms that those with the growth mindset are more resilient, more collaborative, and ultimately more successful that people with a fixed mindset.

The growth mindset helps musicians and artists to power through and bounce back from the many of the challenges that they faceincluding managing rejection from auditions and competitions.

The growth mindset can also help advance your musical talent as well as your career success when you practice or network.  Ultimately, the growth mindset can help you grow and change in your professional and personal lives.

So embrace the notion of the growth mindset to help you cultivate perseverance and resilience that are at the heart of the mindset of success.

  1. Be Proactive:

The fourth element of the entrepreneurial mindset is proactivity:  looking for opportunities to create your vision of success and taking action to make that vision a reality.

Think about musicians and artists whom you admire.  Chances are they are doing something that inspires you, whether it is starting a new ensemble, touring and performing music that you love, building community or touching underserved audiences.

And chances are that they created the opportunity to make that change happen.

So here’s what you can do:

Start with you career goals. Break those goals down into SMART goals and action steps.

Now, look for opportunities to implement those actions.

Looking for opportunities means that you proactively seek ways to achieve your career goals, rather than waiting for things to drop in your lap. It’s the part of the mindset that say, “Just do it!”.

First, understand the context within which you operate. What part of the music ecosystem are you involved in?  It’s important to know the trends in the classical music world so that you can figure out what is missing and how you can fill that gap.

Now, scan your world.  What opportunities exist for you to make that career vision a reality from the people you already know? Look widely at your professional networks, the people you met in school, the folks from your home town. Then, think about whom you would like to meet and make a plan for how you can meet them.  Check out these top 10 networking tips to grow your circle of professional friends!

And here’s one action that you can take right now to grow your mindset:

Select the concept from one of the 4 P’s that will best help you to achieve your career goals.

First, acknowledge what you already do well.

Then, zero in on what aspect of this concept you would like to improve.

Set a goal with a time period framed as:

In _____months, I would like to get better at _______________.

Then, set your action and do it today!

That one little action might be the very thing you need to begin building your mindset of success!