Music Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century: A Mindset, A Skillset and a Process

I consider myself ever so fortunate since I am in contact with a continuous stream of talented, intelligent, successful professional musicians, in my work as a career coach, guest lecturer the Yale School of Music, Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music and now as the new head of Career Strategies at YSM.  As such, I am constantly on the lookout for what it takes to create “success”.  In my experience, success for musicians is highly personal: whatever you think it takes to make you feel that you have achieved what is important to you.

And whatever that definition of success may be, there is a common thread to those who achieve it:  they envision their success, they go after it to make it happen and along the way create sustainable careers.

This is leadership in its purest sense.  Leadership is essentially the ability to inspire yourself and others to create success.  This definition encompasses a mindset, a skillset and a process.  And entrepreneurship takes the concept of leadership a step further by instilling the notion of taking charge and being the driver who makes things happen.  Call them music entrepreneurs, call them cultural and artistic leaders—the label is irrelevant.  These are the musicians of the 21st Century.

I see many examples of musician/leaders among my friends, colleagues, students and clients:  powerful inspiring leaders who create and lead music festivals and new ensembles, come up with new methods of teaching music and the arts, start business ventures, promote and communicate the importance of music through radio shows and other media, engage audiences, write and speak about the arts—and make a living to boot.  I have previously written about how music entrepreneurs are shaking up the world of classical music, and have give examples of 4 amazing music entrepreneurs whose portfolio of projects tie into their sense of authenticity and mission.

So I am encouraged. 

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 elements that are involved in being the successful musician of the 21st Century.

1. What’s the mindset?

A belief in one’s unique gift, a passion for making a difference through music and the willingness to take charge and learn from challenges in order to create success.

2. How about the skillset?

•    Creating a vision and a mission
•    Looking for opportunities to carry out that vision and mission
•    Reaching out to people who subscribe to and buy into that vision and are willing to provide support (financial or otherwise)
•    Getting others on board to carry out the mission
•    Knowing how to communicate effectively and persuasively
•    Time management and project planning skills
•    Financial planning and management skills
•    Networking skills
•    Marketing skills

3. And what about the process?

Setting inspiring and realistic goals, breaking them down into doable steps, coming up with strategies, taking actions, identifying challenges, learning from any mistakes and continuing on the path no matter what.

In the coming weeks, I will elaborate these elements in order to help today’s talented and motivated professional musicians develop the confidence and the mindset of the self-starting, leadership-oriented take-charge musicians that are indispensible for creating opportunities and achieving success in today’s world.