Music Entrepreneurship: Out with the Perfect, In with The Impossible

Recently, marketing guru Seth Godin wrote an explosive blog post entitled “Perfect and Impossible” wherein he takes on the digital revolution in music and examines how a once “perfect” business

“Radio, record chains, Rolling Stone magazine, the senior prom, limited access to recording studios, the replaceable nature of the LP, the baby boomers”

has now died. And for him, that’s a good thing because it’s a revolution that “destroys the perfect and enables the impossible.”

I immediately thought of my class and what we are teaching:  to help musicians think and act like entrepreneurs so that they can create their own version of sustainable success.

Back to Seth.

The digital revolution now has made the seemingly impossible a reality by providing “easy access to the market by new musicians, a cosmic jukebox of just about every song ever recorded, music as a social connector…”

He concludes:

“If you are love with the perfect, prepare to see it swept away. If you are able to dream of the impossible, it just might happen.”

So how does this tie in with music entrepreneurship?

The traditional model for top conservatory students of landing a job with a major orchestra, solo touring or getting a tenure-track position at another major institution, while not exactly dead, is harder to achieve.  The good news is that students today are aware of these changes and are defining success in many ways that go beyond the traditional model.

For my students, success is much more than landing the “perfect” (in oldspeak) job. 

In terms of the type of work, my students envision doing work that has a major and positive impact on contemporary culture, including composing and commissioning new music, performing more than the standard repertory, doing community outreach, educating the next generation of music lovers (broadly defined) in addition to solo performing and frequent performances with orchestras and chamber ensembles.

Success also includes:

•    Freedom to be creative;
•    Artistic growth, challenge and diversity;
•    A balance between personal fulfillment and making the world a better place by helping other people;
•    Financial sustainability;
•    Artistic authenticity; and
•    Balance and a rewarding family life.

I encourage my students to dream the BIG DREAM and to figure out how to make it happen.  Sure, along the way, reality will kick in and it’s up to you to figure out how to keep the dream alive, all the while looking for your best opportunities and learning as you go along.  It’s not easy and it’s possible.  And the collective activities may very well override the old “perfect” and make the impossible come to fruition.