Around this time each year, I seem to have the discussion with people about the fine line between being a musician and business professional. This topic probably pops up due to the timing surrounding when Kresge Artist Fellow applications are due and the complexity (and stress!) of putting an application together can have with any artist, especially those not familiar with the process of being able to promote ones self.
I have been fortunate that I feel I have a good balance between being a musician and understanding what it takes to market myself as a musician and the entire business that surrounds this industry. Sure, to a certain extent it is self-promotion, but that isn’t a four-letter word. I have always found it interesting that if you are a performer of any kind and you are doing self-promotion, it is considered (by some) shameless or not in good taste. No different than there was a time when professional service occupations like lawyers, dentists, doctors wouldn’t be able to place advertisements or create websites – it was considered “off limits”. A respectable professional should never have to do their own promotion, their services should speak for themselves. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Look at today, most if not all professional service industries advertise in one form or another. Social media certainly saw to this. To take it one step farther, I think independent musicians, artists, writers or any creative type need to have a sense on how to promote themselves. If you are not Kid Rock … being shy in this department won’t get you far.
Recently, I discovered Tommy Darker, a music educator that coined the word – Musicpreneur. What a great word! Per Urban Dictionary: Musicpreneur is an independent, polymath musician who takes care of both their artistic and entrepreneurial aspect of their music career. This musician takes care of the promotional strategy, branding and revenue streams of the band himself; he’s a true musicpreneur. (Mr. Darker publishes an active blog that is worthwhile for musicians to follow.)
This word is very appropriate and I think I will adopt the moniker for now one. Although, having a name doesn’t solve the issues that I see artists face in today’s economy. Clearly, the independent artists that have adopted a musicpreneur methodology are far more successful and I can point to a number of different creative professionals in and around the city of Detroit, Michigan that proves this point.
I spoke in a previous blog about the Michigan House that was located in a loft space in downtown Detroit during the auto show. Basically, a pop-up room filled with Michigan made products. I had a chance to speak to some of those artists and was truly amazed at the level of networking some of them would engage in with me. I was pretty happy to hear that not only were they proud of what they do – they were not embarrassed to talk about their success and dreams. This is what is needed in the creative industries, the ability to express what you do to others with a sales approach. Not creepy sales guy approach, but an honest and clear method of letting others know what you are doing and how you are doing it.
So to all the musicpreneurs out there, congratulations. You have much to be proud of and you continue to prove it to others. If you are still a novice musicpreneur – find a mentor, get out there, show people what you do. In the end, if you cant promote what you do, who do you think will?