There are many reasons why we are seeing a rise in the number of people who are working for themselves. It might be that people are looking for more flexibility in terms of working hours, where they are working, they may be wanting to cut down on the cost and stress of public transport, or want to use their talent and do something that they enjoy. And guess what? Being a musician is no different.
It is important to remember, however, that although you too are working from home, and potentially doing something that has previously been your hobby, you are now turning your hobby into a business.
Becoming a Start-Up Musician
Maybe you’ve been playing music for years but never thought about making a living from it. Or maybe you are already employed with a day job, and wanting to make some extra cash from music, or turn it into your full-time gig.
To become a start-up musician, the process is just like starting any business. There’s more to it than ‘just playing’and you need to set it up like a business. Look at how you brand and market yourself, as well as make money – otherwise your music will still be a hobby. Although starting a business sounds complicated, it’s very do-able.
So, what are the similarities between a start-up musician and a start-up business?
By looking at your music as a business, you better your chances of your work as a musician being profitable, and ultimately, allowing you to spend more time doing something that your love, for an income.
To be successful in any business – whatever it may be, there are a number of personal qualities that are important, and surprise surprise, these qualities are also useful to have as a musician.
- Being passionate – musicians have to be passionate about what they do, as few other jobs take the same amount of commitment and dedication, studying an instrument, learning a craft and being your own team. Just the same, every business requires a passionate leader to get it off the ground.
- Tenacity – It takes more than just passion, you’ll need to be tenacious and not give up the first time you hear the word ‘no’. Plenty of the world’s best musicians and business people faced some pretty big obstacles before they succeeded – think Kanye West, Oprah and Steve Jobs.
- Willingness to take risks – It’s easy to play it safe, but as they say “high risk equals high reward.” Be flexible and willing to take risks, but be smart about it!
Finding your Sound
If you are hoping to earn money as a musician (and who isn’t?), you need to have a reason for fans to choose you over someone else. Just like a business, you need a USP. Usually with music, this is your ‘sound’. When they hear your music, how do people know it’s you and not another musician? What is your musical style? What stage presence can people expect if they hire you to play?
In essence, finding your `sound`is not unlike coming up with a new business idea.
Market research is always useful, regardless of the business that you’re in. It is only by understanding what your potential customers and clients (and fans) think of you and your product , i.e. your music, or ‘show’ in this case, that you can ensure that you are giving them the best experience possible for what they are paying, which will hopefully lead to them consuming or paying more.
Although it is important that people like you and your music, as it’s the ‘product’, it is vital that you remember that your music won’t be for everyone, and they’re not judging you personally. As hard as that sounds, you need to be objective about your music business and not take criticism to heart.
Building a Brand
It vital that you build a brandaround your name or business name. People like to know what they’re getting and the best way to show them this is by building your own brand. In terms of being a musician, the brand is you. This will not only help you to get clients, it will also make you look more professional, reliable and that you have invested time and money into your profession.
If you’re not sure where to start, read our guide to branding yourself as a musical artist.
Just as with any other business, there are start-up costs associated with being a start-up musician. You will need a suitable instrument(s), cables, microphones, speakers, as well as equipment for running your business (a good computer, the right software).
It’s always a good idea to use your day job or other side-hustle to save up as much money as you can to outlay for set up costs. (It’s an even better idea to have a back-up fund for replacing gear and other emergency costs.)
Unless you have the money saved, are lucky enough to be able to carry on working whilst starting up, or have been given your equipment, you will probably need to look for funding of some sort. This might be by asking for a loan from the bank, crowd funding or looking for an angel investor, for example – just as any other business. To do this you’ll need to be organised – have a breakdown of what you need to use the money for, how long it will realistically take to pay back the loan, and a plan of how you intend to grow the business into something profitable.
There are so many similarities between starting up a musician and starting up a new business, here we’ve just scratched the surface. But by sticking to these basic rules of business, you hope you can begin to make a healthy living as a musician.