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I’m convinced that one could create some pretty compelling musical products and services in a similar manner to how one would build a tech startup, and that there are practical applications for musicians in thinking this way.

I’m convinced that one could create some pretty compelling musical products and services in a similar manner to how one would build a tech startup, and that there are practical applications for musicians in thinking this way. In order to make this case, first, a super brief synopsis of the process of building a tech startup for those of you unfamiliar with this world:

  • Think of an idea
  • Seek investment/funding/resources to develop an MVP (minimal viable product) to put your idea in front of users as fast and as inexpensively as humanly possible (often with numerous shortcuts taken) to seek validation of the idea, receive valuable feedback, and “pivot” as necessary to position your product for optimal growth based on feedback and analytics (i.e. behavioral data)
  • Launch MVP
  • Tweak as necessary until “traction” (fast growth) is found
  • Seek additional investment (e.g. Series A), for growing startup rapidly while customers are excited about your new product
  • Scale, pay off investors, etc.

This comparison kind of falls apart when we get into the later stages, but there are fundamental similarities with the early stages, including experimenting with new bands and musical projects. I’m not convinced that it is useful to apply this process to being successful at creating and selling music, as the direct comparisons break down quickly (for example, comparing record labels to investors is kind of goofy), but the idea of a “lean” startup, failing quickly, and pivoting could be profoundly useful concepts for musicians to study and grasp. Perhaps I will explore this in future posts…

The world of being a musician is much broader than simply creating and selling music. There are millions of dollars spent in music instruction, organizing rehearsals, organizing and promoting events, building/selling/maintaining instruments, etc. Music is a huge part of the lives of countless people all over the world, there is plenty of room for interesting business ideas, and plenty of opportunity to succeed.

Some real life examples (that weren’t built in Silicon Valley via multi-million dollar investments):

  • Thaddeus Rex: teaches aspiring entrepreneurs the secrets to public speaking by drawing from his experiences as a musician and creating stories through music
  • Jamey Aebersold, Learn Jazz Standards, etc.: playalong tracks for jazz musicians
  • StoryAmp: a platform for connecting musicians and journalists (run by a friend of mine)
  • iReal Pro: a mobile app for displaying lead sheets
  • MusicTeachersHelper: an app to help manage a musical studio

Some ideas of my own would be businesses that could help people do the following:

  • Find an apartment/condo in a city where you can practice your instrument without disturbing your neighbors
  • Find/rent/sell rehearsal space
  • Connect with parents of children with special needs and help their children via musical outlets
  • Help combine art with venues and businesses that can potentially complement each other
  • Curated private music teacher/school recommendations

Thinking of these sorts of ideas can be easy if you are good at noticing deficiencies in the world around you, and have the persistence to puzzle through creative ways to make things better. If you were to start jotting down some ideas as you think of them, one day you might see some real-life validation that motivates and inspires you to want to build your thing. Unfortunately, thinking of a great idea is just the first step; building that thing is much harder. But this is something you can kind of work on on the side while you go after your musical career, or explore in some manner without making a long term commitment. If you find the challenges enjoyable and the work not insufferable, you might find this to be a satisfying replacement for some day job you really don’t care about.

To be fair, building your own business is a massive amount of work, I definitely do not want to give the impression that this does not require a commitment. However, having a reason to wake up every day seems to be vital to creative minded individuals, and this doesn’t just have to be your latest brilliant musical project. Although Jamey Aebersold may have intended to have a performing career, he will probably always be known first and foremost as the playalong record guy. But is that so bad? He changed the world of jazz education. Your musical community you care deeply about needs leadership beyond just musical artistry.

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