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The Rise Of The Musicpreneur

Why you are one yourself

by Tommy Darker | Follow me on Twitter here

Credit: Flickr 'Zilladon'

Yeah, I know, there is a lot of debate and it is already an old hat for most musicians, who read constantly about the liberation of the independent music from the gatekeepers ('Fuck the gatekeepers' is more hyperbole than 'viral' now) and that they can go out and do it alone, without the help of major labels.

Nobody, however, has come up with a satisfactory description of what being an independent musicians in the digital age entails. It's a cool name, but how does it work? I reckon, the more you use a word without knowing what it is, the more the word becomes a lifeless symbol for everyone.

There is a class of not so imperceptible attributes than define a Musicpreneur.

The Author

I'm Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started this website because I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far and I believe my experience can help others that struggle with the same problems I had.

This essay was first published in Music Think Tank.

Part #1, Part #2, Part #3.

In this essay, I will attempt to adumbrate those attributes, because I strongly believe we'll see them get amplified in the future.

Musicpreneur: An independent, polymath musician who takes care of both their artistic and entrepreneurial aspect of their music career, creating business models and revenue streams.

As you see, I don't mention radio, TV, licensing or advertisements and traditional media. The reason is because I think they won't matter in the future.

Yeah, right. All of them won't matter. Talk to me if you have strong doubts, got my contact details at the end.

Plus, this is not a 'how-to' guide, but merely a well-organized overview of the tasks involved in being a modern DIY artist.

Let's go.

I Assets


very band, like every business, needs some assets before being in a position to create beautiful things and capitalize for profit. These mechanisms or assets are essential, without them you won't go far - or at least you cannot be called professional.

Most DIY bands have no idea what these assets are all about, as labels traditionally were taking care of them, keeping the bands aloof. Of course, that meant that bands who followed an independent route after a period in a major label, the majority had no sense of business and how to manage their fans, thus got swamped.

We have no tangible clues about what I'm stating, but the new generation of indie musicians will be well trained on that area. Friction brings inevitable results and experience. All self-made individuals will support my previous argument I guess.

Let's go and divide those assets into 2 categories.

Credit: Flickr 'Fernando de la Calle Photography'

1. Business

This is the hated part. Most musicians can't stand it. Makes sense, who wants to talk about funnels and leads? You're indie though, somebody has to, if you want this professional image to go further and bring some money to sustain you and refuel your art.

Some of the things you have to do is:

Organize business funnel. Whenever someone decides to buy from you, they follow a specific road from decision till the checkout (even later on, in the follow-up part). Afterwards, these individuals will engage with you and eventually will buy more expensive products, becoming part of your business funnel. These procedures need to be organized, automated and supervised by a skilled individual, who could be a member of the band with modern business knowledge.

Sustainable business model. This is how you make money.

"A business model encompasses how a firm creates value, how it delivers that value to customers, and how it captures revenue from those customers."

is what Saul J. Berman's definition is. Will you choose to rely on digital downloads, apply the freemium model or be an entirely touring band? It's up to you. There are so many business models, you have to pick the right one for you, one that primarily suits your artistic integrity. The strategist that will make the decision has to be flexible in his mindset, and, preferably, a band member. This strategy will determine a lot how your band moves around.

Schedule planning. Somehow you have to stick around with your goals and responsibilities. That's where scheduling your actions comes in handy. A detailed, short-term schedule (3-months) can give you things to do and keep you one step ahead. There has to be a long-term plan as well, but it's wise to keep it flexible. Long future can neither be predicted, nor scheduled or controlled. Keep it flex, but know where you want to go. Think of it like a mountain pick you always have in sight. This has to be something the whole band decides and is comfortable with.

Manage logistics. Boring stuff, but someone has to do it. Logistics is the management of your money, your income, expenses, common pool and so on. A good reason to fight for, so you'd better be clear with this kind of issues from an early stage. If you start now, you won't have much work to do with logistics (you'll only have expenses, which is normal, and no-one fights over who's gonna pay the bills first!), but when you start getting a real business going, then the skills of a trusted individual will be handy. Member of the band or not, the person has to be trusted.

Manage lead collection. People who are interested in your music and take some minor action that allows them to be in your radar (and be marketed too), are called leads. That could be a person who subscribes to your mailing list or becomes a fan in one of your social media profiles. They are visible now, you can market directly to them. Whoever comes up with the business model and takes care of the business funnel, this is the best person to take care of the lead generation (the way and strategy you'll use to increase these aforementioned numbers).

Growth/metrics. This is a daunting task, in terms of finding the right metric(s) to set as the primary measurement of success. It all depends on the business model. If you choose freemium, you have to focus on capturing emails. The problems start when you focus on the goals and forget the art or the innovation. My suggestion: if you can maintain clarity of mind and can separate your creative and entrepreneurial sides, then take care of this task. If not, a third individual can do the work and report to you, and their information will be less emotionally attached to what you do.


An ebook about Freemium 101:

An interesting article about marketing funnels:

Saul J. Berman talks about revenue models:

(and a nice interview)
Online billing management:

Complete band metrics:

Link analytics and performance:

A great blog and service for metrics:


If you hire a manager, this could person could be in charge to synchronize and arrange the details of the business side. It's good to have full control, but, if you're not that skilled, trust - and pay - another individual to do so. Will take you a long way.

Credit: Nathan Sawaya

2. Design/Web Presence

The more the world's listeners, consumers, creators pass the torch to the new generation, the so called 'digital natives' (me included), the more prominent it will be to have a completely clear view about web development and online stuff in general. Hop in now, it has started years ago, it's not a trend anymore.

Understand design. Web design, and design in general, is not an easy task. It's got its own fundamentals, principles and gravity. Most artists reckon it's alright to do it by yourself if you have a basic sense of aesthetics, but it's not. An amateur design lacks a logical sequence and has a ceiling in terms of its capabilities. Full potential of design expression can only be imprinted by a professional who understands your needs. Find the right person to take over, or work hard to learn yourself. Design is another form of art, not just a deed.
Take care of branding. This is where you inject your identity in your design and approach. A brand marks its territory and stands out in the era of noise. Branding is a big chapter in the digital world's economy, as it subconsciously moves the population to lean towards and associate with specific products, causes or organizations. Art can take advantage of it, by infusing the branding elements in the final result, without hurting art itself. That needs to be done by a person who understands how branding works, preferably one who has design knowledge, in association with the band itself, who knows who they are and what they want to be perceived. Strong identity has to be translated into a strong brand.

Create graphics and logo. Part of the procedure of branding is the creation of graphics and a memorable logo. This is what web visitors encounter every time they see you around. Website, social media, interviews, posters, all convey messages about you. You need to have a continuous message, through branded graphics and a logo that marks your values and point of view. No matter how insignificant this might sound, having a pro take care of your image, including design, branding and graphic representation of your band, can have vital and perennial results.

Andy Rutledge: a design perfectionist

Start here to get your band's design done

Knowledge of web development. Seems that the majority of musicians are inclined towards the technical side of the web, so there always seems to be a skillful web developer in the team. If this is the case for you, great. You got your problem solved. If not, you definitely need an individual to maintain the servers and develop your website.

Don't forget, it's your 24/7 ambassador for every country in the world. Just like your physical presence, it needs to convey the right message and inspire your character to the visitors.

Credit: Flickr 'Crisp-13'

SEO work. You won't see advice about 'getting in the first page of Google in 3 days' here. The principle is simple: search engines go where real humans go. Keep that in mind. If you bring value to the online community, then people will notice and follow. Why do you need to be in the search results anyway? In the era of total transparency we live in, search engines are perceived to be authorities in any topic. Ranked first in this topic, I will trust you! And, anyways, you don't want to appear second when someone types your band's name. It doesn't show credible. Find someone to know and let them help you, or do it yourself. No need for a professional here.

Update website. There's nothing worse than a website that has not been updated for months. This can hurt your image a lot, as it seems you either neglect it (bad) or have no news at all (worse). The person who will do all this has to be part of your band, or really close to it, so they can come up with curated and interesting content. Necessary skill is Content System Management knowledge. With a platform like WordPress, things are not so difficult.

Manage online platforms. Whether you use Bandcamp, Topspin, Shoppify or a simple eCommerce plugin for WordPress, this platform with your products, music, free goodies and services has to be managed and supervised constantly by someone. If you have active business experience, customer service is valued more than the service itself. This task also involves shipping orders, monitoring metrics, troubleshooting. Make sure everything's in order. The individual needs to have experience on multiple platforms, so you can choose the right one according to your needs and level.

Bandcamp, the place to start

Topspin, a platform for serious artists

II In the field


nce the automated system is ready and working in the backstage, doing all the dirty work for you, you can take care of the fun and creative side of the game: get your hands dirty.

The borderlines between promotion, live performances, viral marketing, art creation and fan engagement all intersect elegantly with each other, making it blur to say when each one starts or ends. Just like the various interracial blends we see nowadays because the geographical boarders have collapsed (mixed race people are beautiful, I think), the same happened with the connectivity offered by the world wide web.

New terms are created and the existing schemes get reshaped gradually. This inextricable connectivity and interdependency leads to one new pattern of artists to dominate in the future: the generation of musicpreneurs, who are polymaths and knowledgeable beyond the verge of their art.

The spine is the same, the tools and the execution change though. Let's see the 4 categories I see in play.

Remember: you're marketing to real people

1. Marketing

Marketing your music doesn't have to be that difficult and complicated in your mind. Have one thing in mind: labels sell to mass distribution channels and artists to fans. In other words, your goal is to find each fan and nurture them individually, building relationships, not mass market your music in iTunes and radio and Billboard.

Simple marketing principle: think where you can meet your fans and find the most simple way to reach them. Doing little things, one at a time, and cultivating a strong and supportive following, you can have big niche success. Have in mind: personalization is the way to break the mass culture.

Some of the modern responsibilities of the marketing guy of your band:

Press portfolio creation. The outlets that create buzz and build anticipation for indie musicians are the - equally independent - blogs. A musician wants to give great music to the world and the blogs want to suggest great music to the world: awesome marriage. However, nobody wants to feel sold out. Especially in the digital era, when everyone can become 'friends' with anyone, a more intimate relationship is valued more compared to the past. When I say build a portfolio, I mean build real trust with bloggers, so overtime you won't have to send them Press Releases so they can 'do you a favor', but you will trust them with an exclusive and they will help you out to spread the word (sounds more beautiful, doesn't it?). Plus, 'in behalf of our clients…' from a label doesn't make bloggers salivate anymore. Play it personal and keep the contacts in house.

Blogs create and control trends

Music as a marketing tool. I'm a firm believer that recorded music will not be a revenue source in the future. Digital music will eventually become a commodity and commodified products tend to have zero market price. This is great news, you can use music to attract fans and make money with through other streams. What is the best way to get people to know about you? To be scattered around the web, so people can talk about you and stumble upon you! With the understanding of that, you need a person detached from the traditional marketing mindset, ready to experiment. This is the best time for inexperienced marketers with a basic understanding of marketing to make their experiments.

Bobby Owsisnki agrees that music is the best marketing tool

Follow up/Engagement. Do you think the circle is over after you make a sale? Nope. This is when the circle opens, and it's up to you when it will be closed again, depending whether you neglect the fan/buyers or not. Old marketing stratagem: spend money on an advertising shower and see who we can get wet. New marketing stratagem: make the first sales, follow up and fuel the referral system to 'clone' your buyers. Needless to say, the more engaged you are with your fans, the more likely they are to refer to others, regardless if they buy or not. The person for this job has to be an insider, who understands the fans 100%, has social skills and is authorized to represent the band.

Experimentation for viral exposure. Everyone tries to find the magic formula for viral marketing, even more people are using this word, but the truth is: virality is so beautiful because it's unpredictable to a large percentage.

There are certain triggers that affect the mass culture and emotions that are more optimal to spread, but in reality you just play with uncertainty.

That's the definition of virality, you cannot target whom your message will reach, and that's what a successful viral spread is. That also means that you have lots of space to experiment with small things, see whether they catch on, try some more and leverage the ones that really work! Find a creative individual who has knowledge of how the media work and what the triggers are and get started.

Spot the influencers. The strongest way of marketing today is through referrals. Dropbox grew this way, to name one business. Also viral marketing is exactly this: referrals. In the networked society of today, small niche superstars have popped up, having formed their own small and targeted armies, influencing groups of people that hear what they have to say. Getting endorsed by one of them is a key feature for your success. Go, show your social side and meet people. It will be better if your next release gets announced by multiple sources to targeted audience, don't you think?

Influencers can help you play a bigger game

Manage mailing list. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin is the bible on this subject. Email seems to be the only evergreen way of communication - till I'm proven wrong - and it has the best conversion rates in terms of sales. The environment in social media favors meeting friends, not making sales. Email is a getaway to market directly to fans and be more hardcore, with their own permission. The person who gets in charge needs to understand the difference between 'communicate' and 'spam'. My suggestion is that you keep this in house as well.

Credit: Flickr '-shr-'

2. Live

Live performance revenues are rising over the years, they are the most unique artistic expression, they unite like-minded people together… what else should I say to convince you that you have to take good care of it? Although most bands believe they're entitled with a gig of 10-40 people in a shitty bar, there's more than that, if you have the right skills or people to help along.

For a better live performance:

Lights engineering. Your show and music might be incredible, but in a live performance the lights can make a difference. Actually, after long conversations that I had with venue owners, they admit themselves: the show of bands without their own lights arrangement fluctuates between mediocrity and unoriginality (not talking about the music here). It's high time you make the difference it a step forward. It's probably pricey, I know. But making this sacrifice is wise, I reckon.

Live sound engineering. That's a must-have person to be in your team. Music is what the audience is here about, cater it properly. A live sound engineer with experience can visualize the sound as it reflects on the walls and the bodies of the fans, making the proper arrangements to ensure the result is as big as your talent. Don't be cheap on that.

Booking skills. I'm not a fan of booking small bars with zero context for any reason. A good venue would do, provided it gives you the ability to contextualize your experience and tailor it according to your needs. Places like that require good booking skills and connections. If you don't have the right person to provide smart solutions - and close the deal for you - then think about hitting the road and getting things done yourself. With friction comes experience and success, it's all about communication after all. A witty personality never fails, got experience on that. Internationally, go for local booking agents who are familiar with the local rules and peculiarities.

Promo material creation. This one probably goes for the person who will design your band's branding. Promo material can have many different formats, from a simple cover photo on Facebook to a poster that hangs on the streetlights. Each one has a different visibility and approach, and an efficient designer needs to be aware of that.

Live photography. Do you have an individual to take pictures of your live show? You should. A proper photography can propel the perception about you and your artistry. Just go on a band's website and check out the live pictures. You'll notice some differences. See how they can increase the perception and likeability and choose to have an ingenious photographer with you. Money worth spending.


Academic resources on live music:

How much does it cost to mount a concert?

Video shooting. Ever done a live video shooting during your gigs? Well, not many bands do. Is it because they haven't thought about it? No. In a visual world, enriching your news and media with well shot footage can increase your stock market price drastically and create a perception about you that can only be regarded as premium. This is what message you want to convey: premium and professional. With video footage of your performances you transcend the average level of the majority of the bands you're in the same market with. Invest on it.

Credit: Flickr 'Bikerock'

3. Creation

Except for the assets you need in order to get the engine running, you also need to fuel that engine with hi-quality art. This is the fun part. Time to create. Music composition is excluded from this list. You are the one who gets this done, here we're talking about everything else surrounding your (awesome) songwriting.

Music video production. The sooner you understand the basic premise of the digital world, the faster results you'll get. We live in a visual world. Period. We also live in a cluttered world where everyone needs attention. The more sensations you trigger, the better the chances for people to notice. Video is a standalone art, so you'd better approach it the same way. My advice: don't shoot videos yourself, unless you really got the expertise. Otherwise, hire a professional who understands what your artistry is all about. Then let them do their job. Collaborate closely only on the context of the video, so it can always enhance your current branding.

Music production/mastering. There's a weird perception around, that you need to have recorded music in order to get a proper fanbase. A quick counter-argument: YouTube stars and Bedroom artists. It's the music ideas that count. However, a YouTube star will never be considered to be a professional. Because the versions of their songs might sound cool and raw, but the perception of quality is not there. Plus, a non-professionally-recorded music can never be considered to be a marketable product. You need to work on that, so find a producer that understands your needs and vision. Mastering the same, the final end result needs to be the idealized version of your songs. Otherwise why record them in the first place? If you can get the job done in a home studio, go for it. If not, get a pro in your team.

Create unique products to incentivize. Think as a fan. How many times have you seen bands selling t-shirts, pins etc.? Boring, would you buy another t-shirt, especially if it's not properly designed to be worn casually? Many bands sell t-shirts without knowing why (maybe because everybody's doing so). Don't think inside the box (where you store the tees in). The purpose of a unique product is to incentivize the fan to buy it. It's something that can make other people talk about it and the owner to feel special to have around. A handmade t-shirt? A USB-bracelet? A matchbox with your lyrics in it? You get it. Think premium. Nobody talks (and cares) about usual products. The best way to do that is to collaborate with talented artists and work on something together. This will allow you to create products on demand, without having to stock your storage rooms with undesirable boxes that scream 'sell me please!' The old model 'I stock the house and wait for people to buy' is over.

Everything looks good with the right photography! Credit: Flickr 'Cmunozh'

Photography portfolio. Again, just to be clear. (1) It's a visual world. (2) It's all about the perception. Check out the difference between a picture shot by your iPhone and a professional and retouched picture. People consume more pictures every day and it becomes evident that you need to invest in it and make photography your flagship asset. I see two types of photography to use: static photoshoots that capture your branding and pictures from the band's activities (studio, events etc.), so you can document your lifecycle beautifully. Good photography will make you stand out, take it seriously and leave it in the hands of a pro you trust.

Engagement is the new currency

4. Fans

Interaction brings creators and fans together, blurring the lines and destroying the superstar mystification around an artist. The era of 'let the labels reach the fans for us' is long over. Isn't it obvious? Since disruptive advertising becomes more and more obsolete and people mute it wherever it appears, just like another 'visual immune system', creating an experience is the only way to get people on board.

Don't disrupt, offer an experience they can talk about. They are your evangelists. And I don't mention that because it's a hot word to use in the hypey internet world, but due to its effectiveness in the real world. It's all about the fans, and it's vital that you have a person in the team that totally understands that.

Keeping that in mind, here are four things someone needs to take care of for a fan-oriented artist:

In other words, every time the private company Google was changing their algorithm to enhance the user experience, the poor marketer, who had entirely structured his company and profits on Google's services, was now jobless and assetless - and without money.

Prepare an insider experience. "There is a different value between seeing something as an insider, live, first and with the rest of the people", I said a while back. The Direct-2-Fan model changed things. Being a consumer and buying the final product is not enough. This is why you need to create a unique experience for the inner circle of your fandom, your True Fans. This experience has to be representative of your real side. Exclusive authenticity in full disclosure is what you're selling here. Many creative ways to do it, they could fill a book.

Manage the tribe of followers. When people devote time and money to you and your art, you have to be grateful. We live in an era with short attention spans and this is a blessing. You need to have an individual manage this small army. Preferably, that would be a member of the band itself, who gets the vibe of the 'inside job'. The responsibility here is simple. Interact with them and treat them as human beings. Solve their problems and give them attention back. Time consuming, I know. That's why many will laugh out loud, and only a few get rewarded by actually doing it. Again, read Seth Godin's Tribes to find out the characteristics of a tribe.

Update online profiles. Your profiles represent your brand, your music, your character. A desert profile shows abandonment and, unfortunately, it counts negatively. Get lost for a long time and you'll be forgotten. A consistent social media strategy needs to be designed and implemented by a savvy individual, who could be a marketing guy who is really close with your band. Hootsuite can help.

Creation of social objects. Social objects, as explained by Jyri Engestrom, are topics people care and talk about. It's meaningful conversations to them. This only means one thing: you will get to know your fans better by starting conversations and discovering what they care about. And the fans you attract, your cult, they are probably part of who you are as well. Make it part of your mindset and daily checklist.

Advice: DON'T be everywhere.

Most marketers will advice you the obvious: 'be everywhere, in each social network and try to get as much exposure as possible.' In reality this doesn't work. Because you can't maintain efficiently every profile. Instead, focus on 4-5 channels you prefer (or less!) and master them, being real and active. Don't be in 50 that look like graveyards.

III For the future


omebody could say that we're done. That the list is full. Almost.

The present is not all that counts; unless it points to something bigger in the future.

The past years I was working for NATO as an international military policeman. Last summer I decided to quit my job after 7 years of solid and educational experiences. All that because of my love for music.

During my transitional window to a full-time music devotee (active musician and marketing experimenter), I had a lot of time to dedicate and strong appetite to devour books that contained information outside the scope of the Music Industry, but indirectly connected with it.

And then it hit me.

There are bodies of knowledge involved in one's music success that are not strictly affiliated with the narrow boundaries of the industry. They include knowledge of social behavior and neuromarketing, online and offline contextualization, the customer circle, virality triggers and contagion, communication skills and social objects, ethics and factors that influence decision making, the importance of branding, measurement of metrics and A/B split testing.

And it could be you - the future musicpreneur - that will need all that knowledge to move forward in the future economy of self-made entrepreneurial artists.

This section is devoted to (a small portion of) virtues and intangible assets that will differentiate you from the copycats out there.

Brick by brick

1. Skills

Being good in tasks related to the music industry is not enough. You restrict yourself too much. At least this is how I see it; in order to be empowered to market your music and ensure the longevity of your brand, you need to develop skills outside the narrow spectrum of the music world.

While in the army, I started accumulating knowledge for fun, on topics that were linked with each other. And now it unfolded beautifully to me; this connectivity in the bodies of knowledge is the main reason I have this clear overview of the media world (which includes the music industry itself).

These are the bodies of knowledge I'm talking about:

The perfect resource to start with NeuroMarketing

'A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior' on Coursera. Check it out.

Knowledge of social behavior. Professor Dan Ariely and his academic work showed me that rationality and irrationality are not so far away. That got me interested in investing more time to learn about social behavior, neuroscience and persuasion. Sociology can be quite revealing in terms of what drives people to do things and take actions, instead of speculate and stay idle. If you connect the dots, you will see patterns in the behavior of the crowd. Here are 3 resources to start with: Neuromarketing, Predictably Irrational, Influence. Also check out D. Ariely's Coursera course called 'A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior'.

Social skills to meet the right people. The way I grow every single project that I start: I meet and talk with people 1-on-1, one person at a time. I devote time and energy to meet people personally, and that seems to be appreciated more than anything else. I put a face on my projects. First I contaminate a group of people with my ideas, then I start executing (and I always get full support). In an era where you can reach out to many people with a click, personalization is a lost art. Although we're talking about simple human-to-human interaction, it seems enough to make you stand out from anyone else. Tommy's advice, my fellow musician: don't just go out and mingle with random individuals. Instead, devote time and energy to people you imagine working/collaborating together with and build a strong team. Social domain is always stronger than money.

The best advice I can give you: be real. Whatever that means.

Knowledge of marketing basics. If you hire someone to do the marketing job for you, you can cross this out and move on. If not, I only have one thing to say: learning the basic concepts of marketing is the single most wise thing you could invest on today to help yourself and get on the right pathway. Musicians that claim that 'marketing is evil' and 'I don't like selling out my art' are full of pure, ignorant crap. Being able to speak the same language with the marketing bloggers or book writers you might read in the future is a big issue. A good way to start is through this interview with Danny Iny from Firepole Marketing I had a while back (sorry if the quality isn't great).

Knowledge of virality triggers. Wharton marketing Professor Jonah Berger recently authored a book called Contagious, where he analyzes the main factors that make us share a piece of content. Why is this important for a musician? Because, in the digital era, viral marketing is equivalent to billboard advertising, but more fun and inexpensive than the latter. Having a good overview of those triggers can help you tailor your visual content strategically, so you can exploit this 'viral craze' that seems to be an integral part of the culture of the digital natives, maintaining your image all along the way.

Have a premium mindset. As I've mentioned before in MTT, abundant things - such as digital content - have insignificant market value. With sufficient volume, pop artists can play with small margins and still make profit. That's the essence of the mass marketing model. This is what independent niche bands don't have: big volumes. Hence we don't belong to the $.99 market. Added scarce value, though, is something that could save the day - as it changes the perception for your art from a mass product to a premium product.

This might sound controversial, but I got my ideas around the concept of premiumization from the luxury food industry (!) and J-N. Kapferer & V. Bastien's book The Luxury Strategy. This unexploited mindset can be applied in music too. And I plan to be the first to do so. Do you know anyone who understands this concept? Invite him on your team.

Show me the leader

2. Mentality

No 'Law of Attraction' shit here. Whoever's been around for a long time, they know it takes a strong stomach to succeed in the business world. And if you want to be a professional artist, you belong to this world by definition.

I'm a firm believer that not only you need to be a bright and skillful individual, but also a vibrant and original personality, in order to make things happen and not be put off by the losers who will challenge your ideas along your way for innovation and awesomeness.

The aforementioned virtues can be summarized as follows:

Abilities and courage of a leader. A successful team always owes part of the end result to the person who has the final say and directs the project towards a specific direction. Favorably, everyone will find their own expertise in the music ecosystem called 'band', 'collective' and so forth, but there is always a leader, a coordinator, an CEO taking decisions. In real life, I haven't seen a single team deviate from such a structure. That person, though, is not just enjoying a prominent position. A leader does not affiliate with vanity. Instead, it's the individual who gives courage and drives motivation. Such a charismatic person has weaknesses as well, but that's part of the beauty, I reckon.

Clarity to maintain a forward thinking mindset. Times are demanding, attention is a vital asset and everybody wants to influence you. Too dramatic? Things might not be so bad, but one thing's for sure: mental clarity and confidence are evergreen virtues that every forward-thinking persona needs. Cavett Robert mentions that 95% of the people are imitators, so it's no surprise that only a few tend to see things from an innovative standpoint. No innovation in your blood means less likelihood that you accept the rapid technological and sociopolitical changes that occur nowadays. In a nutshell, my point of view: innovation goes along with inner peace and clarity. Take some time to watch the following video and you will get the point.

The Compulsion to Succeed-Cavett Robert founding father of the National Speakers Association from Primeau_Productions on Vimeo.

In this early video production, Cavett Robert talks on our desire to want compulsively in order to achieve. What are you willing to give up in order to achieve your goal?
This is the first in a series of video clips from the series "Humaneering" by Cavett Robert.

Follow up the state of the music industry. Along with the other group of industries that swing in a transitional window of digitization or just experience their initial upswing (movies, books, magazines, mobile and apps), music industry is in a state of fluidity that doesn't seem to stabilize soon. By definition that creates a lot of trends that unfortunately don't seem to last. The only way to keep up with the current state and trends, so you can judge accordingly, is to be frequently informed by music news outlets that I mention in my Darker Toolbox. A few minutes a day can be a nice investment that will keep you up-to-date and alert.

Follow technological innovation. Music and technology are inextricably interwoven all along the human history. Technology affects the progress of music (I don't know about vice versa), so it makes sense that you follow up with the latest news and break-throughs. Here is provided a list of technology blogs to follow. It's not random that most musicians are savvy technology geeks, and this phenomenon of interdependency will only increase in the future. Be an early adopter and try out new ideas.

Vision for something big. We all know that how far we go with our plans depends on the ceiling we put ourselves. Things are getting more and more liberated - not necessarily democratized - for independent musicians to achieve great things. We're just in the verge of a great musical future. However, if you keep yourself in the mercy of your fears of becoming great, you won't go far. Time to take the piss out of another cliche expression: "This is the best time to be a musician; you can achieve everything you want without a label!". And I say, "Yes, but also the audience has shorter attention spans and there is much more competition". Unicorns are not real. Only the strong visionaries - along with all the aforementioned things in place - will achieve something exceptional and break the clutter.

Music & technology are inextricably connected.

Marketing Tech Blog - Infographic: Music and the Mobile Future.



'There are three types of activities', said Andrew Dubber in his recent Darker Music Talk, 'the ones we're good at, the ones we suck at and the ones we're not good at, but we can see ourselves learning to do."

Personally, I choose to do myself the first and invest time on the latter, while I delegate the work for the things that I suck at to professionals I personally trust and let them do their work without interference.

If you're not ready to do all of the aforementioned things yet (and it makes sense that you can't - don't be a Superman),

Here's how I'd suggest that you start with:

1. Start with great music. This is the absolute #1.

2. Build a portfolio of quality assets (recorded music, video, photos).

3. Invest in your branding (colors, vibes, logo, visuals).

4. Form your online presence (website, social media) and connect with fans.

5. Prepare an early 'insider' experience for your serious fans (starting with a mailing list and some exclusives).

6. Invest in a good live performance and document everything in it (video/photos, official and backstage). Avoid bars and other ripoffs.

7. Focus on getting people on board and strengthen the foundations of a real fanbase, one person at a time.

8. After you've built sizable assets, take a person no board to help you run and manage the business size of your art. Your assets will fuel that business.
Notice that till you reach step 7, you don't need a manager or an enormous team behind you, and there is trivial risk involved.

As a conclusion, being a Musicpreneur may look daunting in the first glance, but it's all a matter of organizing properly the information in your head after all. The more clear you have the overview of the modern music world in your head, the more likely you are to face the industry with confidence and fresh, innovative ideas.

This world does not only need more 'working-class' musicians, but also innovative Musicpreneurs who will change the shape of the music scene from within.

It might sound sonorous, but try not to laugh. Paraphrazing George Kolliopoulos, the man behind the first luxury olive oil in the world, who said

"Lambda is the first olive oil in the world that is made out of books, not olive oil"

I say: "The Musicpreneur is the first archetype of musician who will market their art utilizing bodies of knowledge outside the music industry".

Living and breathing for that moment.

What do you think, did I miss anything from the list? Do you agree with my views?

Somebody kept notes: Dave Cavalier

While reading this essay, Dave Cavalier put some notes together. Download them here (6 pages). Here's what he said in his email.

"Taking your writing, in conjunction with other articles I've read, helped me put together a lot of 'to do' lists that not only cover all basis, but maximize where possible, and not just 'do'."

You can find Dave here:
What can you do now?

Leave a comment below and tell me what you think. Also...

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George MouzisMarketing, SAE Insitute Athens
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Differentiate. This makes you an artist.

  • Thank you for writing this and sharing with us!

  • Thanks a lot Tommy, useful (and huge!) guide, the multitasking entrepreneurial musician is definitely the future for serious artists and I think it’s pretty interesting to see how things will turn out.

    Nikos ‘Porcupine’ Pavlou

    • Thanks Nikos, glad you found it useful mate. I know it’s a lot of resources to go through, but I’m looking forward to some in-depth analysis on the article from you – I know you’re good at it 😉

      Cheers from London.

  • This is a great guide Tommy. If you’re interested in the underlying mechanics of how ideas spread I reccommend ‘Virus of the Mind’ by Richard Brodie and ‘Global Brain’ by Howard Bloom. Also ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath is a good book about why some ideas stick and spread.

    • Cheers Neil! Glad you’re here with me mate. I’ve recently read ‘Contagious’ by Jonah Berger, pretty interesting book (I mention it in the guide), and going for the ‘Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell soon. Thanks a lot for the recommendations, I’ve heard some of them before, will check them out on Amazon. Cut some trees for Tommy to read more books!

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  • Hey Tommy! As always great article. Exciting times for those who see the opportunity they have!

    • Thanks @twitter-19657834:disqus! Exciting times is what I see too.

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  • This is really good stuff Tommy. I’m really looking forward to applying all these nice ideas with my band!

    • There’s more to come Alessandro. This is more like an introductory article, there’s so much in mind to be documented, maybe in a course or something. Thanks for sharing it, I really really really appreciate all the support!

  • Great work Tommy

    • Cheers Tor! Did you find time to read the whole beast? When you do, I’m looking forward to your feedback!

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  • paulgilbody

    Great work Tommy – thanks! Could you expand on what you mean by ‘contextualize your experience’ wrt booking gigs?
    ie Do you have specific criteria for when a gig or venue is worth playing or not?

    • Cheers Paul, glad you found it useful mate. These are good questions, glad you asked (it also means you ready he whole book… errr… article).

      I’m a firm believer and always strive to control the context of the experience that I offer as Tommy Darker (marketing) or as an artist (with my band, SideSteps). Context can be even more important than music itself, because, depending on the environment and the conditions when you listen to a musical piece, your perception about it will change. In other words, ‘context’ is a strong asset and, by owning it, an artist can convey the right message they desire to convey.

      Practical examples? In the online world: Own your website and self host it (you own the context) and don’t use social media as your main ‘home’ of your activities. You already do, as I see.

      Another one. In the real world: Don’t play in bars (this depends, applies differently on each kind of music). People go there to drink beers and get goofy, not primarily listen to music. Unless you’re an acoustic guitar player who would be a nice fit for lounge bars, this culture destroys your artistic integrity and connects your brand with the wrong message.

      About the latter, personally I’m quite strict. This is why I prefer to play in small theatres and create 100% custom-made shows, so I can control this message. Whatever unexpected happens, it will happen within the domain that I’ve set.

      Was that helpful? There’s so much to be said, maybe I can write a huge ass article for this topic as well.

      • paulgilbody

        Thanks for the quick reply Tommy. That makes sense and yep that could be a big article! I mainly do solo acoustic shows and I agree that playing in the corner of a pub when noone is listening is almost pointless.
        Getting people to sit and listen where geographically you have no fan base however is a challenge and so certain gigs may be worth doing where you don’t control the context. Loss-leaders if you like, to pave the way for better opportunities later. Though I agree you can choose a respected open mic night in a new town over a pub gig. I would rather play for free with the opportunity to convert leads than play to a noisy room for £100
        A whole other argument is the one where the musician is an employed entertainer privileged to be on-stage and must earn the attention of the audience by virtue of the quality of their performance. I have seen performers silence a noisy room, where others are talked over.
        Keep up the good work!

  • Steph G

    Excellent article. Thank you so much!! I’m looking forward to reading your next pieces.

    • Cheers Steph. Are you on the list mate? Because I will send soon an idea about how I’ll work on the releases in the future.

  • Great article Tommy! Thank you for this useful guide!

    • Thanks a lot Remade guys! Greets to Athens from London.

  • Great article. There are definite parallels here with the games industry, and how indie gamemakers needs to approach things (rather like indie musicians, indie developers are ‘do it for the love’-centric, and often don’t ‘get’ the business side of things).

    I don’t think you’ve quite nailed freemium, though. Early on in the article, you say “If you choose freemium, you have to focus on capturing emails”. I disagree with that. Freemium really should be about pushing people up the Fan Scale. You quite rightly recognise that recorded music is becoming commoditised, and that there’s not much money to be made there. Fine. Use that as a starting point to make the mouth of your funnel as wide as possible. And use that wide reach to identify (or convert people into) true fans, and work on pushing them up the Fan Scale – as you say, leveraging the premium / luxury side of things is the Holy Grail here.

    Speaking from a games background, ideally you want a way to identify your time-rich fans, your money-rich fans and your social-rich fans, and provide a mechanism whereby each can ‘pay’ using the currency they’re rich in.

    Very nice to see someone from outside the industry I grew up in tackling some of the same problems I’ve been thinking about!

    • That was what I call a COMMENT! Thanks for stopping by Pete. Fore sure we have lots to talk about, since you live in London as well. I totally agree there are common grounds between the games, music, movie and book industries, since we’re talking about media/content (in the least romantic approach).

      Well, in general I don’t think I’ve analyzed anything at all. The article is more like an introductory piece of writing and could be turned into a book, analyzing each bullet point individually. I actually agree with everything you say in thet paragraph. I wrote it in another article, Premiumization ( is the key for making money, not selling music. And Fan Experiences as well, through a funnel of tiers for each group of fan dedication. Nice points.

      Let’s have a talk mate, loved what you’re doing (or at least what is there to come) with Skynl. Had the Gamification course at Coursera lately, great info there and I’m digging the concept of gamifying non-game concepts.

      Please join the list (if you haven’t yet), so we can keep contact with what I’m up to. Do you have a list for yourself?


  • Boudy

    Inspiring, motivating and a good place for musicians to start organising their thoughts, themselves and taking matters into their own hands. Kudos Buddy!

    • Thanks Boudy, it’s great to see you digging the content. It took me a lot of time to compile, but it’s totally worth it 🙂 It’s mainly introductory content, but it’s also helpful to what you said: it helps you streamline your thoughts.

  • Enock Nsubuga

    Great piece Tommy, very useful too!

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  • Christopher Roditis

    Well written and very thorough, kudos my friend. A shorter, easier to skim through version would be worth its word count in gold.

    • Cheers mate! Sadly for most people, I prefer to write thorough, analytical essays. Not everyone will take time to read them all, this is why prior to assembling them on my website, I publish them in parts on various music outlets first (see ‘Music Think Tank’ and ‘Dotted Music’).

      Glad you took time to read it all 🙂

  • Thank you, thank you Tommy. Yours is the first piece I have ever seen to bring together in one place the totality of what it means to be a musician. I appreciate what you have captured in this one article. I’ve been Musicpreneuring for a long time. The one insight I would add (and forgive me if you’ve said it, and I’ve missed it in your piece) is the fundamental, baseline, underlying driver for us who persist in music as a profession: there IS money to be made in music. Armed with that insight, one retains an ongoing motivation to engage with the Musicpreneurial principles you outline Music need not be seen as different from any other enterprise. It holds the promises and risks of any business. But if we remember that there are profits in the music business, we can soldier on in the face of whatever challenges may arise.

    Thanks again Tommy. And thanks for the word ‘Musicpreneur’.

    • Thanks for reading thoroughly this monster Ron!

      Great point, I think I should add it in the ‘mentality’ bit. Yes, there is money, if you approach your music as a business. Simply most musicians don’t, or have no experience how to.

      Would love to know more about what you do, can you reach out to me via email? Which place of the world do you currently live in?

      // Tommy

      • Great to hear from you Tommy- I’ll email you a bit later. I’m in Canada, and it’s 7:30 AM, so I’m just getting my day started. More to follow… Thanks again

        • Nice, morning Canada on board! Have a great day Ron.

  • Ron Davis below pointed me to this article, and this is amazing. Can I create an infographic to capture this visually and making it easier for readers to digest in one go? 🙂

    I’ve been doing a lot of the same kind of thinking and trying to harness all the amazing technology that is so readily available to make this process even easier for artists. I feel very strongly that it isn’t fair to expect all great artists to be entrepreneurial, and there are many that need a helping hand and never manage to find it.

    Each of those high level categories you listed can be drilled down into more detail, and I can imagine each of those being a post on their own. I’m definitely going to use this list to match it again what I am working on in terms of that social-technical solution for Toronto, and see how much of it overlaps and perhaps point me to some gaps!

    • Hello, I would really love to Margaret! And I will be more than happy to feature it in my newsletter, within the article and my social media.

      You got a fair point there, entrepreneurship is not for every artist. All they need to do, though, is assemble a strong team to take care of that. And knowing bits a pieces helps you manage it more easily, so either way I’d say it’s essential to have some basic knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit.

      You are totally right, this essay just scratches the surface – and each paragraph could be analyzed way further. Maybe I’ll write a book at some point, who knows?

      Thanks for stopping by and always nice to know what’s happening in the other side of the world!

      // Tommy

  • yohami

    yeah, on point on many levels.

  • Holy #$!@. An older article, but probably one of the best (and most thorough) on musicpreneurship I’ve found. I struggled for years as a working musician–doing things the old way. It wasn’t until I started learning about business and self-improvement (through books and podcasts) that the needle started to move.