One of the strangest things that I’ve come to accept in recent years is that I have a hell of a lot more in common with my rather straight laced businessman father than I ever thought possible. (Or ever wanted to think possible) I came face to face with this fact yesterday when we spent the day together in New York City hanging out in the Museum of Modern Art. I found myself asking him questions about corporate strategy that I had entered the music industry in order to get away from. We talked about budgeting concerns and investment opportunities, and even how to organize a company’s 401k. I might be a bit too much of a hard living rock and roller to ever be a suit in the proper sense of the word, but I have had to admit, underground music freaks are businessmen too.
In my experience it has been actually rather liberating to admit to myself that I’m really just a businessman in an industry that eschews corporations. It’s a weird thought to have, because as something of an anarchist this is definitely something I struggle with. People in the industry, musicians especially, are rightfully paranoid of suits after years of oppression and it’s certainly not an image that you want to ally yourself with. There are far more tasteful ways to execute these types of things though, and you need to be self aware before engaging in them. This goes beyond viewing your band as a business – instead you need to embrace the entire industry as well, an industry.
One thing that has been important for me to realize is that a lot of things that affect the day to day business world impact me a lot too. While someone like my father might have to consider his company’s stocks and where they are going, I have to do the same for album sales. While a businessperson has to negotiate a contract, I have to figure out guarantees and advances. Obviously these ideas manifest themselves in different ways, and I’m allowed to swear and drink a whole lot more, but the general concept remains the same. You’re not so much a representative of an artist or your art as you are a businessperson. The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you can move on to bigger and better things.
This is important to note for you young bucks too. If you’re trying to convince your parents that you should work in the music industry and can provide evidence to prove that you’re really just trying to be a businessman, they are likely to be far more receptive. Furthermore – being able to couch music industry dealings in a business context is going to help you look more professional and intelligent in front of record labels and other business interests. If you can use a traditional business lexicon in regards to your art, then people are going to be more willing to trust you because, even if other evidence points to the contrary, this will suggest that you have your shit together. It even has the potntial to bring in investors from outside of the music world.
Of course this isn’t easy, and that’s why there are books on this sort of thing. My articles are (hopefully) helpful but they hardly should be taken as a be all and end all. The point that I’m really trying to make here is that you need to have a general attitude that a businessperson might use to approach problems and consider solutions. Once you start to let these ideas sink into your business practices you’ll find yourself able to consider your position in a much more clearheaded manner than if you used your strong attachment to your art to limit your considerations.
This doesn’t mean that you should be casting away artistic integrity in the name of business sense, that’s a whole different issue – your morals should remain of paramount importance because that’s how you make people respect you. The point that really matters here is what I said previously, not only do you need to heed the age of old advice of treating your band like a business, you need to let that attitude sink into everything you do vaguely related to the industry. You’d be surprised how much a purely professional outlook can help – but it’s what I’ve been able to base a career off of. If you can separate yourself from the emotional side of things you can suddenly execute far more effective deals. As long as you look for music with depth and something that has true passion and meaning behind it then you know that you must be on the right track towards success.
At the end of the day – this simply means that you need to start embracing a businesslike attitude towards everything you do and realize that the people who run this whole creaky ship of an industry are doing the same. It makes you look better and the deeper you delve into it the easier it becomes. Soon you’ll find yourself naturally networking and making contacts – proving that you too can be a huge part of the world we love. No one said that this would be easy to do – but it’s important, and the sooner your business acumen comes to the fore of our work, the sooner that people will turn around, take notice and acknowledge what you are helping to create.