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Expert in Business Planning and Entrepreneurship Comes to Class
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I invited a guest speaker to class the other night and he showed an old video about entrepreneurship. It was structured around the eight characteristics of an entrepreneur:

* Wants to work for themselves, doesn’t want to work for someone else
* Can communicate and is organized about it
* Isn’t afraid of taking risks
* Sees opportunity and takes it
* Understands the need for innovation and innovates
* Overcomes adversity, doesn’t take no for an answer
* Knows how to sell themselves and their ideas
* Ready to fight for what they believe

Sounds right. In academia this is called entrepreneurship. In the language of business and government, it’s called small business development.

Who do we know who possesses every one of these characteristics? How about every musician and every artist we know? You can’t be an artist or a musician without these characteristics.

1. Artist and musicians work for themselves even when somebody else is paying them. They can’t help it because they are inner driven, inner directed, self-inspired. We live in the DIY world because everyone CAN do it them selves. There are no barriers to entry in the music business. Any kid with a laptop and a guitar can be a record company and a publisher. There is a perfect match between these opportunities and the character of the musician and the artist. There is a perfect match between the tools of creation, marketing and distribution and the fact that the musician and artist can create “content”, songs, books, paintings, and all other types of intellectual property “product”, out of their imagination.

2. The whole point for the musician and the artist is communication. They are compelled to write something, to create something, to play gigs, to perform music, to display their work, to broadcast it, share it, post it, build it, dance it, and otherwise communicate it to other people. They CRAVE performance, the stage, and communication, and they can sure as hell can organize them selves to achieve it.

Musicians and artists are organized because they have to be organized in order to perfect their craft and their skills. The practice room is where the musician makes a beeline approach to achieving a specific goal. Musicians and artists understand method. They may not be organized in ways that their friends and family fully appreciate, but at what they do, they are naturally organized. If they weren’t they’d never make any progress. That’s why they make good lawyers – they understand method and orgainzation and they can define goals and quickly devise ways to achieve them, and they don’t stop until they do.

3. Risk? Musicians and artists take risks every time they walk on stage, perform a new work, write a new work, or display a new work. They are taking the ultimate, personal risk, and they do so with abandon and full-throated. If they make a mistake, they make it loud. And since they know what it is to prepare for a performance or a display or a book, they are not reckless so much as fearless.

4. Opportunities to musicians and artists are everyday occurrences because they create their own. And they are members of a community that they create and that offers them opportunities as individuals. The opportunities of community come from the very nature of the artists’ work. Artists create fans and followers. They create virtual communities and the communities of public performance. And these communities offer opportunities to the artist and the musician in terms of affecting and changing these communities in a cultural sense but also in the economic sense of selling them something. Seizing opportunity for artists and musicians comes naturally.

5. What is music and art if it isn’t innovation? Innovation is the whole point. Originality is an essential character trait for an artist and they all struggle and seek their own “voices”. And it is with that voice that they will create. And the drive to create is the drive to go deeper, understand more, and innovate on the most basic and resonant levels. Creativity is just another word for innovation. It is another word for life.

6. Artists and musicians live with adversity and often with opposition to what they do, without appropriate recognition or financial remuneration. They not only accept adversity, they are able to deal with it day in and day out. And they will not stop. You cannot prevent them from doing what they do or being who they are. You may as well tell a leopard to change its spots. Artists and musicians do not take no for an answer and they are generally just stubborn as hell. But they have the work ethic and creative output to back it up. The inability to take no for an answer defines the entrepreneur just as it defines the musician and the artist.

7. Artists and musicians are selling when they walk on the stage, sing a song, show a painting, publish a book, or design a building. They are keenly aware of their markets because often their markets are sitting right in front of them. And if those markets don’t like what they’re hearing or seeing they’ll let you know. And if they do, they will let you know that. They will clap, criticize, sell, buy, sing your praises, boo, carry you on their shoulders, throw crap, hate your guts, or buy everything you put out.

Artists and musicians walk that thin line of pleasing the market and leading the market. They are astute in this sense, whether they choose to abide by the market’s decision or not. And when they don’t, they apply for a grant, engaging a whole other market to please, and much easier to manipulate. In the long run it is much harder to talk people out of money than it is to earn money.

8. Artists fight the fight daily and although they might not be ruthless about it and fiercely competitive with one another, they are certainly ruthless and fiercely competitive with themselves. Artists fight the battle of self-improvement, of creating the new, of balancing their egos and psyches on the foundations of the timeless masters of the past. In that sense they are fighting history to make history. Artists are genetically driven to produce, reproduce, survive, create, and fight. Like a lioness to a her cub they are to their art. And if you’re not careful, they will bite your hand and your head off.

Need any further convincing? Can we agree that musicians and artists are natural born entrepreneurs? The word “entrepreneurs” describes the character of a person; it sums up their personality. “Oh, there goes Sally. She’s entrepreneurial.” An entrepreneur is a type of person. But entrepreneurship is also a business discipline, a structure that his rules and experientially derived formulas and doctrines. And that is the side of it that musicians and artists don’t get. Entrepreneurial acts (“look ma, I made my own CD!”) are one thing, but an entrepreneurial approach is another.

We must show artists and entrepreneurs how they can apply the doctrine and the discipline to their natural character. An entrepreneurial approach involves setting goals and making plans for achieving them, and to measure the progress of this process. An entrepreneurial approach involves defining what excellence is on every level of what you do and devising a way to achieve it.

An entrepreneurial approach involves constant improvement in not only your art but also your business. You’re always looking for ways of doing better, of improving and innovating in your business just as you do in your art. An artist or a musician can use their creativity to bear on the way and what they create and on the way and what they do in relation to that creation. It’s all the same. The artist and musician are not two people doing two different jobs, they are one person being who she or he is. The only thing that separates them from realizing their fullest potential is information. But once they have that, they are good to go.

Business is divided into disciplines: management, marketing, finance, economics, and international business, and there are many subheadings: strategic planning, statistics, human resources, decision-making, accounting, etc. When you think about the activities of a typical musician who plays gigs or artist who shows her work in a gallery or author who gives lectures and goes on promotional tours, you will see all of these elements present in some form. But the artist does not think that they possess the essential abilities of all business school students as well as all business men and women.

“You didn’t know till I told you, now I told you, now you know.”

There’s another side to this equation as well. As serendipity would have it, in addition to being a born entrepreneur, the musician and the artist can create an endless flow of intellectual property to which the exclusive rights of copyright attend. And these rights, the right to make copies, to distribute them, to publicly perform and display the work, and the right to make derivative copies, create businesses, almost all of the businesses of the entertainment world. They create record companies, publishing companies, performance rights organizations, and printing presses. They create radio stations and libraries, and they create YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, etc.

Interesting confluence of circumstance: entrepreneur creates own renewable product line out of thin air. That’s a license to print money, folks. You not only have the perfect character for the job, you can create your own intangible products that very tangible results, including profits and revenue on a massive level.

So what are you waiting for? Monetize those rights! Maybe you should start by making a list of them and the products they imply from the work you do. There’s a market for everything. “The Long Tail” tells us that. All you have to do is have as many products as you can reasonably handle and reach those people who might care about them. And all that is based on the shared values of those people with those who create the work.

It’s all about whom you know, it’s about connecting personally with people who care about what you do. It’s all about social networking, the virtual community, the live performance, and the detailed attention to all of the opportunities available to you as one who holds all of the cards. And that, my friends, is one long list of opportunities.

Make your list!

John Snyder


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