What does an artist need to do to flourish in the complex business world we are living in? Here’s an open letter to musicians.
The world’s become a confusing place in the past few years. I don’t need to tell you that, you’ve been living it. This note is intended to give you some food for thought about your business, your craft and your life. When faced with complex problems and challenges I personally like to deconstruct things down to a simple more understandable form. It helps me cope with big problems, so I thought it might make sense to do that in this case.
Gone are the days of a major media entity (a.k.a. label) taking you under their wing, providing you with a major budget and sending you off on your way. Gone are the days of limited media outlets that can be controlled, the Internet has democratized publishing and distribution. There will always be millions of channels, websites, streams and other media formats. The world has become fragmented, you’ve got your freedom but that can be a very confusing thing. I say start from the micro and work your way out to the macro view of things, it makes the landscape make sense because it frames it from your point of view rather than from everyone’s point of view.
You need to view yourself as an entrepreneur living in an online world. In many ways, you need to look act and feel like every other business. Brick and mortar (live events, physical goods, and swag) are still critically important to your success. On the other hand, so is an online strategy to deal with streaming, video, sales and social engagement of your fans. While it is complex, at the same time it is full of opportunities which have never existed before.
As an artist, you need an incorporated entity. Do not let anyone tell you differently. Incorporate immediately. Setup a realistic share structure so you can get partners and investors. Set up different classes of shares, issue warrants, have board meetings and get advice. Partner up with those whom you respect. They don’t need to be in the entertainment or creative arts industries.
You need business, marketing, tax and life experience to help guide your business. You need a business plan and a marketing plan. You need to forecast, set plans and execute those plans. You need to create a bookkeeping system. You need to be able to generate P&L statement. Monthly forecasts and balance the books.
This is business. It is the very core of your business. Then from there you need to be able to sell your products. You need more than a Paypal and CDBaby account.
You need a commerce platform that you own. You need to be able to accept credit cards. You need to be able to swipe a credit card at a live event to sell your merchandise and have the funds land directly into your business bank account. You need to build a customer database that is composed of meaningful information.
Why is incorporation is so critical? It is a business vehicle. It protects you personally from litigation. It sets up a formal business structure. It makes your business a real business. You will be astonished when you see what happens when you do this. In time and with persistence, your incorporated business will gain it’s own credit rating.
You now own your rights and you need to own your life. Get partners. Good solid trustworthy partners. Have a formal structure. Try to pay yourself a salary when you can. Get a small pool of investors. Issue dividends on a yearly basis after it’s all said and done. You’re the majority shareholder so you can issue yourself those dividends. Your partners and investors will profit if you profit.
This is business. This is how it works for everyone from the hotdog stand vendor to the multinational (with differences of course).
Build a customer database, know your customers and control your revenue generation. Embrace big distribution. iTunes and Amazon are amazing storefronts, be there and optimize for those distribution points. But do not forget, you need to have your own storefront. Manage it, your best customers should buy direct from you, not from the big guys.
When you build a customer database then you can be clever with your marketing. You can pre-sell shows rather than guess at attendance. You can also pre-sell your content rather than have a garage full of old merchandise.
You will do this because you are running your business as a proper business. You may not be a millionaire overnight. I have never heard of that happening excluding the lottery winners. You will build a rational, sane, long term and sustainable business.
Embrace and use technology to its benefit. Be strategic on social media. Guide your fans to your purchase points, they will want to buy from you directly. Build your fans, engage them, they love you. Love them back. Talk and be real. Thank them, become a part of their lives in small ways. The dividends you reap from that activity is priceless.
A business that allows you to produce your art. Your passion.
There is no higher goal for anyone to achieve in life, exclusive of having children, that’s a higher goal, but I mean a business goal, a life goal.
It’s the most incredible, beautiful, poetic thing ever.
That’s what we work with you to achieve at ArtBarn Media.