Topic: The Music Business and the business of music  (Read 1956 times)

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Offline Bart Elliott

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The Music Business and the business of music
« on: February 21, 2009, 09:06 AM »
First, I want to again congratulate you on your MBA!

Having completed your Masters degree in Business Administration, and now being an "Evil Corporate Drone", I have a few questions.

Throughout your journey in completing your degree, is there any part of that experience which has helped you as a musician? In regards to the training you've received and/or course work you've had, have you applied any of this as someone in the music industry? 

I'm one of those who believe that almost everything we experience and learn in life can be applied in ways we might not otherwise have thought of. I wanted to hear how your MBA process and experience has impacted you as an individual, you as a musician, and you as someone with a presence in the music industry.

Offline Mister Acrolite

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Re: The Music Business and the business of music
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2009, 08:52 AM »
Thanks for the congrats - I worked long and hard on that degree, and am glad to have finally completed the curriculum!

I'm no longer pursuing music as my primary career, so frankly a lot of what I learned in business school applies to my music career mostly in hindsight. By that I mean, I now see some missed opportunities, some business reasons behind some of my successes and failures, and I have a better understanding of what drives the decision-making in most successful businesses.

For example, the concept of a diversified portfolio. The successful companies during this rough economy are the ones that operate in more than one line of business. If the only thing a company specialized in was subprime mortgage lending, they are screwed. But if they have numerous divisions, parts of the company that are doing well can compensate for the parts of the company that aren't.

As a musician, this can translate into having more than one way to earn money from music, in case one area of one's career isn't doing too well. The obvious first choice is playing drums. But there's also teaching, and I know a couple guys that got into gear rental and rehearsal studio rentals. And of course, there's developing the ability to play in a wide range of styles. I've done everything from orchestra pit work to punk rock, and worked hard to play a broad range of styles with confidence and conviction, which is a HUGE part of why I've kept working for 30 years. Case in point: I was playing in LA "hair bands" when Nirvana suddenly appeared, killing the popularity of the hair bands almost overnight. Being able to do more than play Cinderella and Poison-style drums kept me from being out of work!

But to stay on top, you need to be aware of market trends, and be ready to follow them - or, ideally, to LEAD those trends. Jimmy Bralower saw the drum machine thing coming, and crafted a persona for himself as THE drum machine programmer. Now drummers ranging from Lee Levin to Shawn Pelton have built home studios where they can record tracks remotely for major artists, offering a huge cost savings AND still allowing them to play gigs in their local area. Smart move. Being "first to market" is a huge strategic advantage in music, and guys like that are blazing the trail.

Bottom line, I think that an aspiring pro drummer these days needs to put just about as much work into learning about the music BUSINESS as they do into their playing. That's not something I did, but it sure is something I would do now, if I were a new guy on the scene.

Here's a twist on your question - I also found my career in music helped me in the grueling and competitive world of graduate-level business school.

For example, I knew from surviving the high-pressure environment at Indiana University's school of music that I had the ability to see a difficult challenge through to its completion. Lots of people dropped out of IU when I was there, and lots of people dropped out of business school as well, finding it was just too much to take on. But I stuck with it, keeping an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel, which sometimes seemed no larger than a pinpoint.

One of my business school professors once joked, "College isn't a test of your knowledge; it's a test of your endurance." There's more than a little truth in that, but between having survived the highly competitive environment at IU and also having struggled through the many hard times any fulltime musician inevitably faces, I knew I could make it through business school by hanging tough and not giving up.

It wasn't easy - I had a fulltime day job and was raising a teenager, and traveling several times a month for road gigs with Clarence Clemons. I may have been the only rock drummer out there on the road with his face buried in an accounting textbook while everybody else was hitting the local hotspots. Hardly the typical rock and roll lifestyle!
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