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The Rise of the Musicpreneur (Part 3/3)

Written by Tommy Darker.

This is the last part of the 3-part series about the Musicpreneur. A link to the complete essay with all the parts and extra resources can be found at the end of the article.

III For the future

Somebody 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:

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. 

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


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.




‘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?

The full article can be found here



I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started ‘Think Beyond The Band’ because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems. 


I love starting conversations, join me in The Darker Side to talk about the music business. If you share the same mindset, find me on Facebook and Twitter and let’s talk!


References (2)

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Reader Comments (5)

Great 'conclusion' to an inspiring and compelling article. I'm excited to see it all unfold.

@ Carol

Thanks a lot for your comment Carol. All this won't unfold unless we build it ourselves. YOU are the Musicpreneur. Go, do it.

Keep it going mr darker, great stuff. Blair

May 15 | Unregistered Commenterblair

Talking about involving anyone with the same mindset, where do I find you?
Haha I'm kidding. But you wrote this out very clearly and qualitatively (I wouldn't have been able to do the same). This confirmed/cleared some same thought processes I had in my mind and I'm sure it'll be of great help to other people so, thank you!


May 18 | Unregistered CommenterLUCA LION

@ Blair

Thanks mate, glad you found it useful.

@ Luca

This was the purpose of all three articles, to streamline some thoughts on the future of what I call the musicpreneur. Glad it helped.

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