Musician – Act Like a Business?

Musician – Act Like a Business?

We’ve heard it before.  A musician must “act like a business” or risk an impoverished existence.

I appreciate the thought: Without ceaseless attention to things like planning, budgeting, organizing, and even that pesky little 1040A waiting to be filed, a music career will more often careen off course, and be thrown onto the rocks of good intentions. Granted.

But “act like a business?”

Why aim so low?

The metaphors we live by are telling.

Businesses aren’t exactly models of success. Most new businesses (7 out of 10) fail within seven years. The majority of businesses are poorly run with “management incompetence” being the primary reason for all those failures. It doesn’t take much insight to see that most businesses practice mediocrity rather than greatness. “Business” also tends to have its own set of values – values a business owner/family member would never practice at home.

So telling musicians to act like a business is like telling them to lower their standards or to “aim low”, and a lot of musicians justifiably chafe at this suggestion.

I propose a different metaphor:

Musicians should see themselves as expressive Energy Grids.

Think about it:

  • Grids generate energy: Musicians generate energy through relationship-building, practicing their craft, and expressing their art;
  • Grids transform energy: Musicians transform their energy through sharing their talent with audiences; and then multiplying that talent through collaborative projects (1 + 1 = 10 – synergy);
  • Grids distribute energy: Musicians distribute their energy in multiple directions through multiple creative activities.

And in order for an energy grid to do its work it must be grounded – that is, connected to the dirt, rocks, water, etc. of earth. So to, optimal health comes from a practiced awareness of our inter-connection with the eco-system we inhabit.

In my book, Indie Business Power, I refer to managing one’s business as “conducting energy”. Conducting. Conduction. Electricity. Energy. See the relationship?

Business is just one component of the multi-dimensional musician. Business can provide tools and strategies for organizing and expanding our work. But musicians (really, all creative workers) shouldn’t just act like a business. That’s too low a target. They are expressive grids – generating, transforming and distributing energy continually.

Your thoughts?




  1. More great stuff Peter, sending this out through my channels & Bandzoogle’s…



    • Cool, Mr. Cool. Many thanks.

    • Energy is a phenomenon released by plucking or dividing a line or string(string theory) at the golden mean or ratio. What plucks? Intention. Pythagoras knew and taught this. Apply energy management by dividing your efforts and awareness at the golden ratio across your finances or time line or composing process and watch the magic work. it is possible that this could be the beginning of enlightenment and enlightenment if it exists at all, is always in the beginning. staying connected to the right energies will be easy, since all can be known with a completed expanded awareness. everything outside the void is propaganda, everything outside the void is still the void. keep up the good work. Marcel Anton

  2. Thanks for the Article
    Great Info


  3. Great advice. I run a rehearsal space called Soundcheck Rehearsal Studios and I love the energy metaphor. We are aiming to provide more than just a place to rehearse. We want to add to the scene here in our community. We want to connect musicians, create venues for them to practice their craft and share fans. And more. I am going to link to your blog from our website so that some of our bands might find your fantastic advice. Thanks!


  4. Hello Peter,since I’ve been reading your article,I have never come across the one that actually matches the things am just about to do,its like
    this info was built up to encourage & inspire my efforts as an independent artist & Record Label. Its so funny cause I was just sharing & talking to my co-workers about a new idea I developed in distributing music across the nation and really, its got something to do with the exact kind of thing your talking about……Wisdom no doubt is power!!!! I think we must have been thinking alike!!! Keep the Good work up buddy!! You are blessed! This Sean KD representing Oksoundz Music Factory direct from Lagos,Nigeria. Peace!

  5. Thanks Peter!
    I have the most of your great books. This post is pure energy to gas up in my brain and my heart. I really need it in these days.

    Thank you again.


  6. Peter – I think you’ve really locked in to an essential element of why music is valued in every culture around the world. We are the bringers of energy. Even meditation music and chanting create new energy. I’m putting together a talk for the upcoming NAMM show on the need for musicians to be entrepreneurial and will be making the argument that there has really never been a better time to be an artist in terms of the tools and opportunities to grow one’s community of followers. Of course, will reference your latest book as a key source of inspiration.



    • Thanks Keith – I agree with you.
      The more I live the more I believe the words of the poet:

      See deep enough and you see musically;
      the heart of nature being everywhere music –
      if only you can reach it.

      – Thomas Carlyle

      Music is (at) the primary stratum of life. “And God sang, Let there be light…?”

  7. Peter;

    Strong reactions to your post! First: “Everything in Life is a form of Energy”. We must be responsible to what we are modeling and projecting outward. Thoughts are behavior and there is energy behind every emotion we feel and action we perform, SO ! it all depends upon what business “MEANS TO US”. What aspects of business are we going to act out, or act upon. So, “Act Like a Business,” I say choose your strategies carefully and honestly, Know Yourself very well, and get busy or you will assuredly “GET the BUSINESS”.

    Do we Modelan ARTIST like “Pat Metheny whom is now “selling” a book of his “Pre-Concert warm up exercises, or down sizing his musical groups so he can still go out and do concerts and realize healthy revenues within this current economy? Or Model a Kurt Cobain?

    As an AGENT: should we Model a “Ted Kurland” whom ran down Boylston Street (some 40 years ago)chasing a then budding “Gary Burton” (his 1st client) and yet to represent, Corea, Miles, Metheny, Oregon….etc…..Jarrett
    Or should we MODEL an AGENT whose bigger than life and NOT so balanced and Takes His Life….or because not having his act together actually “gets the business”……

    Should We MODEL a “Visionary” in Biz like “Richard Branson” whom is finishing up his Earth Orbiting space crafts and Galactic Airport in New Mexico right now, or do we MODEL American Airlines whom has filed for Chapter 11 (I NY Federal court) and whose stock yesterday plummeted to 26 cents a share….?

    Take care HOW and in what and whom your “ACTING LIKE”……Business can be great.

    KB in Dallas TX

  8. Agreed Ken.

    Language can free us or jail us. I encourage musicians to think critically about
    ALL the worn phrases embedded in old world models: “business”, “artist”, “performer”,
    “manager”, “agent” — all of them.


  9. Great analogy to the energy generator! Thanks for inspiring my latest blog post on how to tap into your positive energy in order to generate career success.

    • Now that’s how to generate energy Astrid!
      Glad you found the post inspiring and thanks for reading.

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  1. 1945 walking liberty - Yep.... I couldn't have said it better myself......

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