5 Things Your Small Business Can Learn From Musicians

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Kevin Conaway
By Kevin Conaway, contributor.

In 1983, Todd Rundgren proclaimed to the world that he didn’t want to work, but instead wanted to bang on his drums all day. This carefree, “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll” lifestyle is often portrayed by musicians. As a result, musicians are often stereotyped into being thought of as living this lifestyle. The truth is Todd Rundgren worked very hard to achieve the success that he achieved, as does any other successful musician. To find success in music, you have to essentially manage yourself as though you are a business.

There are five key things that I believe successful musicians do (often without even realizing it) that small business owners can learn from.

1. Hone Your Craft
Many musicians can play several instruments and several styles. However, most musicians will build their career around a particular element. Think of this as the core competencies of a business. Eddie Van Halen is known for his guitar playing, Greg Graffin is known for writing and singing punk rock songs, and the Beastie Boys are known for rapping.

What will your business be known for?

It is possible to experiment in areas outside your expertise; Eddie Van Halen can play keyboard, Greg Graffin can release a folk album, and the Beastie Boys can release an instrumental album; however their success was built upon the skills that they perfected. This is why Van Halen is one of the best rock guitar players alive, Bad Religion is one of the most respected punk bands, and the Beastie Boys are one of the most successful rap groups. They all figured out what their craft was, and then they perfected it.

2. Multitasking
Just as a small business owner must be knowledgeable in several aspects of business, a successful musician must be able to concentrate on several different tasks. Musicians are always willing to spend time playing, practicing, writing, and recording, but musicians who are managing themselves will need to allocate time to booking/promoting shows, creating and selling merchandise, managing finances, marketing, connecting with fans, and consistently building new relationships. Which leads me to…

3. Relationship-Building
Musicians are excellent at building relationships. This is not just simply networking; relationship-building goes beyond simply making contact with someone and collecting their business card. Successful musicians are personable; they will interact with and get to know their audience and the people they work with. Establishing a personal connection is so much more beneficial than simply adding a contact. People are more likely to do business with and support someone that they have a personal connection with. Business owners need to connect themselves and their businesses to their current and potential customers. Then build that connection into a life-long relationship. This is absolutely key in creating long term repeat customers… or fans.

4. Working Together
Successful musicians do not regard other musicians as competition. Instead, they view them as colleagues, resources, and potential partners. If I can bring 50 people to a show, you can bring 50 people to a show, and that guy can bring 50 people to a show, together we can bring 150. It makes a lot more sense for us to play a show together in front of 150 people instead of playing individual shows in front of 50.

Small business owners can take a cue from this concept as well. Who you think is your competition might actually be your friend. If you run a restaurant that serves roughly 200 people per day and the guy down the street runs a restaurant that serves roughly 200 people per day, maybe you can combine your promotional efforts. In business, this is known as cross-promotion. In music we call it growing the scene As John F. Kennedy once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” I challenge you to find another small business you can work with to cross-promote. This will not only increase your marketing efforts, but also lower your marketing costs.

5. Know Your Audience
Successful musicians are very good at identifying their audiences. If I’m playing for a dinner crowd, I will tone down the set and play some lighter cover songs, but if I am playing in front of a rock crowd on a Saturday night, I’ll leave those light acoustic covers at the door.

Small business owners must be able to identify their target customers just as a successful musician would identify their audience. If you’re selling custom handbags online, you probably want your ads hitting the computer screens of women, not men. If you own a plumbing service, you’d be wise to target homeowners, or apartment landlords, rather than the folks renting those apartments. Regardless of what you’re product or service is you need to establish your audience and make sure your marketing and advertising efforts are being targeted properly.

Whether you’re a small business owner or a musician, its crucial for you to hone your craft, handle multiple aspects everyday, build long standing relationships with your customers/fans, work together rather than against others in your field, and know who your target audience is.

And if you’re a small business owner and need a little inspiration, take some time and go see a live show. Look at the passion of those on stage. Then take that same passion when at work and I promise you’ll bring a new energy to your business that your employees, your customers, and your sales will notice.

About Kevin Conaway
Kevin Conaway is a music arranger, songwriter and multi media composer for film scoring, TV scoring and other mediums. A self-professed daydreamer, joker and Clevelander with a beard, Kevin uses his honesty, passion and his influences to create an array of melodic, textured compositions with catchy hooks. Kevin draws a lot of influence from the alternative rock bands and singer/songwriters such as Toad the Wet Sprocket, Oasis, Jimmy Eat World, Howie Day, and Guster. With a combination of intelligent lyrics, strong melodies, and infectious hooks, Kevin crafts songs that are bound to be stuck in the listener’s head long after hearing them.


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