Almost eighty percent of new businesses fail within the first ten years.¹ If you consider that a young singer begins her sole proprietorship music business as a graduate student around the age of 25, the odds are stacked against her that she will no longer be in that business at age 35. A sobering fact, non? With how most musicians plan a career it is not all that surprising though. Music is exemplified equally as a field with low barriers to entry as well as extremely high barriers to entry. How can this be? As young singers, we start out as very small fish in a very big pond. It is the growth process from medium-small fish to medium-large fish that is the hardest to understand and sustain. This accounts for so many singers swimming in circles rather than finding forward motion and leads to burnout.
Your Day 6 challenge is to Identify Your Threats and Barriers to Entry.
Behind every good business is a unique selling point. After writing your artist statement, you should have a much clearer idea of who you are and what you want to accomplish as a musician. If only it were that easy to just name the goal out loud and then it magically happens to you. What The Secret failed to mention was that in order to morph your passion into a sustainable career, you will need to figure out what is threatening the longevity of your career and start busting through some barriers.
Artists who figure out financials find career sustainability. Artists who figure out the give and take of creative time and administrative time find balance. – Andrew Simonet
Another big takeaway from the Artists U summit I attended this fall was the three things that stop artists. I had some eureka moments during this part of the conference because I could identify specific activities and behaviors that fit into each category. Sometimes, even the things I thought I was doing to advance my career were, in fact, threatening my ability to keep moving forward.
When was the last time you heard a musician respond to “how are you?” with anything but “Whew! Super busy!”? Many of you will remember we challenged ourselves last year to “Create Quietness in Yourself” and to “Do Less and Do it Better.” But, if you are anything like me, this topic can still be quite the stumbling block. Some indicators that you may be suffering in this area are a plethora of projects and tasks that come down to the very last-minute. If you cannot make the time management work out for something you are so passionate about you are going to find your singing career falling by the wayside. Also, be wary of perfectionism when it comes to your creative work. If you are stopping yourself from applying from auditions or competitions, ask yourself whether it is because you are actually unprepared or because you are afraid to put yourself out there. Finally, to be a good performer you need to have some life experience. You cannot manufacture life experience in a practice room. You must give yourself some downtime.
Competitiveness & Career Obsession
Career obsessed? Me? The girl who writes annual, month-long series about how to make a career in classical singing?! … Never… Well, this one really hit home when Andrew said, “artists often begin mission-driven and somehow along the way get tricked into being career-driven. The creative process is the house and the career-making is the scaffolding.” Do not let yourself become all scaffolding.
The cattiness of young opera singers is legendary. Beware of that trap! Rinse, wash, and repeat: the success of other singers is good for me. It is much, much more difficult to figure out how to grow our field than it is to scramble for the last spot. But, try.
The young singer who began her singing career at 25 has wildly different life expectations and desires at 35. When the 25-year-old thought, “I can live on $12K a year”, the same singer at 35-years-old is suddenly looking for an exit clause to that contract. No wonder our singing businesses fail after 10 years. For a real business plan challenge look into your financial history and use it to create income and expense statements for at least three future years. Then, figure out more projections at 70% and 50% of your goals. Finally, include monthly cash flow projections for the next 36 months. That should give you a very clear idea of how you are making money and what you might do to make more of it.
A Challenge for Identifying Your Niche and Possible Threats
Still unsure what is specifically holding you back from reaching your Fortune 500 Diva Life? Complete this exercise and get ready to start busting through some barriers.
- Which things do I do best in the world of music?
- Am I process or results driven? (Do I like the rehearsal process or performance more?)
- What do I do that people need and appreciate the most?
- If that isn’t singing, am I prepared to follow that path?
- For what am I best known in my community?
- For what will people most readily pay me?
- What involves the least risk?
- How much does risk influence my business decisions-making?
- What fits best with my lifestyle and personal goals?
- How engaged is my support system?
- What am I most eager to promote?
- What are my feelings on:
- Getting paid as a musician?
- Financial stability?
- Asking people for help?
A business plan is not going to magically transform you from a small fish into a big fish. Having a plan of attack, however, for all of the little bumps along the road from medium-small fish to medium-large fish will help you stay more sane. Identifying your possible threats and barriers to entry will help you stave off burnout.
How is your practice going so far this year? Did you recognize any of your behaviors or activities in the 3 pitfalls that stop artists section? Feel free to share your stories of how you knocked down your barriers to entry in the comments below. Or, share with me on twitter @mezzoihnen – #28DaystoDiva. It makes my heart explode into glitter to see you all succeeding!
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