Tommy Darker: Rise of the Musicpreneur (Midem 2014)


Musician, music coach, writer and thinker Tommy Darker gave a fantastic presentation on the “rise of the musicpreneur” at the Midem 2014 music conference. Check it out:

He starts by making an important point: The discussion around the digital music business is often framed around the companies offering services to artists, and not the artists themselves. YouTube, subscriptions, streaming, brands… these are the buzzwords of the music biz, and they revolve around companies, not musicians.

Taking a cue from the tech world, Darker suggests bands develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and continue to prototype. Labels and musicians often go through great time and expense to develop the perfect debut studio album and marketing campaign. By taking the MVP approach, the artist can progressively improve their product and service, getting maximum exposure with a steady stream of audio and video releases.

We appreciated his mention of the Business Model Canvas, a really cool tool for entrepreneurs for developing and defining a business model. Bands can use this simple and free template as a way to organize what can be a sometimes overwhelming complexity of factors to consider when running a band like a business.

Creating and testing hypotheses is another important part of startup strategy, and goes hand in hand with a band’s business model. Musicians must test assumptions about their market, and adapt goals to gain fans, exposure and money.

As a musician, Darker respects the artist’s need to be creative for creativity’s sake, and keeping money a separate issue. Nonetheless, to accomplish something truly great with your music — and a sustainable career from music is pretty damn great if you ask any musician — one must understand where the value is and how to grow it.

Persistence is another key asset Darker highlights as necessary for the successful musicpreneur. “Nobody owes you a living,” he says, noting how critical a tenacious and unrelenting attitude is to establishing and keeping a music career.

Darker wraps up his talk by interviewing two musicians who are following the musicpreneur model. They share some interesting artistic/business philosophy behind their approach, and offer a glimpse into the encouraging future of a music business under artist control.

Follow Tommy Darker at his official website and definitely check out the Midem video if you have a moment.