Why Entrepreneurial Musicians Take Less Risk than Non-Entrepreneurial Ones

Risk taking. Everyone knows that’s an essential trait for entrepreneurial musicians.  In fact, “takes risks and is willing to fail” is #5 of 20 essential characteristics describing entrepreneurs listed right on page 5 of my own book The Savvy Musician.

But I can think of one group that takes much bigger gambles.  Epic risks, the proportions of which are so enormous, no entrepreneur would touch them with a 20-foot bassoon.  That group: non-entrepreneurial musicians.  Let me explain…

Entrepreneurs absolutely take risks.  They invest enormous time, energy, and finances when launching new ventures, in the hopes of creating meaningful and profitable opportunity.  Their efforts could absolutely fail.  Things might not work out. Because they’re trying something new, there’s no guarantee.

But the chances they take are not crazy!  Savvy, entrepreneurial musicians do their homework.  They study the market, look for gaps, use creative problem solving, and differentiate work.  They obsess over ways to offer true valuable to cherished customers.  Marketing becomes a way of life.  Yes, risks are taken. However, when something doesn’t work out, these determined artists morph obstacles into opportunities.  Or walk away with lessons learned to apply to the next endeavor.  Because entrepreneurs are determined to thrive no matter what life throws at them, they never give up.

Now contrast that with non-entrepreneurial musicians. Most can imagine a maximum of 2-3 potential job options for themselves—some only one.  They pay top dollar to attend famous schools, spending years (even a decade plus) in pursuit of multiple degrees.  Hoping to be just like the competition—only better—everything banks on the proposition that if they get good enough, their career will somehow work out. And it might… 

But if you understand anything about supply and demand in the music industry, you know there are far more qualified applicants than traditional positions available.  Even those among the best take a huge gamble.  I personally know astounding players who chose this route, and are now working at Starbucks or scrounging to piecemeal a living at sub-poverty levels doing work they despise.  

However, for musicians not quite up to that level, chances of landing a great traditional gig in this oversaturated market are essentially zero.  Nil.  Winning the lottery is a more likely proposition.  (Unfortunately, they can’t afford lottery tickets.)

Non-entrepreneurial musicians may claim they’re risk averse.  But don’t be fooled.  This group banks their entire life on single, remotely-possible-but-highly-unlikely premise.  Placing all eggs in one basket, there is no Plan B.  There is little realism. Well, at least not until denial wears off, they’re 35 years old, drowning in debt, and chronically depressed. 

This group takes grand prize.  Even the most foolhardy entrepreneur observes in awe.  These musicians adore risk and prove their devotion to this principle every day.  That’s true devotion.  I wish them well.

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