Why entrepreneurs are similar to jazz musicians and why they aren’t?
Why can I answer this question? Because I am both.
Really, I have been an entrepreneur all my life, I just never called myself that. I have almost never worked a 9-5 job. (The word “almost” is there because I did try. It lasted 2 months.) I have pretty much always planned my own time and have been my own boss 90 percent of the time ( except when I play in other people bands and projects, but that is fun too! )
And here is my story.
I will start my story with London. I did live in Latvia for the first 27 years of my life. And, I learned to play there, played in my first bands, was teaching others to play, organised jazz events and all that. But my thinking really has changed since I moved to London in so many ways. I still feel that here in London is where I became me. And I considered London as my home since the first few weeks of me moving to this exciting city.
It was the Year 2010 – April 27 ( if I remember correctly )
A very inspired and happy girl from Latvia with a guitar and big dreams arrives to the big city, London.
I will be staying in a squat with my good friends, not very glamorous ( still, with all the comfort you need really), but fun and most importantly – free!
First few days – weeks was so insane! London took me in fast. I changed my thinking to faster thinking because there was no other way! Actually the first 2 years was insane!
The very next day I was at Ronnie Scotts ( One of the best known jazz clubs in world ). I was willing to learn, meet new friends and play in the jam. I had the opportunity to play in this prestigious club in the jam session the very next day since I arrived in London. I didn’t play good at all that night. In fact, I think I made a total fool of myself. However it was all good lessons and fun. And most importantly I was happy! I was challenged! I didn’t stop going to jams for 2 years. And I practiced a lot during the day times. My favourite place to visit in those days was a pub called the Haggerston based in Dalston where the jazz jam was happening late on Sunday nights (musicians called it “Uncle sams” as that used to be the name of the place). I used to travel to Uncle Sams from West to East London every Sunday. Most people who live in London know what it means to travel East to West in the night without a car! It can take up to 2 hours with buses! But every time I was sitting in the bus heading home I was happy! I met probably 20 -30 new people every day, it was hard to keep the track of everything. I started to get some gigs here and there, and met some well respected musicians from UK and from States. Many of them inspired me a lot. I also met few stars ( for example Amy Winehouse)
I was experiencing all the crazy and intense London life. I was learning so much every day. I was such a regular face at all the jazz jam sessions in the city that I was featured in the article about Women in jazz By Esther Bennett
And I hardly had any money in those days! Some weeks I only had 10 quid for a week! It is really hard to believe this and most of my “new friends” at the time had no idea how poor I was. I can tell you from my todays point of view (and all of the citizens of London would agree) that the minimum to survive in London is 250-500 pounds a week. Minimum!
But here is an example of how Money doesn’t make you happy! Because in those days I was probably more happy than I have ever been before or after. Just because I was learning so much and meeting so many new people and Jazz was everything to me. Jazz was what made me happy.
I tried to look for guitar teaching and playing gigs in the very beginning, but didn’t really know how to find enough of the gigs to survive yet. I had a few jobs that wasn’t music related. The first time it was once a week in a vintage clothing shop. It lasted few weeks or up to 2 months (I don’t remember anymore), I was only working one day a week. The second attempt was a coffee place and that lasted 5 days!! I was always rubbish at doing anything other than music .( I was also rubbish at working for someone else !) So the longest I have ever worked a 9-5 job was 2 months! ( 3rd and last attempt) I got fired of course ( This time it wasn’t my fault. The company was reducing some if it’s services.) But it was perfect timing as I was already getting enough guitar students and gigs to survive and pay my rent. (Yes, I was renting by then! ) My plan to work in that company was up to 3 months anyway.
I did had a lot of fun in those years though. Even without money. And what made me happy was chasing the dream. But there comes a point in life when you start wondering about a different life, about more possibilities out there. There comes a point in life when you kind of want to “settle down” in one way or another. And I started to look for more options as the years went by. And I have found them and keep finding more new ways every few months.
My life is almost drastically different these days. I still teach guitar , a lot of them at my place in Hackney. I also find some of my students with a help from agencies/webpages like Guitar Lessons London ( I am very thankful to Matthew who runs this page for all the students webpage have provided for me 🙂 ) I play gigs sometimes many times a week ( but I am not after more gigs, as it’s better to play a good gig rather than just to play a gig for moneys sake, in my opinion). However, it is very rare to meet me at the jam ( other than the jam I run every week). And I love spending time learning all about entrepreneurship and trying a lot of those new things in my online business, and planning to start the next business as soon as the one before have succeeded or failed. But I don’t think that there is a real failure anywhere, online business can exist for many months and years even after it was marked as “a failure”. There is still a chance to succeed later. And even if it really fails, time is not waisted anyway as so many lessons are under my belt after a so called “failure”. I do believe in trying instead of waiting for perfection.
In some ways I even love failures. At least after time has passed. As they have been the biggest lessons.
But what makes me happy today?
Jazz still has the power of making me happy. But it is definitely much different than it used to be when I first arrived to London. But there is one thing that haven’t changed!
Learning new things is what makes me happy the most!
I love to travel (But not so much for gigging as in that case you don’t really get to see much of the culture and the country you are touring in. So I prefer to travel for leisure. And hoping to travel much more in the future.) And what doesn’t make me happy is routine. I easily get bored of things. So I need to constantly start new things to maintain my happiness levels.
Maybe that is why I love jazz in the first place. Jazz is never the same and is always changing. There is no other music style like it. And I still consider it as the hardest of all the music styles as you never consider yourself good enough and never ever stop learning.
That is the very same thing that excites me in entrepreneurship. There is always something new to learn ( And I am sure that I will say that even after 10-20 years of doing it! ). There is always risk involved. It is similar to learning improvisational skills in jazz. It is not guaranteed that you will earn a living fast enough to survive in both of these “games” (jazz and entrepreneurship). But in both of these games you will succeed if you will not give up!
In these days I am also spending a bit of time on my newest “gift shop experiment” . It’s something I am trying out, to learn more about online business. And it’s been a very good and much more successful “second try”.
This very webpage is also something I am kind of trying out as well. This has also not been too bad, as a few guitar students have found me here as well.
Still, these things are only my first steps. And I am very open to start new things and experiments in the near future.
And no worries, I won’t stop playing as I love doing it and I also have a plan to post some guitar licks and maybe longer teaching videos in the future too. As soon as I finally learn how to edit them properly!
Few things that entrepreneurs and jazz musicians have in common
( as much as both of them want to deny it ! )
1 – Improvisation
A business plan really is only “a guess” or a “wish list”. In business nothing ever goes exactly how it was planned. So improvisation is a big part of managing business.
2 – Building relationships is the key everywhere
Building relationships with customers or other businesses is the key for a successful business. The very same rule is working in the jazz music world. If there are 2 bassists that are both at the same musical level, but one of them is just a nicer person and/or a better friend, who will get a gig at the end? The same is for venues and people who support you. Everything is always based on people! A jazz musician is nobody without supporters and business is nothing without customers.
3 – To be noticed by “bigger fish” can help you speed up the process
Almost every single big name in the jazz world has been noticed and booked by a bigger name in the very beginning. Look at all of the guys who played in Miles Davis’ bands! The same goes for business people. In fashion it can be a celebrity wearing your brand. In the internet world you get your ratings up by being featured in a very popular webpage. Again, it is all about building relationships and the luck of being noticed.
4 – Investing time and money doesn’t guarantee success
There are thousands of good musicians out there. They have practiced 6- 8 hours daily for many many years. But most of them never succeed for real. They keep playing wedding and party gigs all of their life. And most musicians started there! Even Herbie Hancock did.
But only very few end up actually touring the world on a regular basis. And yes, they become rich too. Or better word is ‘comfortable’. ( As far as I know, no one ever decides to be a musician to become ‘rich”, but being financially comfortable is something that even musicians wouldn’t deny to desire… )
There are thousands of good business ideas out there. People are starting businesses every day. But according to Forbes 8 out of 10 businesses fail.
5 – Setting your price
“Price is made up” says Grant Cardone. You make a product and you come up with the price. The very same rule works for jazz musicians. Some agree to play for a smaller fee but some just don’t. If you are a musician recording your album and you want well known jazz musicians to play on it you will ask how much they want to get payed. They will make up their price. Or at least they have the lowest price possible on their mind that they would agree to spend their time on your project.
6 – Wanting to make some sort of change in the world
Music has a big impact on people. It can be a political tool. The biggest names in jazz history have changed rules forever. When you have authority people listen to you and look up to you. Entrepreneurship knowledge can be used to start charities ( I will talk about it later in the blog). And money and riches are changing the world every day. Sometimes for worse. But any kind of power can be used for good and for bad. Fire can heat up a cold house and also burn down a house. But you don’t call fire bad. It is just a tool.
7 – Reputation building and getting some sort of power in one way or another
Sometimes people just want to be looked up to. Being respected as a great jazz musician or being looked up to because of money. Both of these things mean “power”. It can be argued that at least a jazz musician is only playing his/her instrument and not doing any harm to the world. He/she doesn’t change the economy. However, it is not always the case.
The biggest name in jazz – Miles is the best proof that a jazz musician can also be an entrepreneur.
Why an entrepreneur is different from jazz musician?
1 – Most jazz musicians don’t do it for the money! – and this is only as a general thing! As the “reason why we do it in the first place” thing…. most jazz musicians play gigs that they don’t like only because they are payed well for them.
But generally most musicians doesn’t value money too high in general. That is why they have chosen to be musicians in the first place instead of finding a job that they hate but promises a lot of income. They just love to play music, and get enough money for it to pay their bills. In most cases they don’t care too much about getting rich. However, to really succeed in the music business you need to know business skills or at least have someone in your team who does. Big guys don’t really book their gigs themselves, they don’t deal with the organisational part of booking a gig and buying plane tickets. They don’t do any marketing or advertising themselves. But someone does! That’s why its called music business.
2- To become a successful jazz musician you need to be talented in the very beginning. To be an entrepreneur, natural talent is not needed as much. Most of the skills are possible to learn. Both of these paths do require a lot of work though. You still need talent of some sort. And maybe it’s a “never give up” talent. As most people simply don’t have this talent. I do think it is something that can be learned !!!
Why most jazz musicians dislike rich people (entrepreneurs)? And why they shouldn’t …
However, so often I hear strong opinions from jazz musicians against entrepreneurs and against wealth, and about how evil it is to do things just to make lots of money. And yes, I agree, to do something only for money reasons is not a good idea and won’t make you happy. But money is just a tool. I have seen entrepreneur types who buys 10 fancy cars and never really use all of them, buys yachts and hangs out with 10 girls who they never have met before and will never meet again just to spill champagne on them and have some fun. These things look stupid and whack to me too, I admit. However, money can make a lot of change as well, if it is used the right way.
There are many entrepreneurs who are examples of how knowing about business can change the world, help people and make the world a better place. Recently I have been checking out Pat Flynn. For the ones who have never heard of him, he is one of those passive income gurus out there. You can check his main webpage here. However, the first time I heard of him wasn’t because he earns 100’000 dollars a month from passive income. The first and second time I heard of him was because of his charity organisation Pencils of promise. It is an organisation that works on raising money to build schools in Africa. I never even knew about his passive income business in the beginning. That is probably one of the reasons I got hooked on his personality ( and his podcast and blog). Other things I like about this guy are that he plays a bit of trumpet, doesn’t care about fancy cars and luxury, lives in a modest house and takes care of his wife and kids. He escapes “pay for hours” life, wants to make some kind of change in the world and builds financial stability for his family.
And I am trying to learn as much as I can about entrepreneurship to be able to build financial stability ( without doing 9-5 job ever again) for the future and be some kind of help to society.
Here was just a few of my thoughts and some of my experience. If you like or dislike this post, please comment and tell me what you think. I will try to write more often and maybe post some guitar related posts soon, as well as updates about jam or other gigs. Subscribe if you are interested. Thank you for reading 🙂
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An excellent post. Well thought-out and very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.
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Thank you Michael for kind words. This is my longest post ever. So good words are very appreciated. I m just checking your page out. Some cool photos you have there. I love taking photos too and cycling. And your blog inspires me to post some photo blogs too 🙂
Thanks for writing your blog. I enjoy reading every bits of it and share it on my fb. It is insightful and inspires me. I also share the same view as entrepreneur and money do not have any good or bad value. But they depend on how the people run it and what people use it for. And another common thing between the entrepreneur and musician they need lots of creativity ‘juice’ and you are more likely succeed by being yourself or being your own brand. I do not think copying other people’s ideas will work in the long run in both music and entrepreneurship, although you can learn and model those ones that have made it. But you can only afford to do their approach with your unique flavour. Look forward to read more your blog. Hugs. Agus
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Thank you Agus for your nice comment. Comments like this makes me want to write more. I started another one but sometimes don’t have enough time to finish fast.. Plus there are always more ideas and things to do… but it’s all about managing time better and setting priorities . And Yes, good point about creativity juices 🙂