I called this article “lack of basic business sense for artists” after a few recent discussions about this matter as well as a FB thread. Just to be clear I am NOT talking about major business acumen, just what I would class as basic common sense that is all too often not that common.

Responding to requests for services, basic politeness…

A friend of mine recently tried to hire a music tutor. He wanted to engage somebody on a long-term basis and quite happy to pay above the standard rate for help. He contacted his first choice by phone and e-mail, but never heard anything back.  he second one stated that during the holiday period he would not respond to e-mails. This is fair enough in my view, but I do question extending “the holiday period” to a full three and a half weeks. Finally, he made phone contact and an appointment was arranged. He suggested doing the first session at half price and my friend suggested making it full price and taking it from there.
On the day of the first lesson the tutor decided he was too busy to take on another student and sent an e-mail as well as a lengthy phone message detailing his change of heart. Of course, this decision is 100% his right to make. That said if he had engaged in conversation he would have found out two key considerations that may have swayed his decision. The first was that my friend would have been happy to wait and the second is that this would have been a long-term engagement and created a reliable predictable income stream for the tutor. It’s completely his right to decide how much work he takes on, but I can’t help but think this could have been a missed opportunity and at least one worthy of greater discussion. He also created to poor impression for the potential student.

Do you really want to say that on social media?

Social media is a powerful medium for communication and there are over a billion people on FB alone. When used well it can be an invaluable platform for connecting with a wide range of people. The Original Ukulele Songs Project started on FB and in just over a year attracted almost 2500 members many of who post new original songs on a weekly basis. It also fueled the creation of www.originalukulelesongs.com which is an international platform for original artists, many of whom have their own pages. I have made sure that the message on FB is clear and concise. The page is for original songs, not cover versions and not adverts. Characters who spam the site have both themselves and their posts deleted as spamming the site is not only rude but poor business strategy.
If you are a professional artist its always useful to be mindful of what you post online and the impressions that are created. Sometimes posts are well intentioned but not especially well informed. When an artist posts “Anyone know of any part time jobs as I’m financially struggling?” may well be truthful, but does not perhaps create the best impression. Late night rants and abusive comments about others views also don’t perhaps enhance professional reputations. I’m a fan of provocative debate and discussion as such debates often afford us all the opportunity to reflect on our own views. As the famous line in one of my bands songs goes “Not one of us is smarter than ALL of us”

The need for attention to quality

I remain mystified at a lot of the quality of a lot of video that is posted online. Yes, I appreciate that everyone has different equipment and budgets, BUT some basic attention to detail is always helpful. When advertising a new song, it’s smart to ensure the audio is of a good quality and avoid bathing everything in massive amounts of reverb. I recently watched some show reels from artists that were mind-blowingly bad.  Yes, I appreciate the enthusiasm but just a little more attention to details at no greater cost would have produced a very different end result. Once again, we all have the potential for improvement, but this requires investments of time and money. Often time is the key consideration, which brings me to my final point.


The “I don’t have time” excuse and the real value of worthwhile trades

There is a big difference between a hobbyist and a professional artist. A professional artist earns their living from the work that they do and their business sense (or lack of it) will impact directly on their livelihood. A hobbyist has other means of financial support. Each is fine of course, but quite distinctive. I’m not a professional musician or a professional journalist. My income comes from my other work as a communications trainer and consultant.
Building any kind of reputation requires investments in time and money as well as ongoing skill development. Many artists don’t have the stamina, awareness or inclination to do this. Often enthusiasm trumps actual basic business sense and individuals can find themselves in trouble, both financially and creatively. In these tougher economic times, I advise all individuals to consider the value of predictable income. Last year I heard about a folk duo that seemed to be doing a lot of local gigs and then simply disappeared. I spoke to a colleague about this and they replied “Yes person X, got fed up of just playing unpaid gigs and they decided to take a break from music”
The whole question of being paid for work is the subject for a whole different blog, but in my view any worthwhile transaction should always result in a trade that is useful for both parties. To the right is a helpful guide to consider with this age old dilemma!
The trade may not always be a financial one of course, BUT unless they have independent wealth, most artists still need to pay the bills each month. With the recent Brexit shenanigans, it’s highly likely in my view that there are tougher financial times ahead for UK folks. I hope I am wrong, but I am somewhat relieved that I have already invested in musical instruments and equipment, a lot of which would now cost 30% more than previously.


The point of this article is to highlight the benefits of paying attention and developing good fundamental business skills. None of us know everything and we all inevitably make mistakes, but the key is not to make the same mistake over and over. The smart folks consider the long term and appreciate that it takes time, energy, investment and attention to detail to make any worthwhile venture a success. Some folks only want to put in minimum effort, which is of course their absolute right, but as they say in Hollywood “It takes ten years to become an overnight success”
Lack of basic business sense for music artists?

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