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Musicians and Entrepreneurs

On November 22nd covering ,

I have noticed that musicians and entrepreneurs have a great deal in common psychologically. They have to believe in their eventual success, against all odds and sometimes contrary to all evidence. To become demoralized (for long, anyway) is to succumb to failure. They talk in very similar terms, and I think they are driven by the same sorts of angels and demons. They will often tell me about the excitement of creating something new — of going contrary to trends, of seeing things that other people don’t see and making new connections.

They need a strange sort of filter. They need to turn a deaf ear to people who tell them they are headed in the wrong direction, when this advice comes from someone who is too limited by conventional wisdom. They cannot be afraid to fail. But they also need to be hard-headed and realistic, willing to cut their losses and let something die when it really has failed, to clear the decks and go on to the next thing.

They need to march to a different drummer — in some cases, a whole different rhythm section — but they also have a deep need for affirmation that can make them painfully insecure, and afraid when they do get success and applause that it’s really all b.s., that they have fooled everybody.

Musicians and entrepreneurs also need to create teams to support what they are creating. This can be a major stumbling block because innovators don’t always come with the best people skills. They often don’t suffer fools gladly — they might be impatient with people who do not see things as quickly as they do. They can wind up spending all of their energy running the team which takes away from doing what they do best — innovating and creating.

There are interesting parallels between record companies and venture capitalists. Both allow ventures to move forward by providing capital, credibility, and infrastructure. Both have to possibiloity of also destroying ventures. The famous essay by Steve Albini on the structure of traditional record deals is here. I wonder if anyone has written a similar critique of venture capital deals from the point of view of the entrepreneur.

I think musicians and entrepreneurs have a great deal to learn from one another. There’s more to be said about this. But it’s Thanksgiving ….

2 Responses

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Jeffrey Weisner

Nov 27 at 15:13


Thanks for your blog and this fantastic post! I found you through Jason Heath and have just posted about you at our blog PBDB. I’m a classical musician and teacher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and look forward to reading more!

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