Think as a businessman even though you are an artist!

The challenge with artists is their artistry is usually the first and prioritized aspect and then the financial aspects come after the artistry. I am a victim of this syndrome myself and after looking back at how i started i have decided to pen this advice to help those coming after me not to make the same mistakes that i did. I wish i could have had someone tell me exactly what i am telling you now.

So as an artist when you pen that song, create that painting, start your dancing journey or whatever art from you are involved in the first and foremost thing on your mind is just how to get your art form out. When i started writing songs i just now had this strong desire to release albums. I was writing songs right so the next thing was i had to go into studio. I linked up with a friend who has become my main producer and we set out to record an album. He told me his costs and i paid a deposit and we were officially on the journey to do the album.

The first mistake i made was i did not think as a business person, worse still because i was saying this was ministry to God thinking in business terms was one of the last things i did. I only started thinking business after we had finished the album and i was now thinking of how i would sell it.

Business works with strategy, a lot of planning and budgeting is done way before a business is started because the aim of business is to make profit. If there is no profit then there is no reason to even venture into the business. This is where we fail usually as artists. Our aim is to let the art be known, the financial side becomes a subsidiary of the greater goal of letting your art out. Also businesses look at things like competitors, suppliers and many other things.

That is another mistake i made. When i did my first album i did not realize that the denomination i was a part of at the time saw my move as a threat, as me trying to compete with them. I know this is shocking but don’t be fooled even in the gospel industry things are not what they seem. From the fact that i used what they termed their people who were not even on their payroll and who i had to pay anyway. I find the gospel industry is so worse because people do not come out into the open about these issues. In one meeting of the many meetings i had i was told that if you are working for Coca Cola you cannot be making your own drinks. If i had thought in a business manner i think i would have handled things differently because clearly the church was already in business mode and ignorant little me was thinking because this was a God thing it would just fly and be OK with those i interacted with. For Gospel musicians the church is your market and your main vehicle to move your music. There is a lot of sabotage and things that happen with churches but this post is not about that. The focus of this post is to help you think like a business man so you can make money.

Now for the worship ministry this is one of the hardest things. Your aim in this is to worship God, its not about making money or making sales and yet ( especially if you are a full time musician ) you have to get the money from the labor of your hands. Its such a confusing terrain to maneuver in. So much easier for secular music business.

As you set out in your artistic career consider the following things:

  1. Research. Take some time to study the environment. Take time to assess your competition and also learn from those who have gone before you. How did they apply themselves in the industry? On this research aspect its very important. One time i had a discussion with some students who wanted to venture into the gospel music business. They gave me some examples of an artist that they thought was doing very well and making money. I was quick to point out to them that this artist was rich to begin with, is not a full time musician  and uses their money and influence to push their music which then eventually gets them fame and the money. I also told them that the person might not even be making money but just breaking even. So to achieve their level of success one would need intensive capital. On research also take time to evaluate yourself: What skills do you have? What will differentiate you from every other artist already in the market? After completing your research take time to write a business plan.
  2. Capital. Any business person will tell you that capital is a major part of any business. How will you finance your art? How much money are you putting into the business? Are you gonna also get others to invest in the business? Many times artist we just rush to the studio while we have little to no money and then we realize while we are deep into the thing that we were ill equipped financially for the task at hand.
  3. Marketing. When i started recording my first album i did not have a marketing plan. What was just important was lets get this thing out. It was only when i had the product that i then learnt i had to market. Prior to the album i had created a Facebook page and yes i was talking about the upcoming project but that is not really proper marketing. If you are to be a successful artist you need a solid marketing strategy.
  4. Create and build a team. From the onset start identifying people who can help you achieve your vision. You need a team to help you go the extra mile. One can chase a thousand and two ten thousand meaning three get to hundred thousand. Identify the right people. The wrong people can prematurely destroy your dream. In doing your team you need to plan on remuneration issues.