Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Three things I’ve learned from the music business

My first adventure in full-time self-employment came when I got fired from a regular job duplicating audio cassettes. Do you remember those? That was in the days when the CD’s were just beginning to take off.

I came home and told my wife that I’d been fired. She said something that changed my life forever. She said, “Well, honey, I think it’s time you tried to do your music.”

At the time, I wouldn’t have imagined those words being actually spoken by my wife, but she did. And we began the adventure. First of all, doing studio work, then live sound mixing. The business grew, and somehow, we managed to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.

As it was going along, I learned three things, which I wrote as: Hansen’s Three Laws of Survival in the Music Business. They are:

1. The more you can do, the more you can get paid to do
2. If someone offers you money, take it
3. Do what you can with what you have

It turns out that they are the same for any self-employment situation. They could be called the Three Laws of Entrepreneurship. Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. The more you can do, the more you can get paid to do.

I started out many years before by learning how to play instruments and how to write songs. As I began to learn how to work in a studio, I also learned how to arrange and produce songs. I learned how to mix bands in live venues. The point is that the more I learned, the more opportunities I had to make money within the music world.

This isn’t the same as diversifying. I was still making music. I wasn’t doing music and car washing. But I was learning more and more, constantly learning about things that would make me a better musician.

In any business, the more you can offer a customer, within your focus, the more opportunities you have to make a sale. Stretch too far out of your focus, however, and you’ll end up stretched thin and unable to serve well.

2. If someone offers you money, take it

This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Yet time after time I saw musicians let their attitudes get in the way of accepting money. And then they’d complain because they couldn’t make a living at it!

When I was growing up, I hated country music. Couldn’t stand it. The thought of even being remotely connected with anything country turned my innards. But then, thankfully, I learned that’s not a healthy attitude. One day, after recording a blues session, I was offered a steady gig, three nights a week, as the house sound engineer for a country/western dance club. Without even thinking about it, I accepted. For several years, I was there making the bands sound great, making contacts, and, of course, making money.

The lesson here is to not let your personal quirks get in the way of serving a potential customer.

3. Do what you can with what you have

There have been many times in my life where I’ve caught myself in “mope mode”. This is where I trap myself in a dark cloud of wishful thinking. I can tell when I’m in those kinds of moods because I’ll hear myself saying lots of things like, “If only I had…” or “I wish I could do…”

Usually, I get stopped in my tracks in music when I convince myself that without this or that particular piece of equipment, or without this or that opportunity, I can’t move on. I can’t go anywhere.

One of my mentors taught me this rule, and I can always count on it to raise me out of the funks. Instead of pining for something, I say, “What can I do right now to move forward?” And then I do it.

I’ve got, right now, in my basement studio, far more recording capability (at least as far as the technology goes) than the Beatles did when they recorded the masterpiece Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. What right do I have to mope? Above my keyboards in that studio hangs the adage, “Gripe Less, Do More.”

I’ll admit that I don’t always live by these three rules like I should myself. But when I do, my business and my musical life moves forward. When I don’t, it grinds to a crawl.

No comments:

Post a Comment