In The 21st Century, To Be A Musician Is To Be An Entrepreneur (Forbes Article)

A quick “pre-read” word:

Here’s an article I found on The article uses an example (Kolar) to show us a bit about looking at music as a business. One statement from the article I personally disagree with is:

“At this point, don’t bother being a band if you aren’t willing to tour, and by tour I mean minimum 50% of the year,” says Kolar.

It’s great that it’s worked for Kolar, and it’s good advice but it’s not the only way. The point is this:

Nobody can define your music business but you. Being a music entrepreneur is about creating situations where you can use music to succeed. It’s about growing and diversifying what you do.

I’m glad to see articles using the term “Music Entrepreneur”. We are a very entrepreneurial generation and this extends to the arts. It’s not enough to call yourself a musician. Even if all you want to do is play music, you could be:

  1. Touring
  2. Selling your music and merch
  3. Start a Patreon account
  4. Etc. etc. etc.

There’s SO MUCH you can be doing with music. By thinking: “I’m an Entrepreneur” you can unlock more of your potential (which is the whole point of the TME Website!). Up next, the article:


In The 21st Century, To Be A Musician Is To Be An Entrepreneur

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Technology has been a great enabler of entrepreneurship across many industry sectors; one of the latest to feel its disruptive impact is the music industry.

Where previously an artist would have to find a record label in order to gain access to the market, today, with the help of digital technology, business savvy musical creatives all over the world are doing it for themselves.

Paul Pacifico, CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM), says: “Artists today are pretty much by definition music entrepreneurs and owner-operated companies, building their businesses and their brands. For them, technology has been the principle driver, reducing the barriers to entry in terms of lower costs and the democratisation of industry supply chain resources, such as production equipment and support services.”

What many music entrepreneurs don’t have is access to funding, and in fact the under capitalisation of music companies is evident at almost every level of the industry, but that could be also be about to change.

“The reality for any startup, in any sector, is working smart, boxing clever, and making best use of available resources,” says Pacifico. “What’s encouraging is that in Europe we are seeing the green shoots of an independent capital market in the music industry, with strong interest from one or two of the larger European investment funds whose expertise is in IP investment. They haven’t historically done music, but want to start that conversation of ‘what if?’”

Until then, music entrepreneurs are boxing clever and seeing results, KOLARS, a California-based band comprising husband and wife team Rob Kolar who writes, sings and produces the material – music spanning multiple genres – and Lauren Brown, the band’s tap dancing drummer.

Having spent his teenage years begging space from the local authorities for weekend gigs in exchange for a small cut, making flyers to pass round school and getting a friend to collect five dollars at the door, Kolar was well seasoned in the DIY approach.

“What we’re doing now holds many of the same principles but on a larger scale,” he says. “Basically, don’t wait for anyone to show up with the carriage, take the reins and drive it yourself.”

Several years – and bands – a few failures and some successes later, the pair launched their current project, KOLARS. They needed capital to build their band into a successful business model, but did not want to be at the mercy of a record label, music publisher or outside investor. In 2014, their decision to bootstrap received an unexpected boost in the shape of an unsolicited email from Hollywood producer Steve Pink asking Rob to score a new TV pilot.

“Lauren thought it was too good to be true and asked me if it was spam,” he recalls. “I said ‘Well I’m glad you have that much faith in me’, but it was real and after jumping through a few hoops, TBS picked up the show, ‘The Detour’, which became a big success for the network and one of the top cable comedies on TV.”

The income the work generated provided a financial catalyst for the Kolars’ plans. “A band needs tour support, a producer, a mixer, they need to press records, produce merchandise, advertise, buy instruments; it is very expensive,” says Brown. “We decided to build the business from the ground up and use our own income to make it happen. We became our own investors, while our growing fan base becomes our emerging investors, as we put the money they spend on us back into the growth of the business.”

Kolar has also invested in crypto currency, in his view, the future of money. He says: “I believe that one day it will be used by the whole world as a means of transaction, and bands and artists who invest in the right coins now will have the ability to fund their art as the market grows.”

Success in the music business is predicated on the relationship between artists and their fans. While the digital space provides multiple ways for music entrepreneurs to promote themselves to a highly engaged fan base, the key to building that engagement is touring.

“At this point, don’t bother being a band if you aren’t willing to tour, and by tour I mean minimum 50% of the year,” says Kolar. “It’s the most authentic way to connect with fans, make new ones, and share an experience that can be fun, profound and meaningful.”


Succeeding as a music entrepreneur requires creative talent and commercial awareness, and for many, developing the business acumen is a steep learning curve.

“You make a lot of mistakes,” says Kolar. “We still have merchandise sitting in our garage from previous projects that didn’t last. But I’ve shifted my perspective, and where I used to see those things as signs of failure, I now see them as signs of progress and a reminder of how far we’ve come.”

As technology continues to turn industry tradition on its head and create new pathways to market for a new generation of music entrepreneurs, Paul Pacifico is upbeat about the future. He says: “We are moving away from old world, top down, supply side economics, and music entrepreneurs in the 21st century are using technology to work much more dynamically and creatively than artists in the previous century were ever able to do.”

Follow Alison on Twitter @alisonbcoleman and

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