Over the past 20 years, I have had the great fortune of being able to perform and create music professionally for a living. During those 20 years, I have had to figure out how to explain to my friends, family and parents of the girls I would date that I could, in fact, make a living being a musician. Some of these conversations (some easier than others) bring to point that many people see the creative arts as a hobby or an unsustainable business model (unless you have won “American Idol”).
This reality is true. Being a self-employed “artist” is difficult. The competition is steep. It’s also an immediate induction into entrepreneurship and running your own business. From the development of the product, marketing, sales and final presentation of the product, an artist’s talent and ability are their consumable goods. Every day professional musicians wake up and practice to improve the product, we research what others are doing to maintain a constant pulse on the market, we reach out to prospective venues and outlets to showcase and sell the product, and we put it on display for people to provide immediate feedback and judge its success or lack thereof. This entire business model is one of complete responsibility for all aspects of running a business and a direct connection to the success of the final product.
Think about your career path and how you might change your approach to what you do if you were responsible for all the aspects of the business. Imagine yourself coding a piece of software that will operate a product you will present in front of a room of 2,000 people with the hopes that a majority of those people will buy the product from you. Then imagine that your ability to continue to work and make a living is based upon the sales outcome of that product! This may seem like a stressful scenario, but it is essentially what I do every time I walk on stage with my band and perform anywhere in the world.
Connect yourself with the work you do in a way that brings not only responsibility, but also pride and accomplishment to the end product. I call this process “the personal connection,” and I find it is one of the driving factors behind what I do and some of the most successful artists, entrepreneurs and business leaders.[hr]
Vibraphonist and pianist Christian Tamburr is the 2014 Florida Tech Music Artist in Residence. Tamburr’s residency was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Barb Keller and Jean Burgdorff. As part of his residency with the School of Arts and Communication, Tamburr teaches master classes and workshops with FIT music students, presents outreach performances to local public schools and holds concerts at Gleason Performing Arts Center. Beyond Florida Tech, Tamburr tours internationally and for the past year has held the musical directorship at Vegas Nocturne in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. Later this year, he will travel to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar as an ambassador and featured performer for New York City-based Jazz at Lincoln Center.