Years ago, as a freshman at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I attended a lecture given by Felix Cavaliere formerly of “The Rascals”. Felix delivered an interesting talk detailing his career in the music business, and conveyed anecdotes that one would expect from a member of one of the more popular rock groups of the late sixties.
Eventually, the lecture changed to a Q & A session, and the ubiquitous, albeit unimaginative “what advice do you have for a musician who is just starting out?” question was asked by one my fellow students.
Without hesitation, Felix answered that all attending this lecture were music students, and as such, he felt we were all poor business people. Felix pointed out that in the greater Boston area, there were numerous colleges and universities full of business majors, and he suggested that as musicians, we should go and make friends of the business types, so that we could rely on them later when business decisions affecting our careers would have to be made.
Frankly, I disagree with Mr. Cavaliere a bit, in that I don’t feel that being a musician automatically disqualifies someone as a savvy business person. My disagreement, however, misses what I believe to be the more important point. While it may sound very obvious, creative businesses are best served when creative people spend their time being creative. The time and energy spent by creative people on activities in which they do not specialize contributes to the ineffectiveness of the business, regardless of how much business savvy they have.
The analogy I like to give is that of a law firm in which the senior partner also happens to be the fastest typist. Just because an attorney happens to be the fastest typist in his or her firm does not mean that the business will benefit from that person doing all of the firm’s typing. To the contrary, the firm will best benefit from the attorney acting as an attorney, and having typists without law degrees do the firm’s typing.
Although he may have done so with what I feel to be an incorrect assumption that musicians are all bad business people, what Felix Cavaliere ended up expressing was that creative businesses are more productive when they utilize their greatest asset (the creative individual) as much as possible in their area of expertise.
Craig Chamberlain is an experienced business professional and entrepreneur, having founded and operated many successful companies related to the arts and entertainment technology. Craig is a Berklee College of Music alumnus (class of ’91), graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Music Production & Engineering. Craig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.orpheumconsulting.com.