On Labor day 1995, an Iranian-American named Pierre Omidyar tried auctioning off some stuff on his personal website that he no longer wanted.

He wasn't sure if he could drum up any business through this relatively new phenomenon called the World Wide Web, but it seemed worth trying. Among the items he posted was a used laser printer. He listed this worn printer for $1 but eventually prospective buyers bid up its price to $14.83.

That got his attention, so he proceeded to sell the unwanted stuff of other people. Interest in his site quickly grew and so did his revenue, and Pierre's initially modest venture is now worth 41 billion dollars. It's called EBay.

The world needed EBay, it just didn't know it until Pierre came up with the idea.

Let's talk about entrepreneurship.

It's a French word that means "to grab" or "to take control". We usually think of entrepreneurialism as creating a new business like EBay, but anyone with a good idea and fortitude fueled by passion can start a  business with a chance of success and take better control of their income.

Genius kid

With the ravages of the pandemic having taken its financial toll on musicians everywhere, this might be a good time to consider additional ways to make money outside of performing and recording.

And starting a business in 2021 doesn't necessarily need to be some formal ceremony and the spending of lots of money. It starts with an idea.

More precisely, it starts with an idea that a large enough audience thinks is good–so good that they'll put down their hard-earned money to pay you for it.

When was the last time you thought to yourself, "There should be a better way to do this..." or "I could provide that better" or Why hasn't anyone come up with this?"

In fact, ideas are the easy part. The real skill of an entrepreneur is the ability to take action on the idea and bring it to fruition. You'll need the determination to believe in your idea through the slow start and the naysayers, but after all, the difficulty is why more people don't start a business or even a side hustle.

Last year, 4.4 million new companies were started. That's a 27 percent increase from 2019 and the biggest increase of the past decade by a mile.

New business starts graph

 

The mandated lockdowns throughout this pandemic have forced a lot of businesses to close, and some of those owners started new ventures. Lots of employees have been let go throughout 2020 and many have decided now's the time to get serious about their big idea.

What is your big idea? Do you have some spare time to invest in seeing if it will fly?

As you think about those answers, here are some important conditions for starting your money-making venture:

  1. You have an expertise, and better yet, a passion for something.
  2. You solve a problem for a large enough audience willing to buy your solution.
  3. You can describe the benefit you provide and the problem you solve in just one short sentence.
  4. You can afford the time and start-up costs.
  5. You'll enjoy building.

Look back at Pierre starting EBay.

Pierre was a computer programmer, so he had the expertise. The problem he solved was helping people sell off their unwanted stuff. His short description could have been, "I'll help you sell stuff you no longer want to a very large marketplace at the highest possible price." He obviously had the startup costs and probably had a blast building it.

Ever heard of Derek Sivers?

Like Pierre's modest personal beginning, Derek started by selling his CD online. After some success with that, he started selling those of his friends. That grew into CD Baby.

Derek was both a musician (having attended Berklee College) and a programmer so he obviously had the necessary skills. The problem he solved was the absence of a way to distribute and sell CD's other than getting a record label deal and putting the CD in brick-and-mortar stores (i.e. Tower Records). His benefit was offering musicians a way to take control of their own music distribution.

Consider one of our favorite musical entrepreneurs, Jamey Aebersold.

He was a jazz musician and therefore, had the knowledge. The problem he solved was the need jazz musicians had to practice improvisation when they didn't have a live rhythm section with which to play. The benefit was something like, a fun tool allowing anyone to play along with recordings of world-class jazz musicians. Jamey had the startup costs and has more enthusiasm for play-alongs and jazz pedagogy than anyone on earth!

Let me add my own entrepreneurial venture to this mix: Music Savvy.

I'm a jazz musician, or at that's at least what I've convinced myself of! The problem I'm solving is the feeling musicians have of inadequacy and a lack of confidence in their jazz playing and improvisation. My benefit statement is: Tools for Finding the Music inside you. I had saved for the startup costs and I'm having a blast!

If you have an itch to solve a problem for a portion of the population, this could be the best time ever. The world is shifting and is emerging from the virus as a very different place. We will have new problems and needs, the solutions to which haven't yet been considered. These problems could be opportunities for you.

The result could blossom into an enterprise as big a corporation as EBay or evolve as simply the means to provide you with extra cash to make your life more comfortable. That's called a lifestyle business.

Regardless, if you have the entrepreneurial itch, I wish you all the best in scratching it!

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Cameron Skerrow on March 31, 2021 at 9:41 am

    I’ve thought of doing a book of transcriptions of solo performances of standards from 1956 to the present day (I’m a guitarist by trade so would be with that in mind!). I

    Obviously know that simply buying a book full of transcriptions is nowhere near a substitute for actually working out the music yourself, but I think I would do it with a view to saying ‘here are some of the concepts in this interpretation – try incorporating it into your own playing’ etc

    Also I could add a little history of the tune and recording itself – any takers…? 😉

    • Michael Lake on March 31, 2021 at 10:19 am

      Cameron, I think the question for you to answer is, what would be the practical and unique aspect of this transcription book? How would it help people and do so in a manner that is different from other transcription books? Now, of course, this assumes that you are doing this to sell rather than as a fun project. Nothing wrong with fun projects, but if you wish to attract a buying audience, my questions are important for you to answer. Make sense?

      • Cameron Skerrow on April 1, 2021 at 1:53 am

        Thank you for the response Michael! Yes of course, I understand. I guess the ‘unique’ aspect would be looking at all of these standards but with the ‘input’ of over a dozen different guitarists, each with their own individual style (as opposed to being an ‘Omnibook’ dedicated purely to the solos of one artists for example) and I could offer additional information that is not usually included (the history of the tune, the recording etc.). Thanks for all of your work so far!

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