David Andrew Wiebe – You Get What You Work For!
David Andrew Wiebe is a multi-talented guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. Having recorded his first solo album in 2006, he has since contributed his talents to the likes of Andrew Riches, Jonathan Ferguson and The Active Light. He began a journey of personal development in 2007 and hasn’t looked back. He engages in books and audio on a daily basis. Wiebe believes in working daily towards the achievement of his own dreams and goals, and his purpose is to enable and encourage others to do the same. As Zig Ziglar has often said, if you can help enough people get what they want, you can have what you want.
Hello, David! Tell us how you came to create the Music Entrepreneur HQ? It’s a novel idea with a niche, but an important angle that not many experts have tackled yet!
There are some other fantastic experts in the niche now, such as Tommy Darker. But when I was first getting started, I didn’t notice anyone else covering this material (although there could have been).
The reason I started The Music Entrepreneur HQ is because I was learning a great deal about business back in 2011. I had just joined two different network marketing companies and even invested in a music industry tech startup around that time.
As I delved into the material I was presented with – mostly books. audio programs, seminars, and events – I came to recognize how applicable business principles were to a music career. At that point, I had already been building a career as an independent musician for over 10 years, but I’d never heard people talking about any of this – long-term thinking, steps to legitimizing your business, managing your finances, treating your career like a business, reinvesting into your business, and so on.
That’s when I began exploring these topics on my blog and podcast. At the time, it wasn’t called The Music Entrepreneur HQ just yet, but that’s what it eventually evolved into.
What is the modern musician’s biggest struggle in the online era, according to you?
I’ve seen many artists struggle with just the basics – music distribution, copyright, booking shows, and so on. These problems are easily solved, and I’ve even created resources connected to these topics.
I think what’s most difficult remains mostly the same: Building a fan base, getting a record contract (if you want one), earning performance opportunities at well-known music venues, getting a foot in the door with industry people, and so on. The added complexity comes from the online element – building a social media following, maintaining a website, getting people onto your email list, blogging, getting onto popular playlists, creating video content, etc.
Also, music sales are mostly a thing of a past, at least in North America. The listening audience has mostly moved over to streaming, and although it does offer a bit of income to artists, it’s relatively unsubstantial. As an artist, you must make up this difference in other ways, which isn’t exactly easy because touring isn’t always as profitable as people like to think.
What is the most dreadful mistake a band or musician can make while managing their finances?
I don’t know that there’s just one. I would say the following mistakes are quite pervasive and problematic:
Going into debt. This is a major risk and should not be taken lightly. In some exceptional situations, it can pan out, but most of the time it’s a decision you’ll regret making. As much as possible, you should stick to the resources available to you and only spend what you have. This takes self-discipline.
Not saving. You can pay yourself out of your merch and gig money if you want to, but it shouldn’t be the whole piece of the pie. Saving allows you to invest back into your career – new releases, merch, marketing, and so on. Some artists wonder how their peers can remain so prolific and continually publish and market new releases. It’s often because they have a defined plan for their finances.
Not reinvesting. Many artists will take a windfall and buy a new guitar. By all means, buy better gear if a) you absolutely need to, or b) you think it will help you advance your career. But not reinvesting into your career is a serious mistake, unless you’re happy with where you’re at. If you believe in what you do and want to grow, take a portion of your income and put it towards advertising, posters, banners, merchandise, and so on.
What are some illusions about success that modern musicians must absolutely bang out of their heads if they don’t want to end up sad and disappointed?
Nothing works 100% of the time, especially if it’s not applied with due diligence. Anyone guaranteeing you success is probably a snake oil salesperson. There isn’t always logic to success in the music industry.
There’s a lot of great advice and content out there, and I’m a proponent of that, but I’m just sharing my ideas and experiences in hopes that musicians and music entrepreneurs can make changes – big or small – that help them take their career to the next level. I’m not deluded in thinking that my ideas are right for everyone.
Additionally, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, you get what you work for. You must earn it! If it’s to be, it’s up to you!
Most musicians don’t immediately get the entrepreneurial aspect of their craft, because it’s not as intuitive as, you know, having to practise an instrument to become good at it! Can you explain how every musician plays part in the global hustle that is modern entrepreneurship? Is a rock band essentially the same thing as a Silicon Valley startup?
A creative entrepreneur and a Silicon Valley startup are typically two different beasts. Creative entrepreneurs are looking for opportunities to expose, share, and sell their creative works to the world, in a creative way. A startup is usually looking to validate a market, create a strategy, raise funds for their project, and get their product or service in front of more people, more or less in that order.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to get started as a creative entrepreneur, though you won’t have the skills and experience to pull it off at first. You don’t have to court investors to raise funds. And, as evidenced by many successful acts (Joe Satriani, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Charlie Hunter, etc.), you also don’t need to validate a market first (though it’s usually a good idea). You can create one if you have the dedication, patience, and perseverance to stick with the process.
Overall, however, a serious musician often needs the complete package to build their way towards their own version of success – a website and blog, a social media presence, a regularly updated YouTube channel, an electronic press kit, radio airplay, a series of upcoming live shows, an email list, the works! And, what would you call that if not entrepreneurship?
Besides entrepreneurial thinking, what non-musical skills do modern musicians need to survive as they are, instead of being compelled to drop the instrument and get a “proper job”?
Communication and people skills. This is so vital. I still see many musicians sending out unsolicited press releases to try to get more exposure for their music. These types of emails are rarely addressed to someone specific, and nor do they contain a relevant, personal message. I get these emails semi-regularly. So, what do you want me to do with the press release?
Look, you don’t need to get to know everyone under the sun to be a success. But please acquire some basic networking and people skills. See things from the perspective of others. Add value to people. Treat everyone with respect. Be willing to smile, shake hands, and say “hi” when you’re out and about. Nothing will advance your career faster than solid people skills!
By the way, if people are hovering around you after a show, it’s probably because they want to talk to you but may not be sure how to break the ice. Extend a hand to them.
Please share a success story where you helped a musician and ended up particularly proud and satisfied with the outcome!
There was a musician that wanted to free up more of his time to work from home so he didn’t have to go to a day job. He said he wanted to get into freelance writing, and that’s something I do quite a bit of myself (I’m a staff writer for Music Industry How To). I shared some tips with him, as well as many of my contacts, and lo and behold, he started writing for a variety of publications and even got some articles in magazines. Someone driven can easily achieve the same results to get in control of their finances and schedule to spend more time on their music.
Musicians underestimate the value of freelance work in this economy. If you have skills outside of music, there’s a way to make good money in less time it would take you to in a draining minimum wage day job.
Is it realistic to think that musicians can be simultaneously artists and business-people while being equally effective at both?
This is something many people have asked me.
I think it is certainly possible to be both music and business focused, as evidenced by individuals like Derek Sivers, Jack Conte, or Steve Taylor, but for argument’s sake, I will say these people are the exception and not the rule.
Part of being an entrepreneur is being resourceful. Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Company says he surrounds himself with people who are smarter than him to handle the details he doesn’t know anything about. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t do that, and when I first heard that, it made a lot of sense to me.
Aside from that, if you only develop one skill outside of music, work on your problem-solving skills (and your people skills, of course). I watch how people make decisions, and I find that many cannot see the forest for the trees. They get locked into a certain way of thinking and are blind to possible alternatives. I also see people that say they want one thing but spend most of their time doing another. I’m never confused though because I downplay what people say and pay more attention to what they do. Bottom line – if you’re good at problem-solving, you will always find a way and end up helping a lot of people in the process, which is the basis of entrepreneurship!
We think there’s a lack of places on the web where people can meet other musicians, connect, work on projects together and create music online? Do you think Drooble can fill this gap?
There are many social networks and online communities for musicians, but few that are worthwhile and make it easy for people to connect.
I believe there is a place for a social network like Drooble. In the end, however, it’s all about the value proposition. What can you offer that’s unique? What can musicians get at Drooble that they can’t get elsewhere?
But I like your focus overall. You’ve giving musicians a way to connect with each other, develop their skills, get their music heard, get their questions answered, and build an online presence for themselves. These are the points you need to hit in your marketing and ensure musicians understand the value of each as they find and explore what you can offer.
I’ve been poking around on your site a bit, and I will say I’m impressed by what I see. It works a lot like Facebook, which makes it both familiar and intuitive to use. Several people have also been quite friendly and have taken the time to engage me and introduce themselves. Good stuff!
Do you think it’s still worth it to pursue a college degree in music, given the cost of tuition and abundance of knowledge online?
School is a major point of contention for me. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t think there were some major deficiencies in the music programs available.
School is fantastic for people who want to learn music theory and composition, need a predictable structure and routine to their lives, want to make industry connections, and take their craft to the next level. In fact, I would focus more on the people than the other parts myself, because those relationships could turn into serious opportunities down the line. You don’t want your tuition money to go to waste!
But college degrees are problematic for a number reasons – they’re expensive, they take too much time to get (you can get one quicker if you’re willing to work hard and negotiate), and people tend to go for the “college experience” as much as they do for the study and networking aspect of things. I’m not saying that’s wrong, it just means you aren’t totally focused on the goal of getting the degree, and you’re spending a lot of money on that “experience” in the meantime. I’m pretty sure you can find better ways to entertain yourself without spending $10,000 per year.
Ultimately, there isn’t a perfect answer to this whole matter of traditional education. I think you need to consider your resources, goals, and personal habits before you commit to multiple years of tuition though.
What must change in the world so it becomes a better place for musicians?
It’s a very nuanced question because it depends on who you ask.
Some musicians feel there’s a problem with the devaluing of art in general, as well as the lack of respect for copyrighted works. Some organizations, it seems, just “lift” intellectual property off the internet for use in their classrooms, presentations, and so on, instead of going through the proper channels to get the rights.
And, I would also say a lot of musicians take aim at major tech companies and streaming platforms. Musicians usually don’t get rewarded fairly when people stream their music because there’s only so much money to go around for artists.
I still see many opportunities in the music industry – but most musicians don’t have time to research and pursue them. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do.
I’ve had a few interesting conversations about the Blockchain with the likes of Scott Kirby and George Howard, and I do think it’s a fascinating development to watch. But there are also many reasons why it may not work, including technical issues, as well as the stubbornness of the powers that be.
I don’t think there’s a cure-all. But I would love to see:1) Streaming sites change their payment model, 2) music venues and event organizers uphold their contracts (they can be flaky at times), 3) record labels release their death-grip on music and focus on what they do best (i.e. marketing, administration, legal, etc.), 4) more opportunities for fans to support their favorite artists, preferably on a monetary level, and 5) disruptive and innovative tech companies create a better model for musicians.
Did you enjoy this interview? There’s plenty more where that came from. Go to Drooble.com and meet thousands of inspiring musicians!