While the production of music itself is a key component of the industry, there is another story to be made in the development of popular musicians and their careers.
This often-overlooked story is what Professor Brian Horner told last Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Horner’s presentation was held during the Music Student Convocation, held in the Music and Mass Communications Concert Hall in the Music and Mass Communication building that Tuesday afternoon.
In particular, Horner discussed music entrepreneurship, in other words, the business side of the music industry. He published a book, Living the Dream, in which Horner described his experiences trying to make it as a musician.
“At the University of Michigan, I was swept into the mainstream,” Horner said. “I believed anything was possible.”
Horner focused on his saxophone skills in college, receiving his undergraduate degree in Classical Saxophone. His performances have included recitals at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and a cover feature in Saxophone Journal.
Towards his senior year, however, he said his music “wasn’t speaking” to him. Once he got out of college, Horner said he “went through many crisis points.” Eventually, he found that his vision had evolved and got a job at places like Warner Bros. Records, where his focus in the music industry began to shift.
Horner began to work with various different organizations, including non-profit orchestra management positions to major label companies.
During his presentation, Horner discussed his three skills of pursuit when it comes to music entrepreneurship. One of those topics was the benefit of making relationships.
“It’s about listening, and reacting,” Horner said. “You can learn from anybody.”
Horner mentioned a former client, anonymously, whose arrogance and inability to take advice from his manager nearly cost him his career.
“You learn what to do and what not to do,” Horner said.
Horner discussed taking an active approach to your career.
“Going into this business means taking a lot of rejection,” Horner said. “You can’t just make your website, post on YouTube, and expect people to flock to you. You have to make your own opportunities. Every day you’re not working, someone else is.”
Horner talked about the pros and cons of competition in the music industry, and the nature of publicity.
“You have to know where your customers will be, and what they will respond to,” Horner said.
Horner cited professionalism as a crucial component in the industry. If it doesn’t look impressive, it won’t sell.
“Everything has to appear professional,” Horner said. “But it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. A lot of things can be done relatively cheaply.”
Horner said this includes things like web design, music videos and resumes. He said many musicians make websites and YouTube videos about their work. Therefore, in order to stand out, it has to appear clean and organized.
During the question and answer portion at the end of the presentation, one student asked about resumes on their web pages, specifically the necessity of a written one.
“A bio is more common,” Horner said. “On your website, it has to have the ‘about’ page.”
Horner advised to avoid clichés in your bio. It has to sound as big as possible in order to get attention, yet truly honest, or you risk losing credibility.
“Ask people for quotes,” Horner said. “Ask the director of the show you just performed if he’ll write a paragraph or even a few sentences you can use in your bio.”
Overall, Horner encouraged students and future graduates to keep at it by continuing to be proactive in their careers.
“Plenty of people get into the business without degrees,” Horner said. “Find a way to make your vision or career a reality. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly.”