This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. For the complete interview, you can access here.
Kristine Dizon: Hello, my name is Kristine Dizon, and I am the CEO and founder of The Modern Artist Project. Today, I am with Dr. Garrett Hope, an award-winning composer, speaker, and money coach. His focus is on helping people change their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money. I am also with Arthur Breur, the co-founder of composerinresidence.org, a model for creating custom artist residencies for community ensembles. He's also the host of The Melodology Podcast. They're both from the Ultimate Music Business Summit. Thank you, Garrett and Arthur, for joining us today.
Arthur Breur: Thank you for having us.
Garrett Hope It’s our pleasure. Thank you.
KD: Yeah, thank you for making the time. One of the things that I wanted to start off with is both of your backgrounds. Both of you are composers. Would you just tell our audience a little bit about who you are? We could probably start with Garrett.
GH: Sure, I am a composer. My doctorate is in composition. I primarily write for educational ensembles. That means a lot of high school and middle school bands, orchestras, and choirs. I also do a lot of media music when I can. To put that in context, this is a big part of my entrepreneurial journey. About eight years ago or so, I came into some situations where I had to start figuring out, “What does it mean to be a musician right now?” and, “How do I pay the bills?” Because I was teaching in universities and had to make a big switch from, “I'm a composer who teaches,” to, “I'm a composer who helps my audience get what they want.”
KD: That's great, thank you for sharing that with us Garrett. What about you, Arthur?
AB: Well, I had a degree in music and then immediately got out of college (I will say decades ago) and then couldn't find a job in music myself, and I ended up going into graphic design. In addition to composerinresidence.org and the Ultimate Music Business Summit, I have a company called Fire Spike, which is web development, and I went in, started doing that, but then realized that if I didn't continue composing, I couldn't continue thinking of myself as a composer, which was my primary identity.
I decided I was going to start composing every opportunity that I could again. I took all this old music out, started rearranging/figuring out how this music could work, finishing pieces that I started, and that led to short film score and then, eventually, led to me promoting myself as a composer in my Chamber of Commerce, which I had been promoting myself as the web development business, but I started promoting myself as a composer and got commissions and ended up getting my first orchestral premiere, and then my first concert band premier, basically from promoting myself as a composer in an actual business Chamber of Commerce.
That led to me having the Composer in Residence positions with two ensembles, and then also creating this model for creating your own residency in a way that doesn't necessarily have to cost the organization that you're with. It doesn't have to cost the ensemble, but it’s a win-win situation. Both the ensemble and the composer get to have benefits from this relationship. It's a model that Garrett has used as well with a concert band, and that's just an exciting thing.
Then Garrett created the Ultimate Music Business Summit – single-handedly did the first one – inviting several people to record presentations and give them online. For the second year, he invited me to be on the executive team with also Heidi Kay Begay who can't be here today.
KD: Wow! That's so amazing to hear both of your stories, how both of you were able to find ways to continue to do things that you're still very passionate about and being able to take action to. It's not easy starting your own business, or even having the entrepreneurial mindset. What suggestions do you guys have for our audience today regarding those who are maybe trying to find a path that works for them?
GH: I would say the biggest piece of advice I could give is to recognize that you are a business, even if you're still a student. What that means, and how Arthur and I really understand it (Arthur is good at explaining it, so he should chime in a little bit too) is, you are not just making art. You're serving a community; you're serving people who want to engage with your music in a variety of ways.
What the heart of business is helping a customer (we use the term audience broadly to define a customer) to get what they want and what they need. That could mean entertainment, it could be education, it could be a whole variety of things. What you do as the musician is, you say, “I can help you, and pay me for that help.”
Now you have a business. Fundamentally, the government treats you as a business. If you claim income, if you get 1099s, or if you've filed a Schedule C as a musician, then you are a business. When you begin to think like a business, not only in serving your customer, but there are also money benefits too, because now you can take advantage of the incentives that are in place for businesses. Part of your rent and your utility bills can be written off as a business expense, and even more! But the biggest piece of advice, I'll say it again, is for musicians to think of what they're doing as a business.
AB: Let me chime in here. A lot of people in the arts think of business as being a four-letter word. They do business as something they don't want to do. In fact, I would recall myself going into a music degree because I didn't necessarily want to go into business. I wanted to be a composer. I wanted to be a musician. I did not think of myself at the time as somebody who was going to have to go into business. I didn't think in those terms
Business is basically just a way of thinking about yourself in terms of what you're doing, what you're giving, and then getting compensation back for what it is that you do. A lot of people in the arts think in terms of money as being something that's either bad or unattainable for whatever reason, and money is just a form of gratitude. Money is just a way of somebody thanking you for what you have done. It's a physical form of gratitude.
That's something else that I think a lot of people who are in the arts need to think about, because they don't want to think about money. They’re worried about how much they’re worth and how much they should charge, things like that. If you think of it in terms of “money is gratitude” then it takes away the stigma that our culture has around thinking about and talking about money.
KD: This is great. Sometimes people think when they're in school, they have this romantic vision of “I'm going to do X, Y, Z” and, “My life is going to be like this”, whereas for our lives to become the way that we want them to be, we must take a lot of initiative. I feel like that initiative from what both of you describe is very internal regarding being able to have the courage to say, “I make art and I enjoy it, and this is a part of who I am, and this is what I'm going to charge for it”. If you think it's good for you, fantastic! If it's not, then that's okay! Because there are so many of us in the world.
AB: If you don't charge what you feel you're worth, if you say, “This is what I do, this is the amount of money that I require for this kind of work,” and you compromise that or you make it too low, you're undervaluing your worth, and that affects you in a bunch of different ways. It affects your own emotional state because you're not going to be able to pay the bills the way you need to if you are not making sure that you're getting enough money for something.
On the other hand, you're also devaluing yourself emotionally and your confidence is less because you feel that you are worth less – careful how I phrase that combination of words – but you feel like you have less worth because you are not getting the amount of value back for what you believe your value is.
GH: To add onto that, a lot of musicians hold onto the scarcity mindset that begins with a fixed pie thinking that says, there's only so many students or performance opportunities or money to go around, and if somebody else gets that gig that means I couldn't. That kind of thing leads to this sense of, “Oh, there's never enough”. We race to the bottom, like Arthur said. We devalue our art to get that next gig.
A few months ago, my family and I were vacationing in Colorado, that's where I grew up. We were taking a little family vacation over fall break, and we were driving through the mountains, and we happened to stop to get lunch in Vail. We were walking around and there's this great art gallery, and I go in and I love going into art galleries, but this is a guy who found an audience in a way to serve them, and he charges a premium for it. His statues, small 12-inch-high statues, start at around $1000, and the prints on the wall are just like oil painting prints: a couple $100. And yet I could go to a gallery in a different city with a different audience and those same things would be one-quarter of the cost. And so, what it is holding the value and knowing, “This is how I can contribute to my community, to the people who want what I'm making”. A lot of that starts with the money thinking, just as Arthur pointed out.
KD: For sure! This mindset, I feel like it's something that we must have, especially within the digital age that we live in. From what I understand with the Ultimate Music Business Summit that you are having soon, when are the dates for that again?
AB: It is January 5th - January 7th of 2023. We scheduled it for that first week of January because it's after the holidays, everybody's done with all the madness that happens in late December, but it's also before things really start to ramp up in terms of school or even for business. That first week is this period where it's a rebirth of people. They have this time where you're doing your New Year's resolutions and all that sort of stuff. It’s a good time to learn. It's psychologically a good time to take on initiatives and take on self-improvement. So, January 5th – 7th. You can go to musicsummit.biz to sign up for it and find out about our amazing presenters. It's all live presentations online, and there's so much value in these 30-something presenters and three days of content.
KD: Wow, that's amazing! So, what kinds of topics are typically covered at the Summit?
GH: Oh my gosh, we have so many things! Let me just start by saying, over those three days there are over 30 presentations, and this feels like a real conference where you can go and at every given hour there are usually multiple things to choose from. You kind of must think, “Okay, which one is going to be of most interest to me right now?” We have stuff that deals with the mindset around money, the mindset in self-confidence, in dealing with the imposter syndrome and thinking well, and then how to get stuff done/how do you start. All these issues that you've brought up or that we've discussed while we've been on this interview, but then we get into a lot about studio building, writing contracts for your students, how to attract the right audience.
And then there are marketing issues. How do you market your ensemble? How do you market yourself? I'm giving a presentation on copywriting. Meaning, how do you write words that sell and promote people to act? That means your bios, your program notes, the emails you send and your social media posts. We want people to respond in a way and there's an art and a craft to that. We have things on networking, getting sponsorships.
Our keynote speaker owns a PR and branding company based in Nashville called Dead Horse Branding. Mel Core-Caballo is going to be talking about the core issues you need to do to brand yourself now, and why you can't wait. We cover so much business, and music business is a very big umbrella. We're talking all within that.
KD: That's so amazing, I think you're pulling me in! I'm being sold on it, and I don't get sold on a lot of things. This is exciting; this sounds cool! I feel like even students, like in the university system or even in the college or conservatory system, would benefit from.
When we think about the different classes, the different advice that both of you had received in your development, your formation, did you receive anything regarding like, “Okay, I have to have a mindset, I have to create all of these things”? Do you feel like that's being communicated well with audiences or performers today?
GH: No, I do not. Let me explain. When I was a student, there were just a few viable tracks for music majors. The first, and the most practical, music degree is to get a music education degree because as soon as you graduate and you're certified, you can get a job! But all my music teacher friends experienced a tremendous amount of burnout, and it's a hard job.
If you're not actually designed as a human being to be a teacher, it's not a good fit for you, and not all of us are teachers, right? So, many of us fall into other tracks, and that is performance or become some sort of professor. That really is the big three tracks that music majors can take, and I fell into the “I'm going to be a professor” trap.
When I was finishing my master’s, I kid you not, my professor said to me – and this was in 2006 – he said, “Garrett, this is a great time to be getting your graduate degrees because soon all the baby boomers are going to retire and they're going to have to fulfill the position”. What schools do, and that story is a good example of it, is they dangle this carrot that at the end of your degree, there's going to be a job for you. There will be ways to make money.
But what happened in 2008, as soon as I started my doctorate: the economy went in the tank. As people, if they retire because many of them chose not, universities and colleges change the way they're hiring so there are fewer positions. Now we keep dangling this carrot, and I am a former professor, so I did this for years, I was part of the problem. We tell students, “Just get another degree! There are opportunities at the other end!” But there's not, there are fewer and fewer. And if I knew what I knew now when I was in undergrad, not only would I make different choices, but I would have had a whole lot less career stress and anxiety going forward because I wouldn't have been thinking about getting a job.
Instead, I would have been thinking about serving an audience. Now I do, to be clear, still believe in school, and if you want to be a musician you need to study. We want musicians to operate at a high level, so go to school! But do not for a moment fool yourself to think that that degree means that now there are jobs on the other end.
AB: Yeah, just having an education isn't enough to give you a position. It's not enough to make sure that you are a fit for a particular job or a particular career. There are so many things besides just the book knowledge that you must have, especially thinking in terms of the overall business. This happens with artists a lot, they think in terms of just the art, just the craft that they are creating. They don't think in terms of, what is the value that I'm providing? How can I represent that value? How can I communicate? How can I quickly communicate the value to somebody? If I meet somebody and they ask, what do you do, how can you quickly communicate that value to somebody? Whether or not you are what we call a solopreneur, whether you're a freelancer or whether you are a solo business owner or part of a huge organization, you're still in business and you still need to think in terms of that business.
Education does not necessarily provide you that way of thinking in terms of, how do you provide value? How do you fit into an organization? How do you help the organization? How do you do it without compromising your own ideals? And Garrett, I want to make sure that I point out, when you say that at the end of your education, there will not be opportunities, you were talking specifically about there being fewer and fewer opportunities to be professors and to be a person who has a guaranteed position because you have a degree in either music education or whichever music degree you have. There is a ton of opportunity out there. There is always opportunity out there. It might not be where you think it's going to be, but there is opportunity all over the place. You do not have to have a doctorate to get those opportunities.
A doctorate is an amazing thing if you really want to be an expert in what you do, if you really want to have that deep knowledge and understanding, and the learning and practice that goes into what you do when you must work to get your doctorate. All the things you must do to get that degree. That will give you a huge depth of skills and mindset and all those things, but it does not mean that you immediately have more opportunities because there are opportunities everywhere.
You may have opportunities that can get you more money, possibly. But you also have spent a bunch of time at a bunch of money getting to that position where that degree has put you. It's an investment to potentially get higher paying jobs or so forth, but lots of people don't want to spend that many years just going through education, and it does not guarantee you will have a position handed to you once you get your doctorate. That’s something that I have heard from so many people with doctorates, that they are just stressed out of their minds when they've gotten their degree “What am I going to do now?” and, “Where is the opportunity?”
GH: I did not mean to say that the opportunities won't be there. Let me clarify. Think of this as a Venn diagram. One circle represents your talent stack. These are your experience, your skill set, it's what makes you, you, and not certainly exchangeable. If you're a violinist, what are all the other things that you bring to the table? Maybe you're a great communicator or a good teacher. It doesn't matter. The other circle is the people whom you can serve. Where there that Venn diagram intersects that little bit, there are an almost endless number of opportunities.
Over Thanksgiving week, I was like, “I’m just going to rewatch Parks and Recreation,” the show. I love it. It's so funny. I love Andy Dwyer. Are you familiar with Parks and Recreation?
KD: Yeah, I'm familiar with it.
GH: He's kind of the Goofus, this goofy guy who wants to be a rock and roll star, and he writes just obnoxious songs. Then somewhere near the fifth season, he falls into an opportunity to start performing for children, and he's having this identity crisis. He's like, “I wanted to be a rock and roll star!” His wife, April, points out, “Yeah, but you're really good at this.”
What happened there was this talent stack. Here's a guy who's pretty good at music, writes goofy songs, and can communicate very, very well to a particular audience, and here's an audience that's hungry for what he's making. But he couldn't find it until he saw how he could serve that audience. If you're familiar with the show, he ends up having a huge career after that as this children’s entertainer, and many of us get blinded by this idea. We go to university [and think], “I'm going to be a professor” or, “I'm going to be a teacher” or, “I'm going to be just an orchestral performer”. And as Arthur was saying, the opportunities are endless.
KD: That's true and I agree, I’m 200% with both of you. The reason why I say 200% is because there are two of you here. 100% for each of you! Garrett, I'm glad that you shared that anecdote with us because it really resonated with me. When I started the Music and Language Learning Center, which was my first entrepreneurial venture, I was in a position where I had lost my job. I didn't have money, I was broken. I had to make a list of things like, “Okay Kristine, think quick, what are you good at?” Putting a list of things down and being able to shape those ideas into something that was meaningful. It goes into that audience too because I never thought I could be a teacher for younger students.
My whole mindset, which was what both of you have been mentioning, which I think can resonate with the audience, was “I'm going to be this, and this is the only thing I'm going to be. If I am not this, then I am a failure. I am a bad person.” Whereas it’s not a reflection of being bad or good. The reflection of how our world is today versus what it was 30 or 40 years ago when we were training for music and things like that. There's so much growth that was great. Thank you for saying that.
AB: To riff on the idea of having different things than you're expecting, but also when you are doing whatever it is you're doing, you can have different income from different things. This goes back to Garrett's podcast, The Portfolio Composer, the composer's ability to have different streams of income from different things.
You can get a commission and you get paid for composing a piece of music, but then you also get the performance rights that you get when the music is performed, and you have to make sure that you are paying attention to the performances of your music so that you get paid by BMI or ASCAP or whichever you're performing rights organization is, and they will make sure you get paid when anybody performs your music, so you have another stream of income from that.
Then you have sheet music sales. Somebody wants to perform your music, but they just want to play it in school, you might have a performance, but you can have sheet music sales. Then you have licensing and all these different channels that come in just from being a composer.
It's the same for any artist. You can do several different things that will bring you income and all these different ideas, and maybe not necessarily something that you thought you were going to do and you're going to be good at. You can also teach, you can speak at events, it goes on and on. Keeping your mind open to all the different things that are available to you.
This is not the world that we had 40-50 years ago, where you got a job and you tried to keep that job until you were in retirement age, and your 401K had built up to where you could retire and afford to spend your time not working. We're no longer in that world. This is not a career society anymore. This is a gig society. This is a society where you have a job while you want to have the job, and very often you're going to plan to leave that job and find a better job at some point. Or you are a solopreneur, or you are somebody that has four different sources of income that you work on every single day.
This is no longer the “Ozzie and Harriet” world that a lot of us still have as a mindset. Frankly, a lot of educators still have that kind of mindset too, that you will find yourself a career and that career means you have a position doing something, versus thinking in terms of all the ways that you can benefit from the things that you do.
GH: I want to take what Arthur said and bring it back to your question about universities right now, because I think many schools are beginning to see the need to offer this way of thinking. They're adding in business and music entrepreneurship classes into their curriculum, but there are a few problems. The first is that it's hard to add anything to a music curriculum because whenever you add a class that's required, you must take away something else.
So, what are you going to take away? Performance requirements? Music history requirements? There are only so many hours you can fit into a degree. The second problem is that, unless these schools are hiring musicians who have built their own career or who think entrepreneurially, it's being taught by professors who have only ever been university professors, and they don't know what the grind is like. They don't know what it's like to find an audience and, like you said, figure out what is it that I can offer, because they went to school and got a position, right? The schools see the problem and they're trying to solve it, but they're not doing it well all the time.
KD: And there's nothing wrong with that if we're cautious. This awareness that we need to have, that's something that's important too that sometimes people don't realize. I know that awareness with me was an eye-opener, especially when the pandemic happened, being able to find a way [and think], “Okay, how can I still do what I'm passionate about or still share things in a way that's meaningful for me? That I feel satisfied and I’m being able to serve a community?”
Those are important things, especially with the digital media age that we live in now. Both of you have mentioned that the possibilities are endless. The Summit is online so there's no reason why you can't come. Even if you have the flu, you can even watch the conferences online. Being able to consume information in that way, you're able to connect with different people who have different ideas. I think that's so that's so amazing. Regarding all the work that you have done, could you tell me, how long did it take for the Summit to become a yearly thing?
GH: Well, when I started this, it was in the middle of all the shutdowns, and no one knew what the future was going to look like. Everyone was panicky, and I and many of my friends and acquaintances had lost tens of thousands of dollars of gig opportunities and performances. It was scary and hard, so I created the Summit to give people hope and to help people shift their thinking.
The tagline was, “Write your own stimulus check” because the U.S. Government at the time was sending money to everyone trying to stimulate the economy saying, because the economy runs on how people believe the economy should run it. I wanted people to start thinking like there's opportunity, and it went well, and the overwhelming response was, “Let's do this again”.
That's when I reached out to Arthur and Heidi and said, “I can't do this by myself anymore. I need help”. We ran it last year, which was the second time, and now this year will be the third time. We're just so thrilled with the lineup of presenters and topics. It's going to be tremendous.
AB: Let me also say, the first one that Garrett did – and he pulled off single-handedly – was recorded presentations. It was all pre-recorded and people could watch, and that was great. The second one was all live presentations, and this is the way we're doing the Summit going forward, entirely live presentations. When the presentation is done, you can speak to the person who gave the presentation.
This isn't just a recorded presentation; you get to watch somebody talk. This is the opportunity to ask questions, to pop questions in live, and the presenter can choose to respond to your questions live if they feel that it's appropriate during the presentation, but you have the opportunity after to even have a one-on-one conversation with whomever the person is who happened to give that topic of presentation.
The topics range from everything from starting a business, how to do things online, how to market yourself, how to have a money mindset, all the different things. We're trying to be as broad across all the different business needs as we can be, with a limited number of slots in a three-day summit.
We are really trying to make sure that we're serving as wide of an audience as possible, but also, we're trying to serve the kind of panoramic needs of what somebody who is in business is going to run into. What are the things that you need to have to be dealing with business? We try and get everything.'
KD: That's amazing, thank you so much. Garrett, could you kindly tell our audience again the dates? That way they can make sure they note it very well in their calendar.
GH: Yes, write it down, friends! It's January 5th, 6th, and 7th, and you can read about everything that happens in the Summit. You can see the presenters, the schedule, and the topics, and read little blurbs about each presentation at musicsummit.biz. That's also where you want to go to get your ticket.
When you go to the website, you'll see that there are multiple ticket options. First off, there is a student version of both regular and VIP. We remember what it was like to be a student and, as we were discussing earlier, we really want to help students be set up for success the moment they graduate. There's a regular ticket for $37 and then the VIP ticket for $197.
AB: And that's the regular prices for the ticket, not the student prices for the tickets. The VIP ticket, the good thing about that: it lets you into everything. All the presentations, all the actual seminars, the things that people are presenting, you can attend those live. But if you have the VIP ticket, you get access to all the recorded presentations and access to a few VIP-only events during the Summit.
KD: Well, thank you so much Garrett, and thank you so much Arthur, for joining us today and sharing your experiences and thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing the amazing things that you both do for our community, and I will check out the Summit. If you guys don't check out the Summit you are missing out on something great, so stay tuned! Thank you so much.
GH: Thank you.
AB: Thank you.
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