Musicians can also be entrepreneurs

Benjamin Toscher believes that musicians make great entrepreneurs. Now, he’s trying to teach musicians how to move from a mind-set of asking “what do I do?”, to one of “I know what to try”.

By Jenny Westrum-Rein

This fall, Toscher is teaching a five-week intensive course called entrepreneurship for music, communication and technology. The main goal with the course is to move students from a mind-set of asking “what do I do?”, to one of “I know what to try” through entrepreneurship.

New degree program

The course is a part of a new degree program, that’s both through NTNU Institute for music and University of Oslo, department of musicology. There are 17 students who come from nine different countries and a variety of backgrounds, ranging from philosophy to professional saxophone to computer programming.

– Believe it or not, entrepreneurship education is becoming increasingly prevalent in music education. There are a few reasons. The main reason that most educators are introducing entrepreneurship into the music curriculum is that most music students and musicians face careers in which they have to be very entrepreneurial in an effort to sustain ther their career over a longer period of time, Toscher says.

Ben Toscher standing in the street
Ben Toscher believes that musicians make great entrepreneurs.

The amount of fixed jobs for musicians is decreasing, and so in order to maintain a career as a musician you need to both recognize and create opportunities.

– Whether that’s as a performer and you’re focusing on booking gigs or planning a tour or arranging a festival or doing those types of things for other performers; or whether you are focused on teaching, there are a lot of aspects to the career that requires what you could call an entrepreneurial mind-set.

Great entrepreneurs

There´s another reason why entrepreneurship is growing in music education. Toscher also believes that musicians are creative people. That makes them especially suited for entrepreneurship.

– I think musicians and music technologists are really gifted, talented and capable people. If they want to do things like start a company or create a product or service, I think we should give them the tools to enable them to do that, he tells us.

I want them to know that they can be entrepreneurial, even if they never thought they could be.

Ben Toscher

PhD Candidate–  When they think about themselves in the future and what they want to do in life, they might want to be something a bit more than a musician. Maybe they could create something else, whether it’s an organization or a service. There are lots of examples of successful entrepreneurs that has studied at music conservatories, and whom have really taken advantage of their creativity to do that.

What makes a good entrepreneur?

– Wow, if I knew the answer to that, Toscher laughs.

–  I think there are a lot of different qualities. In my own experience, based upon the entrepreneurs I know, I think it is about taking action. It’s about reflecting upon the actions that they have taken, learning from their own experience, and know what to try, when. I think it is also about connecting resources, whether it’s people, money or technology. It’s about embracing a fair amount of uncertainty, and shaping what you think might be an opportunity from an idea into some sort of reality — and artists have plenty of experience bringing ideas into reality.

Through the course, Toscher wishes to educate the students in how to identify and solve problems, and to be empowered in their lives.

– I also want to improve their ability to identify problems, propose and test solutions and consider the long-term sustainability of their solutions in terms of a business model around it. They are also working in teams, so improving teamwork is definitely a goal, Toscher says.

– I want them to know that they can be entrepreneurial, even if they never thought they could be.