Review: The Business of being a Community Musician

Now that I’ve been sold on the idea of ukestras and ukestration, I turn to the companion book by the same authors: “The Business of Being a Community  Musician.”

In this 58-page e-book, Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart explain how to set up a business and more importantly, how to stay in business as a community musician. The latter is the reason for writing a business plan, to avoid burn out and financial distress.

31961540_607691282956569_755274384163209216_nEqually applicable to other kinds of music-related work such as mixed ensembles, choirs, and guitar orchestras, the contents of Jackson and Jelbart’s book refer to their proprietary method of ukestration and the wider practice of ukulele groups and classes. They generously share what they have learned from eight years of leading communities in making music using the ukulele and the voice.

If you have already read self-help books about turning your hobby into a business or running your passion like a business, you’d probably know about the need to write a business plan, understand accounting, taxation, insurance, and legalese. On the other hand, if you are an unpaid leader and organiser of a ukulele group with substantial music knowledge to impart and a desire to do more than the status quo modus operandi of unison singing and uncoordinated strumming at every jam session, you might consider reading both books.

The message of sustainability resonates throughout the book:

  • “We work out how much money (per hour) we need to earn to stay afloat.”
  • “Organisers who are not paid have significant fewer reasons to stay the course when facing challenges.”
  • “Do we indeed have a sustainable business that can function in our absence?”
  • Additional incomes streams and more possible income streams, besides ukestras

As a self-employed musician, I daresay that making music (which, for me, includes research, composing, arranging, transcribing, practising, rehearsing, and performing) is the easy and enjoyable part. The hard and less enjoyable part is getting paid sufficiently to continue doing what comes naturally to me. The latter is what tempts me to seek employment as a salaried musician rather than taking responsibility for these additional activities in running my own music business.

“The Business of Being a Community Musician” devotes a large section on administration, the activities that do not directly fetch a direct income but are necessary for every business. The authors share the common administrative tools they use for sharing files, keeping a database, sending out newsletters, and setting up and maintaining a website.

This short book whets my appetite. I look forward to a second edition in a few years’ time for interesting examples of best practice and lessons learned, perhaps contributed by members of a support group for community musicians who decide to start and run ukestras.

This e-book can be ordered from their website.




Author: BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.

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