Playing the blues and making shoes may seem a world apart, but Tommy Darker doesn’t think so.
The self-described “musicpreneur” left his job as a military policeman with NATO in 2012 to work on his personal passion - helping musicians become business savvy.
He is now a professional musician and holds regular events, Tommy Darker Talks, to remind his fellow musicians that if they are going to survive off their music, they will need an entrepreneurial itch.
“The music industry is changing for better or worse,” Darker says. “In the past, people were patronising and would say: ‘OK I’ll give you the money and you do the job’.”
Darker believes that today money is much harder to come by as a professional musician and that having a job on the side or a greater awareness of how to sell their music is key.
As a result, Darker arranges talks with those who have links to both music and business like Justin FitzPatrick.
After giving up on his dream of becoming a professional musician, FitzPatrick studied entrepreneurship to prepare for his second dream job: “to see more men across the world wearing better shoes.”
FitzPatrick moved to Italy to learn about shoemaking without speaking a word of Italian.
“It isn’t necessary to sell products or services yourself,” he warned. “You can sell experience and emotion, such as in the US, American dream stories can attract and benefit other people, and they enjoy this story of success.”
FitzPatrick said that as part of his fledgling business, J.FitzPatrick Footwear, he launched a blog - The Shoe Snob - both to enhance his own knowledge of the industry and to draw people to his products.
Iida Masayasu, a member of Japanese/English music duo O-ARC, says he found this a useful lesson for his own career.
“I don’t like the idea of writing a blog, but I draw pictures and put them on the Internet. If my art can attract people, they will be interested in my music and vice versa,” he says.
Although YouTube and free downloads make the world of record labels and touring seem more accessible than ever, today it requires more than just good music to succeed. It requires good business sense too.