The business of music

Author: Amanda Patterson, Business Research Support Officer

Simon Short showcasing his musical talents while he plays the guitar.

Simon is well known for his passion for music, often when we meet, we talk about what we’re listening to, why we enjoy it and share new albums we’re enjoying. Since I’ve known him, I’ve seen him play keyboard in a punk band, mandolin in a folk act, and most recently, bass for a popular rock band called Lyoness. Prior to starting his own business, Simon worked for many years with an audio engineering company, selling recording equipment to large studios. This meant that as well as his own expertise, he had exposure to the production and engineering process, from start to finish.

Simon Short Music provides a range of music industry services that include mixing, producing, arranging and performing in both studio and live scenarios – as well as consultation on recording studio build and design. “My ethos is to always focus on what the artist or client actually wants, and really exploring this,” says Simon. “From experience, the passion in the music industry is overflowing, and a project can be easily steered in various directions from differing visions – I make a point of spending time listening, understanding and really getting to know the artists before starting.”

Simon used to spend every spare moment and holiday recording and playing music – often using up all his allocated annual leave to tour with the punk band Wonk Unit, or in a studio somewhere in the world writing and recording. Over time, pursuing music as a full-time career became more realistic, so he decided it was time to take that leap.

“Initially, I had to let everyone know that music was going to be my full time career, over the years I had built up relationships in the industry, ensuring they were aware that I was now working for myself was imperative – you never know where your next referral may come from.” Simon registered his business as a sole trader, “As a small business owner I have to wear many hats, I do all of my own accounting, booking, marketing – this is less exciting to me than the music, but is really essential to understand how profitable you are and where you need to go. When you start getting your first clients and your first pay days you get very excited – but you need to remain aware of your costs, past, present and future so you can continue to plan effectively.”

Simon’s background in sales and business development helped him to understand what he felt were reasonable goals when he came to write his business plan. “My network is invaluable to me, I have far more business opportunities meeting and engaging with artists than sitting at home with a swanky website,” says Simon, “I had to start planning how I was going to engage, and where to invest initially to develop a pipeline of work to carry me through the first few months.” Simon attended seminars, contributed to forums, spoke to other self-employed producers and engineers and engaged with old friends, “Playing in Lyoness means that I am constantly out meeting people in the industry and engaging in business discussions with them.”

Simon feels that his success comes from providing the best possible service with a personal touch. “Music means everything to me; I bring this passion into my work and develop strong relationships with my artists to help them really take their art to a new level.” Professionalism, dedication and research keeps Simon current, “I am always watching live music, researching production techniques and new technologies – this ensures that I stay relevant and maintain a deep insight into where the music industry is and where it is going.”

I ask Simon what advice he has for those who wish to start their own business; “Take the time to analyse how you spend your time and money. Your time is so important, value it and work appropriately.” If you have a talent, or a skill that you can offer that no-one else can, make sure that it is valued, “when you are starting out it’s tempting to undercut the competition – in reality people consider your pricing to be commensurate with quality. If you start quoting too low, you can price yourself out of consideration!”

There are resources available at the City Business Library that will help you understand your market, how to price your service, your legal requirements as a business owner, how to file taxes and much more. Make use of free resources online and in your community, find the space you need, ask for help, ask for advice and build the relationships you need to get up and running.

Learn more about the City Business Library on the CBL website. There are business one-to-ones, market research resources, seminars, networking and events. If you are passionate, make it happen!

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