Do you have a creative business or a creative hobby?

Do you have a creative business or a creative hobby?

Do you have a creative business or a creative hobby?

Here is a breakdown of the differences between a creative business and a creative hobby – how do you stack up?

There is no correct answer to this question. But getting it clear for yourself has psychological and practical benefits – such as eliminating the “shoulds” and resolving the conflict in your mind about how you spend your time. For some of you it can be a relief to realize, “Hey, I have a hobby and I’m totally cool with that. I’m going to stop pressuring myself for something more.” For others, you may realize, “I’m just a few steps away from making my hobby a business, and I’m going to run with it!”

Profit, Risk, Reward

An important distinction between someone running a creative business or pursuing a creative career vs. pursuing a creative hobby is that the business person is appropriately and seriously focused on profit (they have to be, otherwise they will fail), and will amend their business plan when something isn’t working to ensure they are meeting market/audience needs OR are working on actively creating a market for their product or service if one doesn’t exist. A business person is realistic about constraints, does their market research, understands the financial big picture and health of their business and is willing and able to take on and absorb risks.

Phew – that sounds like a lot of things to know and do well. But they are all vitally important to a successful career! While I won’t cover all aspects of running a business in this post – I will continue to write about them in this blog.

“But I don’t want to be commercial!”

Related to the concept of making profits is the fear of being too “commercial” or perceived as a “sell-out”.  This is just an unhelpful psychological barrier you need to ignore. Think of your favorite artist. You wouldn’t know who they are without some basic level of commercial success. Also, good marketing is what really contributes to being perceived as “commercial” or not.

I think a lot of times artists use this complaint as a foil for just not doing the work needed to be successful. It’s a lot easier to explain to someone, “I just don’t want to sell out and be so commercial.” Instead of, “I am working so hard and it’s just not working out right now.”

Once you can shed this you can start acting like a business person (this post is an excellent read on this topic). So, what does a business person do? Most importantly, they treat creative pursuits just like a 9 to 5 job – and all the things that go with it: consistency, appearing professional, networking, making goals, meeting deadlines, focusing on the bottom line.

Twyla Tharp, one of the world’s most commercially and artistically successful modern choreographers writes in her book The Creative Habit, that she has rigorous and regimented ways she approaches her performance art. From her daily workout and choreography practice to the way she researches and builds each individual choreographed work – it’s really fascinating and I encourage you to read that book sometime for creative as well as business inspiration.

Philip Glass, in his autobiography, talks about how he “trained his muse” to come to him when he needed to work and compose. He said he would refuse to write down a great idea if he was settling down to bed at night, because it would render him incapable of living a consistent life. He would instead only work regular, daily hours, and this technique enabled him to be one of the most prolific, and again, commercially successful modern composers.

“But it’s just not working out.”

Well, this is the tough part. There is no guarantee of success in any business, and the arts in particular are saturated with highly talented people and competition is fierce. I would never claim, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” Because it’s not that simple. However, I do assert that those who are prepared and consistent stand a much higher chance at achieving their dreams.

Like that famous Woody Allen quote says, “Eight percent of success is showing up.” It’s true. More people give up on dreams not because they were impossible, but because they didn’t do the work, the real work required to get there.

What questions or barriers do you feel you have to making a successful career as a vocal artist?

How to Create a Great YouTube Video of Yourself Singing

If you are thinking of creating a video of yourself for YouTube, either for promotional of feedback purposes – here are some things to keep in mind: 1. Don’t make it too long! If a viewer is expecting singing – make sure you get right to the singing – do not start your video with […]

Continue reading...

Before you can learn to sing better, you have to learn this

The Biggest Problem Students of Singing Have If I could sum up the number one problem ALL singers learning to improv their voices it’s this: habit change. That sounds very easy – but if you have ever attempted to change a deeply ingrained habit, you know how difficult can be. Changing or improving your vocal […]

Continue reading...

Entrepreneurial Advice: Find Your Niche and Stay Out of Debt

modern natural baby

Not many people would have thought about starting a brick-and-mortar business in the saturated and competitive baby-goods market 3 and a half years ago in the midst of one of the worst Michigan economies in decades. But that’s exactly what Emily Murray did. She was a stay at home mom who had always dreamed of owning her own business and seized the opportunity when it presented itself. Today she owns and operates the Ferndale retail and online store, Modern Natural Baby. Her business has enjoyed a steady growth rate, necessitating two moves to larger spaces in the past 3 years. Her secret to success? Finding a niche in the market she was passionate about and excelling at curating high-quality and unique products, and much-needed consumer education about the benefits of eco-friendly child products for her clientele.

Continue reading...

Keith Urban Gets Vocal Surgery

Keith Urban recently underwent surgery to remove polyps and nodules from his vocal folds, and his story reads as a cautionary tale for why you should NOT ignore early signs of vocal fatigue and damage and make sure you get proper technique instruction from a professional voice teacher to avoid expensive and risky surgery later in life.

Continue reading...

Hip Hop Artists Use Skills to Pay the Bills


You’ve practiced. You’ve perfected. You’ve dreamed. You’ve recorded…and? Does your lovely debut album languish in an iTunes file that you stumble upon every once in a while and wonder, “I should be doing something with this, but what?” Well, two hip-hop artists from Detroit decided they did not want to be those people and are […]

Continue reading...

Useful Link: Manage Your Audition Schedule

YAP logo

A reader recently posted this website, YAP Tracker (which charges a fee for the service) and allows singers and musicians in the classical field to keep track of audition schedules, applications, and notifications. The creator, Julie Baron says, YAP Tracker was created in 2005 and has quickly garnered tremendous acclaim for its comprehensive, worldwide list of opportunities,website hosting, […]

Continue reading...

What Is "Proper Vocal Technique?"


A Critical Comment Today I got a comment from an anonymous reader criticizing my analysis of Christina Aguilera’s rendition of “The Voice Within” live in London. The commenter said, You know Christina has not had any singing lessons right [sic] so she doesnt [sic] follow any “singing techniques” she does what she feels, so where […]

Continue reading...

Discipline in Singing

photo by: electroharmonix bigmuff

I recently received a reader question about the discipline of practicing and how to improve one’s practicing skills. This is a great question, as it is distinct from how to get good technique. Technique is not going to be very useful unless you are practicing it regularly. Unfortunately, I see this in my studio at […]

Continue reading...

When to Sing With a Sore Throat

tea sharona gott

Singing when sick is not usually fun or preferable, but it is useful for singers to understand when they can reasonably expect to be able to sing without damaging the voice and when they should truly abstain from any unnecessary vocal use.

Continue reading...