When do you have to choose between money and music?

Last month I got an email from a student who’s learning improv and performance in my Hip Harp Academy. She was asking how to make the best use of her 4th year of membership – and how to rationalize the financial investment.

If you don’t know the Academy it’s a virtual harp academy for improv, arrangement & performance. It’s all about developing the skills and tools to express yourSELF with the harp – and applying what you’ve learned to become the musician you dream of being whether your passion is music therapy, performance, composition, or personal freedom of expression (or all the above!)

So – instead of training to ‘play the right notes’ – the Academy is all about learning to make the harp into the greatest possible partner for your unique creative expression.

Thus our motto: Connection … not perfection. 

That means that as soon as you have the most basic skills and tools of each class, you should start asking: what will I DO with this to express ME, to forward MY needs and my dreams?

And in this case … one of those needs is financial.

So here’s the great news:

Making money can be a catalyst for creativity.

Yup.  That been true for me all my life and this is what I wrote back to that email – updated a little bit to give you a little extra context:

Here’s what I would do …

If I were in your position, starting my 3rd, 4th, 5th year of Hip Harp Academy and thinking about how to rationalize that financially, here’s what I would do:
  • First, I would focus on ways to use the Academy to make money, with the goal of making back at least the amount that I spend on the Academy. (I find that focusing on making money with music can lead to a lot of creativity and focus)
  • Use the year to focus on building the repertoire and the business infrastructure for whatever kind of performance I’d either most enjoy – or that I think is mostly likely to be lucrative (or hopefully both at once). In your case that might be shows for children, or background music, weddings, etc. (or both).
  • Create that intention as the goal – to make back at least as much as you spent – and focus ALL Academy work towards that goal. For example:
    • Use every project in every class as a chance to create 1-2 ‘demos’ for your sales page
    • ​Use each class to create 4-6 pieces for your repertoire
    • Use every chat and/or office hour to ask for direction and coaching in realizing this project, both musically and from a business standpoint.
    • Ask for whatever help you need in the chats & office hours, whether musical, business, or the spiritual/emotional help we all need to be visible and ask for money for our music.  Really focus on asking for what you need.

Business IS Creative

I’ve built several successful music businesses and when you’re a member of the Academy community, I’m happy to share about any part of that with you.  I’ve supported myself as an artist since my early 20’s. I built my businesses in this order and each is still in some small or big way a part of my creative life:

  • A business offering private performances (background & weddings). This one paid my way through college and helped me develop facility with improvisation (since I had zero repertoire when I started and had to make it ‘sound’ like I could play lots of music)
  • A business combining private & public performance – with my Duo “Classic Swing” and trio “Jazz Harp Trio”. This one helped me develop my jazz chops, learn to lead a band and get the creative benefits of hiring musicians who were waaaaay more advanced than me and who upped my game over and over.
  • A business performing publicly in solo concerts and with symphony orchestra. This one helps me discover and develop my own personal creative voice and share it on an international scale in a very visible way.
  • And most recently, a business creating and running an online school – This business connects me deeply with a world-wide harp community, and helps me break down my own creative process in ways that profoundly affect everything I do now as an artist – including my own performances.

So while I went into each one as a ‘business’ –  a way to financially support my creative dreams – each has had a huge impact on that creative life, given me direction and opened avenues of collaboration I wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t had to make a living as an artist.

Only you will know whether that’s what you want to do, or if there’s something similar you want to do that the Academy could provide.  But that’s how I would approach my Academy 3rd or 4th year, and really take advantage of the business-building, money-making potential of the program as a part of the creative curriculum.

Do YOU play the harp?

How would you use the skills of improv and performance to achieve your own creative dreams?

Learn more about Hip Harp Academy and how it can give you the classes, coaching and community to support you in changing your life and sharing your gifts with the world.

Are you a Harp Player?

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