One would think that the road to success for entrepreneurs would start with a business major. After all, you have to know marketing and business strategies and accounting and all that stuff, right?
Panos Panay gives some thoughtful rebuttal to that idea. He is a successful entrepreneur, having created Sonicbids, a platform where musicians and bands can book gigs, promote themselves and basically act as their own managers. He is also the founding manager of Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship. He believes he’s been a successful entrepreneur not in spite of his music background, but because of it.
Panay says musicians have been taught to listen to others. You cannot sing harmony or play a complex piece of music in an ensemble without listening. That translates well to business. He also says musicians have learned to “mix it up,” learning various styles and types of music.
Entrepreneurial education needs much more cross-departmental, or even cross-university, collaborations where engineers, designers, business students, and creatives come together to imagine and cocreate. Watching a documentary on the making of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band can be one of the best lessons in innovation and collaboration.
Musicians must get on the road, both metaphorically and practically. They have to travel, learn to navigate, build audiences.
It’s time we see more programs that encourage budding entrepreneurs to get out of their classrooms and home cities and hit the road to experience the actual lives of the customers they want to affect. Want to upend the rural pizza delivery business? How about spending part of the semester working as an actual pizza delivery person for credit in small towns across your state?
Of course, musicians thrive on originality. In fact, they have to be original in order to become successful. Isn’t that what entrepreneurship is all about?