The Music Business is a Lifestyle Business
Typically when the term “lifestyle business” is used it means a business that is established to afford the founder a particular level of income so they can enjoy a specific lifestyle. In this definition we are talking about the lifestyle of the business owner. As a lifestyle business owner you might choose to have a business that allows you to work out of your home, or an internet-based business, or as an artist you could choose to tour the country playing your music. This is part of the lifestyle you desire to live.
There is another definition for “lifestyle business” that implies the business is making products or services for customers that choose to live a certain lifestyle. There are many businesses that appeal to people based on their lifestyle. Businesses that fit into this category include music, yoga, natural grocery stores, and skate or surf shops among others. The actual product made or sold by these businesses appeal to customers who appreciate, embody, and live a certain lifestyle.
This second definition is the most important one to understand as you grow your business. In this post I’d like to point out how I have seen artists successfully capitalize on this understanding.
First, think of who your audience is – visualize them. What defines these people? What do they have in common? Next, recognize that you are a business… period. This means you must sell products in order to sustain yourself. Yes, I realize that’s not as sexy as just being a musician but it’s the truth. You are making products for your customers/fans. What do they want? Almost every band sells t-shirts and caps but what else might your customers/fans want? What else fits in with their lifestyle and the lifestyle you promote? Thinking this way and creating these products is not selling out – it’s giving your customers/fans another chance to get closer to your brand. This is good, healthy business.
Jack Johnson – Jack comes from the surfer culture in Hawaii and California. His songs evoke this feeling. He makes films that speak to this. Though this isn’t a revenue stream, he has greening partnerships that embody his message. He has a record label that signs bands of a similar vibe. Each year he produces a festival on Hawaii that benefits schools on the island. Jack clearly sees that he’s in a lifestyle business.
Zac Brown Band – A southern rock band (part country, part roots rock) pushes the southern message in their songs and through a beautiful cookbook. Zac owned a restaurant so it fits with his message and branding. He also holds a BBQ before shows which you can buy passes to. I even read somewhere that he sells a line of BBQ sauces. Zac has created a solid lifestyle business and each product reinforces his brand.
Unkle – Jame Lavelle and his team clearly decided that they are also in the visual art business, not just the music business. Their vinyl releases and limited edition releases include posters and full books with gallery style art. Even the packaging is top notch with unusual layout and design. The presentation elevates the music, the image, and the brand of the artist. Though it must be time consuming to craft such an involved product, it also sells for a higher price than the standard product and fans appreciate it. Unkle gets that they are in a lifestyle business.
Jimmy Buffet - Of course, Jimmy Buffet is the king of lifestyle business. He has frozen food products, margarita mix, restaurants, apparel, books, albums, beer, and more all of which strengthen his image as the ultimate summer time, good time brand.
It’s most important to focus on building your business where the momentum is. If that’s touring or albums then by all means focus on that. But as you start to get some traction and business starts moving, see that you are in business just like any other business owner. Find products for your fans/customers that they will want and that will bring them closer to you. Creating other products that fit the lifestyle of your fans can be just as artful as creating music and your fans will appreciate it just as much.