Do You Need an MBA to be a Successful Music Studio?

by | Feb 9, 2022

Category: Technique
6 min read

Here’s a (very) shortlist of things today’s studio owner needs to understand:

  • How to develop an effective marketing strategy
  • How to choose and use payment gateways, scheduling software, and other online tech tools
  • How to create a sustainable business model, and what sustainable really means (note: it’s not living hand to mouth, operating on a shoestring budget, or trying to solve deeper systemic economic issues by having payroll be 80% of your operating budget.)
  • How to read a balance sheet, profit and loss statment, and understand cash flow
  • Branding
  • Pricing and pricing ecosystems
  • Hiring and management (legalities, human resources, etc.)

For a very long time, it was possible to run a business that brought in “enough” money and had “enough” students with little to no business or marketing training of any kind.

The culture of independent studio and multi-teacher studio ownership was one of oral tradition. It was seeped in “well, that’s how my teacher did it, and they seemed okay.” And they were. Ish.

This is no longer the case. Today, with all the ways that parents, singers, instrumentalists, performers, and the cultural landscape have changed, it is imperative that the music studio owner a set of business skills that most certainly is not provided in any DMA.

It seems as one may need an MBA, and I see the academic machine pushing and pushing to try to add MBA’s to music degrees, which is a topic for another day.

I do not believe an MBA is a right answer for today’s music studio owner.

Why an MBA Would Be a Good Idea

If you are looking to increase your salary in terms of employability (such as being hired to run a music studio franchise, or work at a marketing firm that specializes in music studios), letters always help. (Remember, the idea that degrees matter is based on the employee-employer model, not necessarily the entrepreneurial model.)

If you want to network and make connections with other business-y folk, in order to have access to like-minded people for potential future endeavors.

If you have the time, emotional energy, and money to invest in an MBA and you just want to!

Why an MBA May Not Be a Good Idea

If you don’t have the emotional or financial bandwidth for a two-year program and its hard deadlines.

If you are looking for the most relevant and up-to-date information about a very specific field. You don’t need general info, you need “you-based” info. I think of this as a degree in theater – you get the general degree, then you move to NYC and take classes and learn that specific landscape.

If you’re just not into getting an MBA because that kind of learning isn’t your jam.

What to Do Instead of an MBA – Straight Talk

Get into a program, group, or work with a business strategist and/or coach. I don’t care who or what (barring sleezy peeps) – just be sure it’s the right fit and the right time. Any program or coach that is worth their salt will be able to help you decide if they or their program are right for you.

Spend your most valuable resource, time, wresting through decisions and learning new information.

Pay good money to get that information and the strategic insight that goes with it.

And for the love of all things holy, do NOT try to DIY it for more than a couple of years.

Read, explore, make big mistakes, implement, rework. If you are new to owning your business, or young (yes, I am going there) I think DIYing it for a couple of years is essential. If you’ve been running your studio for many years, and things are “fine” but not profitable or sustainable, your season of DIY may be over.

Listen – I get it – you don’t have enough money to invest in these things. To my mind, this is proof that the business is unsustainable.

If you cannot afford to invest in your business, you do not have a business, you have a hobby.

If you’re working with the right coach for you, or in the right program, the issue of affordability will be solved soon enough.

It is very wise to have an enjoyable leisure activity that we engage in voluntarily and consistently when we are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities, i.e, a hobby.

It is dysfunctional to have a business that operates as a hobby.

I cannot urge you strongly enough: See yourself as a business owner.

Why I Am So Aggressive Passionate Aggressive About Music Studio Owners Seeing Themselves as Business Owners

It is no secret that I myself run a company that does just the thing I am telling you to invest in. I would be very pleased if you and I had the opportunity to see if our programs were right for you. You can do that by booking here, actually.

However, my words here are not only a shameless plug.

This is my plea to our entire field:

Please, PLEASE, let us ALL know how to run our businesses better so we can eradicate the curse of scarcity, the legacy of financial fear, and the starving artist “badge of honor” we have borne for millennia. We must make room for a new generation of music professionals who, unlike their predecessors, will never have to worry about where the rent will come from.

Let us model for and equip the next generation of music professionals and studio owners what it’s like to run businesses that make enable access to quality health care, fund retirement accounts, and even (hold on to your hats!), go on vacation twice a year.

To me, even though here at The SpeakEasy Cooperative we make a comparatively small impact in the work we do 1:1 and in small groups, the ripple effect is not lost on me.

I am keenly aware that if every person we work with builds something sustainable, they are inherently going to be able to help their colleagues, clients, and friends also build something sustainable.

Every studio owner who knows the way to create offers and price them, understands marketing, and shows up in their core values is another ship that enables the tide to rise for all others.

No more racing to the bottom.
No more having to start non-profit after non-profit to supplement teacher and artist pay at the whim of donor feelings.*
No more defending pricing and policies.

We are here to drive value up, up, up. We are here to eradicate cost disease.

So What Are You Going to Sell Me, Michelle?

This week, we have opened the application process to one of our programs – the How to Run Your Voice Biz Without Hating Your Boss Accelerator Program.

This program is designed to empower you with the most important and relevant aspects of an MBA in music studio management while leaving out the irrelevant and outdated information that no longer applies.

H2RA is the solution to a problem that we are dedicated to solving. We followed the advice we give: Create for what you hate.

And we hate artists being undervalued, overworked, and ill-equipped.

H2RA is ten months, it’s intense, and we have consistent feedback that it’s the premier “all in one” program out there. (No pressure, amiright?)

You can explore our information and landing page by clicking here.

Consider this your formal invitation to one of the higher-level programs offered in The SpeakEasy Cooperative.

All My BeastyBoss,

Michelle Markwart Deveaux blog signature

* I am not saying that all non-profits should not be. I am on a DEVELOPMENT (yep, getting money!) National Committee for The National Association of the Teachers of Singing and The SpeakEasy Cooperative donates to this and many other NFP organizations in many, many ways. In today’s economic system, we need them. The fact that we DO need non-profits, however, shines a light on the dark belly of ruthless wealth building and calls into sharp contrast who really benefits from their existence. If the arts were properly supported and valued in the first place, there would be no need to beg the wealthy to get a tax break to fund them, while making themselves feel like guardian angel patrons and perpetuating the system that keeps artists underfunded. I’ll just leave it at that.

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