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Risk Is Part of the Game

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Risk Is Part of the Game

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

I often hear from artists that I work with these two questions. #1: Is this good for us, I mean the best we can put our money into? #2 How big are the chances we get something out of it?

It doesn’t matter what the topic is. The only time they gladly spend money is when they buy new instruments or record, sometimes even videos since it’s fun and centers around them. When it comes to PR, traveling, meetings and other activities that cost money, these questions arise. I’m fascinated that it’s only in the creative business I experience this. It is the same in the movie industry, but I never really got that in the normal startup race that is out there.

If you start a company, you must, in most cases, invest money. Let say you have opened a small shop selling clothes not in the center of town but on a backstreet. It goes pretty well. Suddenly you get an opportunity to get a good spot at the top of the busiest streets in town. You also get to double your floor space. It's a great opportunity. Of course, you need to invest in the new store if you take the space. You would have to buy more inventory, hire more staff and with expansion, you must do PR for your new location. A lot of work and risk. You can be safe keep your old shop, just keep going. Or take the chance and start something bigger.

Would you expect the landlord of the new space to get you the store free from rent in 6 months? I mean you take a risk by moving there! Of course not, and most people don’t think that would work. In the first place, the landlord doesn't give a damn of your risk. He has space and takes a risk by not having it rented out. And you are a risk too. If you fail in your expansion you might quit, and he must look for another tenant and that can make him lose money.

This is pretty simple stuff, huh?

Why on earth is the same concept so hard to grasp around a creative career? Yes, you need to invest to make your career bigger. The more risk the faster things go. No risk at all and you keep it on the same small level.

Think about the big store as a showcase festival. No, they don't want to hear your whining on investment. They can easily replace you like the landlord can choose another tenant. Yes, if you are important it’s a different story. If it is an apple store being opened the landlord probably can let it go free in a couple of months for longer tenancy. But you are not, you are the small store getting an opportunity.

Can the landlord tell you that it will be risk-free to move in? Or if it is the best choice?

Of course not. It's a risk that you can never calculate. Maybe the city makes some changes in the plan out and suddenly this busy street becomes quiet. Maybe other stores move in and the area is not hip right now and people go in other directions. Or people are buying things online and they won't visit your store. No one knows if it is worth it, it's a gut feeling. Best choice? Well, maybe you get an offer from an even better location pretty soon. But it has taken you four years just to get this offer, so it's not likely that it will happen. Same here, you must have a gut feeling.

Same with a showcase festival. No one will know in advance what the outcome will be. You must have a gut feeling, a mind to take a risk and be a doer to get something done. In all these cases to minimize the risk, you must work hard. Hard work will always bring the risk down. A good way to not take a risk is to not do anything special and just go with the flow.

No, we don't care that you take a risk. The days when you have grown bigger the less risk you have to calculate. But stop whining about it. You don't hear shopkeeper going around complaining around the risk they have to take. To them it's natural. It should be natural for people in the creative industry too.

Risk is always part of the game.

Editor's Note:  Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals.He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and SuperBowl.

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