Tommy Darker ~ Musicpreneur

Tommy Darker

Tommy Darker

Tommy Darker is one of the leading music industry thinkers. He’s coined the term “musicpreneur” to describe “a musician who is also a startup, an entrepreneur.”

In early February, Tommy Darker spoke at Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale (MIDEM) 2014 in Cannes, France. Tommy spoke about how the musicpreneur can start evolving the future of the music industry. He received really great feedback from his session. “I realized that the music industry is more vibrant than we think.”

Tommy took away the following impressions of the music industry after the attending the conference:

The music industry is not that big. The people taking part in the industry are not so far away from musicians. They are quite easily reachable; you can talk with them any time. They are not gods. “

There is money in the music industry. It’s just not in the pockets of musicians. Right now, money is in licensing, getting your music in video games or movies or series. There is money in hardware; I see beats, the service and the headphones becoming really big. I see money in collaboration between artists and brands. I see a lot of money in the services that cater to the needs of musicians. For example, Spotify or other aggregators help a lot of musicians and make money in the long tail, which means a little money from a lot of musicians adds up to a really big sum.”

The music industry has become a lot more than just selling songs. Per Tommy Darker, “Now that everything is digitalized, I think it’s common sense that you cannot make a living, in general, as an artist selling individual pieces of art, unless you are a sculptor or photographer or painter. So, that’s the new mindset. I think you need to create a business around your music, see what’s happening in the ecosystem and take advantage of the opportunities.”

To sum up the concept behind the musicpreneur: Identify your goals and develop a business model that caters to your goals. Check out what is happening in the ecosystem around you and determine how you can create multiple revenue streams.

Tommy Darker head shot 1 For those who live in London, Tommy Darker hosts live Darker Music Talks, where he connects independent musicians with “knowledge keepers.” Those knowledge keepers are not strictly from the music industry, but they are experts in what they do. For example, they could be knowledgeable about social media, crowdfunding or writing copy.

“So, I bring this expert in the same room with musicians, and they have a discussion. Most of the time, you are going to see a panel of people who know everything, and they tell you what you need to know. Then, there is a Q & A. With Darker Music Talks, the Q & A is what’s happening.

In the beginning, it started as something very formal, but it seems that musicians love the concept and it started growing through word of mouth, and now it has a life on its own. The mindset, the mentality, is to inspire musicians from all over the world to learn how to become businesses, to learn how to become musicpreneurs and how to build a strong foundation to make a living out of their art, from what they love.”

To learn more about Darker Music Talks and to watch archived discussions, click here:

Tommy Darker is a really active musician, part of the band Sidesteps. I hear influences of David Bowie in his music. When I asked Tommy to describe his sound, he told me, “when you write your own music, at that time, you are alone with yourself and you don’t think of influences. So, I cannot describe what my music sounds like. I know that it’s dark. People tell me they hear influences from David Bowie, Depeche Mode and Joy Division.”

Tommy spent quite a few years in the military, and he also recorded music during that time. Tommy Darker is a 100% self-taught musician. He doesn’t play any musical instrument. He’s the performer and singer in his band, and he composes the music. “Don’t ask me how I know how to compose music if I don’t know how to write music, but everything is done through hearing stuff, pressing the keys, hearing stuff and saying this makes sense, let’s keep it.”

While the demand for music is increasing, supply is increasing even more. Common sense dictates that not every musician will make a living, because there is a greater supply of musicians than demand.

Tommy Darker advises to those musicians who want to be more business-minded:

“First of all, you need to think of what your goals are. Everything starts there. You need to know what the outcome is going to be: Do you want to be a rock star and have fame and people recognizing you? Do you want to have money, make a profit and sustainable living? Do you want to be independent? Like me, I don’t care that much about fame, I care a little bit more about money, but I mostly care about independence.”

“Second of all, try to understand what kind of tools you need and knowledge in order to reach those goals. So, you have a goal, you break down the goal and determine what you need to do. It’s common sense, but we make it very complicated in our heads.”

Then you decide, “I know these things, so I’m going to make them happen; I don’t know these things, so I’m going to find the tools and knowledge to make them happen; or I don’t know these things and I don’t care to learn about these things, so I’m going to find professionals and I’m going to pay them. I’m going to make a theme around me, so they can help me reach my goals.”

These ideas will evolve as more artists create their own success stories. “From my perspective, as a musician and musicpreneur and thinker about the future of music, this is what I’ve seen work.”

This evolution is more than a process. “It’s a marathon. It’s about sweating all the time. You need to be dirty and working, until things start working out for themselves.”

Tommy Darker head shot 2

Watch the complete video interview on the Amused Now YouTube channel:

Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Tommy Darker


Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now