Clara Loeb Asks if Planning is Necessary

Adam A. Anderson is an actor and the founder of “The Striped Heart,” a

graphic design and photography agency in the DFW area.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

I did not have a business plan. While at SMU, I got a work-study job as an assistant graphic designer for Meadows, which helped me create and grow. I started working on projects in school and produced a show with actors and dancers. When I graduated, I had a portfolio ready to start interviewing for companies. I got a job at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. After 2 years, I realized that I couldn’t do what I wanted in a 9-5pm job, so I left my job at the DSO and decided I was going to make my business something and push it forward. My business is a one stop shop and is the perfect business on multiple subjects.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

I think that it depends on the business. It is good to have a plan. My company could have been more successful in the beginning if I had a plan, but naturally, I came up with a plan, and now I am able to answer all questions with understanding. I think that all companies should know their goals or else how do you expect to make money?

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

My first piece of advice is to read. It’s so important to gain knowledge. We think the media is knowledge, but it puts us in a bubble. It is important to collect information and do research so that you can answer questions like ‘how do I budget or write a proposal?’ I recommend a book by Michael Janda, “Burn your Portfolio,” that talks about starting a business and how to run your own personal career. It really helped me grow my understanding of business and find creative solutions for client’s problems. Another piece of advice is to keep an open, transparent relationship with clients. Artists and business people can be afraid to communicate with their clients on an honest and truthful level. I have had potential fires put out by being honest and letting the client know there was an issue with the project. My final piece of advice is knowing your value as an artist and know what you’re worth. Look up and ask around how much people get paid and where you stand in the market.

Jonathan Tsay is the founder of Ensemble 75, a non-profit organization that promotes local musicians in playing chamber music in its original setting.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

I did not really have a business plan. After finishing my undergrad at SMU, I went to Montreal for my doctorate. When I came back to Dallas, I found that performance opportunities were lacking for me and my friends in the area. They were good players, but only playing gigs. I saw some concerts around that were sparsely attended. I wanted to create a chamber music series and bring more people to concerts. In 2010, I decided to start an ensemble and in 2011, we officially became a nonprofit organization and started paying people. We operate by pitching ideas and then getting a date and location. This was a smaller idea that evolved. The way that the organization gained popularity was through larger donors.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

Yes, it’s essential. We’ve been operating for many years and I think it’s invaluable to have a plan. We had a laissez-faire style at first, but to grow and become something more significant in the DFW area and the music community, we needed a plan.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

My biggest piece of advice is to get to know other musicians and people in other professions. I have a team of people that all specialize in different things. I know lawyers and accountants that help give me advice on my business. Knowing people who can handle the business side is crucial. My second piece of advice would be to start small and work out kinks before expanding. I have seen other series that get ambitious at beginning, but end up failing. My third piece of advice is to make a large variety of connections. I became good friends with my collaborators and because of their personal growth, it got me in touch with a new tier of people. It is always good to be friendly to new people you meet. If they are genuine, those connections are longer lasting and meaningful. It is important to sell yourself but to not make it the only goal. Establishing connections is important in the long run.

Kevin Butler is a member of a progressive world music troupe called the Obscure Dignitaries as well as a freelancer with several jazz and brass bands in the area.

Did you have a business plan when you started your group?

I did not have a business plan. I don’t use business cards or have a resume. Instead, I just show up at jam sessions and concerts as a way of networking. I met the members of the Obscure Dignitaries in the World Music Ensemble at SMU. We’ve made it a sort of pet project. Everyone in the group are performance musicians, teachers, or students.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

I think that they can help. However, business cards don’t really exist anymore since everything is electronic now. I get contacted over Facebook more than any other platform. It is also important for them to see you in person to trust you.

I think that it’s important to go check out music that’s going on in Dallas not directly related to large ensembles. Most freelance musicians leave school, don’t really play, and only go to Dallas Symphony concerts. This is only a fraction of what’s happening in Dallas. The opportunities are endless.

Getting involved in a lot of different things is important in terms of teaching and playing. I think that there are several things that should be taught to musicians in school that would help them manage their own freelance career. Learning to book and promote your own performance is extremely important. Most music students only perform in school related events where the school takes care of scheduling and promotion and students just should show up and play. It is important to learn how to call a venue, book a show, discuss payment and contract, and promote it yourself. Another aspect that schools do not touch on as much is technology and electronics. I think it’s important to know how to reliably amplify your instrument using a mic or a pickup. You should own your own microphone, pick-up, amplifier, speaker, and recording equipment. Even if you only want to play classical music, this is 100% necessary.

The interviewee is Clara Loeb, a senior at SMU who studies music and arts management. 

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