3 SMU Professors Share Funding and Entrepreneurial Insights

John Bryant: Adjunct Assistant Professor at SMU,  Music Industry Practices; Drum BryantJohnSet Studies

Seth: As an entrepreneur, you are a drummer, correct?

John: I’m an entrepreneur, yes as a drummer, but on a lot of different levels. For years, I’ve been in the music business. Sometimes I work for other people as a drummer, but I also produce music for other artists, singers, and songwriters.

Seth: So, have you sought any funding at ay point for your personal career?

John: I’ve not sought any grants, ever, as a drummer or music producer, but I have put together a Kickstarter project where I raised money for a film project that I was a part of, and it was a film about a group that I play in. We performed a concert and filmed it, then I had to raise money to finish the film.

Seth: Okay.

John: That’s when I raised the money through a Kickstarter campaign. In, doing that, you have to make it clear in what it is that you’re trying to accomplish; why are you raising this money? What are your goals for raising this money? Do they have confidence that you’re going to spend this money wisely and reach your goal?

Seth: Okay, so on that note, what funding pursuits or self-generated efforts have proved most effective for you?

John: Well, the Kickstarter campaign was effective; it was successful; it was a lot of work. To the point of where I’ll probably never do one again. I’m glad I did it and I don’t regret doing it, but it let me know that it is not something I want to do again. It was not how I wanted to spend time in my career.

Raising money is not really the first thing that I feel comfortable with. What I would rather do is have my skills and my products speak for themselves and bring work to me that way.

Seth: So, what three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding funds?

John: So, my recommendation, number one, is that you know what your goal is. Second, identify other people; professionals that are in that same goal region. Become familiar with their products. Research and find the people that do what you want to do. Then, once you’ve identified them, try to make yourself available to them. Show them what you can do.

So, you want to want to find your audience and stay in touch with them, those are your supporters.

Barbara Hill-Moore: Distinguished Teacher of Voice at SMU MooreHBarbara

Seth: Okay, so how have you sought funding for yourself as a singer?

Barbara: Well, I went to the library because we didn’t have internet during that time, I read about certain agencies in America, and at the very top was the National Endowment for The Arts, so I just wrote to them and sent them a copy of my singing. I told them of invitations I had.

Seth: And what is the National Endowment of The Arts? Is that a scholarship that you applied for?

Barbara: I applied not for a scholarship, but for a large grant to go to Europe to do what I had already started, which was the performance of songs written by African Americans and other minorities I the United States.

Seth: So, were there any other ways that you sought funding? And if not, how were you able to grow without that outside capital?

Barbara: Since then, I’ve of course sought funding for other things I do through foundations and through the knowledge of personal friends and colleagues. I became aware of certain foundations and of people who fund or support artists in their work.

Seth: What funding pursuits or self-generated efforts have proved most effective for you and why?

Barbara: Foundations who are established to support art, artists, and art endeavors. That’s been effective because that’s what they do mostly, and because that’s what they do, they understand the difficulties; the challenges that artists face.

Seth: Okay, what three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

Barbara: Well, I think it’s very important to know before you start asking for things, what your goal is. I think it’s also important to know what your strengths are and to capitalize on them. No matter if what, in the long run, you’re hoping to accomplish isn’t something you do very well yet if you begin with what you do well, people hear that. Then, they’ll be willing to support you in trying other things you don’t know so well.

Seth: Is there any other advice or last thoughts you would like to give?

Barbara: I think it’s just critical that every artist knows he is his own best sales person; his own best advocate. Discover you, your passion, and your purpose. Whatever it is that you’re there to do, you need to learn that first.

I knew that when I went to school, I would have to work, so I chose a profession I love and I’m still working. I could have retired twenty years ago. I’m working because I love it. I think that when you’re doing that, you don’t feel as though you’re working, you’re just getting up and hurrying to get to something you love to do.

Derrick Horne: Professor of Practice in Music , Director of the Meadows Jazz HorneDerrickOrchestra at SMU

Seth: So, as a musician, have you sought funding for your organization?

Derrick: I haven’t. Quite often, however, some of the various events and projects that I work on will come with their own funding.

Seth: How were you able to grow without outside capital?

Derrick: Well, in my section of the music industry, there’s been a number of things that have been lucrative enough to allow growth without having to have outside funding. And that’s important because when you work in non-classical areas, those opportunities are diminished because, generally, it’s a personal profit-based entertainment.

You have to take advantage of things like marketing and promotions to get ahead and try to get exponential growth on any investments that you make.

Seth: What do you mean by “opportunities”?

Derrick: In the sector of the industry that I work in, the opportunities tend to be of a different nature. They’re quite often devoid of the academic factor which makes it a little tougher to get funding for those things. These opportunities will generally be something that’s a lot more inclusive of personal goals or acclaim versus being academic in nature.

Seth: Okay, what kind of self-generated efforts have proved most effective for you?

Derrick: Some of the most impactful things for me have been advertising in trade magazines or journals. Social media markets nowadays, for some of the products that I offer, have been pretty impactful. As a matter of fact, a large amount of my books and things that get soled are because people saw advertising on social media.

Seth: What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring arts and creative entrepreneurs, regarding raising funds?

Derrick: Not being much of a fundraiser in this regard, the advice would be to know the audience that you’re trying to raise funds from. Make sure that you have something relevant to their interests before you approach them.

The second thing is that presentation is key. And when you make the presentation, make sure that things are clear and that you have something that points to the fact that the project you are fundraising for has a good chance of being successful and that it’s something they’d want to attach their name to.

Seth: Are there any other things you would say regarding being successful as an entrepreneur?

Derrick: The first thing is, regardless of how accomplished you are, nowadays, opportunities for success can come from places you didn’t expect. So, the first thing for me is having an open mind. Understand the value of relationships.

The following interviews, conducted by Seth Clarke, seek to understand:

  • If creative entrepreneurs typically seek capital in starting their organizations
    • OR if leaders of nonprofit leaders, how they raise funds
  • What ways they may have done so, if applicable
  • What advice they have for aspiring creative entrepreneurs. 

This interview process is part of SMU Meadows’ class Creative Entrepreneurship and Attracting Capital.

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