This is my second year teaching an introduction to music business and entrepreneurship class at the Framnäs Folk High School. When they approached me, I told them that what I could offer is a unique, broad perspective, based on my personal experiences.
My career so far as a freelancer has been, shall we say, wide-ranging. I have been ambitious and enthusiastic, but unfortunately not very focussed. In practice, this has meant doing lots of different things that require different skillsets, even if all of them have been music-related. I have been the proverbial jack of all trades, master of none, and historically it has been to my detriment.
This lack of focus also meant I did not stick to a plan; I didn’t even have one. I have done exciting things, participated in or even started some excellent projects, even excelled in some of these myriad ventures. However, instead of staying on track toward a certain goal, I have skipped between different tracks, very gradually getting better at each of them but still being bested by those of my peers who specialise in one or even two skills.
One part of my entrepreneurship class is me going through my life, from childhood until freelance adulthood, describing what I have done and why I did it at the time, and dissecting my various life choices both good and bad – mostly the bad ones.
Looking back, it does feel kind of frustrating to realise, in hindsight, the possibilities I’ve squandered and the bridges I’ve burnt, without even realising it when it happened.
But hopefully (at least so I tell my students), if they can learn from my mistakes, then it won’t have been for nothing. Best case, I can even learn something, myself! They say that teaching something is an excellent way to learn it yourself, since you need to not only study that thing to such a degree that you can explain and/or demonstrate it to someone else in perhaps even a couple different ways.
Perhaps by airing out my past mistakes I will be able to avoid repeating those mistakes myself.
In fact, as I went through and reworked my notes for this part of the class over the past few days, I saw how this year could become one of those times where history repeats itself – unless I, in this case, step in and change it. But that’s hard, and that takes courage.
Instead of playing it safe, I need to throw myself in at the deep end and hope I can swim, or at least float.
I read that Anders Hillborg, an incredibly successful and celebrated Swedish composer who turns 70 this year, promised himself to stick to composing for ten years after graduating from music college, before trying something else. No side jobs, no safe income, just the pressure to succeed and the tenacity that that brought out in him.
Hillborg said in an interview that he would become too lazy or too risk-averse if he chose to have a stable income while trying to break as a composer, that it would directly negatively impact his working toward that goal. Conversely, feeling the need to actually compose for a living must have been emboldening, if also rather stressful.
I partially recognised myself in what Hillborg described. My friends can attest to me fretting regularly about my financial situation. And quite the opposite to Hillborg, I have more or less consistently picked the path of least resistance in the sense of prioritising income. (It has, on the other hand, never been stable.)
My case is a bit more nuanced than that, though. I have wanted to do a great many different things, to branch out, to try different music-related jobs, and again, I have been fairly successful at several of them. It has not only been about putting food on the table.
However, this really is the time to really give composing my all. It is not the first time I have been in a position like this, but damn if I let it go to waste one more time.