A Conversation with Nathan Dohse, COO/Founder of Zero To 60 by AGD

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Throughout my career as a performing artist I often found myself struggling to answer one fundamental question. As musicians, how do we find the balance between art and industry?
 
 Nathan with his band Fight The Quiet

Nathan with his band Fight The Quiet

I was always over concerned with how the business of our band was operating, and didn’t care enough for my craft. Eventually I became a quality writer and performer but it took a very long time, during which I became frustrated and confused as to why my efforts weren’t paying off better. I knew I was handling the business properly, but the art still needed work. On the flip side I was watching the most talented musicians I knew also failing to make any progress despite creating amazing art. Their problem was they lacked business strategy. 

These experiences led me to believe that when an artist does not have a balance between their art and business strategies they will feel dissatisfied with their progress no matter what. This could even result in throwing out an entire project, along with any opportunities they might have created for themselves along the way. They do this in order to either make more money or feel more fulfilled artistically.

 
If you’re an artist at any level you should be focusing on one goal; to capture and engage your immediate community. Just focus on the potential fans that are right in front of you. This is the same goal that your musical heroes have, their community is simply larger.
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But capturing your immediate community is hard. This is why as artists we’re always looking for someone to plug us into an already existing community. Artists tend to get stuck in the fantasy that there is a person out there with the power to present their art to the whole world with a snap of their fingers. Let's pretend, for the sake of argument, you do find this magical person. They believe your work to be pure gold, and when they show it to the world, every last person wants a piece of it. Your magic friend handles all of your business decisions and leaves you to live your life and just be an artist. All your friends are thinking "wow, you're SO lucky, why couldn’t I find that guy?" Now what? Now that you've created this work of pure gold, the project is completed. When it's time to move on to the next project your magic friend needs you to come back with Pure Gold 2.0 because that's what he's been selling to his community.You're left having to  submit to his wishes or start everything over from scratch. Whichever you choose, the balance is lost. This magic person could be a manager, label, publisher, it doesn’t matter, if you’re not backed up by your own community, you're entering dangerous territory.


 
 

I’m not saying that you need to be skeptical of every person that takes a business interest in your art. It’s great if people want to get involved. Of course there are still sharks and scams, but I thoroughly believe that anyone that’s still working in music is probably here for a genuine love of the art form. You should actively be trying to grow your community to include these music industry professionals. Where most artist have the singular goal of being brought into someone else's community, I encourage you to bring these people into your own community. Show them how YOU do things.

 

I believe there are five pillars that make up every artist’s business foundation

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Performances enable you to showcase art in a face to face setting with your community. It’s high energy and and exciting. When this is coupled with a strong brand your people get inspired and intrigued by the art, this enables you to become an influencer within your community. In a world as interconnected as ours there are many ways to inform your friends, family and fans about your release, and dialing in what marketing efforts work best is key. It’s also important that other influencers are validating your art to their communities, this is where publicity comes in. Having a blog, newspaper, or magazine writing up your art really helps your community take what you do seriously. Lastly you need to know how to monetize everything and keep your operation running smoothly.

 

If you can establish repeatable processes within each of these pillars, when it comes time for a release you'll be able to thoroughly engage your community and eventually transition friends and family into fans. True fans will rapidly increase your community outward. Now that you’re running things like a business, the more successful it is, the more people want to get involved. Without sacrificing balance, an artist can learn to create an invitation for industry professionals to participate in their vision and eventually move to a next level of success within this thing we call the music industry.