by Dr. Paul Guise (originally published in 2005)
is an arts consultant, conductor and music educator living in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.
Check out his website at CultureConsult.ca
Over the past several months we’ve looked at the basics of planning your music business. This month, we’ll consider some different sources of information that can help you establish whether there really is a market for what you’re selling, and if so, what the characteristics are of that market (population, spending patterns, cultural background, etc.). You can skip this step and simply start working as a musician, but taking the time to do your homework on the business side of your music career can save you time and money (as discussed way back in January’s article). So, where to begin?
These days, the first step that most people will take is to look on the internet. This isn’t a bad strategy, but remember, there’s more to searching the internet than just visiting Google. There are other websites out there that you can visit directly that will give you most of your preliminary information. Here in Canada, the place to start is the Statistics Canada website, statcan.ca. This website, available in English and French, presents a wide assortment of demographic data for every region of the country, and is especially useful for identifying trends in population and finance. Use this to get a basic understanding of whether your city or neighbourhood is an appropriate place for the business you’re planning.
Need more information? Then your next step is to head to the public library, where you’ll find two important resources: the collection and the librarians. Public libraries contain excellent collections of materials about the local business environment, and these materials are usually kept up to date. In addition, the librarians who work at these wonderful places are trained to help you find specific types of information within the overall collection, saving you time and effort. Public libraries are usually better suited to market research than libraries at colleges or universities (which are designed for academic research), so pack up your list of questions and make a day of it!
If you’re still looking for information at this point, consider a visit to your local business development office and/or chamber of commerce. Mandated with helping people start and grow their businesses, these centres are rich with print and electronic materials about the local marketplace, local regulations (such as registering your business or paying taxes), and personal contacts (such as mentors) to help you along your way. Materials are always kept up to date, and the staff is experienced in helping people like you find the information you need.
Note that the above options are all available at little or no cost. If you need still more help, look to a cultural research specialist (such as BusiMusic.ca!). Cultural research specialists are highly trained people or organizations that spend all day, every day, looking into the inner workings of the cultural industries. They are usually contracted to work on specific projects (meaning you have to pay them), but many offer free consultations or publish via newsletters or, increasingly, the internet. While many musicians don’t need to research their market in such great detail, the services of such a specialist can be indispensable to larger music organizations such as orchestras, universities, and record labels. One fine example of an arts research specialist is Hill Strategies Research hillstrategies.com, who produce a regular bulletin called the Arts Research Monitor. Browse their site for more information on how to subscribe.
Each of these sites leads to many others, and there are more links available at BusiMusic.ca. Let me know if you come across something that’s helpful and I’ll add it to the site, as we all benefit from sharing resources. Remember to keep thorough notes as you’re doing your research, as this will help other people help you! Finally, don’t forget your colleagues when you’re doing market research. Many of your fellow musicians will have words of wisdom that they can pass along, often saving you significant amounts of time. Just remember that even the wisest words should be confirmed through one of the sources we’ve been investigating, and that it never hurts to get a second (or third, or twelfth) opinion. Enjoy Thanksgiving – see you in November!