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Entrepreneurship: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

"What's the problem?"

Well that sounds a bit confrontational…but it’s not exactly what I mean. Many of us flutetrepreneurs are attracted to becoming entrepreneurs because we see a problem in the flute world or the music world in general that we want to help solve. Big questions for us include: the future of classical music in the US, the incredible shrinking audience, the problems facing music education in the public schools, and fundraising with waning interest from millennial philanthropists. Smaller problems include: how to create the best beginner flute, flute method book, or best flute school and many, many more. It’s hard to think about some of these problems, and we often follow the popular media, blogs, or discussion groups as we search for answers that we can agree with.

The pundits have lots of explanations for some of the big problems-- like, lack of funding for music education has led to plunging interest in classical music for several generations. Or that classical music is outdated and not that "American," so our shifting demographic isn’t interested. Or that millennial philanthropists are interested in metrics-- meaning "what is the exact measurable effect that a donation will have?"

These seem like difficult problems, and the problem you may be trying to solve may be difficult, as well. Maybe you have to ask a different question or find a way to re-define the problem-- perhaps ask, "what is the core of the problem?" For example, is the problem for classical music the music itself, the audience, the schools, the parents, the funders, the way music is funded, the marketing, the framing of the marketing, the lack of interactivity… I could go on, but you get the picture. Try to ask yourself what is the core of the problem, and see if you can look at the problem in a different way.

Additionally, we in the classical music and flute world often accept limits on what is possible in our world, such as no audiences, not a lot of money for music, too hard of a problem to solve, the big corporations are in control, etc. For example, many of us flutists have tricked ourselves into playing a difficult tempo in a piece by aiming for a very fast metronome mark, and then falling back to the required tempo, which then seems easy in comparison to the speedy goal we aimed for. Why not apply this concept which we use all the time to our flutrepreneur problem? If we don’t think about the limits and barriers, we might be able to figure out a solution that others may have missed. Some barriers are really artificial (some are real), and the imagination and creativity that you’ve developed as musicians can really affect interesting change and solve some of those big and small problems that you are thinking about.

Shana Tovah (Happy New Year!), and may your ideas come to fruition in the coming year!!!

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