This week’s interview is with ‘Musicpreneur’, Tommy Darker, the founder of Darker Music Talks. He inspires musicians (and anyone else willing to listen) to blur the imaginary lines between art and business and take responsibility in creating the sustainable life that is within their grasp.
He has a lot of thoughts that I can wholeheartedly relate to and I for one can’t wait to go and drink coffee with him. But for now, get yourself comfy and enjoy this fascinating foray into the mind of a very interesting man…
My name is Tommy Darker, I’m a Greek and London-based musician and entrepreneur (as I like calling it, a Musicpreneur). I’ve also founded Darker Music Talks, a series of discussions between experts and independent musicians that inspire the concept of Musicpreneurship.
What is the main thing you are focussing your creative energy on at the moment?
Currently I’m focusing on expanding the concept of Darker Music Talks into 13 more countries, in order to encourage and inspire Musicpreneurship to local musicians and connect them with other like-minded artists. In the summer I will get back to my music and will spend the rest of the year focusing on my artistic projects.
Do you have a philosophy, motto, quote etc that you live by?
Of course, I have plenty of them.
About my writings: “Write like you talk and they’ll read like they listen.”
About confident communication: “Don’t talk to people as the person you are now, talk to them as the person you’ll be in 6 months from now.”
About marketing: “Remember, it’s just human beings communicating with each other through messages.”
About humans: “There’s not a single person you couldn’t learn how to love after you’ve heard their story.”
I’m aware of the wording I choose when I think about the world, because words don’t merely describe it, they also shape it. In general, I like humanizing everything and reminding myself that life is nothing to be afraid of, it’s just a game that we have to make interesting through our actions. Everything else is mental barriers.
If you could have coffee and a bit of a chat with any human figure, living or dead (past, present, or future…) who would you choose? Why?
Anyone. I love hearing people’s stories. I talk with so many people and I don’t think anyone is more important than others. The perception we have about them is the one that changes. Everyone is worth my time, I would have a chat over coffee with everyone.
On Your Work
What is a musicpreneur?
The Musicpreneur is my vision: the idea that knowledgeable musicians will essentially run their own business around their art, with clever business models and a team of people assisting them. Putting it in a different perspective, it will be the evolution of the DIY movement.
You are becoming increasingly influential on the future of music and the industry. Is there a core point at the heart of your message for musicians and artists who come to you for advice?
Thank you. Yes, there is a phrase I use all the time: “Take a step back and see what works for yourself. There’s no global remedy anymore.” The second thing I always say is “Don’t look for new bosses, it’s high time you become the boss of your own business.”
Every musician needs to work on their own assets, their art, creative concepts, story, brand and identity, and then answer the questions: “Why would they bother? Why would somebody choose me over the others?”
When they’re done with their soul-searching, they have to create a business model that streamlines their actions, the value they create and the profit they make.
It’s quite simple, if you take a step back and allow yourself to see.
What inspired you to quit your well paying job and to focus on helping musicians make a sustainable living and business?
Well, to begin with, I never said my mission is to help musicians make a living. I’m just an observer and thinker about the future of the music industry. I think about things and write them down, because this procedure helps me see things clearer. They seem to help lots of people too, but that’s a by-product. First and foremost, I’m an artist myself. One that likes creating, sometimes to express an idea, sometimes for the sake of creating. I grow through creating, whether this is called music – writing – whatever.
Back to your question: it’s my values. I have certain ideas I live with, and my job was restricting them. That’s why I quit, without actually having a specific plan, just with an idea of who I wanted to be and what values I stood up for. It wasn’t such a difficult decision, you know?
From your perspective, who should read what you have to say, and join your seminars/events?
Everyone is invited. I write in humanese, so that every single person can understand my point of view about the music industry, even if you’re not involved in it. In order to narrow down the scope of my answer, I’d say I mostly get read by musicians who want to get a realistic perspective on the music industry and learn from a fellow musician who makes a living in two connected worlds – art and business – and is documenting everything he’s doing.
Secondly, I get read by music people that see a reliable thought leader in my eyes.
Are there any big myths that you hear musicians talk about that you feel compelled to challenge?
Yes, of course there is. My mission is to demystify the statement ‘art good, business bad’. It’s very contradictory and it’s the root of all problems for artists who don’t sustain a career in music. Art has been inextricably connected with commerce since the dawn of humanity. After all, you cannot claim you hate business and still expect to make a living out of music.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I wake up (usually 5am, or 7am if I’m lazy!), jot thoughts down and have a strong breakfast. My day is quite flexible, open for experimentation. I’ve got strong intrinsic motivation to get tasks done, so I don’t really plan when’s and how’s. I usually meet a lot of people during the day; conversing is big part of what I do. I also spend quite a few hours doing nothing, just observing and reflecting. I enjoy the thought of being a philosopher, can’t you tell? 🙂
Who are your favourite authors (both online and offline)?
Oh, too many of them. For now, I’ll only mention two names. Andrew Dubber is my inspiration and drew me into this world of writing and thinking. ‘Music in the Digital Age’ is a must-read. More recently, the person that changed completely my way of thinking, analysing information and writing, is Nicholas Cook and his book ‘Music: A Very Short Introduction’. I wish every musician had read this book already. I’ve gifted it to people I care about too many times.
If you were 16 again and thinking about your future from that perspective what would you tell yourself, knowing then what you know now about the world?
Nothing. I’d just look at myself and smile, because when 16, you’re ignorant but ready to discover. Magic.
I love every single minute of my ever-changing life and each one of them plays a significant role to who I am and how I behave today. I feel proud of myself, because I always learned from my mistakes and progressively moved from total ignorance to less ignorance. We’re all ignorants and eternal learning is like a drive: it doesn’t need shortcuts. You need to feel every single dent and bump down to your bones.
Where is the best place for people to connect with you online (and to explore what you have on offer)?
My website: www.TommyDarker.com
Darker Music Talks: www.DarkerMusicTalks.org