5 Reasons Why an Entrepreneur is like a Jazz Musician

By artist Debra Hurd www.debrahurd.com

By artist Debra Hurd http://www.debrahurd.com

Recently I saw Eric Marienthal perform in an informal jazz session with other musicians, and I began to think about the similarities between a jazz musician and an entrepreneur.

Jazz is visionary and demands cutting edge performances; a successful session requires leadership, collaboration, and nimble thinking. Musicians must often shift course on a moment’s notice.

And so it is for the entrepreneur; you’re the the CEO of your vision, the leader of your company. Market shift? You have to respond – and fast.

In these shifting economic times, what gives a team its rhythm? Success starts at the top. A good leader knows how to set the tone, on the bandstand or in the boardroom.

So, borrowing from our jazz masters, here are five keys to making making beautiful music in business:

  • Creativity – The successful set begins with every team player bringing the best of their creativity to the effort. A good leader allows creativity to flow, encourages ideas, and rewards creative thinking. (Need help on getting the creative flow going? Find ideas at What Inspires Creativity? )
  • Collaboration – Why can’t we all just get along? That’s right, it starts with team work. Creative synergy is the goal, to produce through collaboration an experience or product that’s finer that what could have produced alone. Whether you’re a solo performer or lead a team, few musicians or business people really go it alone. For example, successful solo authors build a team that includes an editor, agent, financial counselor, and attorney, as well as marketing and publicity pros.  And don’t forget the consuming public – the reviewers and readers. (If you’re an author, here are five tips for authors.)

  • Improvisation – Jazz musicians are known for improvisation; it’s a hallmark of their craft. The successful CEO or founder must often improvise. Resourceful thinking is key. The entrepreneur doesn’t hear “no,” they hear “how?” How can we raise the money, find right people, create the right product, achieve success? Those questions are music to the ears.
  • Interaction – Entrepreneurs often dance to a different tune. Having trouble with your fellow players? Instead of “my way or the highway” thinking, find a common ground for interaction. The musician who’s off key destroys the synergy. During a jazz set, talented backup musicians often get a chance to strut their stuff. Try this in the real world – you may discover a gem of an idea when you yield the spotlight and listen to the riffs.
  • Transformation  – When musicians are in the groove together, transformation occurs, the music takes flight, and the players and audience alike are emotionally transformed in the presence of true artistry. This requires mastery, a high point where each person is contributing their excellence. If you hit a sour note, keep going, but take time to learn. How can we improve? Is there a new instrument, or skill, that needs to be learned? True mastery takes commitment. (Read more on how to master new skills.)
By artist Debra Hurd www.debrahurd.com

By artist Debra Hurd http://www.debrahurd.com

All that Jazz

Making beautiful music is a process.  Whereas an orchestra requires more regimented corporate thinking, jazz demands resourceful creative thinking and teamwork. That’s when transformation occurs.

And that’s the beauty of achievement.

Rich Ideas

Want to share highlights from your entrepreneurial journey, or discover inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs? Sign up now for the new Rich Ideas project, where we’ll share ideas, tips, and advice from other successful entrepreneurs. Visit www.janmoran.com for more details.

Special Thanks

To Austin artist Debra Hurd for lending her beautiful artwork to this post, and to jazz musician Eric Marienthal for a fabulous performance at brunch and for inspiration for this post.

Love to hear your comments. How have you improvised on a project? Any tips for improving collaboration?

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10 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why an Entrepreneur is like a Jazz Musician

  1. Awesome idea and article! I enjoyed reading your article since your analysis, description and tips truly reflect the nature of Entrepreneurship and the nature of Jazz Music . Recent studies have shown that creativity is a leading force in successful businesses worldwide. I wish that we could continue exchanging our opinions on this topic.

    • Hi Lena, nice comment; it’s true, most entrepreneurs have a high degree of creativity, and tend to be creative in more than one area, such as music, art, writing, etc. These overlaps add to their frame of reference for unique problem-solving.

      • I believe that the topic of your article is very important, especially nowadays when music education is mostly for the privileged, and is not accessible ( or costly) for the majority of school and college students. I liked that you showed some similarities between musicians and entrepreneurs in the way that they think, avoiding detailed conversation either about jazz or business.
        Jazz musicians and entrepreneurs share a solid knowledge of the subject, followed by a sudden splash of spontaneity and new authentic ideas. Majoring in dual degrees ( Music /Performing Art and Enterprise Business Management ) I clearly understand the connection between these entities and I understand why most successful businesses are trying to learn from, attract or keep creative professionals on their boards.

  2. Interesting! I remember my professor in Uni, kind of made the same comparison. What he told us is that not everything is transferable, and only lives “in the moment”: Like Impro Jazz, it’s the people, environment and other factors like it that makes the music beautiful. If you try to record it and listen to it on a later event, it sounds horrible. The magic is gone.

    • Live events are so engaging; imperfections actually add to the experience. And that’s a lot like life and business, imperfections create challenges to overcome, laughter, and engagement. If everything was perfect, how boring life would be!

  3. I agree that we need some space to pursue our vision, to create an idea, to fall seven times and get up eight times and to make some “mistakes” along the way. But personally,I think that perfection is never boring . On the contrary, the majority of professionals whether they are musicians, architects, doctors or business people strive to be perfect in the areas of their expertise. Mozart, E. Fitzgerald, D. Brubeck, G. Gershwin, to name a few. Boredom begins when dilenttantism is exchanged with professionalism and when violence and extreme simplicity or bold domination overpower intellect, freedom and compassion. As Wynton Marsalis said in one of his interviews – he likes to teach jazz and take jazz lessons simultaneously to continue perfecting his skills. I do the same, I feel that perfection today is a building ground for perfecting tomorrow and that we build upon our amazing efforts to be beautiful and awesome.

  4. I love this analogy. It works on many levels. I think this applies to anyone working outside the traditional forms of business and personally as I embark on an entrepreneurial journey of self-publishing and blogging. How wonderful to come across this blog. Thank you for the food for thought.

  5. A fascinating post!

    I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe. Great to connect and thanks for visiting my blog (Into the Land of Books). Looking forward to your future posts.

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