Ten tips to read before starting your music technology business

As part of Daredevil Project’s role in Joining the Dots I will be writing monthly blogs about our journey along the way. I’d like to kick things off by outlining a few tips I’ve learned the hard way over the past two to three years of starting a technology business.

The music industry is changing drastically due to technology. And it’s not unique to music – industries all over the world are in flux in a similar way due to the radically shifting landscapes we live in. But this doesn’t have to be a negative. It can mean more opportunities, lower barriers to entry and higher opportunities for people to start businesses. These my top tips for anybody who wishes to start a technology business to disrupt the music industry (or any industry for that matter…)

Read up on the industry you want to enter. You may be an expert in one area of an industry, but force yourself to become an expert in the area you want to move into – you may know the music industry like the back of your hand but know nothing about tech. Find the big players, understand the terminology people use, get a grasp for the processes involved and figure out why nobody has every tried to do what you plan to before. For example, if you need to develop an app, learn how the various app stores differ and get a rough idea of how the app development process works. One way is to collate as many articles from industry news sources (I personally use Flipboard for this) and force yourself to read for 30-60 minutes every day on the subject – within a month you’ll be able to hold a conversation with industry experts and not sound like and idiot… and that’s the least one can hope for!

Can’t code? Learn to, even if it’s just some basic HTML web design. It will help you understand what ‘coding’ means and what you will be asking other people to do (and it will help with tip four).

Everybody who works with, for or has a technology startup has read a book called The Lean Startup. Google it, buy it, read it. It outlines a way of designing a business and products to ensure the customer’s needs are met, not yours. It’s not scripture – it goes on a bit and the Americanism can be a bit cringy – but some of the concepts covered provide a fantastic framework to get you started on your business journey. It will also help to break down some of the ridiculous, San Francisco inspired terminology and acronyms people use when discussing technology products.

Leading on from the last tip, make sure people actually want what you want to build. You may think people want it. Your friends and family may agree with you that they to think people want it… but you don’t know until you give it to people to try. You may be thinking it’s a bit chicken and egg – you can’t prove it until you build it and you can’t afford to build it until you prove it. But that’s not strictly true. There’s always a way to prove your idea first. It may be simply using paper or an existing piece of technology to mimic the functionality of your product. All you need to achieve is proof that people want to what you want to build. Our very first challenge game was played using Twitter and hashtags. People loved it and it gave me the confidence to start building a very basic app to further test the idea. Try some of the fantastic plugins on WordPress. You may be able to mimic the functionality you need on a basic WordPress website and roll it out to a small number of people, prove it works (or possibly more usefully, that it doesn’t) and build on your idea from there.

With such a drastic upheaval occurring in the music industry, there has never been a better time to try and implement a game changing product. The world of technology businesses is also fully buoyed. We’re in a bubble and it shows no sign of slowing any time to soon. Millions of people around the world are trying to use technology to disrupt tired old industries and many are succeeding (See Spotify, AirB&B or Uber for example). Furthermore, they are being funded. People are excited to invest in technology thanks to the press being awash with huge valuations of technology companies, and they want a piece of the action. However, like all bubbles based on overblow valuations, it will eventually pop – so get in there (and out) as soon as you can!

Nobody is going to steal your idea. Nobody really cares and the chances of your idea being original are actually pretty slim. You’re more likely to make it happen if you tell people about it, broadcast it from the rooftops – who knows who might be listening…

Getting advice and support for your business is easy these days. There’s a wealth of information held on websites and forums online. Read them all and ask for advice. However, people are your best route to getting support. Don’t do it alone, go to any and every meetup, networking and speaking event for people starting their own businesses. Tell people your idea and see what they think. Even better than this is to start working from a co-working space so you can bounce ideas off people even further. And even better than this, try and get a place on one of the many incubator programs that are popping up across the country – F6S lists quite a few.

It’s the easiest way to fund the project. Keep your job and do it in your spare time until you know it’s ready to make enough money to keep you alive. You’re the easiest line of credit.

You can spend years applying to every over subscribed grant, prize, investment competition and not get one. That is time best spent running your business and actually making money. I’m not saying don’t apply to these things, but be highly selective. If you feel like you’re changing the business slightly to meet the specifications of the prize, leave it. They often take at least a day or two to apply for, let alone further selections rounds. Use this time to earn money yourself.

The next stage in building a tech business is often to get investment. Investors see hundreds of businesses and only put their cash into the ones they know they’re going to get a return on their investment. Show they will get a return by proving your business can make money, and only then start talking to investors.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest music industry resources posted by the hub or follow us on twitter.