On Moving to Nashville for Music

When I reconnect with old contacts and tell them that I moved to Nashville, TN, I almost always get asked, “Did you move to Nashville for your music career?”

The answer of course, is no. I moved to Nashville because my partner and I wanted to live here (it was more affordable and diverse than the Pacific Northwest, the homes are beautiful, and the pace of living is nice). If anything, I moved to Nashville to help retire from music – at least performing live.

I do see this question come up all the time, people are often asking, “Should I move to Nashville for music?”

The answer of course, is also no – at least most of the time. It all depends on what your intentions and goals are. Generally speaking, it isn’t a good idea to move anywhere for a particular career unless you already have an established network. It’s much easier to make a splash by building momentum in a less competitive market and allowing it to carry you into the new one.

If artists are serious about their music business, then they should understand that every business depends on profit. You can only earn more by doing one of two things: cutting expenses or increasing income. The former is much easier. So why not move to a rural areas where the rent is only a few hundred dollars, allowing you to tour more freely and invest more into the business? If you’re constantly working part-time jobs in order to afford to live in a bigger market (Nashville, LA, New York, etc.), then it’s going to drain resources, time, and energy that could otherwise be spent playing music. The same thing could be said of actors or anyone who wants to start a business that isn’t relying on location.

So why do people want to move?

It’s because it is romantic – the idea of moving to the big city and being discovered, to be surrounded by others following their passion, to be close to industry. It’s reinforced by TV shows and movies (“Strategically building a fanbase and perfecting my craft while minimizing expenditures” is not as exciting as a plotline as “I risked everything, moved, and made it!”).  If you want to do something big for your music career, don’t move. Instead consider any of the following instead: hire a publicist, go to business school (or enroll in a great program on innovation), develop a niche market and find your 1000 true fans, or conquer the market you’re already in first. In other words, think about the big picture and what will actually deliver results instead of what seems to be a gratifying move.

There are thousands of artists here – it is an overly saturated market. Think about it: would you open a bakery on a block that already has 5 others? Of course not. You’d be much better opening up in a place that is in desperate need of baked goods or find low overhead for your factory so that you can focus on building a great online experience.

If you want to move here because it’s a great place to live, then that’s perfectly fine. But don’t risk your art, career, and happiness on short-term thinking even if it feels like you’re making progress.  Whether it is a music career or any other kind of work, we should be thinking about what actually moves in the needle in terms of those we seek to serve.

This is a great read: Why Tim Ferriss, tech startup investor, moved from Silicon Valley to Austin, TX.

And, if you’re interested in music business advice, check out my podcast here.

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