Every artist is an entrepreneur: How studying business helps

ArtsHub asks a creative entrepreneur how a business degree has helped his career.
Every artist is an entrepreneur: How studying business helps

Josh Simons. Image supplied.

When you embark on a creative career, the prospect of accounting and microeconomics aren’t the first thing you think of. But it is knowledge that helps.

For Josh Simons, musician and co-founder of social media music network app Vampr, studying a Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University online through Open Universities Australia was a good choice.


At the time, Simons was breaking with his band Buchanan. But building a following in Australia meant touring the album three times, so finding a flexible way to study online while committing to regular travel and also working three days a week as a landscaper was important for Simons.

‘Every artist is an entrepreneur and is running their own business whether they like it or not because they are spending money to make money. They are investing in themselves by doing music lessons, they are spending money on bus hire to travel to Sydney to play a show,’ he said.

‘Essentially, artists are running a small business and there is absolutely no harm in understanding how business works – in fact it should be encouraged more.’

For many of the artists and creatives who decide to study business it comes down to a question of what the degree offers their chosen career path. For Simons – who isn’t caught up in the false separation of business and the arts – a fit with his creative work was clearly important and both business and art have become necessary parts of his creative career.

The business of art

The worlds of business and the arts collide more obviously in the creative industries, where entrepreneurship in cultural and creative fields leads to new business models and innovative arts organisations.

Vampr is one example of what happens when a creative entrepreneur takes his personal experience of working as an artist and uses the insight this brings to fill a need in the market.

Simons recounts his experience of moving to London to work as a musician as instigating the social network idea. ‘It was really, really hard to break into sessions,’ he said.

‘I ended up doing a lot of songwriting for people, but then I actually got a bit sick while I was living in London and had to come back to Australia for treatment. While I had that down time, I was reflecting on my experience there – going from being well connected and experienced in the Australian music scene, but then having a really hard time in London like I was starting again.

‘That was the spark for me to go, hold on, it’s never been easier to record music, distribute it, build a fan base. But to actually make your network [that’s hard] – and if you don’t have that, you don’t have anything because it is an industry that relies on collaboration. I thought there needed to be better alternatives than the ones that were available in 2014,' he explained.

‘Right now we are trying to connect that ecosystem and scale so that [Vampr] is useful. That’s the stage we’re in at the moment, but music as an industry is really fragmented. There are about 53 different roles that you will need to fill at even just an early stage of your career. Even if you’re putting on your first club show, you’re indirectly or directly dealing with a lot of people and that’s not including fans. So there is an education element there that is lacking. We plan to take our product down that path over the years.’

Being able to understand and analyse marketplaces has contributed to the development of Vampr, and Simons attributes this to his studies. ‘Understanding economics and marketplaces and how they move, and learning how to analyse trends, that’s been really useful in every area of my career, both music and the social network for sure,’ he said.

‘Education is only ever a good thing so I think anyone can benefit from doing a business degree, to be honest.’

For 25 years, Open Universities Australia has enabled students to study online with leading universities, in a way that suits their lifestyle. Explore all your options at open.edu.au or call a friendly student advisor on 13 OPEN.

Brooke Boland

Tuesday 24 July, 2018

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.