Facing the music
16 July 2019
They seized control of their careers and built their own small businesses on the side. Music artists share how they let their entrepreneurial spirit shine through between concerts.
Catherine Durand: music and chocolate
On June 22, 2019, Catherine Durand celebrated her 20 years as a professional artist on the stage of the Francos de Montréal, in the company of heavyweights such as Marie-Pier Arthur, Fanny Bloom, Marie-Annick Lépine and Mara Tremblay. Among this wonderful representation of talent, Catherine Durand is the only one who has her very own music label: KatMusik, founded in 2016. “I love minding my own business!” jokes the folk singer-songwriter who became more widely known thanks to her song La lune au ciel.
“After getting swindled by my first manager, and after seeing the masters of my first two albums disappear, since they didn’t belong to me, I promised myself, never again. I did my research, hiked up my sleeves and got to work. With the sea changes affecting the music industry, the money isn’t where it used to be. But now I have 100% of the pie.”
By becoming a self-producing artist (her production house was founded in 2004), Catherine Durant has been able to make a living from her craft. “I think I found a recipe that works for me: I edit and produce my music. I found a manager I love, who specializes in finding grants and outsourced press relations and bookings.”
Entrepreneur through the force of personal conviction? “I suppose I am! Though the thought of it makes me laugh; to me, it feels normal. But I suppose I must have it in me since I just launched a hot chocolate company, Sük. In fact, my hot chocolates are what sell best after my shows.”
Going to her workshop to bag her products and meeting people at the markets set up at events has turned into a way for her to get away. “I needed to change scenery and get some air. I took part of my revenue from my last album ($10,000) and injected it in Sük without a second thought. The response has been incredible. I love selling a palpable product that people can taste, touch. The sense of accomplishment is something else.”
“When I started out in the music industry, you had to sign with a big label company because producing an album cost about $80,000,” said Catherine Durand. “Today, thanks to home music studios and the dematerialization of music, it’s so much easier. I get a kick out of saying that this is the only industry where we get paid less than 20 years ago.”
Stéphanie Bédard: music and cottages
Singer Stéphanie Bédard had an album and a handful of foreign tours of a musical comedy under her belt when she decided to press pause. “I discovered I had these entrepreneurial skills, but in an industry other than mine,” says the founder of Chalets Chochette, a cottage rental service in the Lanaudière region. “While I was developing the online reservation site, the branding, and a coherent vision for my company, it dawned on me that the basics were the same as in music.”
The woman who broke off with her production label after her first album came back to her musical career re-energized. She chose the path of self-production and became her own manager. “I didn’t want to wait for the phone to ring anymore. I wanted to take full ownership of my successes and my failures.”
She quickly discovered the complexity of grant applications, royalties and copyright. “I took workshops, I never shied away from asking more technical questions to the different organizations and I called my business coach whenever I needed to.” And what’s the next step? “I’m going to study marketing or entrepreneurship and learn the basics.”
To stand above the fray, the woman who become known at Star Académie in 2005 and at The Voice France in 2012 had to be creative. “I ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund my recent mini-album, and I offered a song as a gift. It worked very well. I now offer this service on my online store. I’m not one to turn my nose up at small amounts. Music today is more than just making songs. It’s about creating content, managing social media and tapping into a wealth of creative ideas.”
The pop artist recognizes that her income as a singer went down. “I am planting seeds as strategically as possible so that I can harvest the fruits of my labour in the future. Entrepreneurship lets me explore different facets of my creativity, and gives me different avenues to express myself.”