Inc. Magazine isn’t where you’d normally expect to find profiles of famous musicians, but Jeff Haden’s article covers both the musical and the entrepreneurial sides of Joe Satriani:
Put aside selling millions of critically acclaimed solo albums. Put aside touring with Mick Jagger, Deep Purple, and Chickenfoot. Put aside teaching legendary guitarists like Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Andy Timmons, and Alex Skolnick and creating signature guitar and equipment lines. Put aside founding the long-running G3 concert series.
World class musician? Absolutely — but inside 14-time Grammy nominated guitarist Joe Satriani also beats the heart of a true entrepreneur.
This month marks the release of Satriani’s new book, Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir, as well as his career retrospective box set, The Complete Studio Recordings. It’s the perfect time to talk to him about the business of Joe Satriani. (Spoiler alert: While you might think entrepreneurs have nothing in common with musicians, you’re definitely wrong.)
It’s almost a given in the music business that artists eventually regret the terms of their first contract. They’re so happy to get signed that they will sign almost anything. Yet your experience was very different.
Success came to me in my late 20s. I had started touring when I was a teenager so I had already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the music business. Plus setting up my own record company taught me a lot.
I walked into Relativity Records as a musician who could not be taken advantage of. That’s why I wound up owning all my own publishing and making a deal that was quite advantageous for a new solo artist. But I really didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I thought of myself as an artist who felt strongly he should control every aspect of his art.
From a business and market opportunity point of view, instrumental rock was not exactly a happening genre. If your goal was to strike while the musical iron was hot your timing was way off.
What you just said is perfect. You encapsulated what I came to grips with when I looked for funding for my first record.
I remember getting turned down by everyone in my local community, and I was just looking for a few thousand dollars. If I had been starting a company to make plastic cups I could probably have gone to a bank and gotten a loan. But a guitar player getting a bank loan to record a record? That was just never going to happen.
After a week of being rejected by local studios and engineers I found this credit card offer in my mailbox. I was pre-approved because of, “My good standing in the community.”