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Taking Your Audio Career And Business To The Next Level

Here are some observations on this situation, gathered over a 30-year period.

  • The general public buys concert tickets, records, merchandise, and related material created by musicians and supported by audio people and promoted by the industry. Fans “vote with their pocketbooks,” meaning they buy what they like and come back to the shows, venues, and acts that they enjoy on a repeated basis.

  • To judge whether a specific musical performance is “good or bad” from an artistic standpoint is largely subjective. What appeals to me may or may not appeal to you, and that’s OK. Diversity keeps things interesting. However, quality sound can be measured objectively and enhances audience satisfaction for any show.

What’s the point? Audio integrity, business integrity, and commercial success go hand in hand. You don’t need to compromise quality or artistic values to make money in the live sound business.

Also, simply being commercially successful does not assure positive reviews by the critics, or any other measure of success. Top selling tours don’t necessarily win technical awards. Remember, I’m talking about the mainstream here, not the exceptions publicized by the media.

Statement Of Mission
A mission statement answers the question “Why are you in business?” Whether you’re a self-employed rigger or roadie, crew member, owner of a small audio business or in a management position in a larger firm, the answer to this question is the foundation for your strategic planning. And again, it applies whether you are full time or part time in live sound.

Guidelines for writing your mission statement:

  • Strong mission statements are usually one or two sentences long. I’ve seen mission statements that have gone on to two or three pages of cryptic single spaced text. Longer ones are flawed, in that you and the people around you will not remember them and may not put emphasis in the right areas when it comes to planning and taking action.

  • Short mission statements are often supplemented by clarifying comments. These most frequently take the form of “vision statements” and “values statements.” This is a good way to deal with the temptation to make your mission statement too long.

  • Vision statements describe your view of the future of the industry or market. Vision statements are part predictions, part trend analysis and part context information.

  • Values statements are your code of ethics, or the operating principles that are fundamental to your business and unlikely to change over a long period of time. If you work alone or own the company, your own values can be asserted in your business.

If you work for someone else, it’s important to make sure that your personal values are reasonably aligned (congruent) with those of the organization. This helps prevent problems, but more importantly drives the business in a positive way.

Writing Is Liberating
A rule of thumb in strategic planning is “if it’s not written down, it’s not a plan.” Sure, you have to think through the issues, and yes, you may have a good memory. Yet, there is something about the act of writing that is both clarifying and liberating.

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The other real benefit of writing everything down is that the material can then be shared with others: your business partners, co-workers, employees, family, investors, vendors, or other stakeholders. For now, take a stab at drafting your mission statement, or revising the one you currently have. Start by completing the following sentence:

We are in business to ___________.

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step in understanding the fundamentals of business and in taking your audio business to the next level.

John Stiernberg is founder and principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting, the Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles) CA-based business development firm ( He currently works with audio companies and others on strategic planning and market development.

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