Music VS Business

(Originally posted here: by Neil Bussey)

You’re a musician? And you decided to go into Business??? You must be good at math!

Music and Business have a lot more in common than you might think. And it’s not just about the numbers. Sure, the patterns are there, but there’s so much more that carries over.

I was 11 when I started playing saxophone, 17 when I decided to study it professionally, and 22 when I finished my music degree and started a business career. At 30, I can say with certainty that those 19 years of being a muisician have done so much for my career! There are 4 key areas that I’ve come to appreciate in the transition between the two worlds.

Performing = Presenting

Every time I get up to do a presentation or speak in front of my team, it’s like going on stage. I’ve been on stage 100’s upon 100’s of times and I treat every presentation the same as every performance.

Before a performance, you practice, learn the music, and then deliver it in a way that’s meaniful to your audience. A confident delivery comes from being well prepared.

Before a presentation, you prepare, learn your material, and then deliver it in a way that’s meaniful to your audience. A confident delivery comes from being well prepared.


This one is a little more straight forward. You can flourish in both business and music by developing your creative thinking. Whether it’s a creative approach to performing a piece or a creative approach to solving a problem, creative thinking can help you achieve success in both worlds.

Leadership & Teamwork

I love playing in Concert & Jazz bands. In each, you’ve got sections of similar instruments and ever section has a ‘section leader.’ I’ve had many opportunities to be the Saxophone Section leader. The skills I developed translated directly to leading in my business career. You’ve got to know how to analyze what’s going on, give meaningful feedback to your team, and coach them to delivering a stronger performance.

Out of context you’d never know if I was talking about music or business! That’s because the skills of being a leader apply to both worlds.

At the same time, mastering your own craft, so that you can lead by example is also critical. Personal dedication to improving can inspire your team members or your fellow musicians to better themselves.

Be the tenor player = Know when to lead and when to follow

This one may seem a little more abstract, but hear me out. I spend a lot of time playing tenor sax. Playing tenor I get opportunities to play lead parts, particularly in jazz bands. In those moments I get to shine individually in front of the audience. On the flip side, the tenor part often is filled with a lot of harmony lines. When playing those lines it’s not the feature, they don’t stand out as the star of the moment. But, they’re just as critical to a successful performance. Those parts are the supporting lines that helps the melody sound even better, without them the meldoy line would sound empty.

In business this translates to knowing when to lead and when to follow (or when to be supportive). You can’t have a room full of people all trying to take the lead. Stepping up into a leadership role is definitely important, but so is doing the underlying support work. The data analysis, slide deck building, or report writing, is just as important as the big presentation. Working as a team, everyone needs to pitch in to get the job done. You’ve got to have humility to be able to take a step back and support your colleagues when they’re in the spotlight.

There are so many things we do that translate between our hobbies and careers — all it takes is opening yourself up to what’s already there!