Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in music but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christopher Thomas, Founder of Chris Thomas Music, located in Bend, OR, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

As a composer, my business is writing original music for my base of creative clientele. This customer base is comprised of three categories:

  1. Scoring for filmmakers.
  2. Music for theme parks.
  3. Writing concert music for my publishers.

I originally came to Los Angeles to focus on my film scoring work and was lucky enough to start writing music for television and feature films. By complete accident, I scored a theme park ride, which generated a lot of new work in that industry. Finally, by accident, once again, I met someone on an airplane who introduced me to an editor at a major publication. That incident landed me a publishing deal writing music for the concert hall once again. For better or worse, these are my customers, and this is my life.

Tell us about yourself

My love of music and cinema got me started in the music business. Music came very naturally to me, but I longed to be a storyteller like the great filmmakers (Hitchcock, Kurasawa, Demy, Fellini). Once I realized there was a career where composers worked in service to the motion picture business, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. This excitement motivated me to practice hard and develop my craft, giving me the courage to start my business in Los Angeles. Money and notoriety aren't what I live for; film composers are lowly, humble servants of the greater good (bring the movie). People like me live for the love of the craft. Writing unique music, telling stories, and collaborating with others to create a magical experience. When an audience is swept away by the magic of a film or a theme park experience, that motivates me every day!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

In the music and film business, I honestly think my greatest accomplishment is having survived for so long (over 15 years). Most of us burn out in five years or less, yet I'm still standing. I could also say the projects that have been nominated for Emmys or shortlisted for an Oscar, the industry awards, the composition prizes, or doing a TED Talk. The truth is when a musician is in business for this long; you are among the luckiest 1% of people out there. This is what I'm most grateful for.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

What you don't learn in music school is how to run a business and how lonely the responsibility can be. You are responsible for making sure payments come through, delivering assets, and protecting yourself and your client's interests. Worst of all, every failure (no matter the situation or person) is always yours to own. There are rarely accolades for the work you do, and torrents of bitter criticism flow very easily from the haters. You can never make everyone happy, and you must enforce compromises that leave nobody fully satisfied. I believe this is the meaning behind the adage, "it's lonely at the top." The weight of this reality can be overwhelming, but you must own the pain before you can taste victory.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I can't speak for entrepreneurs in all fields, but I can speak to those who wish to enter the film and music industries. I humbly impart the following for your consideration:

First, don't let others tell you what you can or cannot do! There will always be people in high, safe places who like to tell you what you are capable or not capable of doing. I almost missed out on life-changing opportunities early on because others lacked interest or confidence in me. No matter what you do in life, only you can prove to yourself what you are capable of. Take the risk, aim high, and don't let haters get in your head.

Second, don't give up so fast! You must give things a proper try before you quit. The most common cause of failure I encounter is when talented people give up too soon. The EP you released didn't land a record deal right away, or working in LA for one year didn't land you a movie deal? Careers like this take years of cultivation, growth, and establishing trust in the community. Why would anybody invest in your music if you're not fully committed to long-term partnership and growth? Your life will be no different than the coffee shop owner who requires several years to win the trust of their customer base to turn a profit. If you think hitting it big takes one year or less, you may as well switch majors now. Commitment is the only true path to success!

Finally, stop chasing trends! Conventional wisdom says that if you conform to the latest, hottest trends, you will be rewarded with acceptance and opportunity. When you strive to sound like someone other than yourself, you will be swept into the dark depths of invisibility and replaceability. You will cease to exist when the creative winds begin to change. On the other hand, when you integrate all of your most unique and genuine interests into a new and exciting sound, people will be attracted to the sheer authenticity of your work. You will never win approval from everyone, but you will win life-long dedication from those who value and believe in what you have to say. It is impossible to be fired when clients come to you solely because of your one-of-a-kind sound. Put your training to use, be more skilled than your competitors, and use the full range of creative options to establish your voice. Create artistic value, not TikTok followers.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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