Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in music but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steve Danyew, a composer and educator based in Rochester, NY, USA.

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

I am a composer, writing music for concert bands, orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, and more. I self-publish most of my music, so I'm also a music publisher, selling sheet music to customers around the world. My customers are typically universities, community bands and orchestras, high schools, and individual musicians.

Tell us about yourself

I've been captivated by music since I was a child, and I started writing my own music in high school. As a saxophonist, I remember sitting in a concert band and hearing harmonies that sounded amazing, and I wanted to understand how to create those sounds. I studied music composition in college and encountered a much wider range of music than I knew existed. After college, I started a website where I began self-publishing my compositions and marketing my work. Over time, I began to receive commissions and performances of my music.

A few of the things that motivate me each day are:

  1. Trying to create music that is artful, well-crafted, and has depth. This is like any art form - we are constantly trying to create work that resonates with us and our audiences.
  2. The music community, and specifically the concert band community (a genre I write a lot for), is such a wonderful community, and I'm so glad to be a part of it. This motivates me to do my best work.
  3. I want to create my best work so that young musicians who might play my music will have similar experiences that I had as a young musician and be inspired to explore music further.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I feel like my biggest accomplishment is having created some music that makes a positive impact on people - especially young people. I also feel grateful that I've been able to create a career and a business that allows me to work on my art every day.

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

You have to provide yourself with your own direction, deadlines, motivation, etc. That can be challenging at times. But it's also super rewarding when you achieve something and realize that it is possible to achieve success as a small business owner.

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

  1. If your business is something that will take time to become profitable, have some other way of earning income as you are building your business.
  2. Have multiple income streams, and ideally, passive income streams. If you can earn money via sales, royalties, downloads, and other passive means while you are on vacation hiking, that's a great thing.
  3. Be kind to everyone. In music (and probably in many fields), the people you know and meet are a huge part of your career. Make an effort to connect with people, and if you are authentic and kind, opportunities will likely come your way.

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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