Listening to New Music: How To Boost the Vitality of Your Business

Val Blaha

Aug 1, 2017

As a music instructor, I’m always looking for ways to capture and keep the interest of students. While some students choose Beethoven over Beck or Liszt over the Lumineers, many others enjoy playing and listening to more recently-written songs.

When I listen to new music, I’m able to do a better job as a teacher. And keeping current with trends can have many benefits, no matter what type of business you run. Here are some of the benefits that I have discovered.

Keeping Your Thinking Fresh

Whether it’s playing certain patterns on my guitar, or writing songs, I find that it’s very easy to fall into a rut. But if I listen to an artist that I’m not familiar with, I’ll start thinking about what works, or what doesn’t, what I like or what I don’t like.

If you keep walking down the same paths every day, you can lose your creative edge — the edge that is so necessary to propel a business forward. Paying attention to new ideas can help you branch out, and hopefully lead to innovations.

Connecting With a Different Audience

It’s often difficult to predict who will walk through your door next. And every new client brings their own life experience, which may be different from yours, especially if there is an age or culture gap. If I’m talking about Bob Dylan to a teenager who listens to 21 Pilots, I’m not going to make the same connection as I would if I started strumming the chords to “Ride” or “Stressed Out”.

I’ve met other music teachers who say that they don’t like any new music. I really feel that they are missing out, not only on exposing themselves to some fantastic stuff, but also on the chance to connect with all of the people out there who didn’t stop listening to new music in 1992.

And this applies to any business… it’s important to have an open mind in order to be able to reach out to people who may not share your background or experience.

Discover New Technology

I remember the first time I watched a live performance by someone using a “looping” machine, which allows the performer to record short sections of music, and then continue to play live over the recordings. As someone who often performs solo, and misses having a richer sound, it was revolutionary.

There is so much new technology out there for all kinds of businesses — it’s important keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, and to not fear these new things. Often a new program, app, or tool may be just the thing that will help propel your business into the next level.

What’s Missing From Your Skill Set?

As a lifelong pianist, I will admit that for years I was a bit haughty about the idea of playing the ukulele. But listening to many of the performers today who are playing the ukulele completely changed my mind, and has helped all aspects of my business.

It adds musical color to my live shows, and it has increased the number of instruments that I teach (and the number of students on my roster!)

Maybe you had seen a tool or process in the past, but disregarded it because it didn’t seem useful? Now is the time to re-examine old prejudices, and see what helpful skills you could be honing.

Moving Your Business Forward

It’s the 21st century… is your business digital yet? I love having access to basically any song via my phone - it’s so useful when I’m working with a student. I can turn on my music player (or head to YouTube) and pull up the song we’re studying. Now, I love the good old technology (like records and CDs) as well, but if I had to use them in my daily lessons, we’d lose a lot of valuable time.

The same principle applies to digitizing your business. There are a lot of ways computers can be invaluable. In my small appointment-based business, using an online calendar helps me coordinate my schedule with my husband and his business, as well as with our family activities.

If you have a store with a large inventory, keeping track of products and sales on a computerized system can help save you time and money, and improve employee productivity. Also, if you have a business that you may want to sell in the future, it will be easier if the records (including inventory, sales, lessons, etc) are readily accessible.

One of my favorite things about owning a small business is the freedom it gives me. I’m free to choose how I run my business. I’m free to develop my own ideas and practices. I’m also free to open myself up to new ideas and experiences.

If the way I’ve been doing my scheduling for the past 15 years is no longer efficient, I’m free to research and find a better way. And if I want to listen to Harry Styles instead of Harry Belafonte, I’m free to do so!

As a fellow small business owner, you have the same freedom. Open up your mind, take a chance, and listen to something new… you might like it, and it might just expand your horizons!

Val Blaha is a music instructor, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter based in McMinnville, Oregon. She performs solo and with her duo Luminous Heart.

Val has been teaching since 2001, and loves helping people follow their dreams of learning to play an instrument.

Discover more about Val at

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