Episode 016 – Lance LaDuke on Building a Portfolio Career as a Musician

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Today Lance LaDuke of Carnegie Mellon University shares the story of his winding career and how he created his dream job encouraging and mentoring music students who want to pursue entrepreneurial ideas.


  • A “portfolio career” is one where you don’t have one primary source of income, but multiple gigs that together pay the bills while providing you with a wide range of experiences. It’s great for the entrepreneurial types who get bored doing only one thing.
  • Lance explains that there are two phases in building a career: the accumulation phase and the curation phase. The accumulation phase is all about taking opportunities to keep the portfolio balanced. That way if one opportunity dries up, you’re not in trouble. The curation phase is when you determine which opportunities are most valuable to you and which ones you should let go to make time for the more meaningful ones.
  • Lance used his business skills to set himself apart from other musicians, which led to him getting hired to play with the Boston Brass, a touring band structured as a five-member LLC. (For more details on business structures, check out Episode 012 with Andrea Yahr).
  • Lance considers the “bread, hang, and art” when weighing opportunities. The “bread” is the income the opportunity provides. The “hang” is the people he gets to work with. The “art” is the quality and creativity of the music or project they’re producing. Having two out of three is a must in order to be happy with a decision.
  • By being aware of his own skill set and being able to articulate it, Lance was able to network his way into a custom-created job at Carnegie Mellon.
  • We don’t have to wait for someone to dub us a “musician” or “entrepreneur.” These days, we can give ourselves those titles.
  • If not this project, what? If not now, when? If not you, who?
  • Sticking your neck out to pursue a new idea can be scary, especially as a young musician/teacher. If you can do this while you’re young, especially if you’re still in school, you’ll have a softer landing if you fail.
  • Take advantage of school resources – AV equipment, networking events (open to anyone), etc.
  • Musicians bring a uniqueness to the traditional business sector. Don’t let yourself be intimidated, but use your creative interests to stand out.
  • Attending business and networking events will give you the opportunity to meet people who aren’t like you. If you recall the episode with Aaron Garner, when he set out to raise funds to start Piano Marvel, he didn’t talk to other piano teachers, he went to his doctor friends who had money to invest in a project of that magnitude.
  • Technology makes it so much easier to connect with a wide audience. Take advantage of this potential!


Book: Permission Marketing by Seth Godin 

Freakonomics Episode: The Upside of Quitting 

The Tim Ferriss Show: The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now

Blog Post: Join the Entrepreneurial Community 

Podcast Episode: Episode 012 – Andrea Yahr on Business Structures and Their Tax Implications

CMU Exploded Ensemble

Tartan Tuba Band

Modern Musicking Podcast

The Entrepreneurial Musician Podcast

Your university and local public library are great resources for equipment and contacts

Connect with Lance

Website: http://www.lanceladuke.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1178950914

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lalaladuke/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lalaladuke

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCntJyfOggZCsQf139ciBsDQ

Email: la********@gm***.com 

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Episode 017 – Jolene Madewell on Building a Skype Flute Studio