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Why Every Entrepreneur Should Listen to Jazz

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Entrepreneurship is about stepping into the unknown, discovering new possibilities, and creating change. Read (and listen to!) this post to learn why, just like jazz, entrepreneurship is proof that it’s possible to start from inspiration and make something beautiful.


The author of this post, Danny Meyer, is a musician, educator and entrepreneur based in Brooklyn, New York. As a musician, he has performed, recorded, and toured internationally. He also co-founded www.TheDJMLC.com which is connecting his community of musicians with advertising and entrepreneurial communities. Connect with Danny on his personal website: GoTeamBand.

Click play and listen.


This is a song of mine called Twos. I am playing saxophone with a vibraphonist named Mark Clifford and drummer named Colin Stranahan. Two of my best friends and favorite musicians on the planet.

This is jazz, but this also is also an audio-metaphor for entrepreneurship.

As an entrepreneur, you are an artist. Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create. A dedication to look past the fear, to take risks in search of something beautiful, and to find possibility even when there seems to be none. Where others see sticks, entrepreneurs see a fire. What distinguishes entrepreneurs from the rest of the business world is their drive to explore the environment around them with great intention.

Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create.  Tweet This Quote

As an entrepreneur, you are an improvisor. Improvisation at a high level is a sophisticated process. An improvisor takes in all available information, deals with that information from an educated perspective, makes a choice, and then acts.

Great jazz musicians improvise in the language of music. Great entrepreneurs improvise in the language of business.

We build things together. When Mark, Colin and I played “Twos”, we were simply three people, working together, supporting one another, in order to create something greater than we could build individually. As you’ll see in the outline below, there was a plan. That said, much of the performance was left undetermined. In order to be successful, we had to go together into the unknown, be open to whatever happened, and trust each other as equal partners in the creative process.

This is a single, continuous recorded performance. There are no edits. No auto-tune! We are playing this in real-time, together.

Take a look at the “plan” for Twos:

    0:00 – Mark plays the 1st melody on the vibraphone.
    1:07 – I play the 2nd melody on the saxophone. Mark continues to play the 1st melody.
    2:37 – 4:02 – We’re improvising. In jazz there are often structures that are maintained during an improvisation. In this song, we are simply improvising. We don’t know what will happen here.
    4:02 – I continue to improvise while Mark plays the 1st melody again.
    4:53 – I play the 2nd melody again while Mark continues to play the 1st melody.
    5:16 – Mark and I play the 1st melody together.

Jazz musicians write compositions. Entrepreneurs write business plans. To an entrepreneur, a business plan is simply a place to start. Entrepreneurs look at the world from an artist’s perspective. They step into the unknown, discover new possibilities, and create change.

Jazz musicians write compositions. Entrepreneurs write business plans.  Tweet This Quote

Entrepreneurship is tough, and some days are tougher than others. The next time you’re scratching your head, excited about a new idea or pulled in a thousand directions, listen to this and remember that jazz is proof that it’s possible to start from inspiration and make something beautiful. Proof that when people build together, it’s amazing. Proof that through integrity, transparency, and supportive collaboration you can do great things.

All of the arts are metaphors for one another. This kind of cross-pollination gives us perspective and enriches our lives in unexpected ways. In taking the time to develop relationships with art forms outside of your own, you will make discoveries that will support you on your journey to becoming a great entrepreneur.

You are an artist. Go into the world, into the unknown, look for possibilities, and create!

You are an artist. Go into the world, into the unknown, look for possibilities, and create!  Tweet This Quote

(Special Thanks to: Jake Aron for doing an incredible job mixing this track. My Mom and Dad, Sam Yulsman, Emily Holden, Jarrett Cato, and Erin Clifford for your help with this post and of course Mark Clifford and Colin Stranahan for playing music with me)

Danny Meyer

About the author

Danny Meyer a musician, entrepreneur, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. As a musician, he has performed, recorded, and toured internationally with musicians such as Beyonce, Chairlift, Julia Holter,...

Danny Meyer has written 1 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • Michelle Spruch

    I love the comparison between entrepreneurship and art because both involve a “willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create”. Do you think improvisation plays a role in entrepreneurship as well in jazz?

  • Janet

    The comparison between jazz and entrepreneurship is ingenious and very creative. Love the song. Easy to listen to and understand what is happening. Great article.

  • Shih Chi Tseng

    I agree about what you said “willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create”. Business is like music, people need to create and try in order to success.

  • amykahl8

    I think you are right that Jazz could be compared to being an entrepreneur. If someone is stuck and needs a new idea they might listen to Jazz to get their creative juices flowing. However, some people do not care for Jazz. What is another method you would suggest for people who do not like listening to Jazz?

  • bmdillon

    What a strong comparison! I love the link between jazz and entrepreneurship. I’m a big believer that improvisation and flexibility lead to success. Planning too much has the potential to lead to disappointment if something goes awry. Also, you’ve played with Beyonce?!

  • Guest

    And Jay-Z hit on my girlfriend. True story.

  • Danny Meyer

    And Jay-Z hit on my girlfriend. True story.

  • Danny Meyer

    Good Morning from Melbourne. Thank you for reading and listening. Please let me know if you have any thoughts are questions!

    I wrote this article because I found that the practice of being a jazz musician and the practice of being a entrepreneur are essentially the same process. Where else have people found parallel practices?

  • TallPaul14

    This was a really unique read. The fusion of jazz and entrepreneurship is one of the most interesting comparisons I’ve read. I do enjoy the emphasis on building and creating together. Entrepreneurship often gets confused as being a solo operation, but everyone needs help now and then, and two minds can be better than one. The culmination of minds is expressed musically in jazz, and also shows just as brightly in entrepreneurship.

  • Morgan Dowd

    Danny, I really enjoy this article on so many levels. I am a jazz musician myself, and play the trumpet to ease the stress of school. This article gave me incredible insight. I have been playing jazz for 8 years of my life and I have never even thought to put business and music on the same level. This is a personal discovery because for all the times where I have felt love from music and the fear of improvisation, it really is the same. This is almost like having your cake and eating it too! No wonder I am so intrigued in becoming an entrepreneur!

  • Danny Meyer

    Morgan! Hope you’re having a great day. This is so wonderful to hear – Made my whole day. If you’d like to schedule a time to talk, I’d be more than happy. Send me a message at my website. http://www.ThisisAmazing.org and we’ll find a time. =) – Danny

  • Danny Meyer

    Great question! I think of entrepreneurship as “business as an art form.” So, start looking around in other art forms for inspiration. That’s what I do as a musician and that’s what I’ve done as an entrepreneur.

    If you’re interested in dance, check this out.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc0cPF1tbQI

  • Claudya Febriani

    I am very impressed with this article. The idea of relating an entrepreneur with a jazz musician is brilliant. Yes, I totally agree that being an entrepreneur is all about discovering new possibilities and improvising what’s been there. It’s tough but it’s challenging and fun if you enjoy and love what you are doing.

  • AmandaBrom

    This article reminds me a lot of my roommate. She is an art major and is always willing to step out of the box to come up with new ideas. I loved your comparison of jazz and being an entrepreneur. I agree I feel that it is important for people to understand that they can create and be what they want to be. How long have you been playing jazz? Are there any other instruments you play other than the saxophone?

  • Jen McKiernan

    This is a very interesting article. I would have never thought to connect jazz and entrepreneurship but looking at it I can see many similarities. I love how you say that they are both like going out into the unknown and finding possibilities to create. They can both be frustrating at times but the reward of the end product is worth all of the frustration. What got you into playing jazz music?

  • amandatwolf

    I ADORE this article! The juxtaposition between music and entrepreneurship resonates deeply with me. What a beautiful analogy. The ability to create something out of nothing is a perplexing thing and inspires me. I believe that entrepreneurs who are motivated for the right reasons have the ability to change the world, as does music.

  • http://www.financialadvisorbotswana.com/ Daniel van Niekerk

    Awesome article. As an ex- signed artist and rock musician, having shared time with some Jazz greats during my time in the Souh African Navy Band, I can really appreciate this being an entrepreneur myself here in Uganda, on Unreasonable E Africa’s doorstep. :-)

  • SamanthaSesnon

    I think this is a great reminder to also let go of control of yourself and more importantly others. I like that the term “supportive collaboration” as a way to allow ideas to really evolve in a constructive and positive way to create something great.

  • layj

    I have never thought of any relationship between business and music. This is very creative how you manage to create an audio-metaphor with entrepreneurship. I agree though, being an entrepreneur means you need to be creative and innovative. Improvisation is important to stand out from what other people think. When two minds are combined together, it creates a wonderful collaboration with a whole new innovation and possibilities. Great article!

  • lex_alwaysMIA

    Enlighten. I never thought about business could relate to music unless you were going into the music industry. It proves that will an open mind and creativity anything is possible. I wonder if the editor of this article sometimes listens to music for creativity when writer’s block become an issue. I normally listen to fun just for fun but I know I listen more closely for a purpose. Thank you so much for this article!

  • Caitlin Donohue

    I love this article and especially this quote “jazz is proof that it’s possible to start from inspiration and make something beautiful,” among other quotes in this article. Thank you for this! I recently took a class in jazz so I know exactly what you’re talking about when it comes to improvisation. I have a great deal of respect toward jazz musicians and entrepreneurs alike. What came first for you: the saxophone or entrepreneurship?

  • omholtj

    it is funny how you can relate entrepreneurship to almost every situation in life. Some people are not built to see the fire from the sticks, but those who can see it are lucky to have that creativity. Just the other day my sister and I were talking about improvising on the job and making snap decisions. After talking to her and reading this article it is clear that the ability to improvise and be creative can bring you so far in many careers.

  • katie bartlein

    This article is amazing. It really puts into perspective how starting a business is about trusting your partners and just going with it. By trusting one another, and enjoying your time you can really make something beautiful. Even if there is no master plan to begin with, like most businesses, it can simply fall into place as time goes on. Although this is a great comparison, I often wonder if it is that easy. Along the way of building a business there are many flaws and set-backs, which isn’t as perfect as performing a new musical piece.

  • IndartoEpriladinata

    I like the quote “You are an artist. Go into the world, into
    the unknown, look for possibilities, and create!” because it inspires me. To
    me, I often encounter the unknown situation such as my future but one thing
    that I can do now is to struggle to make my dream come true.

  • bmdillon

    That is crazy! You might as well be royalty in my book! :)

  • Cory Zaeske

    “A dedication to look past the fear, to take risks in search of something beautiful, and to find possibility even when there seems to be none.” This is a very inspiring quote. This is what entrepreneurship is all about. As an entrepreneur you are stepping into the unknown risking a lot but with the rewards even greater, it’s worth a shot. Does playing and creating jazz music help inspire you in some way to step into the unknown being fearless?

  • mcniffm

    This is a really interesting way to see entrepreneurship. If you do look at being an entrepreneur as a jazz musician who improvises, you can begin to be more creative with your thought process of where your company can go; you can be more open-minded. However, entrepreneurship does have a great deal of realism and in some areas is hard to be so imaginary, like with budgets and finances. I still think that this is a great concept.

  • schrammjm26

    At first I struggled to grasp the relation concept between the art and business. After a few moments I realized that it was because I have no skills nor passion for art. If I saw a guitar laying their I wouldn’t thing of the song I could play with it because I have no idea how to play a guitar. Similarly an entrepreneur would struggle to look at a market that they were unfamiliar with and see the business plan on how to make their product or service successful. I then replaced art with sports which I am very familiar with. The team grows together similar to how this author grew with his partner in his song. The team doesn’t know whats going to happen when the game starts, but they have faith in one another to pull through when it is their clutch time. Due to the fact that I struggled with this relations it actually brought me to another moral entirely than what the title suggests. Entrepreneurs should have both an understanding and a passion for the market that they wish to enter. Familiarity and experience increase the likelihood of success in my personal opinion.

  • Brittney Glende

    When I first saw this article, I started reading, I didn’t think to click on the song and listen to it. I stopped half way through went back to the top and clicked on the song and gave it a second to start and started reading again. When reading and listening to the song you understand this article so much more and it gives you a perspective on where they are coming from. Jazz is a true art, and “Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create”. I think that is so true and makes sense if you close your eyes and listen to this piece. Thank you for writing this article.

  • Leija2014

    Thank you for sharing this post. As a lover of music, I greatly appreciated this article. I love that you said “Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create.” That quote is so true in many ways in that people are scared to go out into the world and start something. The fear of uncertainty and rejection overpowers everything.

  • anp042

    I love Jazz, but have never though about how it connects to entrepreneurialism. I can definitely see some of the connections even beyond what was stated. In Jazz, specifically the work of Theophilus Monk, tempo and moods are sporadic, but the result is a masterpiece. Likewise, entrepreneurs have to be able adapt to ups and downs and weather storms of opportunity and mishap accordingly. As Steve Jobs noted in his commencement speech at Stanford, he couldn’t make sense of the hurdles and seemingly detrimental occurrences at the time he was faced with them. It was only when looked in retrospect that he could see how the pieces to the puzzle fit perfectly together – much like my experiences with Jazz music.

  • hem1

    This was a very enjoyable article! I would have never thought of comparing jazz and entrepreneurship. I think the quote, like everyone else, is right on point. Music is made by diving into something new, going with it, and fixing things along the way.Same can be done with many things! Thanks for the great read

  • Amanda Laatsch ?

    I think this article is great because it puts into
    perspective how musicians and entrepreneurs are alike. Musicians are artists,
    but so are entrepreneurs. Musicians are artists because they are creating a
    masterpiece of sound from scratch, but entrepreneurs are also artists because
    they are building a company from scratch. They are truly one in the same. So if
    entrepreneurs are artists, wouldn’t that make anyone who is building something
    from the ground up an artist? Art isn’t just music or paintings; it is anything
    that takes thought, time, effort, and devotion. I think that is a very
    inspirational thought.

  • Danny Meyer

    I totally agree!

  • Danny Meyer

    Cory! Yes, I’ve found the practice I do as a musician to be incredibly helpful in the world of entrepreneurship. It’s a safe place to practice stepping into the fear, to create, and to learn.

  • Danny Meyer

    Music definitely came first for me. I’ve been playing saxophone for 18 years. It’s crazy a little to think about. I started studying entrepreneurship in hopes of find ways to connect my community of (amazing) musicians to the larger community. If anyone has any ideas about that, I’d love to hear them. D

  • tayler_schroeder

    I like the unique comparison between jazz and entrepreneurship. I recently saw a quote that I think fits perfectly: “An Entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.”

  • Rebecca Kahler

    This article does a great job highlighting a new way to view entrepreneuers. We usually think of entrepreneurs as driven, business minded, people; however, they truly are a version of an artist.

  • Sara Sanchez

    The comparison between building music and building a business
    plan is a unique example. This can relate to creative people who want to enter
    in the business world.

  • nornesa

    Musicians and entrepreneurs may emote what they think and
    feel through different channels but the motivation is the same: They live to create. They want to share
    their passion with the world and know their own self- preservation requires
    it.

  • lamt5

    Really quite an interesting article. The comparison between jazz and entrepreneurship is one I would have never thought of, but works very well.

  • Jane Park

    I love the metaphor of jazz as a way to look at entrepreneurship. It’s interesting– I’ve played classical piano for over a decade, and something I always struggled with when expanding my musical skill set was the ability to improvise. As much as I love jazz and admire jazz musicians for their ability to just go with their gut and feel for the music, I personally could never bring myself to be so free when playing. It’s similar to how I am towards being entrepreneurial, actually, as I hesitate to improvise/ take risks, which is why I have so much admiration for entrepreneurs such as yourself!

  • Marian326

    Danny, thank you for sharing your insight from a very jazzy perspective. I agree that the link between Jazz and entrepreneurship is a logical one, because each takes a huge level of creativity. Music, art, and finding solutions to problems involve being an option minded person. I am an ideas person, always looking for options to solve any little problem that arises in my life. When I am stressed, and overwhelmed with school work, or life in general, I have an overwhelming urge to create. I like to paint, color, stamp, crochet, and just make things. When I allow myself the opportunity to create something it allows my mind to clear and the other mental projects that need to be accomplished fall into place.
    I am a verbal processor, and I see Jazz as a way to mentally process in a way that would allow ideas to come together to solve a problem.
    Again, thank you for this article.

  • Kent Foust

    Musicians are definitely entrepreneurs as well. I think that musicians have that mindset, like entrepreneurs, that they have a great product and they want to get it out to as many people as possible. You have to go out in the world and create.

  • linhvu1411

    Its pretty odd of the comparison at first. But, then when I actually listen the the song, it makes sense why. Overall, this is an interesting aricle. Thank you!

  • ohtanim

    I love how you call jazz an” audio-metaphor” for entrepreneurship. I always find myself really connecting with music because when I play a good song it stirs something inside of me that makes me want to act upon it. But I never thought of music being entrepreneurship in itself.

  • Keiichi

    Music is one of the methods to change my feeling better. If I would start a new business, I could start to listen jazz to get into the new world of art.

  • Drew Cox

    Great comparison in your article! I really enjoyed it. The way you put musicians and entrepreneurs together in this is genius! Musicians are masters of art and entrepreneurs are also masters of art when putting that company from bottom to top! Like you said musicians write compositions and entrepreneurs write business plans. Thanks again for the article

  • jack lomax

    Every one of these articles i read, I always try to interpret it in a way that means something to people going into the education field. This doesn’t need any forceful interpretation, the message is pretty clear for me. “where some see sticks, others see fire.” Some people will look at children and it may not be immediately evident of what they can achieve. The possibilities for achievement in children is huge! Teachers should never see the children as sticks, they should always be seeing that fire! They need to see that fire and drench it in an industrial size bottle of gasoline, and throw every object marked ‘Extremely flammable’ into it. Personally as a future educator, I’m looking forward to this the most. Not setting fire to kids (hopefully no one interpreted the message like that!) but getting the absolute most out of the students and inspiring them to achieve greatness.

  • kalscheuar30

    I really liked this article because related things to music is way easier for me to understand. I appreciate the comparisons to music and being an entrepreneur. The quote, “Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create. A dedication to look past the fear, to take risks in search of something beautiful, and to find,” sums up what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Whether it’s art are setting up a business the thought process is similar. What did you find easier or more enjoyable, music or being an entrepreneur?

  • PKroening

    Thanks for the article! This is quite the comparison. I think my favorite part of this article is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create. That comparison was just awesome.What do you think someone can do to really get themselves to go into something without fear?

  • kolinjk29

    I really like the comparisons in this article. They are very creative and the music was great. This article related to me because I love playing music with my friends during my free time which I believe is a great way to express myself. You have to have the willingness to create music just like taking risks. A question that I would ask you is does other types of music give you the same amount of inspiration?

  • Brandon

    Thanks for the post. I like the jazz music and great to song to understand what’s going on. I like that jazz and entrepreneurship goes together easily.

  • pinsolera

    Thank you for the posting. This was a great way to explain jazz and being an entrepreneur. I also agree why they are the same, although I would never have thought to think that jazz would compare with entrepreneurship. I agree because like they said, being a businessman/businesswoman is a way to be creative, just like music. Anyone like me that wants to broadcast ourselves, make our own business, and loves to put our own personality into what we do, would love this article.

  • Tkachukme11

    I truly believe that everyone should have a musical side to them. Could be playing an instrument or even just enjoying a nice concert of your favorite band. I am a huge fan of looking at lyrics of songs to grasp the meaning behind a song or to find motivational and inspiring lines. Now I disagree that it has to be jazz. But then again maybe I should start listening to jazz if it gives entrepreneurs ideas. Maybe that is the madness behind me not thinking of anything cool to do with my life yet.

  • Caitlin Donohue

    Wow, that’s a long time! That’s very admirable to connect the thing you love so much to a career. It’s also great to share your music to a larger community. On my college campus in Whitewater, Wisconsin, jazz isn’t too popular. I really enjoy jazz and think it’d be great if became more popular with young adults. One way you could do this, and this may just be the health promoter in me, is by voicing to people how jazz can be beneficial to your health. It can be relaxing, it can lead to greater satisfaction/appreciation and broaden cultural appreciation. I’ve read articles they explain how jazz, along with classical music, increasing productivity and energy level. This could be one way you could connect this to a larger community!

  • Anthony Putra

    Thank you for sharing this article, aside from the fact that jazz would stimulate the mind, it is hard for modern entrepreneurs today to open a new door to music aside from the current trend of pop/dance music.

  • ignatius epriladinata

    I
    really like your article the way how you compare jazz musicians and
    entrepreneurs is really inspiring. It gives me an idea that write a business
    plan is not as complicated as what people are thinking. It’s the same like when
    you write compositions in the music world. You
    go to the unknown, be opened to whatever happened, look for every
    possibility, and create something incredible.

  • Bangyan Zhang

    I love music too! I am not sure that if the author’s statement is correct, because it should be demonstrate by more evidences. However, I agree the main point of the author mentioned and I believe that music is powerful. It could make people calm down, relax, thinking, be kind and be smart maybe! To be an entrepreneur, those elements are critical. It determines that how far one entrepreneur’s route is and how successful you could be.

  • Kelly Martin

    I completely agree with this article and this comment. Music makes such an impact on people’s lives and so dies new business ventures. There are so many valid points in this article!