Country legend Dolly Parton did an engaging interview with NPR’s David Greene. She discusses, in her infinitely endearing way, why she took the movie and pop music opportunities rather than sticking to her lovely “mountain songs.” Parton says she couldn’t make a living by simply being a bluegrass songwriter. She saw plenty of starving songwriters trying to get by doing just that. Let’s be honest: today’s outlook for musicians isn’t much easier.
To continue to make a living off of music, Parton acknowledged songwriting and performing were a part of a business. Revenue streams expanded with TV and film placements, along with appearances in those mediums.
She leveraged her talent and persona into ventures like the movie Nine to Five and pop crossovers like “Here You Come Again.”
Once she had the fans, fame, and capital, Parton was able to return to her country roots periodically throughout her career. She did so in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and she is again with her 2014 release, Blue Smoke. With a legitimate business behind her, Dolly Parton can afford to sing her mountain songs along with her duets with Kenny Rogers.
Savvy musicians (and businesses in general) can apply Dolly Parton’s model themselves. Look for revenue streams to support the core business. Stay passionate about what you do well while pushing yourself to grow.