Robin Hogarth

Robin Hogarth


Just because you’re an entertainer doesn’t mean you have to be ‘interesting’. So says Robin Hogarth, a double Grammy winning producer and international composer and arranger. The same can be said of entrepreneurs: just because you have a great idea, doesn’t mean anyone cares.

Hogarth has travelled the world and Africa pursuing diverse music projects, and he’s learnt the ins and outs of not only the music industry, but business as well, crediting his success to having supplemented his artistic talent with business training at an early age, by completing the equivalent of an MBA through an international business training academy called Wise. The lesson: talent is one thing, but succeeding in the business world requires hard work, focus and business acumen. Too many entrepreneurs rely on their natural skills and do not focus on filling their gaps.

The value of a business plan

One of the key things Hogarth learnt from his MBA was that a business plan has real strategic purpose for your limited resources. “You cannot operate on a pipe-dream – and remember your key resources include your own ability, your physical assets and the people you can be connected to,” he says.

The latter is not to be underestimated: Hogarth’s first TV break came from his father-in-law’s golf partner.

A business plan sounds obvious to any entrepreneur, but Hogarth emphasises that he runs his entire business on ongoing, rolling three-month business plans. One potential weakness of the music industry is the number of artistes that start with no more than a dream of being ‘rich and famous’, and the same is true of the overall entrepreneurial landscape.

First impressions

More so than in most industries, personal contacts are essential in music, where executives hate ‘cold canvassing’. Again, Hogarth’s insights are applicable to any entrepreneurs focusing on expanding their networks, contacts and client bases. So, how to get noticed?

According to Hogarth, when you get your introduction and first meeting, minimise talk about yourself. “It’s a common mistake thinking because you’re an entertainer, or simply because you are meeting someone for the first time, that you have to be ‘interesting’. Rather enquire about the other person and find out what they’re really into, and then talk around how you can deliver to that need. You give him your ideas relative to his passion and what he wants.”

A further aspect of this is that musicians cannot expect to simply produce the music that they like. “While you shouldn’t compromise on your artistic goals, you need to align them to what is needed and wanted. This is a business like any other and there has to be a demand for it.” Too often entrepreneurs base their ideas on what they can offer rather than on what the market wants – don’t make this mistake.

The road to success

Like any area of entrepreneurship, music has a high failure rate. Hogarth suggests the answer to this is simply producing in abundance. “If only one out of ten projects succeeds, then make sure you produce 20. It’s a numbers game,” he says. And don’t be afraid to pick yourself up when you fail. The next opportunity is just around the corner.

Eamonn Ryan
Before becoming a financial writer and freelance journalist in 1997, Eamonn Ryan was a legal adviser, company secretary and alternate director at listed company Cashbuild Limited from 1988 to 1997. Since becoming a financial writer, he has focused on the business and financial sectors, as well as personal finance, writing for Finweek, The Star Business Report, Sunday Times Business Times, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Entrepreneur, Corporate Research Foundation (which brings out a series of books each year ranking SA’s best employers and best managers), as well as a host of once-off and annual publications such as ‘Enterprising Women’ and ‘Portfolio of Black Business’. He also writes media releases, inhouse magazines and sustainability or annual financial reports for various South African corporates and financial services groups, including the Ernst & Young annual M&A book.