What’s A Band’s Best Use Of $2000?

image from www.google.comBy Tyler Hayes, who runs the music discovery site Nxt Big Thing.

What if a touring band were to come into an extra $2000, what should they spend the money on? Beyond the obvious answers like food and gas, lots of other possibilities should quickly roll off the tongue, spending the money like a gambler in a casino. It's easy to play the hypothetical game giving imaginary money to imaginary bands, but I ask the question because that amount of money might be all an independent band needs to put them in position to succeed.

Assuming the band has their own gear (guitars, drums, mics, etc.) and are playing shows regularly aiming to get bigger, here are a few suggestions for ways to spend ~$2000 that could make a huge difference. Again, instead of playing the imaginary "What if a band found $2000" game, this situation could also be posed as "Budget money for these key expenses".

Like it not, music has become an 'online first' type of media and band's should be focusing on putting their best foot forward. Since most people will likely see a band before they hear them, good photographs are essential. Everyone thinks they can take good pictures, most can't. Hire an actual photographer, preferably one that works in the music scene. Pictures of live shows are harder to shoot than 4 guys lined up in an open field, but a few good live shots can be such an advantage to people browsing for new music. Costs will vary wildly, but budget about $400-500 for some quality pictures and make sure to check out the photographer's portfolio.

Ever since DSLR cameras could affordably shoot amazing video in addition to capturing great images, it became a must have for an active band. So, why hire a photographer if you're also going to buy a camera? "Everyone thinks they can take good pictures, most can't." Also, the camera is mostly for video purposes. Whether the footage is used for a montage music video or to capture acoustic performances, it's important to have a way to produce new content when not in the studio. In the same way that having quality pictures can make a huge first impression, having good quality video also goes a long way, showing the band is of a certain calibre. Likely, the camera will set you back about $600-800. This price is a good middle between cost and quality. Also when choosing a camera, be sure to consider the ecosystem around lenses and accessories (mics and stands) for future advancement.

Looking good and having a way to produce good looking content are the two biggest things that will go a long way towards people's first impressions. But there are also costs that get over looked. Spending around $50-$100 for access to online distribution at places like TuneCore is almost a given, but should definitely be mentioned. If a group doesn't show up in iTunes, do they even exist?

What's the best way to spend money? To spend it on something that produces more money. T-shirts and physical media, like CDs, still continue to make the most money for touring bands. This is a good way to keep gas in the van and food in stomachs. Hiring a graphic designer for the t-shirt and stickers would be a good idea. Even more than taking pictures, designing logos and images for the band's brand is really hard. It's immediately apparent if someone knew what they were doing when they picked a certain font or a certain color. It's not a sign of weakness to find someone that knows what they're doing and is something that will help make more money in the long run.

The unofficial moral of the story is that hiring the right person for limited, specialized, tasks can only improve how people perceive your band. Frankly, consumers are driven by gut instincts and first impressions. Judging a band before even hearing their music happens all time, in fact, if just getting someone to hit play is a big win. The most important thing, however, the one that no amount of money can buy is to produce amazing music. If the music isn't worth listening to or sharing, then none of this matters anyway.


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  1. That’s really strange. The #1 thing I expected to see in this article to spend extra money on is promotion. Spending money on gear, photos, and merchandise doesn’t mean a hill of beans if no one knows who you are. Why do you think the major labels still have successful acts even though their materiel is tired and simple? They market the hell out of those artists, that’s why. With so much music coming out week after week the only real way to be successful in today’s music industry is to promote yourself. Musicians really need to get their names out there to become known. That’s not saying you don’t have to have I good or great product (you do), but how will anyone know to listen to your music if you don’t promote it?
    The first thing that comes to mind is making a video and buying into their promotion system. It seems like the easiest and most successful way to get known and become successful now. Secondly, put some money to online ads or even just posters promoting your new album. The majors still do this and they wouldn’t if they thought it was a waste if money. Finally, there are just tons and tons of different ways to promote yourself and being different to stand out costs money. I’m not saying there aren’t methods to take to receive free promotion, but artists need all the help they can get when it comes to getting their product out to the masses to be discovered. I guarantee that if a band or artist is not doing this, there are plenty of others who are and their competing for the same attention you are and their winning.
    Free album download at http://www.facebook.com/chancius

  2. By each member of the band a Flip Cam.
    Pick up some basic video editing software.
    Boom. Online content out the wazoo. And money left over for burritos.

  3. As a music lover, I’d say extra money should be spent on cameos by well-known guest musicians with a fanbase of their own. This is the collaborative spirit. And you can advertise with the name of the guest for your album later as well – even on that artist’s message boards.

  4. I say, not just merch but really interesting merchandise and special edition shiz like a special vinyl record…or an album with a special package. For merch, something out of the ordinary- a glow in the dark tee. Or..or, make a really impressive Music video with a goal to make it viral. Use your fans as subjects so they’ll surely share it.

  5. “If a group doesn’t show up in iTunes, do they even exist?”
    I can’t believe that retarded statement was even made. So you’re saying that bands who aren’t excited about giving away 33% of each sale deserve to be overlooked or otherwise disregarded? Have you ever heard of Bandcamp? Or any other website that allows artists to not only sell their music, but set their OWN prices and have control of sales, promo codes, set up merch stores, etc?? And with a way lower percentage cut at that…
    Also, I have to agree with Chancius… I would have gone for Promo/Marketing/Publicity as the most important thing that money could be spent on. That is not even a question. Being on iTunes isn’t the be all, end all for a band. They can make WAY more of a return selling through Bandcamp and with the right Publicist and strategic Marketing Campaign, you will be just fine without paying Tunecore or some other aggregator to get your stuff on all those rip off digital distro sites.

  6. 1. You take your top 30-50 fans out for coffee and ask them questions – what they want, what they dont want.
    2. You pay for dinner for as many movers and shakers as you can afford to get round a table.
    3. You ask those movers and shakers the following week how you can partner with them to help you get your fans what they want.

  7. Rehoboth Sound would use the $2000 dollars to finish our project that seem to be stale mate, travel expense to gigs. We sing Southern Gospel Music. We wouldn’t change what we sing but could use the money.

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