How to achieve your financial goals in music sustainably

Making a living making music is the goal of most musicians. This post by Gideon Waxman for Bandzoogle provides a realistic roadmap to make it happen.

By Gideon Waxman for Bandzoogle

It is said that nothing good in life comes easy. Of course, achieving success in music requires hard work and talent, but even more importantly perseverance. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th US president famously proclaimed: 

Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.” 

It is an unfortunate fact that countless talented bands and musicians have had to throw in the towel when finances simply haven’t stacked up, and when things haven’t quite gone as hoped. But the possibility of success may have been just around the corner for those who called it a day too soon. 

How will you ensure you have the means to keep persevering even when the chips are down? Let’s talk about how to achieve your financial goals in music in a sustainable way. 

Treat your project like a start-up

Taking calculated risks and managing finances are important parts of establishing your artistic brand. You might not be making enough money to warrant having an accountant, but if you treat your project with the same financial sensibility you would as if it were a freelance gig, you’ll take the right steps throughout your journey and set yourself up with the best chances of success.

If you can successfully identify and cater to a specific fanbase and provide a quality product, then, believe me, people will be willing to spend their hard-earned money for it. 

In order to establish a genuine connection with fans, to share your creative vision with the world, you’ll need to do it the right way. It doesn’t sound glamorous but from a business perspective your fans are your customers; you want as many of them as possible, at a reasonably low cost. 

The aim is to provide a product that music fans are happy to part ways with their cash for.

Making a cheap looking and generic music video, or a low-budget demo audio recording is not going to win over music fans or capture the attention of music industry professionals. And of course, nobody is going to want to buy that lousy T-shirt for 20 bucks either.

If you want to maximize your success and make some money as a musician, it’s time to start thinking like both an artist and an entrepreneur. 

Manage costs while building a fanbase

Creating content is a lot of fun—you’re fulfilling a creative vision and bringing ideas to life! It’s definitely one of the best parts of being in a band, and why we as musicians choose to put our time, energy, and resources into it. 

In doing so, unfortunately, many artists spend beyond their means—and that’s sometimes typical of ambitious and artistic minds. After all, every creative person wants the opportunity to record with big-name record producers and to have stunning videography accompany their music. 

But there are lots of other necessary costs involved with being in a band that require investment too; so you want to make sure you’re spending wisely.

Adding up the costs of an album launch can quickly amount to sizable figures, and you should endeavor to keep these as low as possible. Carefully think about which areas of financial investment are going to bring you the biggest or longest-lasting overall gain (return on investment, or ROI), and prioritize those accordingly. 

Obtain value for money

Find quality and value for money, while managing your expenses compared to your income in order to facilitate your growth. What does that mean? That means spending within your means in order to stay afloat financially, while using smaller cost expenses to keep growing incrementally. 

Whether you are shooting an ambitious, epic video shoot for an upcoming single, outsourcing some graphic design for your website, or printing new merchandise, don’t be afraid to cut a good deal. The worst somebody can do is say no, but there’s no reason not to try to negotiate a better price

If you want to achieve your goals in music sustainably you may have to be prepared to compromise a little, or be inventive with your ideas to manifest them. It’s unlikely you will be recording your debut single with Chris Lorde-Alge, but you can still achieve amazing results working with a sensible budget.

When looking for creative professionals to work with, do your research and browse through portfolios thoroughly to make sure it’s a great fit for your artistic vision. Request quotes from a number of different people you have in mind and compare their prices to help make your selection.

If you want to make a great looking music video on a budget, look into the possibility of capturing all of the footage with a filmmaker within a single day in order to cheapen the overhead cost. Or if you are looking for a music producer, discuss options that could lessen their time and fees, like having them only mix tracks that you yourself record at home. You can also find talented individuals to work with that are building a portfolio, in which case they may offer discounted rates.

Work smart, not hard

There are aspects of being in a band that become costly quickly. Touring has typically been perceived as something that must be done in order to build a fanbase. Don’t get me wrong, touring is important—there’s a ton of value locked in to bringing your music on the road—but it might not always be the smart answer. 

Go on tour when there’s demand, when you can be sure the exposure will pay off, when you’re promoting something, or even when you’re writing and workshopping new song ideas for an upcoming recording session. Don’t just tour because you feel like it; that’s how you get sucked dry of available funds. 

This is just one example of working smart as opposed to working hard. Prioritize your time and hone your craft, and use your own resources effectively where possible. Channel your efforts into creating the best and most uniquely original music you possibly can. If your music is worth its weight in gold, it will be noticed and you will get to where you want to be. 

Final thoughts

Achieving your goals in music isn’t just about following some simple tricks or tips, or following in someone else’s footsteps. It’s about creating a winning mindset that will enable you to keep progressing, and to keep persevering even in the face of adversity. 

There are so many reasons why people love making and performing music, but it can be incredibly tough to succeed just on the momentum of your creativity. Disappointment can lead to confidence being shattered, and too often, people quit when they’re just getting started. 

However, if instead of thinking about these early disappointing results as failures, you think about them as investments (in knowledge, knowhow, experience, audience-building activities, networking, etc.), the business of your music will begin to succeed in the greater music business. 

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