Whether playing music is your full-time job or a part-time gig, pursuing your passions can cost a pretty penny. After all, you’ll need to invest in a brand, new top-of-the-line instrument and the best gear you can get your hands on, right? Wrong. Although playing music professionally is a major investment, you can still save money without sacrificing sound (or your sanity.) So, if you’re saving up to record your first LP or to travel across the country on your band’s first tour, taking your musical dreams to the next level requires stepping up your financial planning. From learning how to fix your own instrument to keeping an eye out for online deals, here are some of the best ways to save money as a musician.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Thirty years ago, a band would have to walk all over town putting up flyers to advertise theirs shows. Fortunately, it’s 2018 and you don’t even need to leave your house to promote your live gigs, and it’s all thanks to social media. Whether you love it or hate it, social media is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to get yourself out there, and it’s a great place to look if you need a new drummer, too. Get on multiple channels (Instagram and Facebook tend to be pretty popular) and embrace collaboration. Here are a few general social media tips to keep in mind when promoting yourself:
- Share things of value that correlate to YOUR story (aka be unique!)
- If you have a large enough following, invite your fans to join in on the fun; ask them to contribute to your setlists, hashtag photos using your band’s name, etc.
- Speaking of hashtags, don’t forget to use them!
- Start a YouTube channel—people will want to hear you before they click the “follow” button
- Consider a GoFundMe campaign to help finance tours and albums
Research, Research, Research
Before you buy a $1,000 guitar amp or cave in and purchase 500 t-shirts because it’s the website’s minimum, take a step back. Have you done your due diligence and spent enough time researching? One surefire way to spend too much money is to walk into a store and leave with the first piece of equipment that caught your eye. Another great question to ask yourself is whether or not you really need that piece of equipment in the first place. If you’re still practicing in your garage, you probably don’t need a full stack.
If you have some general items you like to stock up on or aren’t in a huge rush, wait for sales. Online retailers (including Music & Arts!) have great sales throughout the year. Many coincide with a holiday, so check back often for killer deals on instruments, gear, and accessories.
Learn DIY Maintenance
Remember when your music teacher tried to show you some DIY repairs and maintenance for your instrument and you were too busy thinking about lunch? Fortunately, you can probably find what you need on a blog or YouTube, so see what repairs you can make on your own before heading to the repair shop. When you do need the help of a professional, make sure the service is affordable, guaranteed and timely. The last thing you want to do is leave your instrument with someone you found on Craigslist to save a few bucks, only to have them misplace, further damage, or spend four months repairing your instrument.
If the repair technician can’t give you a timeline or otherwise makes you feel uncomfortable about leaving your instrument behind, keep looking until you find someone more professional. (Pssst! We heard the guys at The Repair Shop are pretty great!)
Set a Budget
Before you start spending all the money from your paycheck, set yourself a nice budget–and ALWAYS make it a point to save, no matter what. As a musician, there are so many things that can go wrong, from damaged instruments to stolen gear, and it never hurts to have an emergency fund. If you aren’t sure how to budget or manage your expenses, ask a family member or friend for help. If things are still unclear, consider taking a general accounting course–knowing the basics of financial planning will help in virtually every area of your life, and we cannot recommend it enough. If you have questions about budgeting or anything else on this list, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Make It Official
If you’ve been playing with the same group of people for years and you keep bringing in more and more money, make it official (in the government’s eyes!) By forming your own business, you’ll be able to file taxes as a business during tax time, which could save you hundreds (if not thousands). Just imagine, filing as a business will enable you to write off things like musical instrument repairs, travel expenses for that cross-country tour, sheet music, and a variety of other things that are directly related to music. This can get pretty complicated, so talk to a CPA or small business accountant before filing taxes–they’ll be able to answer any questions and will make sure that things are good to go in the eyes of the IRS.
Explore Your Revenue Streams
Just because you make money as a music teacher right now, doesn’t mean there aren’t other avenues open to you. Start by making a list of all the different ways you could possibly make money off your talent, and then concentrate on the ones that are best suited to you. Here are a few ideas to start:
- Repairing your friends’ instruments
- Performing at your uncle’s wedding
- Re-arranging music for your church’s choir
When it comes to making money as a musician, the sky’s the limit. Start somewhere, and keep going! If you feel you’ve done the best you can and still need some help in the finance department, here are some tips for a successful fundraiser. No matter what you do, don’t give up–we believe in you!