Budgeting Basics & Administration For Recording Musicians
As a musician you must have an irregular income, meaning you get paid every time you play live or earn a percentage from collaborating with other artists, today there are many ways to make money, online and offline, but administrating that money is a whole other story…
Have you ever been paid and kept that money in your wallet, then a week goes by and that money is gone? And you wonder how did that happen! If you just bought a couple things , went out with your friends twice and watched a movie.
Well, jokes aside, musicians need to start a budget for themselves, whether they are barely starting in the music business or if they have been into it for years there are several factors why this is a thing you should be doing, and the most important one is to be able to record your new material, be able to step inside a great studio and say “Hey, I can afford this quality” or if you are independent and record your own stuff buy that gear you have been staring at in the music store for the past few months.
But how can you administrate yourself economically as an artist? Allow me to help you see the expenses all or most musicians need to cover and how you can organize yourself later on … let us begin.
Expenses are the reason you are spending, there are three types of expenses, and we will talk about them so that you can sort them out and start organizing them, seeing which ones are necessary and which are not.
- Ongoing expenses.– Ongoing expenses for a musician are spent form one moment to another, such things are instrument maintenance, music lessons or any sort of education involved, and renting a rehearsal space for you or your band.
- Gig Expenses.- A Gig can be the best money earner for a musician if well planned, although the expenses required to cover a functional gig can be a long list, just to mention some, The band and instruments transportation, renting the space and consider how many hours or time you are going to be up there, if you are going to share it with another band or performer, if you can sell merchandise, if you are allowed to charge tickets and also consider how many people fit in the space.
- Wish list expenses.- A reserved list for things you wish you would have, such as a new instrument, a new set of microphones, a new band logo , I don’t know.. there are a lot of things that us musicians dream to have.
The important thing here is learning to control ourselves, If you do not need it, don’t buy it, to cut off some expenses you have to remove the compulsive buyer in you, and save up as much as possible for that new album.
Cut Your Costs
Once you have all your expenses laid out in front of you it’s much easier to figure out where you can cut back. Take a look at the money you have available and determine exactly how much you can use for recording.
If the amount deduced surpasses your current budget it is time for you to cut off some of your expenses, you are giving yourself the capacity to think ahead of time and make various plans, although you have to keep it realistic.
Do not buy unnecessary stuff, and do not invest in things you can not profit from, you can always buy them later, and they are not going to disappear from the planet, so take your time and see what it really is necessary in your life and what not.
How To Organize Your Expenses List & Cut Down Commodities
The current you needs to sit down and start writing down everything you expend money into, we have talked about the expenses as a musician but of course, we have other needs besides that! We have to pay rent, buy groceries, maybe go out with friends once in a while or buy a video game or movie once in a while, our life spins around music but that is not all there is to them.
We are going to make a list(You can also use a spreadsheet) , well, not just one but it is going to work as a whole and it is not any kind of listing, it is going to be very specific and we will show you all the expenses you need to consider.
You are going to write down and organize every single thing you put your money into, as for this is the best way you can see your real expenses and what it is that is a necessity and what is a commodity.
You are going to make one for your band or your musical project and one that will integrate all the aspects of your life.
In the music list, you will put the expenses musicians have we mentioned before and in the general one you will integrate the musicians one to everything else:
- Monthly Expenses.- In this specific list you are going to list everything you need to pay in a monthly basis, your bills, your rent, or even your debts, they all go down to this list as thing you already expect.
- Weekly and Groceries list.- Write down all the expenses you have in the supermarket, if you just went to the store across the street and bought some beers, you also write that down, if you went to the music store to buy new guitar or bass strings, or a new kick drum, it all goes down here.
- Musician or band list.- If you are currently paying for a rehearsal space, or you are taking music classes, if you or your band members had an unexpected inversion or had to buy a completely brand new instrument because your old one broke and you had no other option, you and your crew write it down here, as for this list involves you all.
- Earnings list.- Expected or unexpected earnings go down in this list, you can make one for your band too but it is more important to make one for yourself, write down every time you got paid and how much.
Write down also how much cash you have left AFTER all the expenses, the reason is the next… in the course of time if you cut down the expenses and you learn to live with only necessities you will see in this list how you are profiting from the decision to organize yourself, this can help you to cheer up and keep a good rhythm, that album will be closer everyday!
Now let us take the next step… cut expenses.
Necessity Or Commodity?
Now that you have listed all your expenses it is time you sum up all of them, exclude the earning list from now, we need you to see first what it is that you are spending your money on and what is really necessary in your life!
Okay, time to cut some expenses: here are some things to consider and even if you have to re-do your lists if you did not consider them, as making you conscious of them is part of the process:
- Subscriptions: Are you subscribed to a magazine? A newspaper? Or even some sort of online service that sends you a monthly gift as a “thank you for being a subscriber” community? Question yourself if they are necessary, we sometimes get hooked up with something and assume we need it when we really do not, it is just a material need, not a life-or-death situation.
- Cable T.V: You need to ask yourself if this is really a necessity in your How much is your bill and how much do you really watch it?
- Going Out: Some of us find it very comfortable to eat outside whether is a fancy restaurant or an express food stand when we also have the choice to go home and eat what is on our fridge, if it is not necessary just do not do it, sometimes we assume it is cheaper but by the first month you list it down you will notice it is not and is a very common mistake.
If you are not close to your home, make a meal in the morning and carry it with you to work or wherever you have to go, this way you will avoid the unnecessary expense, and it can even improve your health.
- Memberships: Sames as subscriptions, we sometimes pay them automatically without thinking about it or giving it second thought, if these are for a local store or for a mega grocery store that offers tons of discounts consider if you have been there lately and how much is that you are really saving up, if you find them unnecessary or just simply add more money to your monthly expenses, cancel them.
- Travel Costs: Many many people out there, not only artists do not keep track of their transportation expenses, how much was the monthly investment in gasoline or transportation, the bus, or if you had to take a taxi and had to pay $30 USD out of the blue, keep track of these expenses as they are a very tricky ones.
Even if possible carry a piece of paper in your wallet and write it down immediately, and avoid laziness and walk, sometimes we find it to much in our comfort zone to pick our car or the bus to get somewhere that is not so far away.
Increase Your Income
Cutting down on the commodities and unnecessary expenses is not all there is to it, there are also many methods by which you can amplify your current earnings, this is with the sole purpose of sending the money straight to your bank account and even forget it is there, write it down in the earnings list but do not depend on that money too much, if possible not at all.
The reason why you would do that? Very good reason, when you and your band start accounting how much you have available to record your album you will have that money as a boost, you can even encourage your band members to do the same thing if they have the possibility.
Great options are:
- A Half Time Job: A very good decision taken by many musicians is working a half time job, most of the times it is related to music in some way or just something simple, consider it as a way to get an extra income that can be used for the wish list, or to amplify your budget, it is up to you how you decide to administrate it but the best option is to even forget it exists and throw it in a bank account and add up with time, and when the time comes for you to record your album, trust me it will be a big help.
- Music teacher of course another great alternative for a half time job if you enjoy teaching others and have the patience why not take advantage of it? charge for a one or two hour session and enjoy it.
- Sell what you already have: If you already have some material that you or your band can start selling online this could be a good advantage point not only for economical reasons and budget boosting but also starting to reach some people out there.
Many websites offer your single or your whole album for a good price or a price you can set yourself, and that can really bring your way some income, you can even post it in social networks and ask cooperation from your current fan base to buy it to collaborate for your upcoming album.
- Online Freelance: Many people work online nowadays and musicians are not staying behind, you can offer music samples you record yourself or even if you are proficient in something else like graphic design or business management you can easily find a way to make some extra cash, it can take sometime to develop yourself online but it can be proficient.
- A Blog: A blog can be monetized, you might need one for your band or already have one, however you can monetize it to earn some extra cash, it is not usually much but just posting something a day and promoting it through social networks is enough, so it does not consume much of your time
- Online Tutorials: Written or video recorded, music tutorials are vastly searched in the internet, even by professionals they often need to go back to their roots or just seek inspiration from others out there.
You Are a Business, Act Like One
All successful indie musicians to the great ones out there do not think of themselves as individuals, they consider themselves a business, and they administrate themselves as one.
Have a single place for all your band member to store your cash into, a shared bank account or a safe box are good options, they all have to contribute, and if you are a solo artist you still have to think this way, you are building a business, you are going to need a budget more often every time and even more if your career as an artist launches off successfully.
Many artists do not consider all the expenses there are today but a good economical organization can back you up anytime!
If you have the need of paying band members for the live shows you play, make a pay-monthly plan with them, split just a percentage of your monthly total income and keep a part in the bank account, for example:
You earn $1200 USD in a month and you are 4 members, so each one will receive $400 USD if you split the whole 100% of your cash, no money saved up.
Instead grab that $1200 USD and subtract a number you all agree that could really start adding up every month, so you decide keeping $300 USD in the bank account and forget they exist is and you are left with $900 USD to split among band members.
And that is just one of the many methods big companies or business use to start generating and create an investment fund for future amplification of the business, in our case, we just want to record that amazing album!
Study your money flow
Aside from your expenses as an individual and your band’s ,make a spreadsheet where everyone contributes writing down how much they have saved up every month and the band’s total money, this will come in handy when you start thinking about near future investment, some bands take a period 2-4 years just to raise their budget as much as possible and widen up possibilities.
Sit down with them and work out what you are capable to do as a band or as individuals that can expand the budget’s growth and set a minimum money goal based on prior recording, if your last album cost was $5000 USD try to double it.
Many business budget goals are the previous one doubled, this is a motivation not only for the leader of the team but also the hard working people involved as this also can mean a huge increment in monthly earnings.
Although money is not all there is to future planning, it will be your main tool for investment, and keeping a good track of how it flows and where you spend it should be your priority at the moment you decide to start saving it up.
Future Planning & More Possibilities For Your Budget Goal
One of the worst mistakes many musicians make when planning a goal for their budget is not taking into consideration all the aspects and possible expenses an album can involve, and some external expenses you will want to take into consideration before and after it is recorded, mastered, mixed and ready to sell.
Let’s start with the album recording step by step development stages it has:
- Keep up With album Recording Costs: Before anything, let’s imagine you go to the studio you picked 6 months ago and the whole pricing has changed… and you have to keep saving up, so, to avoid this situation keep up with the studios costs, call on a monthly basis to verify things are pretty much the same and if something has changed, make the necessary arrangements to make it work as smooth as possible.
- Pre-recording: Consider you are going to need to rent a rehearsal space to practice the songs you write and how your band is going to arrange them, this process can take time so be prepared and organize yourselves before you go inside the space, this can just fix the little mistakes and not start from zero.
Adequate rehearsal will definitely help cut down studio time, and rehearsal spaces tend to be cheaper (or free if you rehearse in your garage) than studio time.
- Tap Your Network: Check with your local friends or musicians you have performed with in the past if someone would like to cooperate with your album, this method can save money into session musicians and help you save up a bit of your budget money on case you need or would have to overspend in the unexpected.
- Recording: Most recording studios today offer a varied amount of possibilities for your work flow and comfort, some even offer a whole album price and make a discount.
When recording always keep in mind the cost they will charge your for gear rental, as this can get pricey really fast and sometimes it is not necessary to use the best of the best to get great quality.
If you are a solo artist consider session musicians the studio might have to offer you, ask for their best opinion in who could suit you and if there are other alternatives in case it does not fit your budget.
- Post Recording: This will involve mostly the mixing and mastering stage and it is usually hourly paid or integrated in the whole recording fixed price, do take into consideration there might be the need for you or one of your band members to make changes still at this height of your album recording and they might charge an extra in some cases.
Recording expenses are pretty straightforward. These include studio time, instrument rental, payment to session musicians, and producer and engineer fees. This is a huge advantage for you as you can have an exact number digit to base your budget on.
As the most important part for us is to record an album, there are some other aspects to take consideration of in case we want to achieve an even higher professional impact for our new record.
You can make an Extra budget expenses as the next things we will mention are not really necessities for our music album.
Extra Expenses To Consider
Let’s be honest if you are going through the trouble of saving up and step up your career it is because you want this to be huge, now, we are not going to go into a vast amount of detail or even get close to marketing or promotion, but here are some aspects you should take into consideration that can be in an Extra budget possibilities List and might add a more professional twist to your final product:
- Photographer: You will most probably need some new photos for your album, see how the band has changed in this time period or use them for the album cover, consider that as one of the main extra expenses you can have.
- Album Cover: Maybe you want an amazing artwork and one of your local artists can do it? And you can afford it? Many people judge a books by its cover..
It might be great to have an album cover or artwork! It will make it eye catching and help for the distribution and marketing stage, you will want to consider this and if it is a possibility after you record your new masterpiece, why not?
- A Website: Perhaps your band or you solo artist, should consider making a website for your album or launch your very own project-band website now, as we said what you are trying is to grow as an artist, and taking this in consideration is strongly recommended, even for free you can open a band blog or a social networks page to start gaining some fan base.
Another stage for planning your budget goal is to consider what you are capable of related to your album, if you have knowledge for mixing and mastering and can do it on your own to achieve the result you want to hear, you can do it.
If one of your band members has skills as a photographer, graphic designer, or any other involved area that has to do with your album, why not just give it a shot, It would be for free and it would save up some cash.
Also if you are a multiple instrumentalist you can save up money on session musicians, which can turn up to be quite expensive in some occasions or delay the work flow unintentionally, sometimes we are to used to the way our bass player does his thing and we get someone who is the opposite and it can throw you off at a moment, no musician plays the same as another one, so the most comfort zone approximation you can pull from this scenario, the best.
Maybe even there is the possibility to record at home now do not get your hopes up, the learning curve is huge and takes years and experience to become a master at it, but if you or your band members have the knowledge already it is a possibility.
Many studios today are home based and have pretty acceptable gear for a low-medium ranged budget cost ($1500-$3999 USD can be enough to start a recording studio in your home and not having the need to make future investments)
Sample Indie Recording Artist Label Budget for New Recording Project
Drum Amp, Mic and Phase: Recording tape:
Lodgings while in studio:
Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping tapes, misc. expenses:
Additional Expenses for Recording:
Professional drum kit:
Rehearsal space rental:
Video Expenses :
Processing and transfers:
On-line editing: $ 3,000
Photo & Graphic l Expenses:
Promotional photo shoot and duplication:
Tour Expenses :
Food and per diems:
Do not make the same mistake many musicians do and take budget or budgeting goal lightly, there is a vast world of possibilities for you to advance in your musical career but so many need you to exchange them for cash.
Organize yourself and plan ahead the right way, take into consideration all the aspects we just mentioned and try to bring yourself to realize your dreams, it is possible.