Treat Music Like a Business
It’s time to start treating your music like a business, because it is a business! There are two common pitfalls that musicians fall into that keeps them from creating profit from their BUSINESS. First, it is easy to neglect the need for financial planning which often results in a lack of awareness about where your money may be going. Second, many musicians fail to develop multiple streams of income. The good news is that both of these problems have many possible solutions and I’m here to walk you through the most helpful!
The simple fact is you need to get your money right if you want to make it in this industry. Every opportunity you have to invest time, money, and energy into your career requires a critical choice to decide what will help you grow over the sexiest option.
Mind Your Money
I spent YEARS in the music industry without seeing money. Or at least it felt that way. My first song (before streaming) actually sold a couple hundred copies. My first beat store sold a couple beats. I got my first few clients here and there. But the windfalls were so few and far between that it felt like I wasn’t making any money. The passion is the only reason I kept going.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that analytics force you to grow. Every piece of content you publish comes with a different response and the valleys prepare you to stand on the peaks. The same thing is true with money. Unfortunately most independents in the music industry don’t have any sort of accounting which means that they only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to money.
It’s hard (if not impossible) to see trends in the moment. It requires you to keep accurate records. This will allow you to save and make the most sensible financial choices to propel you toward your goals. Time is the only resource more scarce than money. If you can mind your money better than other musicians you will THRIVE.
“If you can’t buy it twice, you can’t afford it” - Jay-Z
But isn’t accounting HARD? Not really! All you need is a free web app called Wave Accounting. If you can figure out music, you can definitely figure out Wave. Basically, just setup your accounts including cash, bank accounts, PayPal, Cash App, Venmo, Investment Accounts, etc. and record every transaction you make using the simple Wave interface.
Once you’ve done this, Wave will automatically generate every report you could possibly need for financial statements and provides a handy dashboard to show you your most important trends like Cash Flow (healthy Cash Flow solved 90% of money issues for me). Really any accounting tool you could possibly need is in this FREE software.
Budgeting is your FRIEND! I believe having multiple accounts is one of the most powerful things you can do to protect and leverage your financial resources most effectively. In the early stages this may mean envelopes or paper bags. Protect and be aware of your money. If you account for your every move, you will find this much more effective.
I remember working a chef job with long hours when I was a teenager. 60+ hours a week through the winter left me with thousands in my bank account. But, I had no accounting system in place. A car purchase and a few months of fast living destroyed my accounts quick. Literally. The banks shut down my accounts and smacked my consumer rating. Now that I have accounting, I know how to invest most effectively in my career. Had I been forced to look at the numbers I know I would have leveraged my money instead of wasting it.
When you start accounting your finances WILL improve. I guarantee it. It takes time, but every single wealthy person on this planet either accounts for their every move or has somebody else do it. It’s better if you do it and if you want to be a prosperous musician you must. They say, “money comes and money goes”. Make sure it goes to places where it will come back to you with even greater returns.
Be a Publishing Machine (By Making Multiple Streams)
Okay so you’re watching your money grow now that you’re accounting and looking at trends. But maybe you want to create a more passive style of income that keeps you from working at the local pizzeria or bowling alley. Even more important, you want to generate lasting wealth.
How do you do that? Well most people seem to think that you need to drop a hit song and then all your problems are solved. WRONG!!! You need to publish constantly. It’s not a matter of quality vs. quantity. You need quality AND quantity. But you get quality through quantity so you need to get over your fear of publishing.
Find multiple platforms to publish to and hit those platforms hard. Some platforms provide you with traffic and a network, some provide you with platform. Choose a couple and tackle them hard and once you have a consistent routine, consider adding more platforms to your stack. You want to be omnipresent on the internet but it takes time to get there. Don’t get overwhelmed by biting off more than you can chew at one time. These are some of the most powerful platforms available to you:
- Record Distribution: This is the name of the game and the most powerful passive income stream available. DistroKid is super cheap and while I personally don’t think it’s the best option for larger projects it’s a great way to get your feet wet and is commonplace for collaborative projects. You need an account but know there are other options. Every record you make adds to your passive income portfolio!
- YouTube: YouTube is personally my favorite platform on the internet. Most platforms have feeds that shove content down the feed over time until they’re practically invisible. Content published to YouTube really lasts and the types of content you can make are virtually limitless. This is one of the most difficult platforms to create for, but if you do it consistently you can crush it!
- Social Media: So here’s the thing, I don’t consider most of social media as true publishing platforms. A tweet gets pushed down the feed. An Instagram post gets pushed down the feed. Still, I love Instagram and Twitter and leverage them. They are easy platforms to create for however any individual post on these platforms is really a weaker form of content than others in this list and generally doesn’t generate passive income. However, it is near the top of this list because they are some of the most powerful networking and traffic generating tools around. Every musician needs to work on developing their social media presence. Also, some of the platforms are starting to create passive streams (like TikTok) and more tools to attract and reward creators such as IGTV and Insta Reels.
- Educational Content: This is a heavily underrated type of content that practically generates its own traffic and offers significant opportunities for sales and passive income from hosting platforms. For example, I run ads on my daily podcast Producer Cast through the Anchor distribution service and get paid at least 10x for each podcast what I get paid on record streams. Here on Medium, the Medium Partner Program incentivizes writers to create high quality content for the site by offering passive income opportunities. Courses can also be a SUPER powerful option to generate passive income but the strategy for that is beyond the scope of this article.
This is really only scratching the surface of what you can do to grow your income streams. There are opportunities in licensing, publishing, merchandising, touring, and selling your services. Not all of these will generate passive income or will work for everyone at every stage of their career. Find what works for you now and publish like CRAZY.
“Create 50 pieces of content every day.” - Gary Vee
Making Money & Managing Money
So, let’s bring it all together now. You need to publish like crazy to make money. You also need to manage your money effectively and have the accounting data that equips you to make the hard (but necessary) decisions early on. This might mean working at that pizzeria or bowling alley (or maybe the bowling alley pizzeria 🤔) for a bit so you can get some breathing room.
Once your finances are under control you’ll be able to figure out how to best invest your growth as a musician. This will likely mean investing in marketing, creative tools, distribution, and education. Remember marketing is WAY more than just social media ads. My best marketing investments are actually content creation tools like Adobe Creative Cloud, Canva, and Clickfunnels. When you spend money leverage money and make sure you have the Cash Flow to justify your investments.
Wherever you are, start publishing daily NOW! There are tools that anyone who can access this article can afford. Find a way to get your content out there daily and apply the principles around creating content that lasts and you will benefit tremendously in the long run. If you are a creative CREATE CONSTANTLY!!!