Although you don’t need to become a financial expert, the basics of budgeting should be understood by every serious musician.
When you know how much money you need for a particular project, you can make accurate guesses as to how long it will take to save the right amount of money. You’ll also be more likely to stick to your plan.
Here are some tips on how to budget for your next music project.
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Avoid Going Into Debt Over Music
Can we all agree that going into debt is really the worst way to fund a music project?
Unless you’re in a major hurry, or have a really good reason to believe that you’re going to make a significant return on your investment, credit debt and loans are plagues that eat away at your confidence, steal valuable mind-space, and force you to be money-driven in all of the decisions you make.
Plus, without a really well-executed plan, you’re not going to be able to pay back your debt for months or even years to come.
Debt should be considered a last resort, if that.
Work Backwards From Your End Goal To Determine The Amount Of Money You Need For Your Album Or Project
We’ll say, for example, that you want to record a new album.
You know that you want to record 12 tracks, get them professionally mixed and mastered, and have money left over to properly market the release.
Your breakdown might look something like this:
Pre-production: $100 (for strings, picks, sticks, drum heads, maybe a new piece of software if needed).
Studio time: $5,000 (could be more, could be less – includes engineer, producer and mixing).
Mastering: $1,200 (at $100 per track).
Marketing: $500 (for a video and Facebook ad campaigns).
This is a hypothetical breakdown, but the cost of your music project is likely to be in the same ballpark, give or take $2,000 – $3,000.
Once you’ve arrived at an estimated total, you’ll know how much you need to save. But I would suggest adding at least 10% to the estimate, as having some flex in your margin is always a good idea.
So if you’ve determined that the total cost of your album would be $7,000, you’d want to save at least $7,700.
I would also recommend double-checking your numbers instead of leaving it to chance. Talk to the engineer or the studio owner. Call up the mastering engineer. Find out how much the videographer is going to charge. Make sure you’re dealing with real numbers.
You could also try a budgeting app if you feel it would help.
Prepare Well For Your Studio Recording Sessions And Save
The faster you can lay down your tracks and get out of the studio, the less time you’re going to have to pay for.
Some professional bands go through the entire recording process in a studio (from pre-production to mixing), but realize that they may have access to resources you don’t have as an independent artist: funding from a label, a professional home studio, a friend that’s willing to engineer the album for pizza and beer, a rich uncle… you get the idea.
You can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent in the studio (and therefore any costs attached to it) by practicing your parts really well, and coming prepared with the right sounds (guitar tones, keyboard patches, effects, etc.).
If you can direct your engineer in terms of what mics and effects you want to use, what distance to mic from, etc., you’ll also waste less time in setup.
You can still take the time to do it right without rushing, but if you have to practice your parts in the studio, you’re going to rack up unwanted expenses.
There are some aspects to recording you can’t control, but preparedness is one you can.
How To Get The Money You Need For Your Music Project
This is the part I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, though I will say in advance that getting the money you need isn’t necessarily easy.
If you’ve worked backwards to figure out the total cost of your music project, it means that you have a concrete goal to work towards. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that you now have to figure out a way to get the money you need.
The most obvious and reliable method is to save.
Yes, it sounds simplistic. But let’s do the math, just so you can see how the numbers come together.
We’ll say that there are three members in your band, and you each make about $2,000 per month in your day jobs or freelance work.
10% of $2,000 is $200. Unless your personal budgets are stretched to the max, you should each be able to save $200 per month, for a total of $600 per month (you may need to cut down on some expenses to make this happen).
If you know that you need $7,700 for your next recording project, and you’re saving $600 per month, you could have $7,700 in roughly 12 to 13 months (600 x 13 = 7,800). Not bad.
But if you do it right, you’ll probably be able to save more in less time. When you’re focused on a goal, you’ll find that extra money comes out of nowhere, as if by magic. But you have to manage that money well and remember to save it, or it will disappear very quickly.
Here are some additional things you can do to arrive at your financial goal:
- Work extra hours or take on more freelance work.
- Streamline your expenses. Cut down on frivolous spending.
- Figure out what part of your music career is the most profitable (aside from costly projects that need funding), and go and do more of that (i.e. performing, selling merch, music instruction, session playing, etc.).
- Crowdfund or ask for tips and donations from family members and fans.
No matter what kind of music project you’re going to work on, you can use the tips and strategies mentioned here to budget for it.
These steps aren’t just applicable to recording an album – you can also use the same process to budget for a music video, tour, high-quality photography, or otherwise.
I find it helpful to save a pre-determined percentage from all of my music-related income as well. If you do this, you will eventually get to the point where you always have enough money to fund your music career.