Sharing new music for the first time is incredibly exciting for a songwriter. After months or sometimes years of working on a project, music takes on an entirely new meaning and purpose once it finally makes its way to audiences. Understandably, for many musicians, the money made or lost on something like an album or EP isn’t nearly as much of a concern as whether new music ends up striking a chord with fans or not. But the unavoidable truth here is that not caring about your relationship with money is something that can harm or even destroy your career. The good news is that you can plan realistic financial goals for your releases that support and prioritize things like connecting with audiences and not going into debt over your music.
Why financial planning is essential for successful music careers
In case you haven’t noticed, making music is awfully expensive. From the steep cost of instruments and equipment to the cash needed to pay for mastering services or studio musicians, making an album often requires a massive financial investment for musicians. Even a modest album can easily cost $10,000 after expenses like CD duplication and promotion are accounted for, and that doesn’t necessarily include a songwriter’s time and allocated resources. Planning for costs and how much you’ll expect to earn on a project before you start making it is an action that will end up saving your sanity and potentially a lot of money.
Musicians don’t often see their careers as businesses, but as creatively fulfilling pursuits that transcend money. That’s a noble way to look at a music career, but it won’t save you if you get yourself into debt or find yourself a decade into your career without a stable income. The truth is that embracing a balance in your work that financially prioritizes both you and your art will help sustain not just one album or EP, but the work you do throughout your entire career.
Realistic goals vs. dreams
Racking up billions of streams and selling out arenas around the world are dreams in music. Realistic financial goals are a lot more specific for small and unestablished artists. They’re things like breaking even on a release, reaching x amount of streams or downloads in a month, or pre-selling a number of albums before its official release. Some musicians will have to see their albums as investment opportunities, while others with larger fan bases will earn money and broaden the scope of their opportunities. Realistic goals don’t go away when an artist finds success in music, but instead adjust and change alongside the musician. The truth is that while financial planning sounds like the complete opposite of musical creativity, being smart when it comes to how much albums cost to make and how much money they stand to make you are things that can help you succeed in music over the long-term.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.