If you’re an unestablished artist reading this with the goal of being able to do nothing but perform and create music for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. It’s a completely understandable goal, and something countless musicians strive for. For many of us, a perfect situation would be to spend our days focusing on music and doing nothing else.
But often neglected in the desire to pursue music as passionately and seriously as possible are our finances as musicians. It might not be easy to understand now depending on where you’re at in your musical career, but not caring or thinking about money can lead to problems so damaging that they can actually prevent you from making music. Things like sticking to a budget and understanding your relationship with money as a musician might sound incredibly boring to you, but this is a crucial topic if you love making music and want to pursue it over the long-term.
It gets you into debt
We need money to make music seriously. There’s no getting around it, whether we’re talking about purchasing instruments and recording equipment or distributing releases and promoting. For many artists, it’s tempting to fund new albums with credit cards or to part ways with non-musical jobs to tour. However, going all-in financially for your music can get you into crippling debt if things don’t pan out how you hope they will, and, let’s be honest, they usually don’t. Sticking to a budget and practicing restraint with your money are some of the best things you can do for your music. If you’re young and eager to share your work with the world, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only music you’re going to make. Making good choices now ensures you’ll be able to be an active and prolific music-maker in the future, but financial debt threatens your creativity and career prospects in a huge way.
Limits your resources
If you blow all your savings touring for an entire year and not earning any money, you’ll have far fewer resources to draw on in the future. Creating and promoting new music is infinitely harder or even impossible when we don’t have money as musicians. As much as most of us would like to be able to focus on music and nothing else, our work will suffer if we don’t recognize that money is an essential part of creating and sharing music. If you really believe in your music, back it up with your financial resources in a smart and sustainable way.
Distracts you from music
Worrying about paying off a huge credit card bill might just be the polar opposite of what it feels like to make music. Money-related dread and despair can have a huge negative impact on your creative mindset as a musician. The good news is that by managing your money and spending within your means, you’ll be able to focus on your music. An all-or-nothing approach with your music career might sound like a good idea now, but it can steal your focus and creativity if you get into financial trouble.
Makes pursuing music difficult or even impossible in some cases
As you probably already know, pursuing music seriously isn’t easy. It takes sacrifice, sweat, and a willingness to fail even when money problems aren’t a factor. But add debt or not understanding money enough to avoid signing a bad contract into the mix, and your life as a musician gets far more difficult. Why do promising bands break up and solo artists call it quits? Money problems are a common factor, and we shouldn’t ignore this if we’re serious about making music. Leading a financially sustainable music career means creating and performing within your means. You might want to fund a radio campaign on your credit card, but do you have a realistic plan to pay the debt off? Is it actually likely your music will be so successful that you can quit your day job? By building momentum with your music without getting into debt, you’ll be able to pursue music not only today but well into the future.
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.