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Working in music can mean an almost constant struggle to find the money to keep things going. Whether you’re a band in need of money to tour or a label in need of cash to press some CDs, it seems like it is ALWAYS something. Music business funding is never easy, but you do have options. Find out how to uncover the cash you need to make your music career dreams take off.
How To Pay for Your Music Career
by Heather McDonald
1. Identify Your Needs
You know that you need money to get your musical endeavor off the ground, but one of the most important steps in getting the money you need is figuring out just how much of it is going to be required. Hint: the answer is not “as much as possible.” Figuring out a realistic budget for your project will help you keep everything running smoothly and will help your case when it’s time to start applying for loans/grants. For instance, you don’t need $100,000 to do an indie release – ending up with more money than you need leads to bad spending. Start your project off right with understanding your costs.
2. Put It In Writing
If you’re going to apply for a small business loan or for a grant from an arts council or other funding body, you’re going to need a business plan. Even if you’re planning on financing your music project with your own credit cards, writing a business plan forces you to think about the potential of your project and how you can make it happen. Your business plan should include:
* Overview of the project
* Details about the market/consumers/similar businesses
* Projected returns (including how long it will take to see returns)
* Marketing plans
* Your qualifications (info about career, education, etc)
3. Investigate Your Sources
The available sources for music business funding vary from location to location to location. For instance, people in the UK are lucky enough to have a network of arts councils who are a first stop for grants to get musical projects under way. In the US, there are few grants in place and most people have to try for traditional small business loans. The best way to learn about what is available to you where you live is to ask around among your fellow musicians and check out your local government website for more information.
4. Approach Your Sources
After you’ve identified the people most likely to come through with funding for you, it’s time to start making your pitch. One thing you should keep in mind here is that yes, you’re trying to work in the music business, which can be a bit more laid back and casual than a traditional industry – but the people whose money you want will almost always be more “business-y” types. Showing up late to a meeting wearing last night’s clothes and smelling like you bathed in lager? Not so good. Be professional and give the impression that you are capable of pulling off your proposed venture.
5. Get Ready for the Long Haul
Getting funding for any business can be tough, but the creative industries are a special case (largely because the people who control the purse strings are secretly convinced we can’t be trusted to manage the money). Finding money can take a long time, and you may have to apply for money from several sources to fund one music project. When you’re planning your project, make sure to build in plenty of time to tap into the right funding sources.
1. Look for the RIGHT Funding Source
Sure, when you want to get your project off the ground, it can be tempting to take an “I’ll worry about that later” attitude towards loans and debts you are racking up. In the long term, if you spend unwisely at the beginning, you won’t have anything left to make sure your project gets the push it needs. High interest loans and credit cards might seem like a fast and easy way to get things rolling, but they should be your last resort. If you have to take on some debt, take the time to make sure it will be manageable enough to let you pay it off and keep your project going.
2. Get Help When You Need It
Even where there are no nice arts councils or arts grant sources, there usually are groups to help small businesses get their stuff together. If you need help writing a business plan or coming up with a budget, do a quick internet search for small business assistance groups in your area. You may be able to get free (or very cheap) assistance in putting together a professional proposal that will help you get the cash you need.
3. Do Your Homework
This is especially important if you are looking for funding to start a business like a record label – make sure you REALLY understand your market and what you are getting into. Just because you’re a music fan and read a lot of music magazines doesn’t mean you really know how the business side of music works. If you don’t have any specific experience in the part of the music industry you want to get into, investigate before you take the plunge. Seek out other people who are doing what you want to do and get their input so you have a clearer picture what’s required and who your customers will be.
Heather McDonald blogs about music at About.com Guide to Music Careers
Heather has worked in the music industry since her teen years. She started out sitting behind a record store counter, first as an employee and then as the manager of a small, independent record store. During her time at the record store, Heather worked closely with both major and indie labels on new release promotion and worked on in-store performances from artists across all genres.
Heather then moved to Glasgow, Scotland and worked at the Shoeshine Records indie label. There, Heather got to do a little of everything: dealing with manufacturing and distribution, securing international licensing agreements, artist management, tour booking, show promotion and album promotion.
Heather now works as a freelance writer, covering music for many print and web outlets. She also works in PR for various bands and record labels. She is currently involved in the set up of a label designed to give Caribbean based musicians opportunities in the US and Europe.