Budgeting 101: A Guide for the Independent Musician

Music is a form of entertainment that makes the world a more vibrant place. If you happen to be one of the talented artists who creates music, then you know just how special this art form is. However, the journey to creating musical magic and sharing your work as an artist isn’t the easiest or most straightforward one. The road to stardom is often characterized by many twists, turns, and expenses. For this reason, it helps if you’re able to master money management.

Although you may not always know where your next dollar is going to come from, you should still ensure that what you have is able to cover the basics. How then do you manage your money as a musician in the most effective way? Here is a guide that could help you with your money matters as an independent musician.

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What is a Budget?

Budgeting isn’t something that most people are enthusiastic about. However, no matter what career path you decide to take in life, it’s necessary for financial stability. It may seem pretty obvious, but what exactly is a budget?  It is an estimate of your income and expenses over a certain period of time.  As an artist, you should be aiming for a balanced budget, which is when your expenses don’t exceed your income.

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Budgeting Tips

If you aren’t making enough as an artist, you may be wondering how on earth you can budget.  The reality is that there’s always a way you can save more and spend less so that your pockets aren’t inside out at the end of every month.  Financial literacy is a skill that will benefit you as an artist, so it’s worth developing.  The first step would be to evaluate your expenses and see where your money is going.

Create a Budget

To do this, write down your recurring and seasonal expenses and use your bank statements to help you.  Examples could include phone bills, insurance, credit card payments, or rent.  You can then make a note of all sources of income you can think of. After doing this, you should have a clear idea of how much you’re spending each month vs. what you’re making.

After doing all of your homework on expenses, it’s time to come up with a budget. The finished product should give you guidelines for how much you should be making and spending every month to keep you financially healthy and out of debt.

There are templates you can use online to help you create a personalized budget. To get you started, here are a few examples of items you may want to include in your budget.

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  • Living Expenses: Having a roof over your head is likely a top priority for you. Ensure you put aside money every month for your accommodations so that you don’t end up running behind schedule on your payments.  If you’re struggling to pay rent, consider getting a roommate, negotiating before signing your lease, or looking for somewhere during winter months,
  • Music: Within your overall budget, you should have a section dedicated to all things music-related. This could range from things like buying or renting new instruments to paying for ads to market your music online. Think about all of the things that will help accelerate your music career and give you a good return on investment and account for them in your budget.
  • Transportation: Another important expense to factor in when you’re a musician is the cost of getting around. If you’re going to be using a van to do local tours, then factor in the cost of maintaining it and buying petrol regularly.  Other forms of transportation you should be budgeting for are tickets for when you’ll be flying to gigs.
  • Recurring Bills: As an artist, you probably want to focus on music as opposed to being distracted by mounting debt. If you have credit card bills, schedule regular monthly payments for them.
  • Food: In as much as working hard to try and actualize your dream as a musician is important, so is taking care of your health. This means that eating nourishing meals and keeping your energy up should be a priority.  However, healthy eating often costs more money than petrol, so you’ll need to decide how much you’re going to spend on food every month, especially when you’re on the road.  If you happen to be a vegan and have diet restrictions, you may need to put aside a little extra, especially if you’re traveling a lot.

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Create an Emergency Fund

Every artist should have an emergency fund. Saving may seem nearly impossible when you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from, but it is feasible. To build emergency savings, set yourself a monthly goal.  Even if you only have an extra $50 every month to save for emergencies, that counts for something.

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Look for Ways to Reduce Expenses

After creating a budget, you may realize that your outgoings are far more than your incomings.  Even if this isn’t the case, perhaps you just want to find ways to save more and spend less.  To reduce expenses, try setting up multiple streams of income or separating your music expenses from your personal ones.

Another cost-saving idea is to self-produce your music using equipment like Pro Tools or Magix Music Maker.  This will save you having to pay for studio time and you’d also get to learn new skills in the process.

To cut marketing costs, see if you can collaborate with popular artists to help improve your social media presence and circulate your work. When all else fails, you could always consider a part-time job to help boost your income until you can afford to focus on music full-time.

Contributor / Editor: Indiana Lee for Adam Harkus
Photography: Roman Voloshyn, Jonny Slav / Getty Images


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