If there’s one thing that is essential to your career as an independent musician, it’s your ability to follow a budget. Budgeting is the process of determining how and where finances will be directed in order to achieve a particular goal. Often, when you’re an independent musician, your music career fund is in the same bucket as your personal expenses. That can make it difficult to get the ball rolling. If you have a family to support, it can be even worse. No matter what, one thing is for sure: If you can’t get your budget under control, your music career will be a huge waste of time and money. In order to get control of your personal finances, I recommend reading The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
Now that you’ve got the budget under control, you should have a set amount put aside each month for music related expenses. The logical next question is “What should I be spending this on?” The answer to that question varies a lot, but there are some general rules.
In music, you’re either building Awareness or you’re building Revenue. Most of your activities and spending will be related to one of those two goals. There are certain items that will be fixed in your budget (Web Hosting, Audio Subscriptions, etc). Others can vary depending on where you are in your album release cycle. When you’re nearing release, you may want to put more money into Facebook Ads, for example. Perhaps you want to record a professional music video. You’ll need to budget for that, too. When you don’t have new music to promote, you’ll want to drive attention to other content, both old and new. You can also spend money to promote and submit to other industry tastemakers, or even spend money on new recording equipment to take your music to the next level. There’s one thing you should remember though.
You should always be measuring money spent against the goals you’ve set for it. If your goal is to get new fans, you should be checking each month to see if your fan base is really growing (eg. Facebook likes, Twitter Follows, E-mail List Subscribers). Does the growth correlate with your spending? If not, you’ve got some decisions to make. Return on Investment is the best indicator that your music career is headed in the right direction.
We’ve created a free pdf guide to the most common expenses for Indie Musicians. Download it, and you’ll have a great starting point for your new budget.