When you see bands play live or on TV, one thing you don’t see is the struggle. It looks like being in a band is a rich kids’ game. Most bands — even punk ones — seem to have one thing in common — they’re stacked with good equipment, quality merch, and good on-stage wardrobes.
That’s because they did one of the following:
Worked together to save a bunch of money.
Relied on someone in the band who has enough money and resources to bankroll the project.
Found someone outside of the band willing to be a benefactor.
Robbed a bank.
Ok, so the last one not so much. But for any band not stacked with funds, the prologue to recognition is a story of struggle for resources. Here, then, are some ways to turn the struggle into a success story.
Cheap Practice Space
A house with a good practice space is one of the best things in the world. The basement, garage, or guest room is definitely not something you should take for granted — but not all bands have such a house available. You don’t want to wait around for someone to move into the right house. You need an inexpensive practice space that won’t subtract too much from your equipment, recording, and touring budget.
Enter the storage space: the fact is you can practice in a storage unit, it’s just a matter of talking to the owner or manager and making sure the place allows it. Do a search for facilities in your area and give them a call. Find out if the space is climate controlled, which is optimum. Be aware of and abide by the sound ordinance and in-house rules. Most importantly, make sure your band can afford it; default on the lease, and you can end up losing your equipment.
A storage space is typically cheaper than a dedicated practice space. We’re talking $200-300 cheaper.
Sites for Cash
Bands in a bind have to figure out ways to make extra cash, pure and simple. That’s where the internet cadre of sites dedicated to just this purpose comes in handy. Let’s get down to it — here’s a list of sites your band can use to scrounge together moolah:
Patreon: You can use this site to deliver content to patrons (people who pay you to create music). You have to have product to push, so you’ll need to create all the things that bands create — recordings, videos, merch — and then give Patreon patrons exclusive access to stuff, such as live concert videos, unreleased recordings, or a podcast your band creates.
The Clunker Junker: Does anyone in the band have a junk auto taking up space? You can sell it to this site and make anywhere from $150-500.
Bandcamp: You can use this site to sell music and merch directly to fans.
TaskRabbit: You can use site to make money doing odd jobs whenever you have time.
Busk.co: Can you play for people on the street? This site helps you make money doing it.
You get the idea. There are a lot of ways to make extra money. You can sell stuff you don’t need, take advantage of contractor apps, and sell your creative output directly to people online.
DIY Instrument Repair
Murphy’s Law applies primarily to music. Instruments and amps wear out and break, and it costs a lot to repair them. The band that can repair their own stuff is a lucky band indeed.
Don’t make it a matter of luck. There are a ton of DIY repair videos on YouTube, and iFixIt provides instrument repair guides along with a forum where you can ask questions about specific repairs. Reverb offers some basic tools and tricks to repairing a guitar, and Mother Earth News has the skinny on some guitar repair books you can most likely find at your local library.
DIY Recording Apps
Save money on labor by learning how to record and produce your own music. There are 8 billion recording apps at your disposal, many of them free. If you’re using a smartphone, I recommend Garage Band; check out Audacity for PC or Mac.
Turning your band into an LLC makes good sense because you can get tax breaks for band expenses (read: you can write stuff off on your taxes). Furthermore, you can open up a checking account and eventually get a cashback credit card.
Don’t form an LLC unless you’re really serious as a band. If you’re in this for the long term and are going to take some real steps to make it happen, an LLC is your best bet for saving money on band expenses.