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It’s Not Spending, It’s Investing

December 2, 2010

The old tired argument of band money never seems to end. Most artists I know have had plenty of battles with other band members about chipping in cash for expenses such as recording, album pressing, merchandise etc. The given excuse of “I can’t afford to spend that much” is a continual battle with many artists but the truth is that you’re not “SPENDING” you’re actually “INVESTING” and sadly not many musicians see it that way.

Many musicians I know have no issue putting a new $1000+ guitar on a payment plan (especially when they already have 3 other perfectly good guitars, ha ha). Yet when it comes to band expenses (recording, album pressing or making merchandise) they don’t want to “SPEND” the money.

A band, like any other business, is an investment; if you ever plan to make money you need to first invest. Like most business you are looking at 3-5 years of investing before you’ll turn a profit. Obviously playing shows and banking ALL band money upfront is important for starting bands but when the band funds run dry the members need to be willing to pony up some cash and “INVEST” it in their band!

Take for example getting band T-Shirts made. Although a much higher cost per unit than CDs the T-Shirt is a valid marketing tool. a) it’s more likely to sell than a CD at a merch table now-a-days and b) it’s a walking advertisement for your band.

Let’s say your band gets 50 T-Shirts made for $350.00 ($7/unit) and you sell 40* of them at $15.00 (*I say 40 since likely some will be given away, traded, kept by band members, limited sizes left and not sell etc…). 40 x $15 = $600.00 this means that you’ve paid off the bands initial $350 investment in full and you have $250.00+ to go towards your next run of shirts. Assuming you sell another 40 of the second run that means you (as a band) have made $500.00 profit!! Repeat this cycle and you can see that getting a new run of shirts every few months is a self-sustaining means that your band can and should be doing. I know bands which have used this theory to pay for studio time, album pressings and many other expenses.

Truth is investment in your band might never pay dividends but worst case scenario you’ll play shows, get to travel with people who will likely become some of the best friends you could ever ask for. You’ll put out albums which will live on forever (thanks to the internet…), create some merchandise you’ll see on people for years to come and overall have some of the most fun you could have. These memories are the very things that you should never put a price on.

Perspective is a big part of being in the music industry and every time I’m hard on myself about the money I’ve invested in the industry without seeing a return I have countless memories to reassure me that my investment wasn’t in vain. Plus I’d rather be thousands of dollars in debt from pursuing my passion than thousands in debt from some flashy car I don’t need, so I can drive to a job that I hate just to pay for the flashy car I didn’t need in the first place.

I know I’ve got a lot of investing left in me…. Do you?

-Josh

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