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Making Band Money Make Sense

April 10, 2012

When it comes to most independent bands, the handling of band finances is a scary and often avoided subject.  Money is kept in a metal box, backs of outdated and beer stained show posters and set lists contain primitive, near caveman like scratches which record crude trades of money for merchandise.  In an attempt to make your lives easier, here are a few tips to help make managing your band money more… manageable.

Keep track of everything band money is used for no matter how trivial it might seem. Highway tolls, food receipts or items like buying a new bin for merchandise or printing show posters. I’d suggest picking up a small portable filing cabinet or at the very least use two zip lock baggies, one for receipts of money in and one for money going out. You can also record everything on a simple spreadsheet, on your laptop or on a piece of paper. This will allow you to see how much money, or lack of, you have in the band fund at any given time. (Also to make keeping track of your merchandise sales easier than ever you can download our Merchandise Sales Trackers for free here)

If you have an upcoming tour or want to release new album the very first thing you need to do is create a budget.  Itemize and list every expense you foresee for the project and then assess how feasible it is to achieve (recommended you add 10-20% on top of your total for overage and unforeseen expenses). The vast majority of times you will need to raise capital and there are a variety of ways to do that. Most bands will need to do more than one of these to raise capital to fund a new album or tour.

  • Play shows
  • Sell merchandise
  • Crowdsource
  • Financial investor (be it a label or a private investor)
  • Private loan / credit card (may not be ideal, but if you expect a reasonable return on investment it could be worth it)
  • Get creative (the power of one’s desire should never be understated, where there is a will there’s a way)
  • Once you have your budget you should also create a schedule or a timeline which sets specific targets or goals (both financial and in terms of what stage you should be at in your project).

Regardless of the stage in your career or your mindset on success you should always ask “is it worth it?”.  ex. Let’s say your tour budget is $2000 and after accessing your budget you expect to only make $1000.

To a serious band trying to raise capital for a new album that would not be worth it, however to a few friends on a mini-vacation that could be the best use of a couple hundred dollars each to hit the road and have fun. Additionally it is important to look at things in a long term scope as many independent bands will need to tour a market multiple times before establishing enough of a fan base there to make for a financially successful tour.

By keeping track of money you’ll be able to better access the values of your investments  and more importantly able to make smarter decisions about the career and future of your band.

Remember if you are doing it right you will never be spending your money, only investing it.


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