Have you ever wondered how those bands can afford those fancy Sennheiser transmitters, those beautiful amplifiers and those in ear headphones that are at least a 1000 bucks each? Well… keep reading to find out.
Mr. A: “Last time when i talked to Dave he said they don’t have any money. Like he doesn’t know how to pay rent next month. There’s really no money in musick…. x((“
Mr. B: “Wait… don’t they all have those new Blerblerps??? I mean… These are 1200 Moneys a piece… he must have been bullshitting you Mr. A hahah!!! On their rig rundown i saw those two custom Gazorps. I mean… These guys shouldn’t be struggling with money.”
Mr. A: “Hmm. Maybe you’re right.. Their drummer has six Shlamees… And they’re headlining Glurp-Fest in august. Sooo…”
Some reality for you at first.
They buy equipment from their band money. This is happening BEFORE they pay themselves. At least that is the impression and experience I have from most bands I know at a higher level.
This is not a lie. Bandguys have jobs. Parttime jobs. Some have fulltime jobs and work from the road because they’re some kind of internet-wizards. There’s all kinds of Band/Home/Job-Life relations. I didn’t have any job for some parts of my life besides DWEF and FYAD. That didn’t mean i could draw a fulltime income from those bands. Not at all. I didn’t have any money and i was highly dependent on my Family and Friends. It’s not fun.
This goes much further than you think and it reaches levels that you didn’t think it would. Bands that are higher on the Festival Order. Having the sickest stage setup but are behind on their own bills at home for the past 3 months. It happens and it happens regularly.
I do not know how some individuals make it work. I really don’t. But I’m very happy for them that they still have the inner fire to somehow make it work.
About the fancy gear.
There’s four options for that.
Option 1: They paid themselves less or nothing for a past tour and bought something
Option 2: They have an endorsement and bought something a little cheaper than the normal price
Option 3: (IT REALLY HAPPENS RARELY AND I’M NOT KIDDING)
They got it for free.
Option 4: They actually have a good paying job and buy that stuff personally.
YOUR BAND IS A BUSINESS
Whether you like it or not. It just is.
And you’re doing yourself a huge favor if you start treating it like that.
Because no matter where you’re from — The tax authorities do not give a shit about it if you’re “just having a band”.
Bands get fucked by this. And you do not want to have that.
Inform yourself about your options in your country and just do it. Register your business. Whether if you’re alone or you set it up with the band. Just do it.
Track every dime that’s going in and out.
I’m just going to assume that your band is an official business now so i don’t have to talk about it anymore. Thank me later.
Next step. Get a Band Bank Account. As fast as possible so everything is in one place.
No one has to ask you anymore about how much money the band has. Because now you have a bank account and you don’t have to count those slimy merch dollars anymore or you have to subtract a sum off your personal balance.
If your personal Bank account is with a good bank — they should be helping you out with this. Just pick whatever option is the cheapest. You just need a balance and a place where your money is safe. Further down the road you can connect a credit card to it so you’re more independent on the road. (You need way more money on the road than you think. Just go on tour.)
Now start setting up a simple spreadsheet for the beginning. Track every buck you’ve made or spent. With a date and what it was for. Of course this is for the officials as well, but you should do this for yourself in the first place. Stay on top of your money at ALL TIMES.
This is crucial for financial stability as a band. I hope you see the analogy to an actual business.
If you don’t track stuff, how can you know you made real progress? Every step counts, no matter how small it is.
Extra Sheets For Shows
You should make extra sheets for show days. As in:
-How much money did we spend getting there and getting home?
-How many shirts, cd’s, hoodies did we sell? (separate spreadsheet for every day!!)
–What expenses do we have? (Crew, Concessions, etc.)
-What fee did we get paid?
You’ll have a balance for each day. You want that balance to be positive as often as possible.
Yes — There will be days where it won’t be.
You Can Do It!
This may already sound overwhelming. But it actually isn’t. Once you see — on paper — that you actually MAKE MONEY, it can be fun to do the bookkeeping. Once you earned yourself a couple of hundred bucks you can invest in new merch, new equipment… Wait — There’s something to say about buying equipment.
As a band it is way easier to buy equipment than as a person. You have more money, you can buy in bulk, and you may or may not (depending on your country or situation) be able to buy stuff without taxes. The equipment you buy can be written off your taxes so… there’s a lot of benefits with having a “Band-Company”.
But what i actually want to say is that you should invest in reliable equipment.
Please play a couple of more shows and sell a couple of more shirts to get the more stable guitar transmitters than shooting for the 200 bucks-stuff right away. You will be disappointed as soon as you’re standing on a slightly bigger stage. Trust me, i’ve been there. We bought the 200€-Units. No one has them anymore and there’s a reason for that.
Wait a little longer to get the shockmount racks and wait a little longer to get the better drum-protection cases. Never ever, ever think short term with this stuff. This is your equipment. And your equipment is what makes living your dreams possible.
Make smart investments.
What i mean with that is the following.
DON’T BUY STUPID SHIT JUST BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU LOOK COOLER. (Unless it is your image to dress like pirates, or aliens or something)
Do you REALLY need those two sidedrops that don’t make any impact and you can’t use 2/3 of the time because of stage-size?
Do you REALLY need a new backdrop just for the sake of having a new backdrop? (please have a decent backdrop in the first place!)
Do you REALLY … (insert stuff)
There may be a day where you get the offer to play Festival XY… And they can only give you 250€. But you have a sound guy, and you need to drive 1200km, and you have to rent a van. Because — believe it or not- even if you’re a band with a little success you do not always get your costs covered 100% and you really should play that thing because you can break into the market of the Czech Republic or Finland.
You really want to have those 550 bucks you’ve spent on something stupid that the opening band last week didn’t have but you did. And you can’t stretch it from your own account because you just bought an engagement ring and you’re going to purpose next week in Sicily.
And there you are… Fucked… By stupid bullshit you don’t need. I think you get my point. Just think at least twice before making investments for the band.
OWN YOUR MERCHANDISE
Maybe you’ve already realized it. Maybe not (if not, please inform yourself).
Merchandise is where you make your money. If you just play shows and roll up with one logo shirt and your weird 4-Track-Demo from 2011 it’ll take a very long time to get to a point where the “Cashflow”-Terminology really makes sense.
I suggest you follow bands like Bring Me The Horizon or Behemoth or Der Weg einer Freiheit, or While She Sleeps to get a glance at what merchandising as a band really means and what directions it can take.
“We’re a T-Shirt-Company that happens to write music” — I don’t know who said that. If you know — please let me know.
It sounds funny but it is what it is. Your show-fees should always cover your costs and your merchandise-sales are what comes on top. Your merchandise-sales make it possible to thrive as an artist.
People expect your music to be listenable for free. So don’t be a dick and make it streamable. PLEASE.
Back to merch. Even if you’re a band that’s starting out — make sure you think as much about merch as you think about music. Your logo-shirt is not enough. It should be… but it isn’t. Unless you’re a band that can sell them for 50 bucks a piece at a show.
See what you can do to OWN your merchandise. Make it unique. People like to have something unique. And don’t you dare driving to a show without bringing merch. I see people doing that and i REALLY do not understand it. WHY would you do that?
Here comes the next To-Do. If you do not have an online shop yet… GO MAKE ONE RIGHT NOW. RIGHT THIS SECOND.
There are amazing platforms out there to do it. I LOVE Shopify. Its like 30 bucks a month but you get to keep all the money and it’s easy as hell. But things like Bigcartel, Bandcamp and WooCommerce are cool as well. You just have to have an online shop. (The payments vary from service to service. Bigcartel is for free, but takes a cut of your sales)
Your band doesn’t only happen at a show. Your band happens 24/7. People can buy stuff from you without coming to a show. (This fact should fire you up. If it doesn’t — something is wrong with you and someone else should do it for you.)
I have to stress the factor of diversification again. Please make different products to buy. You rather want to make 25 shirts of one design but have four designs than having a 100 shirts of one single design at all.
People that are coming to your merch booth are buying stuff off Amazon and Thomann and other big retailers. They want to choose from stuff they like and don’t like.
Please treat them as customers.
So to close this for now — yes there’s a lot more to say — please think about your bands’ cashflow. It is what makes it possible to thrive. You can not go big with just thinking about music and riffing out. I’m sorry but that’s the truth. You need money.
If you’re in germany i highly suggest a service called SevDesk. If you’re in the US i suggest Freshbooks. For everyone else — i don’t know.
Thank you for reading!
Tell me what you want to have more of. Ask questions. Share this with your friends and please have a great day!