How to Fund a career in the music industry

Struggling to fund your career in the music industry?  Can’t quite work out how?

Then check out the top funding income streams that can even help you turn a profit!

1. Day Job

Self-funding is the normal method of funding for most artists.  It usually involves holding down a day job whilst using nights and weekends to spend time on your music interests.

Day jobs offer stability of income, but greatly restrict the time you can spend as a musician.  Where possible, having a flexible working relationship with your boss, or a job that’s part time can offer the best of both worlds.  

Having a day job can be one of the best ways financially to kick your career off in the early days, however be aware – once you get used to that cushy salary, it may be difficult to make the transition from well-paid full time worker to low-paid full time musician!

Pro’s

  • A decent and regular wage that can be relied upon
  • Easy to transform workmates into fans
  • Often get access to knowledgable people and business perks

Con’s

  • Working 40+ hours per week
  • Have to ask for time off work to rehearse, gig/tour or record
  • Hours are often 9am - 5pm which is tough when there will be many late nights

2. Family & Friends

Do you have a rich Uncle?  Do any of your friends see your potential and want to invest?  Perhaps it’s possible to use the good ol’ Bank of Mum and Dad?

Whatever the route, many artists are fortunate enough to have someone close to them that can financially support a career in the music industry.

Whether this is full financial support or a smaller amount just to get you started, ensure that you outline the basic terms of the agreement before getting started.

Disagreements about money is one of the most frequent reasons for an artist or band breaking up.  And if you do this with a family member or friend, it can often ruin the personal relationship too, so ensure everything is fully transparent and try and keep the business and personal stuff separated at all times.

Pro’s

  • Money is usually available immediately
  • Often given as a gift rather than a repayment loan
  • No credit checks required

Con’s

  • Possibility of falling out over money
  • Situation dependant - not available to all artists
  • Funds may be based on achieving certain goals

3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is essentially the ability to raise funds for a project from a number of individuals, each contributing varying amounts towards the project.  In return those individuals that ‘invest’ their funds receive some form of acknowledgement, reward or investment return.

Crowdfunding is still a relative new-comer to the financial strategy of the music industry.  The model used to be:

Pay > Record > Release > Sell > Income (make a graphic here)

Now it has become possible to flip this, raising your funds in advance:

Crowdfund > Record > Release > Stream (make a graphic here)

Using this method, the funds received in advance will pay for the project, rather than using sales to pay off the money already spent.

Some of the top Crowdfunding companies for music-related projects include (USE HYPERLINK LOGOS):

https://www.kickstarter.com/

https://www.indiegogo.com/

https://www.gofundme.com/

Crowdfunding can also be used as a social media platform.  It’s a chance for you to offer unique rewards to your fanbase, such as:

– Pledge £10 and receive a signed poster

– Pledge £50 and get your name in the album

– Pledge £200 and I’ll perform a gig in your backyard

– Pledge £1,000 and I’ll write a song about you

Your imagination is the only limit here.

Pro’s

  • Easier to get smaller amounts of investment than one lump sum
  • Allows your fanbase to be an important part of your project
  • A great ways to stay in touch with your fans

Con’s

  • Relies on your project being interesting enough for multiple people to invest
  • If you don't achieve your full goal, you may have to fund the remainder yourself
  • May feel to some people like you're asking for charity (although it isn't!)

4. Angel Investor

An angel investor is a wealthy individual who provides financial backing in exchange for ownership equity in your company.  In this case, you as the artist are the company.

Generally speaking, getting an Angel Investor on board is one of the tougher ways to fund your career in the music industry, as they will most likely require you to set out your financial goals and forecasts, similar to how a regular company would when asking a bank for funding.

Although not treated as a loan that needs to be paid back, your Angel Investor will want to ensure that their investment is returned plus a little extra as profit.  The exact profit split will be down to the deal you do with them, but could range from 10% – 50%.

Pro’s

  • Access to a large amount of funds
  • Only requires 1 investor
  • You will often receive additional support from the investors business team

Con’s

  • Investor may apply pressure on you to make more money
  • Creative decisions may get compromised in favour of solutions that have a better return
  • Only really an option if you have the skills and expertise to plan and execute a business strategy for your project

5. Function Band

Function Bands (or Cover Bands) perform songs by well-known artists and are usually found at weddings, parties and corporate events.

Whether you’re a 8 piece band for corporate events or an acoustic duo for weddings, it’s important that the cover songs you perform are popular, engage with those you’re entertaining (either by encouraging dancing or being peaceful in the background), and the performances are of the highest quality.

Whilst the function band market is well stocked with great bands, there’s always room for more – especially if you can put a twist on your performance.  For example, playing acoustic versions of heavy rock songs or jazz versions of pop songs.

If you decide to go down the function band route, be prepared to treat it almost as importantly as your original music career.  You’ll be required to rehearse, regularly learn new material, record example songs in a recording studio, make live music videos showing what your performance looks and sounds like, and probably also build and maintain a website.

A top function band can easily take home in excess of £1,000 per gig, which make it a fantastic way to help fund your career in the music industry, as the hourly rate is so much higher than that of a regular job.

Of course it’s not always regular work so even though the fees are high, you will probably need another income source.

Pro’s

  • Large performance fees
  • Earning money from within the music industry
  • Great way to practice playing in front of a crowd

Con’s

  • Requires time and money to set up the function band
  • Learn additional songs and need a lot of extra rehearsals
  • Usually need to bring your own full backline and PA

6. Busking

The topic of busking has always had a bit of a ‘Marmite’ response from artists I speak with.  Some are 100% up for it, but others are just not keen.

Of those that give busking a go, I’ve seen nothing but success.  Soloists, duos, and full bands stripped back to acoustic do very well.  It’s not unusual for buskers to regularly walk away with £50+ per hour for their troubles.

Busking is also very accessible.  You can busk with just a guitar and voice, or outlay a small amount of money and buy a basic portable PA setup.

You don’t need a buskers licence in most areas.  Provided you’re not on private land or in certain areas designated by local councils, you can just turn up and play.  Of course you should be mindful of your surroundings and maybe ask nearby businesses if they mind, but generally speaking you can busk in most locations.

For more info on where you’re allowed to busk, check on your local council website.

Pro’s

  • No limit on how often you can busk
  • Fantastic opportunity to earn a decent fee per hour
  • You can include cover songs or original songs and try out new material

Con’s

  • You may need to perform in all types of weather
  • Need to be comfortable with rejection
  • May require investment in a small PA system

7. Grants

Grants can come from a number of different organisations, from local government to charity to music industry corporations.  They also vary in the amount being offered and the criteria for receiving them.

Too often grants are overlooked by artists who think that they are not eligible or that there will be too many applying and they just don’t bother applying themselves.  You have to be in it to win it!

Here are some organisations I recommend that provide a variety of grants (USE HYPERLINKED LOGOS):

https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/get-advice/funding-careers/funding-for-projects/funding-for-projects/

https://www.bpi.co.uk/news-analysis/music-export-growth-scheme/

Pro’s

  • Grants are basically free money 🙂
  • The money received allows you to further your career in the music industry
  • Being accepted is something you can shout about on your social media pages

Con’s

  • There are always a number of other artists applying for the same grant
  • The application process can be quite lengthy
  • Any money received can only be spent in line with the rules of the grant

8. Tuition

Tuition has long been a way for musicians to fund their careers.  Whether you teach a couple of students a week or have an army of eager pupils, it’s a great way to supplement your income.

If you’ve never taught before, don’t be scared of the process – you’re most likely the most experienced person in the room!

There are an indefinite number of teaching methods out there.  The main thing is to find your own method that you feel comfortable with, then go with that.

It might be that to get settled you should teach a friend for free just so you can try out a bunch of different reading material or techniques before moving on to fee-paying students.

Use a combination of lesson techniques based on physically being in the same room i.e. how you sit/stand/perform etc, interlaced with audio and video material.  And make sure your student has plenty of homework for the follow up lessons.

Get yourself out there!  Make some basic business cards.  Hand them out at music stores, music equipment shops, or any family or friend business that will let you.  The more people that know about you the better!

There are also a number of tuition sites where you can post your profile and pick up students that way, however they usually come as a subscription model where you pay a fee per month to use the site.  Only go down this route if you’re serious about tutoring, otherwise the fee to advertise may be more than you earn!

Pro’s

  • Teach from your home for free
  • Regular income based on how many students you have
  • Teaching others will make you a better musician

Con’s

  • Finding fee-paying students may be difficult at first
  • You'll need to plan your lessons ahead of time
  • Teaching isn't for everyone and you may find it doesn't suit you

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