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Make your music pay the bills

I’ve Got a Song, Now What? How to promote my music online and make my music Pay My Bills.

Despite what the naysayers say, you CAN make your music pay. If you’re open to letting go of your rock star ideologies. I’m not advocating giving up your dream. I’m advocating being able to quit your job at Starbucks by allowing your passion to provide your paycheck. I use the word “allow” here for a reason. If you’re in this for fame, you’re closing yourself off from a lot of lucrative possibilities. I’m just saying, open up to those possibilities.

Fame is a luck of the draw. And yeah, it happens. And it could happen to you. But why spend years doing something you hate, to pay the bills while you wait for your big break? Or, if you are eking out a living playing gigs (and good for you!), why settle for a $20K income (split four or five ways) when you could be making four times that?

The music business is a business. And anyone making a living at it, from the guitar teacher at Sam Ash to Sean Combs will tell you just that. So before you take off your barista apron, get your head straight.

    1. Pay off credit card debt. The interest you’ve accrued in your past life is sucking you dry. You don’t want to carry debt into a new business. And you may need a stellar credit score to finance later upfront costs related to your growing career.

Learn to live frugally for the short term and pay personal expenses from your bank account. Believe me, it will pay off in the long term.

    2. Know your tax rights. You’d be surprised at how much can be written off: Strings, sticks, books, even the guy who does your tax prep are all write-offs that can save you chunks of change come tax season. It may even return a cool refund.

Word to the wise: Unless you know what a Schedule C is and how to prepare it, hire a professional. It’ll save you time and aspirin.

    3. Manage your own business. If you don’t know something, learn it. There are plenty of resources—books, the Internet, mentors and music artist promotion services . (A mentor is probably the best resource you can have. Not only will you learn from their mistakes, but they have a lot of contacts and can introduce you to many services.)

    4. Diversify.  You may think teaching or playing a wedding is beneath you. But the realities in today’s music industry require even heavy hitters to hawk Coke, perfumes and clothing lines to maintain their standard of living. You’re creative or you wouldn’t be playing, writing and performing. Use your creativity to find innovative ways to make your music pay. We’ll discuss way other musicians doing it—to the tune of $50-100+K—in the next post.

A survey by the Future of Music Coalition estimates that the average American musician makes $34K from their music, before taxes and expenses. Plenty are doing better than that.

You can, too.

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