[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Angela Mastrogiacomo.]
It’s no big secret that you have to spend money to make money. It’s simply a fact—while many artists have DIY-ed themselves into a successful career, you name me just one of them that did so with absolutely no budget in mind for things like:
- Hiring the right team
- Getting out there to tour
- Investing in creative, unique merch
- Quality recording, press photos, and bio
While many musicians seem to readily invest in a quality recording studio, somehow, all the rest seems to fall by the wayside, and it leaves most music undiscovered, unappreciated, and largely…unheard. This is not what you were going for when you started this.
But, how do you know where to concentrate your funds? For instance, if you only have a set budget of say, $2,000, where do you put that? What if it’s only $200? Do you hire a publicist? Do you go on tour? Do you get press photos?
It can feel overwhelming to try to make what feels like an incredibly lofty decision all on your own. Ask yourself the following questions:
How much money do I really have?
So many of us are quick to assume we have no money to invest. But if you look around, odds are you can find places to make up that budget. I speak from experience. I have 100% found myself saying this same thing, but when something I really wanted came up, I found a way to pay for it. The truth is, we almost always find a way to pay for the things we really want, and this is no exception.
This might be cutting down on your takeout or bar tab each month. It might mean picking up a few extra shifts. Or it might mean finding a less expensive studio to record at, as it’ll then it free up an extra two thousand dollars for the rest.
Take some time and get realistic with your budget. It’s a cop out to just say, “I have none” and expect things to still work out for you. Be honest, but be crafty. If you really wanted this, where would you get scrappy and find that money?
What essentials are you missing?
Before you can really be taken seriously as an artist, there are a few essentials you need to have in place, so that’s where I want you to look first. If any of these things are missing, you know where to allocate your budget.
These things are:
- A professionally written bio
- Press photos (taken by a professional photographer—do I have to say this?)
- Mastered, finished songs
In addition, you need to have a few things set up (these don’t necessarily require hiring out, but depending, they might):
- Social media pages set up and active
- A strong grasp on your brand
These are all non-negotiables. No matter what you’re doing—trying to book a show, get press, or build fan engagement, you’re going to need a bio and press photos, and you’re definitely going to need songs. If you have a friend that’s a great writer or photographer then great, go with them, but just make sure you aren’t skimping.
There are ways to do this affordably (like hiring through a college, working with students, etc), but if you’re not a good writer, you can’t write your own five-sentence bio and take photos with your iPhone and call it a day. Please don’t do that.
What will move the needle most in your career right now?
Once your essentials are out of the way, ask yourself: What will move the needle the most in my career right now?
It can be tempting to get overwhelmed thinking about all the things you could be doing or want to do in the future, but really try to really narrow your vision in here, get quiet with yourself, and focus on what will really move things forward for you.
For instance, if you’re about to release an album this Fall and want to apply for major festivals next summer, then maybe it’s a PR campaign to drum up interest that’s going to help the most.
Or maybe your fan engagement is a little weak right now and you know that’s the key to getting more press or more shows booked, so you invest your time in a digital marketer or Facebook ads to target fans in your city.
Focus in on the ONE thing you want more than anything this year and then ask yourself, “What do i need to do to get there?”
What extras can you give your fans?
Of course, your fans should always be top of mind. But once you’ve taken care of the essentials and the thing that’s going to move your career the most, ask yourself what extras you can give to your fans. Strategically, this is going to help everything from online engagement to show attendance but on a more personal level, it just builds stronger connections when your fans feel seen and looked after.
So if you have a little extra, invest in something like postcards that you can send fans with their merch orders or even just because, (you could make a social media post saying “first 50 people to respond get a postcard!”) or in putting on an incredible digital show that’s going to be a true experience for fans, (think: a pool party, a hot chocolate house show bar, a FriendsGiving with fans, etc). Record them a special b-side song they’ve been asking for, create a music video featuring them. Go with what makes sense for your fans.
There’s so much you can do, even with a modest budget—so long as you create a plan and never stop your pursuit of growing, you’re going to get there.