I’ve encountered two extremes when it comes to bands and saving money. Some bands save everything, don’t pay themselves a cent. Other bands save nothing, paying out the individual members everything. Then there is the moderate approach, saving some of it, paying out some of it.
For the bands that save nothing, when it comes to a major expense, recording an album for an unsigned band, going on tour or even minor expenses like photoshoots and getting merchandise, how do you pay for it? Does everyone just chip in? Do they pay equal amounts? Does one guy bankroll it all? Surely it would be better to not have to reach into your pocket each time your band wants something?
The bands that are saving, you’re on the right track. But do you spend your money correctly? In my experience, those that do save up are just going for the album, saving up to record and get the cd’s out there. Fair enough, it’s a legitimate aim. But it’s not the only legitimate aim a band should have or the primary expense of the band. Bands are commercial endeavours. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Artistically inspired, yes, but still commercial endeavours. One thing you’ll find in common between most commercial undertakings, be it in the form of partnerships, companies, close corporations or whatever, is a budget. A plan for expenditure, how much each department gets, internal budgets, what those departments spend money on.
Departments? Seriously? Most of the musicians I know would say that. A band doesn’t have departments. It’s a band. Wrong. Take a look at the idealised structure of a band and all the associated people. There is a personal manager, business manager, road manager, booking agent, lawyer, merchandiser and more. If you have all these people as seperate entities that you contract in, ideally they’ll each charge you something and split it within their companies as they need to in order to do their job.
If you don’t have all these people, budgets become even more important. The band, internally, needs to handle most of these roles and cover all the expenses. You want bookings? Great, do you have a promo pack? Is it printed?
You want merchandise? Great, do you have a design? Someone to sell it for you? Transport it? Store it?
Printing promo packs costs money, so does buying merch and paying someone to sell it. Want a dedicated sound engineer? Money again. Banners? Tour? More money and I haven’t even mentioned albums as an expense yet for the unsigned bands. So, like a company, a band has marketing, sales, production, logistics, admin and so on. I’m not going to say what percentage each activity should get, there is no set answer. But each activity generates money, either directly or by laying the foundation. Each activity needs money. It’s up to the band to decide how to allocate the money.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at two fictional bands and a reasonable comparison of them. The Misers and Anti-Scrooge can be the two bands. The Misers save everything, putting it all into a bank account, waiting for the day they have enough to record an album. Anti-Scrooge on the other hand, save some money they get from shows, but spend some of it as well. We’ll start them both off with zero and limit it to 3 months. Both bands gig 4 times a month for R1000 a show, so R12000 each.
Profit and Loss
|Sale of some of the T-Shirts||0||5000|
|Sale of some of the badges||0||1000|
|Sale of some of the posters||0||1800|
These numbers are approximations only obviously, but reasonable ones. 50 t-shirts sold at R100 each, 30 posters at R60 each, 100 badges at R10 each, not wildly out there or unachievable for a band over 3 months. Anti-Scrooge spent more, but earned more and will have some stock remaining by the end of those 3 months. If they keep it up, they’ll be even better off.
I’ve left off a decent expense as well, marketing. While not having a straight pay off, if Anti-Scrooge spend money advertising their shows by flyers etc, they’ll consistently bring more people. More people through the door because of them means they can charge more. Anti-Scrooge get a booking agent, the amount of gigs they play go up. The disparity between them and The Misers will grow rapidly then.
Spend money to make money. Spend on merch, spend on marketing, spend on admin, spend on staff. Don’t just hoard the money, it’s counter-productive. The above was a limited example, your band should be spending money on a vast majority of the following at least, if not on all of them.
- Marketing & publicity
- Graphic design
- Sales staff
- An agent
- Website design and maintenance