Here is a question that I get often when I do a masterclass or a panel.
"How do I choose between financial security and my music, and how can my music become the financial security that I need?"
I believe this is not just a question that applies to music, it applies to any art-form, any passion that you choose in life. How can I make money with the thing that I love the most? If I would answer like most parents, including mine, it would be to get a "normal" job or study to become a lawyer or psychiatrist (because we'll always need them) but obviously that is not a realistic answer.
After 10 years in the music industry making money with. only doing music, here is my advice.
1. Understand and utilize your investments.
In order to talk about finances and how much you make or wanna make, you have to take into account how much you invest back into your business. Not just for the simple reason of taxes, but for your own artistic development. Before you are able to even make money, you will have to spend the money. You can choose to go to a 4 year college and get a music degree and/or you can choose to buy the best gear, laptop, instruments. Understand that in order to keep growing, investing back into yourself is never going to stop.
I made the choice to separate a percentage of my income that comes from my music, and make that my investment money. Whether it's new gear, a class, an instrument, I will use it to expand the opportunity to get better at what I do and also get more work. Sometimes I spend it on social media promotion to get more clients or get noticed more for my work, but each investment is carefully made knowing it will help me with my future projects.
So, don't "just" go to school, or "just" buy a new guitar, or "just" get the most expensive laptop. Plan your investments and make sure you get the very best out of them. Spending $3k on a laptop is not magically going to get you more work or make you be a better producer, a $2k guitar is not going to make you play better, so with the investment comes the responsibly of utilizing it the best way possible.
2. Work smarter, not harder.
Before you make any money, you will have to spend hours of your unpaid time getting to the first paid Job. I'm sure you've heard of the 10.000 hours theory, (if not, check it out, it's fascinating.) You start with working on your craft, after that you spend hours on the internet sending emails finding band members, after that you will have to find gigs, first unpaid (gotta proves yourself) and after that you will finally get your first paid job.
Once you start making a little money, the Time vs. Money ratio will change. You will build up a database of people to get jobs from, you know your instrument well enough, you have your band members together. This is the point that you will probably find this blog post, looking for ways to make more money. The advice is, be aware of your Time vs. Money ratio. give yourself a part-time job in doing the administrative part of running your business and lock it down to a certain amount of hours a day.
Work smarter, not harder. Give yourself 2 hours a day to do all your chores, practice, social media posts, reach out to old clients and find at least 5 new once a day, you will achieve so much more than being up till 2am right before the CD release or the big show.
3. Put a restriction on "Free"
In order to get the gigs you want, you're going to have to do some work for free, produce some projects for free, play some shows for free. But you have to understand that by using the work "free", you might devalue what you actually have to offer. So try to put some restriction on your free work and make sure the receiving party understands the value of what you do for free.
If you're a producer, make sure you get a percentage of the master and the right to use that master for sync opportunities. What is the point of an amazing free production that just sits on a hard drive? If you're an artist playing free shows, make sure the venue is at least promoting your show. You can't pay your musicians and your rent with "exposures".
Something that I have found useful is to make a PDF with your actual rates and you send that to the client you are doing "free" work for so they know that next time, those rates will apply. In case you spend an exuberant amount of time on this free project, start keeping track of the hours and tell the client that once they pass X limit, you will start charging.
4. Be Seen.
If you're anything like me, you probably plan in your life so tight you don't have time to go to showcases or networking events. For the last few years I've had to start adding those into to my schedule. You can't expect to get work from strangers if they can't find you, there is no word of mouth and no advertisement. Your social media and your presence are what is going to give you the most exposure and opportunity. Don't be a bedroom guitarist, get out there and show your skills.
This blog has a few posts on how to grow your social media and how to expand your fanbase, make sure you utilize those tools! You can find all these posts HERE.
5. Know the value of your work.
So, you wrote some songs that got on indie records, you produced some EP's, you played some bigger shows. Make sure you keep track of the value of your work, each time you finish a project you are worth a little bit more.
Make sure those credits are easy to find, on your socials, website, so that each time you meet a new client, they already know of your accolades and achievements.
Of course you can't charge $400 on a mix, and the next time $600, you have to grow slowly so you can actually keep your clients and not scare them off, and you sometimes will have to make a deal that will pay you less but you work on a larger body of work, BUT you will have to be the one that keeps track of all that. You can choose to give yourself a raise at the beginning of each year, even if it's just a little bit of extra money per project.