Ways To Fund Your Music Career

AAs an independent musician, you may struggle with coming up with all of the money to produce your next recording project or event or launch your career properly. Here are some traditional as well as not-so-well-known ideas.

  • Fans – Fan funding has become a very popular way to raise money for recording projects. There are online sites such as Kickstarter.com or Rockethub that facilitate this. Basically, you’re asking your fans to purchase your recording up front (or something else of value, such as a house concert, depending on how much they are willing to spend.
  • Personal Loan – This is a loan that you receive with full expectation that it will be paid back with interest. It most often comes from someone you know who believes in you. Personal loans can be secured using a simple promissory note, and may or may not involve putting up collateral. Please check with your attorney before signing anything to make sure you’re not getting locked into something that is not to your advantage.
  • Personal Bank Loan – Obviously this is a simple loan that you get from a bank and make payments on. Your ability to get this kind of loan is usually based on your personal credit scores, your income and your credit history.
  • Business Loan / Small Business Loan – This is a bank loan that you take out in the name of your business. In many cases it will still be contingent on your personal credit history unless the business has been established for quite a while and has its own credit history.
  • Image credit: BillRhodesPhoto on Flickr

  • Barter – You can barter your skills, expertise, services etc for many of the things you might normally pay for, such as studio time, musicians, graphic design etc. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be trading music-related services. For example, maybe you could do some bookkeeping or painting for a studio in exchange for your sessions.
  • Pre-Sales – You can pre-sell your CD at your live shows. This works best if you offer a ‘bonus’ for fans who pre-order, such as a t-shirt or extra free downloads. Be sure to keep great records of who orders.
  • Grants – Depending on the nature of your act, you may be eligible to receive grants from any number of sources. There are foundations that fund artists whose work is of cultural significance. Your local and state arts commissions may offer grants to perform in schools. The possibilities are endless. Do your homework!
  • Profit Share – If you know you are going to sell a decent amount of your CD, you may find someone to front you the money and then take a few dollars off of each CD sold. This arrangement can end when the lender has been paid back with a specific amount of interest, or can go on indefinitely as a long-term investment.
  • Joint Venture – You may choose to form a company with one or more financial partners. You may want to secure the right to buy out your partners at some point down the road, assuming your career goes as planned. Always use an attorney when entering into financial contracts or setting up any kind of corporate entity.
  • Working Partner – You may find a partner who brings both money and a skill set to the table. For example, the owner of the studio may give you the studio time for free in exchange for partial ownership in the project. Another form of working partner would be someone who brings both money and distribution capabilities.
  • Sponsorships/Endorsements – If you are popular enough, you may get sponsors to pay for some of your career expenses. Examples would be having a company pay for your tour bus in exchange for promotion and sponsorship recognition. Musical instrument companies often sponsor artists by supplying them with products. You can get endorsements from non-music companies as well, such as beverages, clothing, jewelry, makeup etc.
  • Sell Nonprofit Sponsorships – Some organizations, such as Compassion International and World Vision, pay you to recruit sponsors from your fanbase. Both of these organizations help children in underprivileged countries. You are asked to do a presentation at your shows to get people to sponsor a child for a year. You get paid per sponsorship enrollment. There are other organizations that do this as well for other causes.
  • Corporate Gigs – You may find a company that holds conferences or other special events and is willing to fly you to perform at each of them. They might even pay for you to record a CD specifically to sell at their events. This happens most often when you write and perform songs directly related to their company or industry.
  • Take Donations Using A ‘Fiscal Agent’ – A fiscal agent can be any nonprofit organization that is willing to accept donations on your behalf. They should set up a separate bank account so you have access to the funds. Often they will ask for a percentage of the funds as an administrative fee. This is acceptable if the fee is reasonable, but some organizations go overboard. Do your due diligence.
  • Affinity Group – You may be able to align yourself with an affinity group (e.g. Harley riders) that would either fund your project or book you on an ongoing basis.
  • Live-Stream Concerts – Of course, much of your income will come from playing shows. But building your fanbase to the point where you can attract enough people to not only come to your concerts but also pay to see your concert online will put you in a different income bracket.
  • Sell bite-sized pieces – You can sell individual tracks as you record them, using the money from the first ones to pay for the next recording. The same concept applies toward selling an EP to raise funds to complete a CD.
  • Pre-licensing – You may be able to get a music supervisor or ad agency to license your masters for use in a film, TV or commercial before the entire project is done.

This is a partial list of ways to fund your recordings or your career (read more, e.g. on getting a Investment Capital, in the original Indie Connect article at this location). The truth is that there are no limits to how creative you can be as long as it is fair, equitable and legal. It is very important to know that there are laws regarding many financial transactions, even between individuals. In addition, if you are not familiar with and OK with all of the terms, conditions and language presented to you in any financial agreement, consult an attorney!

© 2010 Vinny Ribas. Find more at Indie Connect Magazine.