Money is a stressor for many artists.
Some musicians, understandably, want to “just focus on the music, man” and have someone else handle the finances.
But that’s not really how it works for most middle-class musicians. In many cases, you, the musician, are the CEO, the accountant, and the artist in your one-person small business.
So I know the phrase “music budget” can cause many musicians’ blood to start pumping from anxiety. Even mine.
Hopefully, this post can help those who are allergic to budgets.
First, Stay Thrifty
First things first, you’ve got to save as much money as possible, especially if you have a day job, you’re a student, a parent, or just have other daily responsibilities.
I’m a huge fan of not spending a lot of money on stuff (mainly because I don’t have a ton of money). Thrifting and saving are my go-tos.
Por ejemplo, if you’ve ever looked into how much a professionally done music video costs, you’ve probably opted for a smartphone-shot, friend-directed music video. Or maybe that’s just me.
When it comes to saving money, one service I love is Honey. It’s an extension for your browser that scours the internet for coupons when you’re about to buy something online.
The other day, I ordered some merch to go along with my recent album release. Honey found me a 10% off coupon automatically.
Oh yeah, and it’s completely free.
Another way to save is to look for musical instruments and recording equipment at thrift stores. I bought two of my microphones (an ElectroVoice N/D 257 and a Realistic 1070c) at a thrift store and they work great.
Basically, your budget-keeping will be so much more enjoyable if you are frugal.
Separate Music Income From Personal Income
Keep your music money separate from your personal money.
I can’t overstate the importance of separating your personal finances from your music-related finances.
If you don’t, things can get messy.
Here’s what can happen if you don’t keep your finances separated:
- Taxes will be more confusing
- Personal money and music money can accidentally get mixed up
- It can be easier to lose the mentality that music is not that important
- It can just get really confusing
So here’s what I do: I have a free checking account specifically for my music income and expenses. I use Simple Bank for this.
Simple is my favorite.
It was actually voted one of the best budgeting apps by the ever-reliable Wirecutter (they do some serious testing on the products and services they review).
Simple has this feature called Goals where you can automatically set aside money into your Goals. You can also manually drag and drop the money into one of your Goals.
I treat each of my Goals like a separate account. Really their just categories within one checking account, or “a visual record-keeping and labeling system,” as Simple puts it.
So I have a Blog Goal, Music Goal, and Taxes Goal. When money I’ve made from music comes in, I move some to the Taxes Goal and the rest to my Music Goal.
I love it. So much that I think you should try it.
And you can actually get $20 back after opening a free account and making your first debit card purchase. You can learn more and sign up here.
Or not. Whatever you find easiest for your budgeting.
Set Aside Money For Uncle Sam
What a weird concept it is that our uncle comes and takes part of our paycheck. Like, uncles usually give money to their nieces and nephews.
But Uncle Sam is not very avuncular.
Depending on your age, filing status, and how much you made in a year, you may have to pay taxes on your music income.
Usually, you’ll have to make at least several hundred dollars, but you should contact your local tax consultant to make sure.
Either way, it’s probably better to set aside money for taxes, just to get in the habit.
And, hey, if you don’t end up needing to report your music income, you’ll then have more money than you expected.
TurboTax actually has a really helpful article called “The Musician’s Guide to Taxes: Top Tax Deductions” that I’d recommend reading.
Any other budgeting tips you’d add? Let me know in the comments so I can check ’em out.