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How Should You Invest In Your Music Career?

How much money should you spend? And on what?

· Music Business

When I decide I'm going to do something, I go all in. Which sometimes can be a great thing. But it also can be expensive.

So without getting into too much detail...let's just say I had a lot of tax deductions the first year I started performing and promoting myself as a singer-songwriter. Some of which were wise investments in my career, and others were...a great learning experience. ;)

So if I could go back in time and give myself some money advice, here's what I would tell myself:

The press kit

What you shouldn't spend your money on:

You don't need a physical press kit. (Gasp!) There are all sorts of websites telling you you should put together some glamorous, professional press to show venues you're serious. So I followed their advice because I wanted to be a "serious" musician!

And then I realized no one wanted them. It's 2017 and venues do their booking online. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I've never once come across a situation where I needed to use my physical press kits.

(Which are freakin cute, by the way. And a huge waste of money.)

What you should spend your money on:

  • Professional quality pictures. Now THAT will set you apart and show that you're serious. And it makes promoting gigs and making posters a lot easier.
  • Recordings, even if they're not top-notch professional quality. Get them out there as soon as possible so you can start booking gigs.
  • an EPK, either using a site that sets one up for you, or hosted on your own website.

Sound/Recording Equipment

What you shouldn't spend your money on:

New instruments, microphones, interfaces, headphones etc. when you can already use what you own. I get it. Your current guitar doesn't have the best tone. And you NEED that other microphone to make your voice sound better before you can release your music! But sometimes it's better to just use what you have. Get your music out there. Perform. Post live living room videos to your facebook page. Just start making music (and making money) before you throw out. A better guitar isn't going to have a significant impact on your career. Releasing your music, creating consistent content for your fans, and performing gigs is.

What you should spend your money on:

I went about a year without owning a P.A. system. And then I bought a small one under $200. At that point, I could easily make that money back by playing one night at a restaurant-style venue. I think that was the smartest investment in my career because it opened me up to playing house concerts, and other venues that didn't provide a P.A. system.

Online stuff

What you shouldn't spend your money on:

  • Non-targeted facebook ads: In my (slightly delusional) mind, I wanted to grow my audience worldwide and didn't care too much about growing a local audience or bringing people to my shows. It would have been smarter to narrow down my reach to local people who are more likely to come to my shows and buy my music.
  • Sonicbids/Reverbnation: I'm not saying you can't get opportunities from these platforms (and I did!), but I don't think it was worth the money I put into it. It's like...American Idol. You're going to have a much better chance of making it if you do your own thing and build your career on your own, than if you flock to where the masses are all competing with each other. That's why people like Tori Kelly have built incredibly successful careers on their own after being rejected by American Idol.
  • Songwriting competitions: This is kind of the same concept as my last point. I'm not trying to be in competition with other songwriters. I'd rather spend my time trying to find the right people who will love my music. Some people will love my songs. Some people will think they're crap. And that's okay! Being a musician isn't about being "better" than all the other artists out there, it's about expressing yourself and finding those people who connect with your music. I'm not saying songwriting competitions are bad, but I don't think they're the wisest investment in your career. And I think approaching your music with a competitive mindset is a dangerous place to be.

What you should spend your money on:

  • An electronic press kit: You'll need this to start booking gigs, so this should be the first thing you worry about. Maybe start with a free EPK platform at first and then move over to your website.
  • A website and email list: Once you have all your social media accounts created and have started growing an audience, then it would be time to invest in a website. A website is a great way to get fans on your email list, promote any news or new music, and just make you look like an overall professional.
  • Highly targeted facebook ads: Have a show coming up? Promote it to local people who "like" that venue. Or fans of other local artists who are similar to you. Lots of people love supporting local music and discovering new artists, and those are the people you want to get in front of!
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