Making a career of being a musician is tough because it takes a combination of hard work, professionalism, and being at the right place at the right time and with the right people to “make it.”
- Build an Emergency Fund
This is something that literally everyone should make the first priority when settling their finances, artist or not. Sometimes you will be faced with an unexpected situation and usually the first place you will feel the punch will be in your wallet. For example, your car breaks down and you need to get it to a mechanic immediately, because, let’s face it, we musicians travel a lot! It is imperative that you have a savings buffer that can get you through any sort of unexpected financial burden.
To help me save up for this, I use an app called Digit. It’s an automated savings app that connects directly to your checking account and will automatically transfer a small amount (usually between $0.10 – $5.00) to a specific savings account that is curated for your specific savings goals, including an emergency fund.
2. Time is Money
As musicians, we have A LOT to do; practice, maintain our instruments, go to rehearsals, give performances, etc. That in it of itself is a huge burden on our time! And with only roughly 16 hours in the typical workday (assuming you get a full 8 hours of sleep), our time becomes incredibly precious.
Something you can start doing, which will hugely benefit your mental health, is to start treating your hours of the day just like money (hence the phrase). Start placing a value on all the things you do in any given day, and start asking yourself if it is truly worth your time, energy, and/or money. If the answer is no, find something more valuable to your time to take its place.
Of course, there is a whole other conversation to be had about the paid gig versus the unpaid gig for exposure. In short, I will say weigh the cost-benefit ratio of the gig. Will the unpaid gig be full of networking and professional growth opportunities? Will the paid gig be paying you accordingly to the amount of work you are doing? Start asking yourself these types of questions, and that should steer you in the right direction for you.
3. Invest in Yourself
One of the biggest changes I have found that has helped me tremendously in not only my professional life but also my overall health is to invest in myself. One way to do so is through exercise. There is an abundance of scientific studies that prove that regular exercise improves many aspects of your health and your life. The more you exercise, the more easily oxygen can travel throughout your body and into your brain (Sometimes I’ve had some of my best ‘Ah-ha!’ moments while on the treadmill). So make time for yourself to get some exercise, whether that’s going to the gym, hiking, yoga, etc., find something that gets your body moving and your blood flowing.
Another aspect of the idea of investing in yourself is investing in things that make you feel good about yourself. In my case, this was my wardrobe. For me, that usually means a well-fitted shirt, comfortable and slim slacks or chinos, and dress shoes. I am by no means a fashion expert, but I do enjoy learning about what fits well with my body, what colors, patterns, and styles go well together, and figuring out where I can get them all for a price that won’t break my budget.
4. Diversify Your Skill Sets
Unless you get extraordinary lucky straight out of college and get signed on to become the next Joshua Bell or Yuja Wang or Gustavo Dudamel, chances are going to likely that you will have to do something other than performing. One of the smartest things you can do for your immediate financial future as a musician is to start learning about all the relevant sub-sections of the music world that may not be performance related. This can mean working as a ticket sales associate at your local concert hall, working as a stage manager, or teaching. In fact, teaching, whether it’s at a private studio or in a public school setting, is hugely beneficial as a young musician because it makes you think more about how to approach the basics of musicianship, and it’s a great resume builder.
I hope these tips are helpful!