And keep it going that is. Many talented people who want to initiate their careers in the music business fail to realize one vital fact: being a professional musician is a business that requires a continuity budget. Read that again. The same way you wouldn’t open a restaurant with zero dollars in your bank account, you don’t spend all of your money in the beginning as a musician only to realize you have to quit because you can’t keep up the costs. So what should your budget look like if you’re completely committed to pursuing a music career? Let’s calculate below the minimum amount you need every single year to pursue your career at a professional level.
Cost #1: Your Music.
Let’s kick things off with the basics of the product. Your music. To lease a beat, record the vocals, and have it professionally mixed and mastered will amount to a total of $300 if you’re absolutely lucky. Usually, that number is around $500 for new artists leasing beats from unknown producers and working with relatively new sound engineers who charge less to increase their client base. You can cut back the costs of the recording sessions by locking in a lower price with the studio and promising them, either by spoken agreement or in writing, that you will record a set number of songs. Some artists even pay a monthly fee to the studio in exchange for access when they have free slots, such as after hours or during the weekend. So overall you get a lot more studio time and they don’t have to sacrifice their higher-paying clients to get those few dollars from you. If you plan on releasing 4 songs a year, that is $1200 you need for your first year just for the music.
Cost #2: Your Image.
You can have the greatest song in the world but if you don’t push your face along with it, you might miss your only chance to become famous. If your song goes viral but your cover artwork does not feature your face and you don’t have a music video in place, your song will go on to succeed without people ever knowing the face behind the voice. For now, we’ll leave out the costs for a music video and just take into consideration the static image. You’ll need to pay for at least one professional photo shoot. If you think you don’t need it, you might as well close this tab and go about your day. The photos are needed in various formats for various purposes. You need professional headshots, half shots, body shots. The photos need to be structured for pitching media outlets, making online announcements, designing your songs’ cover artworks, customizing the YouTube Channel banner, the Facebook Page and Profile Cover, the Twitter account headlining image. Not to mention your Genius profile, website, SoundCloud, Musixmatch account, etc. You NEED professional photos just as much as you need a decent sound engineer to curate your sound to the best possible quality for the given budget. A non-famous professional music photographer with standard market-approved gear will charge you approximately $300 for a 3-hour shoot with 12 edited final photos. If you’ve paid attention to our previous article from a year ago where we taught you how to maximize a photoshoot so that it lasts you an entire year or even more, you’ll only need to pay this fee once. If you are feeling confident enough in hiring a student photographer instead, you could probably knock down that price to $150. So for the sake of this article, we’ll go with $150.
Cost #3: Your Music Video(s).
If you’re actually aiming to be taken seriously in the music business and make money rather soon than later, you will need at the very worst one music video a year. If you want higher chances to succeed and maximize your efforts and convert first-time watchers into long-term supporters, put out a music video every six months. So 2 professional music videos a year. You don’t need more than that because you’re not Billie Eilish or Rihanna. Their fan bases are huge and it pays them directly to put out music videos as often as every month. Whereas you are new, with very likely few fans, and people are not necessarily salivating over your brand and demanding you put out music videos frequently. And you actually need the extra time to talk to fans, engage in networking, market your music, understanding your audience, and push your brand to more and more ears and eyeballs. If you put out a song + music video, after 3 months a second song, after another 3 months a song plus a music video, after another 3 months a song, you’ll be in a better place than 99% of new artists. A professional music video with a good videographer that is willing to work on a low budget will charge you $1500. Two music videos a year amounts to $3000.
Cost #4: Your Marketing.
If you’ve got great songs, great photos, great videos, they mean nothing if nobody knows of their existence. And here’s where many crumble despite stellar music quality and outstanding brand image. If you’re committed to run the ads yourself, which by the way is the only way to cut back on the ridiculous fees an advertising company will charge you, you will have to churn through hours and hours of YouTube advertising gurus and pick only what you think fits your needs and goals. Ideally, the more dollars you put in, the faster you will gain notoriety. But since we’re on the lowest budget possible today, let’s go for $300 for advertising the audio and $700 to advertise your music videos. 4 songs x $300 (Spotify direct streams, small playlist placements, review shows, etc.) + 2 music videos x $700 (Google ads, YouTube ads, Blog Placements, Influencer accounts shout outs and reposts)= $2600.
Cost #5: Your Website.
The last absolute essential pillar in building a professional music career is your own website. If you don’t have one, you’ll have your fans all over the place instead of one final destination. A website will allow you to check the analytics, see what city and country is most interested in your music, announce a new song or music video on your own terms, and even blog sometimes talking about X lesson and Y experience as a music artist. The website also saves everyone A LOT of time. Instead of forwarding a bunch of materials to journalists, you’ll only need to send them the link to your website. And of course, you’ll be able to establish the infamous mailing list. The website is your future funnel for stable income. When you’ll put out a special Vinyl edition, that’s where you’ll sell it. When you’ll go touring, that’s where you’ll get the first buyers. When you got new merch, that’s where your fans will discover it. You got the idea. No website equals no money in the future. The most economical price available to professional musicians is 99.48 US dollars for one year. That is $8.29 a month for building, hosting, and maintaining your website with Bandzoogle, the top platform custom-made for musicians. You will have to spend weeks building your website from the templates they give you but no other service in the world will offer the freedom and tools for the price that Bandzoogle has for you. So another $100.
We will not include additional costs such as makeup artists, networking events, paying DJs in-person to spin your record in the clubs, getting stage experience by going to showcases, buying jewelry (if you’re a rapper), and musical equipment (if you play an instrument). We’re assuming you are willing and talented enough to do your own hair and makeup, to sneak into webinars and zoom gatherings for free, to show enough confidence to pass fake Rolexes for real ones, and to borrow/get gifted your needed instruments from friends and family. So the music, plus photos, plus 2 videos, marketing, and your main website for ONE YEAR will cost you 7050 US dollars. That is the absolute most minimum, tightest budget possible for you to operate at a professional level as a new music artist.
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