Alternative ways to spend your money... when you’ve got the money to spend
While playing the starving artist card is cliché, the truth is, most indie music artists don’t have a lot of money in the bank.
But if you’re going to spend the money you raised crowd funding – or dip into your valuable savings account – there may be alternative, less obvious ways to invest in your music career. From hiring a sound man to contracting a graphic designer, here are seven ways to spend your money... when you’ve got money to spend.
1. Find a collaborator or hire a songwriting consultant
You can play your guitar, but that doesn't mean you can write a hit song. Songwriting takes years of practice to perfect and is a skill all its own. A seasoned songwriting consultant or collaborator can offer objective advice about your songs and help you improve them. It makes no sense to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars recording and promoting your music while spending nothing on the most important aspect of your music career: your songs.
If you don’t have undeniably great songs, your music career can be over before it begins. Your location will affect your access to qualified consultants, but people like Robin Frederick and Jason Blume are out there. Some folks may be available to work with you in person or via the Internet. It's worth a look.
2. Turn your fans into a focus group
Your fans are some of the most important people when it comes to the success of your career, but most artists never think to spend time or money conducting research and getting feedback from them. One way to do this? Round up two groups of 30 fans, invite them to your rehearsal space, serve pizza and drinks, perform sets of your music, and have them discuss or rate whatever you're working on – songs, sound, stage presence, look, etc. You’ll come away with some vital information that can save you time and money in the long run. My band did this years ago when we were launching a recording project and it worked great. We played 20 of our newest songs and asked our focus group to pick the compositions they wanted on our record. Your fans are who you are trying to satisfy with your music, so doesn’t it make sense to ask what they think before spending thousands of dollars recording your album?
3. Contract a professional photographer and stylist
Anyone with a camera phone can say they're a photographer and anyone with a sense of style and a mirror in their hand can claim to be a stylist. While high-quality cameras are easy to get these days, an experienced professional who understands proper lighting, knows how to arrange a shot, has access to amazing locations, and knows about hair and make-up can give your press photos the visual edge they need. If a picture is really worth a thousand words, why not spend a few hundred dollars and get some really professional photos done? It's your brand, after all.
4. Hire a graphic designer
Your logo is the stamp of your brand. It will appear on your banners, road cases, merch, your drummer’s bass drum head, and maybe even become a tattoo. Maybe you're fairly confident playing around with Photoshop, but an experienced, professional graphic designer can really make a difference to your brand. Search for someone with an outstanding portfolio of band logos. Remember, you want to have a hot-looking logo that can become a bad-ass T-shirt people will gladly pay $15 for. Find a pro and let him or her do your logo and design. [Disc Makers has a professional graphic design department ready to help create the perfect logo.]
5. Travel with a sound person
So you've spent thousands of dollars on recording and rehearsal space and exactly no dollars to replicate that sound on stage! Think about it: you book yourself into a club you've never played, and then rely on a house sound guy who has never seen you before and knows nothing about your music. Don’t get me wrong, this isn't practical for bands who are just starting out, and house sound people know the club's sound and do some really amazing work. But if you travel with someone who knows every guitar riff, vocal harmony, and drum fill, it can elevate your band’s live show and give you a competitive advantage.
6. Find a light person
Speaking of live performances, how's your light show? What light show, you ask? Exactly! Here again, most live acts rely on whatever the club provides, which is precisely what every other band on the bill does, and everyone ends up looking the same. But imagine having a light man who projects bright lights into the audience on dramatic power chords, synchronizes every drum roll with a strobe light, and builds special boxes that project light upward, making you look like a superstar every time you step into the light. Awesome, right? You’re in show business: no show often means no business.
7. Pick up the tab
Want to get an influential person to see your show and hear your music? Why not invite him or her out, comp them at the door, and pick up their food and drink tab? Rather than pay a company to blast your music to hundreds of bloggers, why not target one or two local magazine writers, radio DJs, or producers and offer to comp their night? There are no guarantees they'll like your music and show, but I’d take a chance on this personal approach over some “get successful quick” campaign that sends unsolicited emails to the world any day.
Bobby Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician, Business Basics For Musicians, and The Five Star Music Makeover (published by Hal Leonard Books). Get these books at any fine online store in both physical or digital format. NOTICE: Any use or reprint of this article must clearly include all copyright notices, author’s name, and link to BobbyBorg.com.