Courtesy of Rick Vornell
When it comes to your career, cutting costs is actually going to end up costing you more in the long run...
In this day and age, so much technology is accessible right at our fingertips. We live in a time where expensive agencies, studios, and many professional services are no longer out of reach. Tech companies have capitalized on the recent DIY nature of our culture, and have thus provided numerous software systems available on home computers, laptops, and even the smallest of devices to put once inaccessible technology at our fingertips and in the comfort of our own homes.
For many reasons, this is fantastic. Artists are able to learn new crafts, extend their knowledge and know-how, and, most of all, save money. But what happens when, in an effort to be thrifty, the vertex of DIY intersects with loss of quality standards in your work?
I’m all about saving a few bucks, but when it comes to your career, cutting costs is actually going to end up costing you more in the long run. Professional assistance eventually becomes necessary, and when it does come time to work with the pros, it won't be cheap. Below are four ways that your professional career with drain your bank account!
1. Entering the recording studio
Recording a few demos off of your laptop is great, and those tracks might land you a few club-dates, but eventually you'll need to hit a professional studio.
The recording studio is one of the most fun places for an artist to be. Time seemingly flies when creativity is flowing and – whoops, there’s the clock, and you're way over budget! Though putting a cap on your studio time is often the fiscally responsible thing to do, sometimes that can be a musician’s biggest downfall. The worst thing you can do is rush through a session to then get home with a product you're not proud of – one that sounds, well... rushed.
For the few hundred bucks you’re probably wrestling with, it’s worth it in the long run to just invest in finishing out your project the right way. However, putting time and money into polishing your work (so you're more happy with it and more excited to share it with the world at the end of the day), will cost you - and it won't be cheap.
PROFESSIONAL STUDIO ALBUM (10 Songs) BUDGET: $28,000.00 - $50,000.00
2. Professional legal assistance
Some of the most expensive mistakes you can make in this industry are legal. Not knowing or understanding the laws could mean you get sued for things like copyright infringement or breach of contact. Or, if you cheat yourself out of the legal advice and protection your career requires and deserves, you could easily be taken advantage of in a variety of areas, such as signing a bad deal you don’t fully understand, being caught up in a long-term agreement you don’t know the ramifications of, or not protecting your intellectual property and being forced into a legal battle that bleeds you dry financially, all just trying to prove and defend what is rightfully yours.
Even though it can get expensive, having a good music business lawyer is very important. But, prepare for when the guys in the suits send you their bill. That crucial advice won't come cheap.
MUSIC BUSINESS LAW FIRM ON RETAINER: $1,000.00 - $4,000.00 /MONTH
3. Developing your marketing materials
Here’s an area that everyone generally feels like they can tackle on their own. But nothing sends a stronger message of "unprofessional" than making mistakes like submitting badly done photos and poorly made (or worse, nonexistent) business cards. And, that only scratches the surface. There are many layers to marketing, and nobody does this better than the music industry marketing professionals.
In the music business, inconsistent branding leaves the impression of amateurism. In this business you need to always be coming across as a professional at every stage of your career. It makes people who perhaps want to give you great opportunities feel like they can, because you seem to have your act together.
But, if you haven’t taken the time to do things that are this important - and do them properly, why should club-owners, booking agents and the media make an effort to step up to add you to their networks?
Of course, branding yourself professionally needs to be done by professionals, and it won't come cheap. Hiring a professional music marketing crew for your music career will require people who have a distinct know-how about the music business.
These people tend to be highly experienced music business veterans, they will have a lot of contacts in media and with other music business insiders. They will also have the know how to promote talented up and coming musicians like you. But, keep in mind that their services will drain your bank account if your pockets are not deep enough.
PROFESSIONAL MARKETING BUDGET: $2,000.00 - $30,000.00 / MONTH (or more)
4. Making a killer music video that exposes your talent
Nothing looks worse than a cheap attempt at a professional music video. If even the most novice of eyes can see that you did it on a shoestring budget, then you’re honestly just better off not doing one at all.
Save your time and save your money until you’re ready to get it done right. You certainly don’t need to (nor can you) spend hundreds of thousands of dollars like the big-wigs do, but take the time required to thoroughly vet the videographer you hire so you get a product that you're excited to share - one that at least looks like it was a big-budget production.
Whether that means you go with the really expensive professional video guy whose work you’ve seen all over the internet, or the referral from a fellow musician buddy, or the recent film-school grad who answered your ad on Craigslist and is looking to build up his portfolio, just make sure you do your homework and create something with value that meets the quality of your great musical work, and doesn’t distract from it.
Remember, the video making business is all about experience. The video team that's made dozens and dozens of killer music videos will always out-shine the film-school grad on Craigslist. After making a ton of videos, that professional has learned a lot. And, this will cost you.
PROFESSIONAL MUSIC VIDEO PRODUCTION BUDGET: $35,000.00 - $100,000.00
So, in a nutshell, take advantage of every free option that exists today to save you time and money. But don’t be cheap, don’t be lazy, and don’t be uneducated. Know where you add value and where you don’t.
Be honest with yourself that you can’t realistically do it all well enough to be proficient in every area. And once you’ve discovered the places where you struggle, fix the problem.
Don’t be disillusioned and think you're saving so much by cutting corners you think no one notices. We all notice, and we're all creating a perception of you and your artistry according to what we see.
Don’t let your thriftiness cost you more in the long run. Seek the right help where you need it and make the changes and investments necessary so you don’t fall victim to my favorite plague of the music industry: complacency.