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28 Days to Diva: Day 25 – Budgeting for Your YAP Experience (#28daystodiva)

February 25, 2013

Being a successful operapreneur means to me: setting clear goals, strategizing steps to attain those goals, and ultimately achieving those goals and setting new goals. The projects and goals we set are different for each of us. My goals are certainly not the same as the goals of those wonderful girls I shared a studio with in graduate school. But, we all desired to be operapreneurs in our own way. To any business major, the opera world looks a bit like a pyramid scheme in which those on the bottom end up funneling the money to the top. As a young, fabulous, and broke singer, it is painful to spend the money on applications and auditions that never come to fruition. That is why I want to take Day 25 and discuss how to budget for your YAP experience.

via Dave Ramsey

Making a career in opera is difficult. It is even more difficult if your bank account is on the anemic side. Opera is a freelance business and there are high points and low points financially. Having a lot of student loans or debt before striking out into the opera world can significantly hinder your progress. You will need a regular source of income to pay those student loans. It is increasingly difficult to find jobs that can pay the piper and allow you the freedom to pursue auditions or take time off to devote to a production schedule. It is not impossible, but the best advice I can give to anyone that is reading this with these financial decisions in front of them is to think of your future small business. Start saving now because every little bit truly does help. (Try this exercise to get you started.) Do not take on debt that can eat away at your savings or your potential earnings. Do not believe that you “have to” go deep into debt to go to a YAP or school. It will be difficult to say no to something that you cannot afford because it “might help” your career. That is why you have to weigh your options as a business person at every step. Ask yourself, “Will the benefits of doing this YAP justify the cost in the long run?” and “If I take out loans to cover the entire cost of attending this school, will I actually be able to do what I love when I graduate?” Okay, before I get carried-away on this topic, let’s move on to the actually details of budgeting for the experiences you choose.

Asking those difficult questions will help you be more strategic in applying for and taking auditions as well. It does not make any sense to waste your money on every opportunity that pops up on your YAPtracker feed. Have a good sense of what level auditions you should pursue. Are you confident in your ability to shine in the top-level YAPs? Reading the fine print will also give you a sense of the costs that could be associated with that program. Once you have done your research to see which opportunities would be the best fit for you, start planning your audition season domination. Here is a solid foundation to build your budget on:

Because of all of the costs involved, you will need to budget for each year’s auditions.  A sample budget may be:

  • Fees $1,125 (15 auditions with combined fees of $75 each)
  • Airfare $500
  • Ground Transportation $200 ($85 city transport pass and $115 for taxis)
  • Practice Rooms $150 (15 half hour slots to warm-up before your audition at $10 per half hour)
  • Food $300 (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner over a two-week period)
  • Lodging not included.  Most people sleep on a friends floor or couch during their visit.

TOTAL: $2,275      REMEMBER – You will have to do these auditions every year during your YAP years (age 21-35).  Most people do not YAP for the full 14 years, but plan on 5-7 years of this phase.  Also remember you will only be making $600-2000 for the gig once you get it.  So you will already be working at a loss compared to what you spend on auditioning.  Budgeting is absolutely essential in this phase. – Matthew Edwards, “What does an Operatic career look like?”

Oofta, $2,275? Does that seem doable within your overall budget? If you have not already been keeping track of your singing budget already, I highly suggest you find whatever service works best for you and keep a close eye on it. You might find that you are spending more than that amount. Do you feel like you are getting enough bang for your buck?

After researching how much you are spending monthly on singing costs and determining whether you are getting the desired outcomes from those dollars, start setting some of these tips into motion. First, build your singing fund. Hopefully, you are convinced to start treating your singing career as a small business. As such, your singing money should go into its own account first. Then, you can direct the funds to other accounts. If you are living entirely as a freelance musician, set up a system in which to pay yourself on an automatic basis from your business account. Remember: the ideal emergency fund for freelancers is six months to a year’s worth of readily accessible funds. Second, you may have felt the need to smooth out your cash flow. You may want to consider setting aside a percentage of your side job or day job income to your singing fund. That way you are ready to accept when a stellar opportunity falls in your direction. Finally, take your tax breaks where you can get ’em. As a freelancer, tax time can be very stressful. Keep track of the deductions that allowed to freelance musicians. You absolutely must check out the resources provided by Riley & Associates P.C. when it comes to musicians and taxes.

Do not be a victim of the pyramid scheme. If you continue to operate your singing career as though you are running a small business, you will be able to avoid some of the financial pitfalls that run singers out of the game. You are in charge of your fiscal house. That is why you can free yourself from the emotional turmoil of having to wait for the right opportunity instead of taking the first option and paying the price over and over.

Do you have a good system for budgeting your singing life? Please share with us below!


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