A budget is a moral document because it outlines our values. How we spend our money shows us at our best and at our worst. I could swear up and down that I believe artists should be paid for their work. If I make a project budget that suggests otherwise, would you still want to work with me? Probably not. Musicians shouldn’t be exploited — especially by other musicians. That is not a change in the model. Before you get your panties in a twist, not every creative experience is a cash transaction. I understand that and so does every other classical musician in the field. If you are making money off of an artist’s labor and expertise, however, you better be able to show her where the money is going.
Your Day 21 challenge is to Create a Budget in Advance.
Making a budget is a true “put your money where you mouth is” exercise. A budget is not a marketing tool. Your budget is straightforward data. This is your internal commitment to what you value most about your work and the specific value given to each line item. Creatives often avoid budgeting because they just want the project/tour/marketing to happen. What they don’t often realize is that the work they put into a budget may help them be more time and cost efficient overall. What’s more costly than the bottom line of your budget? Not having a budget.
Furthermore, the absence of a budget sets up many “We’ll just…” scenarios. You know what I mean. “We’ll just… get some singers together and have them create a fundraising cabaret.” Or, “We’ll just… find a non-traditional space.” Or there’s, “We’ll just… get some costumes and paint some sets.” Yeah, who’s going to do all that? How valuable is their time? What if you need a deposit or have to rent something specific? Without figuring out the financial details beforehand, you will be left to scramble for money to pay for all of those “We’ll just…” items. A detailed budget will bring those issues to the surface before the last-minute. For example, your budget brainstorm suggests that you’ll need stand lights for the performance. The advanced notice gives you time to work out an “in-kind” donation from another group before you have to rush out during the dress rehearsal and buy them.
Take your recital from last year or perhaps you have an event that’s been percolating on the back burner for a while and you aren’t sure how to get the boil rolling. A budget could be the document you need to specify the details. A big step in reaching your number is creating a budget for each project you do. If the bottom line of the budget does not make the right impact on your overall situation, you will be able to devise the steps necessary to fix it. Making a budget for a tour, a recital, or a marketing project will all have slightly different elements but a similar basic structure. Money coming in versus money going out, right?
Are you self-promoting and producing your event? The following budget outlines some basics. In this case, you’re breaking even and paying each musician $100. Want to make a higher fee? Who wouldn’t? Decide which income factors you can change. Do you think you can still pull 30 guests if you raise the ticket price to $20? Then, you have raised your total income from $750 to $900.
Self-produced event budget:
- Merchandise Sales: $50
- Ticket Sales (30 guests at $15): $450
- Advertising Revenue: $250
- Total Income: $750
- Performers (2 total at $100 rate): $200
- Printing Programs, Posters, and Cards: $50-$70
- Venue: $300-400
- Piano Tuner: $100
- Wine: $80
- Total Expenses: $750
- NET INCOME: $0.00
- In Kind
- Social media guru/ticket taker
- Snack for reception
- Choir X and Orchestra X advertising
If you are trying to manage the touring of your own project, this budget may help you get the specifics down.
- Performer Fees
- Rental Vehicle
- Owned Vehicle (56.5 cents/mile)
- Air Fare
- Parking Expenses
- Gas and Tolls
- Contracted Personnel
- Equipment Rentals
- Stage props, set, decorations
- Advertising and Promotion
- Social Media
- TOTAL ANTICIPATED TOUR EXPENSES:
- Performance Guarantees
- Estimated Average Percentage of Split
- TOTAL ANTICIPATED TOUR INCOME:
Your budget is a helpful document – not something to fear or avoid.
“Rocket science it’s not. And yet just 32 percent of Americans prepare a detailed household budget, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Why so few? For one thing, budgets are a bummer. Strict spending restrictions cause you to think constantly about what you can’t buy,” writes Ashley Tate for Real Simple. Which is to say, Americans hate to budget. They also don’t like being reminded of what they can’t buy. Budgets for musicians, however, are documents that outline what you can buy and how much you can compensate your colleagues. When you begin to feel burn-out or that nagging suspicion that your singing business is unsustainable, get your budgets in gear.
Have a surprising story about budgeting for your singing activities? Tell me about it in the comments below. Have any resources that have saved your fiscal hide? Please share with the crew. As always, I’d love to catch up with you on Twitter. You can holler at me at @mezzoihnen.