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Music Industry Quick Tip: Don't Charge It

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When you're trying to figure out how to pay for studio time, production, touring, promotion and other music career associated costs, you may very well hear the siren song of Visa and Mastercard calling your from your wallet. Many - many, many - musicians, indie labels, promoters and more depend on credit cards to help them foot the bill of their music career, especially in the early, "getting things off the ground" stage. It's understandable - and heck, sometimes it is unavoidable - but your credit cards should be your last resort when you're paying for something related to your career. Why? Well:

  • Interest Rates: Even if your credit is the stuff of legends, credit cards are one of the most expensive ways of borrowing money, period.

  • Credit Rating: Sometime in life, you're going to want to do something with your credit completely unrelated to your music career but very important to you, like buying a house or a car. Charge up your credit cards with lots of music related stuff, and your credit rating will go down and down and down - even if you pay your minimum balance on time.

  • Bad Investments: The ease of reaching for your credit card can make it easier for you to make bad investments. When you know you can put off paying, you may feel a lot more comfortable throwing money at something and worrying about the consequences later. This is especially true if you simply don't have a lot of experience with finances, credit and such - and that is the case for a lot of budding musicians.

So, let's say you throw caution to the wind, you charge everything, you max out your cards, can't pay your bills and tank your credit. It may not sound very rock and roll to care about the consequences of that, but it actually IS very rock and roll - because bad finances can kibosh your chances to rock. What starts out easy will eventually become unsustainable. There just won't be any credit left to pay for the next pressing, the next press campaign, the next studio session. You won't be able to pay your bills, so you'll have to take more hours at work or take another job. Pretty soon you don't have any free time left for practicing. You can't get off work to play your shows. Suddenly, music is getting pushed further and further into the background as you dig yourself out of your financial hole. Next thing you know, you USED to be in a band.

The fact is the matter is that smart financial decisions are absolutely crucial to establishing yourself in the music industry if you hope to one day make music a full time career. That means sometimes making hard decisions, like, yes, you could afford to charge a pressing of 1,000 units of colored vinyl of your new EP - but you know you don't have the money or ability to run the kind of PR campaign that will help you sell them - so you decide not to press them, even though you would really love to. Money is ALWAYS an issue in the music industry - make friends with delayed gratification so a bunch of indulgent expenses at the outset don't end up becoming the death knell of your burgeoning career.

So, if you've got a project that needs to be funded, explore more affordable financial solutions not linked to your plastic. Arts funding, private investors/music business angels, business loans, in-kind work trades (for instance, you swap your design skills for time in the studio) - all of these things are less expensive than relying on plastic. Learn about all your options in Music and Money 101.

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