The one thing that sucks about the music industry is the shady-ness that sneaks in when it comes to money. There are way too many people ready to take advantage of talented individuals. Sometimes you won’t even know you’ve been taken advantage of until it’s too late! There are some serious horror stories about artists who have been conned by managers, agents and even fellow band members and have ended up destitute while others profit off of their music. Eish. So today, I’m going to share some tips on staying in control of your work and money in the music industry.
- Keep records. By this I mean that you need to make sure you have a paper trail. Every gig should be organised over a written format, or at least confirmed in writing. You MUST send invoices for your gigs, and you must keep track of whether the prospective client has paid you or not.
- Insist on a deposit, especially for big gigs. You can ask for a 50% non-refundable deposit to secure the booking. Any legit client will not have an issue with this. The remainder of the fee must be paid in cash/ via EFT with proof of payment on the day or within three days of the performance. You can change these rules to suit you, but keep the principle. I once waited a month for payment from a client, and it really hurt what should have been a happy working relationship!
- Don’t be scared to discuss money. It’s a tough discussion to have, but you have to be transparent about your fees – with clients, managers, agents, etc. Lack of trust in any working relationship will cause trouble (see below).
- Don’t be an A-hole. Don’t lie to people. Once you’ve broken the trust of a client or manager, your brand will be tarnished. People talk in the music industry. If you’ve messed someone around, they have the power to dissuade people from hiring you in the future. Never underestimate the value of being trustworthy.
- Set boundaries. If you have decided on a fee, don’t let people bully you into accepting less. If you feel that it’s fair to accept less, like in the case of regular business, a loyal client or charity work, then you can do that, but make sure that it’s YOUR decision and not because someone else is being emotionally manipulative!
- Never sign a contract that you are not completely happy with! You are perfectly within your rights to take a contract home and read over it with a trusted family member or a lawyer. If you want to make changes, voice it! Having a contract is a good thing if everyone is happy, because it ensures that all parties are protected. Don’t blindly sign one though until you’ve gone over it and can say you’re happy to agree to the terms!
- Register your original music with the relevant music rights organisations. This way, nobody can claim it as their own and you can benefit from the royalties.
- Be a fully functioning adult: pay your taxes, start a retirement fund, insure your car/equipment. You will be grateful in the long run for protecting your money and lifestyle.
- Try your best to stay out of debt: to recording studios, managers, friends, parents, anyone! Being in debt will just hover over you for ages. It’s not a good idea.
- Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is. My gut has saved me a few times from damaging my brand.
I hope these words of wisdom have helped you. If you are worried about anything, contact a music lawyer or financial advisor and get them to help you figure it all out!