If you plan on making a living out of your music, you need to treat it like anything else you would make a living out of; a business. Here is how:
1. Promote – If you don’t believe in your music, don’t think anyone else will either. Get the word out! Do whatever it takes to get your music to people, do whatever it takes to get bodies in the door. I know you don’t want to hear this, but no one is as good at promoting your music than you and unless you’ve got a lot of money to pay someone else to do it, the responsibility falls on your head. Here’s the be all and end all of the music business: the bigger your crowd is, the more people will want to work with you. Period. That’s it. Others can help you reach a larger audience, others can help get your songs to their audience and expand yours. You can never go wrong if you’re working towards making your community bigger. And it doesn’t matter where you’re starting from, whether it’s a few people who are listening to your music online to a thousand people in a nightclub. Keep working on building your crowd, it’s the most important thing you can do.
2. Treat everyone involved with your music like the people you treat at your day job – This should be an easy one, but it’s not. Would you just not call someone back if they called you at work? Do you check your spelling in email at work? Do you get wasted at work? No. Music is and should be fun, but remember, there are people counting on you to put on a good show. Treat other musicians, bookers, clubowners, and waitstaff with the same courtesy and respect you’d treat your co-workers. For the night you’re playing together, they ARE your co-workers!
3. Copyright your songs – you’re probably already doing this as Broadjam members, but protecting your intellectual property is important. And chances are you’re a member of ASCAP or BMI, you never want to miss out on royalties! (Extra credit if you’ve set up your own publishing company!)
4. Set your group or yourself up as a business. Usually LLCs are the way to go. An accountant or lawyer can help you out, but with a little research, it’s not that hard to do it yourself. This is worth doing even if just for the tax breaks. New strings? Tax-deductible. New keyboard? Tax-deductible. There are tax laws designed to give new small businesses a better shot of making it and also to help you out with getting more of a refund from your day job. If you’re not doing this you’re leaving legitimate and legal money on the table. Don’t forget, you’re going to have to set up a bank account for your business before you can set up the LLC.
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5. Do you have a band name or a unique performer name? Trademark it! I learned this the hard way and lost a band name I really liked. You’re working hard to develop your reputation, don’t let someone else take that name recognition away by having the same band name as yours and making it legally theirs before you do.
That’s all it takes to make it official. Give these steps a try and you’ll see a difference right away, even if you just start with steps 1 and 2 by promoting and acting professional. When you treat your music as a business, others will treat you with more respect and they’ll take you more seriously. Don’t believe me? Play rockstar to an empty club a few times, you’re not going to get asked back and you’re not going to feel very good about yourself. If you want to play in the basement, that’s fine. But if you want to go out there and make a name for yourself, then you’re a small business owner now. Embrace it, enjoy it, get out there, and be awesome!