Money makes the world go round! Unfortunately for those of us without a ton of it, it puts us at a slight disadvantage. However, for those artists secure in their identity (or “brand”), there is a way we can overcome this deficit while also gaining some pretty cool perks along the way.
If we dive into the musician’s wishlist, it often includes things like guitars, amps, stage clothes, hotels and travel for touring, etc. Expenses for these things can be exorbitant, especially when coupled with our typical charges like recording costs, photos, merchandise, band payments for various shows (a five-piece band at $200/each, especially coupled with travel and accommodations for said band can make it so that you have to make upwards of $1600 a show just to break even!).
Because the music industry is a very no-guarantees, minimal chance of breaking, not-a-ton-of-cash-to-go-around type of industry, it also may limit the number of private investors ready to throw you a check. In my experience, unless it is a passion project for them, it is hard to ask for money that might not be immediately (if ever) recoupable. In most other industries, the investor has a calendar schedule for pay back before they begin turning a profit. It is not without risk, but the risk is much smaller than with something as subjective as music. (If you’re still seeking private investment, though, I recommend checking out the Notes From Nashville article on crowdfunding! It can be extremely successful if approached the right way!)
Luckily, because we live in the social media age, getting other sources of funding and perks is a lot easier than it used to be!
While we can’t all be Kim Kardashian, we CAN be influencers. What is an influencer? In simple terms, it’s a person with a large social following that promotes other products and brands to their fanbase in exchange for compensation. This compensation can be a monetary compensation or come in the form of free product. Either way, it’s a win.
A large fanbase and follower base is something that, as artists, is essential to building exposure. The great part is that pursuing partnerships or sponsorships doesn’t take away from our music, but actually adds to our overall brand. That’s not to say that you should pursue any and every opportunity- you don’t want to water down your feed to the point you become a walking billboard. But by being selective and approaching companies that align with your artist image (as well as seeking products you believe your fanbase will love), it helps you be more relatable to your fans while scoring you some much needed products or cash. Once you reach a certain level of popularity on socials, companies even begin approaching you.
Trades are also an option- I have a friend who traded her photography skills for a wedding DJ. The DJ got super professional promotional shots he could promote on his account while she got an awesome reception! Win-win.
Social media isn’t the only way to exercise promotion, though. Larger companies with promotional budgets often seek exposure through festivals or events (which align perfectly with musician touring). If you are a band or artist who has a good track record of ticket sales and touring turnout, asking a company to sponsor your tour can be a positive for both parties. On one hand, you get an extra money cushion to make the most of your trip, while on the other, you provide them with access to demographics and parts of the country that they may desperately need. Many artist friends of mine have even worked out partnerships with major airlines or hotel chains that sponsor their travel so that more of the money they make at the venue can go directly to their pockets rather than spent on this costly but necessary expense.
When thinking about partnerships, consider brands you already use and love! If you play a Martin guitar, wear Lucchese boots, and don your signature color of Mary Kay lipstick at each show, use those to your advantage. The larger you become as an artist, the bigger the companies that want to work with you. If you’re still starting out, look for local companies or companies that are still building their brands. They will benefit more from your promotion, and the chance to form bonding relationships with a startup that can be loyal throughout your career is much higher than with some of the larger corporations. Partnerships, like everything else in the music business, are about relationships. Be one of their biggest advocates and voices, and they will likely be the same for you.
If nothing else, you’ll get some badass swag that you didn’t have to pay for. And that in itself is pretty awesome.