In a band? Or want to be? You’re in good company! There were 50,000 employed and self-employed musicians in the UK in 2018, up from 44,000 in 2017. Whether you’re a one-person band or a troupe of musicians, you can get more from your musical career by thinking of your band as a business. In this post, we share some ideas for thinking beyond the music to help transform your passion and talent into a long-lasting – and profitable – career.
1) Set up a Company
One of the first steps to establishing your band business is to form a company around your music. Registering your band as a limited company offers several benefits, including protecting you from liabilities, assigning equal assets to band members and ensuring that no one else uses your band name! Forming a limited company also allows you to deduct expenses.
Side note: Even if you’re not quite ready to establish your band business, searching for band names is a fun and inspiring activity! If you’re still forming your identity, search Companies House to see if your band name is available, or try BandName.com, an online band name registry, to see if anyone else has claimed your name. If it’s available, you can register it right there, on the spot.
One good resource to consult is the Musicians’ Union. It offers a quick checklist to follow to create an identity, including:
- Creating an identity
- Registering a band name
- Domain names
- Forming a company
- Buying a trademark
2) Reduce your Expenses
If you’re just starting out, chances are that you’re not quite performing sell-out shows at large arenas. As you establish your band and build a fan base, you may need a bit of help with some of the many music-related expenses like tour bookings and public relations. If you lack the budget to hire a business manager or PR agent, tap into your bandmates and creative network to see who might have these skills.
In-demand skillsets might include bookkeeping, social media marketing, graphic design, event management, retail sales and merchandising. If you can find friends and colleagues to help you for limited periods of time, you could save a lot of money, and maybe have a little more fun along the way!
Another idea is to outsource specific tasks to independent professionals. Perhaps you’d like help to create a series of posters to promote your upcoming shows and band merchandise. For focused, one-off tasks like this, consider seeking help from a number of freelance designers and marketing professionals. Try exploring sites like Creative Market, Fiverr, Upwork or Behance to help build and showcase your band.
Another tip is to find a talented intern! Many students or budding musicians would appreciate an opportunity to get more involved with your band business. Ask your friends or fans to help you share any internship opportunities, or make it into a social media campaign or contest like, “Seeking a Rockstar Assistant”.
3) Diversify your Income
Last but not least is profit. While your music is not about the money, you’ll need income to cover costs like paying your bandmates, booking venues and promoting your shows. Today, bands can make money from so much more than just albums and shows. Fans seek a feeling of community, and special band merchandise is a fantastic way to connect with them and bring in additional income for your group. You can sell merchandise at your shows, on your band website and also at any festivals you may attend. Look for opportunities to build a newsletter list that you can periodically reach out to with special new items for sale.
For example, the band Bring Me the Horizon launched their own online store called the Horizon Supply Co. It sells cool merch like this mug which features artwork from the band’s fifth album ‘That’s the Spirit’.
One lesson from Bring Me the Horizon is to offer a range of cool items in various price points to appeal to all of your fans. In addition to high-quality, artistic clothing, the band sells hats, water bottles, drinkware, stickers, badges and so much more! This hard enamel pin, for example, features artwork inspired by a track from the band’s debut album and retails at just £6.00.
Don’t forget that band merchandise can be just as creative as the music itself! Today, merchandise manufacturers like Rocket Badge are adept at creating nearly any bespoke product you can think of. This can be music-themed merch like pins, patches, guitar pics and straps; more functional items like reusable bags and water bottles; or even special items for the rockstar professional like cufflinks, jewelry and tie-clips. For more ideas, see this earlier post we did on seven creative band merchandise ideas.
From setting up a company to selling cool merchandise, we hope this post inspires you to turn your band into an enduring and entertaining business. We’ve helped many bands earn a bit of extra money through merchandise, and we’d love to hear more about your vision for your own band business. It would be music to our ears!