This Article Originally Published in 1994

by Bob Baker

We've all heard the expression "It takes money to make money." And sometimes it does. We've also heard horror stories about the complications of bank loans, business plans, lawyers and meddling investors. And it's those negative mental associations that keep many musicians from ever taking a stab at a big project—whether it be committing to a record release, buying a new PA and lighting system, producing a music video or starting a small record label. I can hear you now: "Man, I'm never going to be able to get a bank loan. And I wouldn't trust a power-hungry investor with my career. Why bother?" Well, I say, "Don't let those perceived obstacles stop you from getting what you want out of music!"

For now let's forget about bank loans and high finance and start thinking about more creative, street-level methods of raising money. Let's call it Guerrilla Music Financing. And the first rule to note is that—unlike the tried-and-true road to investment capital, where a large lump sum of money comes from one almighty source—we guerrillas have to think in terms of combining a number of smaller money-raising streams into one sizable river of capital. What follows is a list of 18 specific actions you can take right now to get the cash flow moving toward your musical project:

  • Make a commitment to yourself right now that you will find a way to raise the money. A wise man once said, "Whether you think you can or can't do something, you're right." Confidence and optimism will take you a long way toward your monetary goals. Know that you can find a way to raise the money and let your passion drive you toward making it happen.

  • Set up a Musical Project Fund bank account. Doing so will add more commitment to your intentions—plus it will earn interest while you work your money plan.

  • Set aside a percentage of your "day gig" salary. If you have a regular income from another source, take $20 a week (or more) off the top. Self-financing takes a bit of discipline and sacrifice on your part, but it's well worth it, knowing that you'll be in debt to no one when you reach your goal.

  • Earn extra cash from other music-related activities. Don't limit yourself to your current financial situation. Is there a product or service you can make or perform to bring in more money? What about music lessons, studio session work, repairing equipment, publicity, computer-related services, booking bands, etc? Open your mind to potential money-making streams you're not pursuing as much as you could be right now.

  • Rent equipment you already own to others. Why let that PA system gather dust when it could be generating revenue? Pin up fliers and run classified ads announcing what you have to offer. And then put that extra cash into your Musical Project Fund.

  • Sell off old equipment you don't use. Everyone has an amp, mixer, 4-track or some musical gadget they would be better off selling for cash than keeping. Look hard enough and you'll probably find something you can part with.

  • Credit cards. The interest will kill you if you take years to pay off the charges, but many bands and small record labels have used this method to finance their early efforts. If you have good credit, it certainly is another option.

  • Set aside money from paid band jobs. This is perhaps one of the best ways a musical act can go about raising money. If you gig regularly and don't need all these funds to survive, you can build up quite a stash—possibly up to a few thousand dollars or more—in a couple months.

  • Promote one or two live shows as fund-raising gigs for your next album. Not-for-profit organizations use this method all the time. Why not you? Plus, you may be surprised to find that your fans will support your project (with their dollars) if you simply ask them to.

  • Sell your own CDs, cassettes and/or records. Even if it's only a primitive, two-song demo, get some kind of recorded product out and sell it to raise money for your project. If you play out or get any radio airplay at all, you're wasting a valuable revenue-producing opportunity by not having a recording available for sale.

  • Sell T-shirts, caps, posters, stickers and other merchandise. Having music fans watching your band at a club is the perfect environment in which to market your paraphernalia. If they can't take the band members themsvelves home, the next best thing is a cool memento your admirers can purchase and take with them.

  • Family members and friends. Many businesses have been started from these personal loans, but so have many feuds. Be careful in this area, but don't overlook it, either. Make sure everything is in writing: how much money, when repayment is expected, who has artistic control, etc.

  • Grants. If your project is of historical significance or has a cultural impact, you may be eligible for the many grants offered each year by government, schools and corporations. Check the library for grant sources.

  • Personal credit. If you have a good relationship with a particular music store or production facility, they may extend a delayed payment plan to you based solely on your word and reputation.

  • Sponsorship. Instead of Coke, Pepsi or Budweiser sponsoring you, why not the local recording studio? You promote their business to your fans, they give you free stuff in exchange. It can't hurt to investigate this often-overlooked idea.

  • Bartering. The ancient art of trading goods and services works perfectly for Guerrilla Music Financing. This may be one of your most powerful approaches to getting what you want on a limited budget. Make a list of all you have to offer a studio or store owner and then, most importantly, see what his or her needs are and how you can find a way to satisfy them—without spending your hard-earned cash.

  • Build your own equipment. If that new PA or high-tech studio rental is out of the question, why not just make it yourself—for a lot less money? Check around for local craftsmen, or look through music magazines for mail order, do-it-yourself kits.

  • Set weekly and monthly money-raising goals. The only way you're ever going to raise that capital for your musical project is to make the commitment and stay on track. Therefore, break down your overall money goal into bite-size chunks that you can achieve each and every week—or at least every month. By raising, saving and/or trading a couple hundred dollars here, a few hundred there, a single individual can quite possibly accumulate $2,000 to $5,000 dollars in about six months. Multiply those figures by the four members in an average band (or partners in a company) are you're starting to look at some serious investment capital—all without going through the hassles of traditional bank/investment financing.

You heard it here first: Guerrilla Music Financing can work for you—if you let it.

Bob Baker is the author of "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook," "Unleash the Artist Within" and "Branding Yourself Online." He also publishes TheBuzzFactor.com, a web site and e-zine that deliver marketing tips, self-promotion ideas and other empowering messages to music people of all kinds. Get your FREE subscription to Bob's e-zine by visiting http://TheBuzzFactor.com today.


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