Thursday, November 12, 2009


It can happen. Perhaps at some point you will get a big advance on a recording contract. Or maybe you'll inherit a pile of money from a rich uncle. Or you might score a lucrative touring gig with a major act for a few months. (I won't propose the lottery-winning scenario because I know you're smart enough to realize that buying lottery tickets is a total waste of money). For a lot of musicians, such a situation might be the first time to ever see a bank balance over 4 figures. Even a sum in the low 5 figures range might seem like an inexhaustible fortune to many people.

Of course, NO fortune is inexhaustible, and if you've never experienced handling very much money before, then I'm sorry, but you're even more likely to blow your lucky break. If you find yourself suddenly in possession of a large, unexpected sum of money, STOP! Don't run off on a binge just yet. The first thing you'll need to do is consult your tax preparer about your tax liability, which might take a bigger chunk than you would have guessed. Obviously, that portion of the money has to be set aside right away, unless you want to go to jail next year. The next best use for a windfall would probably be to pay off high-interest debt, if you have any.

Paying debt and taxes? That's no fun!!! Okay, it's understandable to want to splurge a bit, so I'll suggest blowing 10% of your new treasure on goodies: a vacation, a guitar, a gift for your parents, whatever you want.

At this point, the rest of the windfall should be thought of as somebody else's money. A typical musical career is characterized by lots of lean periods, interspersed with a few prosperous seasons (if you're lucky). Therefore, you should view this windfall as a head start on your long-term investment plan, and steward that money as though it belongs to someone else. Above all, don't assume that this level of income will continue into the future! The worst mistake you can make is to leverage your small fortune into a bigger debt. Music history is littered with the carcasses of bands who used their first record advance to sign up for million dollar home mortgages, only to be dropped by their record company within a short time, and foreclosed on shortly thereafter.

Only getting to indulge yourself in $10,000 out of a $100,000 windfall might seem like a raw deal, but think of it this way: If I offered you $10,000 for free, would you take it? Of course you would! Would you be happy about it? Of course you would! So just pretend that $10,000 was the entire windfall amount. Wisely investing the rest of the money will serve you much better in the long run than spending it now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Small Steps

Hello world, how have you been? I apologize for going AWOL the past couple of months. I've been working on some new projects, including co-teaching a music business class at L.A. Music Academy with my old friend, Chris Juergensen. Once again, Chris has set a great example and inspired me to redouble my own self-promotional efforts.

When I first decided to release a solo album, Chris told me that selling it wouldn't be too difficult. All I would have to do is commit to spending an hour a day working on promotion. Sounds easy, I thought. Naturally, when the CD first came out, I was filled with enthusiasm and made a respectable initial promotional push. But after a few months, my attention drifted and the salesman in me started slacking off. CD sales reflected my efforts, and I realized that this promotional stuff would require the same kind of long-term commitment that I have for playing my instrument.

I think most of the important things in life are that way, actually. Whether it's the pursuit of art, money, relationships, social reform, health, etc., all that anybody can do in one day is take a very small step forward. Neil Armstrong's first footprint on the moon really wasn't a giant leap. It was just the finish line at the end of a very long trail of small, incremental steps that led us there. There are no giant leaps, only small daily steps. And life is short, so if you want to cover some real ground, you can't afford to miss many days.

Here's an example you can probably relate to. If you practice a musical instrument for one hour per day, six days per week without fail for 40 years, that will still only amount to about 12,500 hours of total practice time over the course of a career. Not bad, but supposing you miss a day here and there? Or get busy with a day job and can't practice at all for several months? In fact, an hour a day is a pretty big commitment to make in the long run, and a lifetime's effort can easily be whittled down to very little progress if the commitment isn't really maintained.

Of course, priorities do change along the way, and we all have to choose between competing goals in our lives. But for the moment, I'm recommitting to direct more of my own small steps toward music promotion. Where are your steps heading?