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Music, Entertainment, Arts Business Blog 

How much do I charge for...

Info Info - Thursday, August 05, 2010

On an almost daily basis, we are asked by a musician or composer or a manager one of the toughest questions to answer. ‘How much do I charge for…a gig…a song in a film…a song in an ad…to have my lyrics on a T-Shirt’ and a thousand other money making ventures in the music industry.

It’s a tough question to know how to answer; it’s really a ‘how long is a piece of string’ type of questions. There are as many different answers as there are bands and artists out there. Plus, unknown and struggling bands are always excited by the idea that someone might want to pay them anything at all. They get used to working for free or even paying to play. The idea that you might find some way to promote your music AND get paid at the same time, is an exciting prospect for many bands.

So, I thought this week I would share a couple of tips that are helpful to apply when trying to set your price.

  1. The key is really finding a price that you would feel happy to work for. If you were to walk away with $100 from the deal, would that make you happy or would that make you mad.

  2. Find the middle ground between feeling like you are getting ripped off verses feeling like you are getting paid well beyond what you were expecting. That middle ground is where you should really be aiming.

  3. Think about how much work will be involved for you in making the work happen. Can you break that down into an hourly amount? Work out how much per hour you would be happy to work for. (say $25 per hour) You know the work is going to take 10 hours (they want you to write a song for their short film) so, $25 x 10 hours = $250. Is that a fair price?

  4. Practice common negotiation skills like putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If your price is completely over the top, they won’t do a deal with you this time, or anytime in the future.

  5. Value what you do. If you don’t, nobody else will either. If you give it away for nothing you need to have a way to convert that nothing into something. Bands might give away a demo CD in the hope that more people will come to their live shows. You can apply that principle in any deal that you do.

  6. Weigh up the opportunity, is it really the opportunity that you think it is? What are the down sides verses the up sides

Does it always have to be a one off payment? You may be able to negotiate some kind of ‘verses deal’. The idea is you get a set amount for providing your service (say $500 for the gig) but if the use is more successful than 1st planned, you reserve the right to collect a larger share of the income, or renegotiate the deal. (say if 50 people show up to the gig you get your $500 plus $5 per person beyond the 50 person mark.) This works in film and other uses. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘backend payment’ (more about this in future blogs.)

For me, I don’t think that it is about winning or losing the negotiation. It is just about finding that middle ground. If you really want to opportunity to happen, you will be prepared to give up more. If you don’t mind if the opportunity goes ahead or not, you may be prepared to give up less.

Final tip – It is rare that you only get one opportunity in life. If the band is good, or the music is good things will happen. So saying no or valuing your music highly is not to say that you will never get opportunities. But the flip side of that is also true, be a diva and say no too often, eventually people will stop bothering to ask.

So, how much do you charge? It’s up to you. But use the tips above to try to find some kind of balance.

Tax deducations and musicians

Mark Beard - Monday, July 26, 2010

It's tax time again... time to complete those tax returns and collect a refund?

Maintaining financial records

The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) requires both individual employees and businesses to keep source document evidence of economic activity. The reason being that expense transactions are used both by individuals and businesses to reduce taxable income, so naturally the ATO requires available evidence of the transaction and thus the deduction.

In the case of work-related expenses for individuals the ATO states:

"You must have written evidence to prove your claims if your total claims exceed $300. The records you keep must prove the total amount, not just the amount over $300. The $300 limit does not apply to claims for car, meal allowance, award transport payments allowance and travel allowance expenses. There are special written evidence rules for these claims." Source: www.ato.gov.au

In the case of records for businesses (including companies, sole-traders and partnerships) the ATO states:

"By law, you must keep business records for five years after they are prepared, obtained or the transactions completed, whichever occurs latest. In addition the records must be in English or in a form that we can access and understand in order to work out the amount of tax you are liable to pay."
Source: www.ato.gov.au

Are you a special professional?

Did you you know that as a Australian resident (for tax purposes) and a special professional you may be eligible for what the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) calls "Income averaging for special professionals"?

The ATO states:

"You are a special professional if you use intellectual, artistic, musical, physical or other personal skills in the presence of an audience or you perform or appear in a film, on a tape or disc, or in a television or radio broadcast." Source: www.ato.gov.au

Essentially, income averaging is what is called a "concessional tax treatment" and may provide "special professionals" the ability to "spread" their income over a number of years and possibly save on tax.

For more information consult your accountant, tax adviser or downloaded the ATO information sheet via:

http://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/content.asp?doc=/content/00237923.htm&pc=001/002/010/007/002&mnu=37095&mfp=001/002&st=&cy=1

Sources of Finance for Bands

Info Info - Monday, July 05, 2010

We often get asked questions relating to bands and artists finding financial backers for recording or other projects. In this week’s blog, I thought it would be worth-while to review the different types of backing available and give some band related examples. Read on for more information.

Debt finance
The reality is that not very many entrepreneurs (especially in the music industry) are able to secure debt finance, especially from the banks. The music industry is anything but a certainty when it comes to success. The music industry struggles to convince banks and other debt financers that a business idea is a sure thing, especially in the startup phase. It does happen from time to time, but not very often.

Equity finance
These sources of finance are far more common in the music industry; in fact, they are far more common for new business in general. There are a number of sources, so we will consider them individually.

Own funds
The first avenue to consider is your own funds, I know it sounds obvious but why would anyone else want to invest in you and your music if you are not prepared to put your own money on the line. Don’t look for investors to help you buy an instrument or get lessons. If you can’t get that stuff together for yourself – forget it! These may be savings, assets or investments that can be converted into cash.

Credit
If you juggle things just right, you may be able to get the business started with this revolving door of credit from your suppliers and creditors. It is hard to manage, however, and if one step goes wrong it can leave you unable to pay your bills. This is a high risk strategy! Use this method at your own risk!

FF&F (family, fools and friends)
This unfortunate name refers to that group of people who you know on a personal level and who may be enticed into financially backing your band. FF&F could be referred to as an informal source of finance, and they may even provide finance without the desire to hold equity in the business. (Those cases are extremely rare, however; it is not often that even family, fools or friends will give something for absolutely nothing in return.) They can only usually be relied on for start-up funds. So, even if you have a rich uncle who is willing to help you, you will still need to convince him that his investment is worthwhile. (How do you think he got rich in the first place? By making wise investments, most likely.) There are countless cases like this in the music industry, country artist Gina Jefferies for example.

Internal capital networks
These are networks that are often culturally based — that is, a group of people who share a culture of some sort and who are willing to help out others who share that same culture. A local religious group or cultural society are typical examples. I saw a recent example of a Christian band who were able to source a huge amount of money from an internal network to make their album. The network felt strongly that the band was talented enough and that the community would benefit from the making of the album.

Angel financers
Angel financers tend to be individuals with a high net worth who are interested in assisting business entrepreneurs. The ideal angel financer is someone who will give you all the funds you need (and more) and will believe in you enough to stay out of the way and let you run the business. It rarely happens that way; they are more likely to take an interest in how the business is run. Angel financers will invariably demand a level of equity of the business for their efforts.
The record company is really a good example of this (although they tend to be fairly hands on when it comes to making the music.) However there are still those occasional financers out there who want to feel cool and have some involvement in the music industry. Unfortunately these ‘too good to be true’ offers usually turn out to be just that. The investor usually can’t help but try to get too involved, they have no experience but they want to manage and be the record company and everything else along the way. It usually ends in tears!

Venture capitalists
Here are a few interesting facts about angel financers:
Statistically, they are most likely to fund business amounts of $50,000 to •$150,000, but occasionally invest more (up to $1 million).
They expect returns of 3–5 times their investment within 2–5 years.
They tend to be middle-aged males with business or professional backgrounds, often with their own entrepreneurial experience.
They are hard to find and usually do not promote the fact that they are willing investors.
(Source: Peter Balan, Centre for Development of Entrepreneurs, University of South Australia)

Getting money to get things happening is one of the major challenges for unknown acts. It is a vicious circle of needing to work to stay alive but needing to put more time into the music career to be able to give up work. I can recall having a conversation with Joe Hanson the bass player from Grinspoon about this topic just before Grinspoon really made it big. He was seriously thinking of leaving the band to concentrate on making some money. Thankfully he hung in there and the band has done well ever since.


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