Money.  Now there’s a word that can strike fear (or denial) in even the boldest of us! 

As musicians, we often come to believe that money is a forbidden, taboo subject. That our calling to make great art takes precedence over building a healthy financial profile. 

When doing a presentation for a wonderful group of musicians this past weekend, I was shocked by the response to the following question: “How many of you would be satisfied as professional musicians even if it meant extreme financial hardship.”  About a dozen folks raised their hands!  Not believing my eyes, I clarified:  “Even if you plunge into debt, can’t afford food, and teeter on the brink of bankruptcy?”  To everyone else’s dismay, this select group stood firmly by their convictions.

This is craziness!  Purist musicians must stop thinking this way, for the health of our industry, if not ourselves. Financial catastrophe won’t get you an award for devotion.  It can destroy your life, however, at least until you solve the crisis and get your economic situation under control.

I have known quite a few musicians who moved to New York or some other wonderful city “for the art.”  These selfless beings didn’t care about money.  Years later, as they struggled to survive, a new sentiment was expressed.  Without enough funds to buy Ramen, let alone attend concerts or pursue meaningful projects, a sense of frustration ensued.  In some cases these individuals even began resenting music, the one thing they originally loved, because it kept them from reaching their dreams!  Maybe music was not the problem, but their lack of financial attention/comprehension.    

Money is important.  Without it, you can’t pursue passion projects, or invest in tools necessary to achieve success. You can’t donate to charities or set up meaningful ventures that contribute positively to your community. You can’t even support basic needs. 

A full chapter of The Savvy Musician focuses on helping readers develop financial literacy.   Many other wonderful books about this topic are on the market as well.  Please read a few.  Take some time to learn about money. Earning, spending, saving. Balancing a checkbook. Creating a budget. Planning for the future. Acting responsibly.  As our planet struggles with economic recession and financial hardship, it’s time we learn how the money game works and how to approach this essential resource conscientiously.  There are absolutely ways to balance finances and art making. But only when both are prioritized. 

Of course, money isn’t everything.  It won’t necessarily bring you happiness, and shouldn’t take over your life.  Most of us didn’t choose music with the expectation of becoming rich instantly, and that’s not what I’m talking about here. Financial literacy isn’t about being greedy or selling out your artistic soul to the devil in order to make a buck. It is about acting wisely and creating the economic conditions necessary for personal and artistic success.

Developing excellence in music requires an education, discipline, commitment, and an interest in the topic. The same can be said of money. Something new for your practice routine…

The pin photo shown at the top of this post was designed by my friend Lisa Canning, founder of Entrepreneur The Arts.  If you haven’t already visited the ETA website, be sure to check it out.

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