One of the biggest challenges faced by emerging independent artists nowadays is how to get their music career off the ground without the backing of a major record label. For those looking to retain full artistic control over their careers or those with limited resources, recording, releasing, and promoting a single or an album can be a time-consuming, expensive endeavor.
Getting the necessary funds to kickstart your music career as a new artist can be pricey, especially when you factor in other investments in high-quality music instruments, equipment, software, and other tools of the trade. It’s basically like running your own business: you have to handle all the aspects of your music career, from the technical side to sales and marketing, so you’ll have to learn the ropes and act as musician, manager, promoter, marketer, and even social media specialist. This can be incredibly time-consuming, leaving little time for creativity and experimentation, and it can often be disheartening when the results aren’t what you were expecting.
So, how can you make your life easier and get external funding to help you launch your music career off the ground? And is there a way to do this without going the traditional record label contract route? We’ll take a look at different ways musicians can get funding to help them take their career to the next level and gain recognition and success.
The different types of music funding for emerging artists
There are several different ways for new artists to obtain funding to start their professional journey into the music business. Ultimately, it’s important to carefully weigh all of your options, look at your long-term goals, and get feedback from a professional and a legal expert to make sure any contract or deal you sign is beneficial to you in the long run.
A straightforward, risk-free option of obtaining funding for your music career is crowdfunding through platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Patreon, Indiegogo, or PledgeMusic. This option allows independent artists to fund their next release or album without losing any creative control or artistic freedom or signing long-term contracts with lenders or labels. Through these crowdfunding platforms, fans can contribute and support an artist by making donations, usually receiving something in return, like signed copies or merch as a sign of appreciation. It’s not only a good way to obtain funds without any contractual commitments, but a great way for artists to engage with fans and build their community.
2. SBA Loans
Small Business Association (SBA) loans are another common method of getting the necessary funds to move forward with your music career. It’s a legit way of getting upfront money, but you’ll have to prove that you have decent credit and that you’re committed to pursuing a long-term career in the music industry, meaning that you need to show that you’ve been active in the business for a while. The SBA provides a Community Advantage Loan for the Arts and Entertainment Industry, which can give up to $250,000 and up to an 85% loan guarantee for small businesses in this field. However, keep in mind that this is a loan and you will have to return the money in full, so always get advice from a legal expert before committing to such an agreement.
3. Private investors
You might have heard of angel investors who help support small startups or entrepreneurs in kick starting their new venture. Well, there are private investors who provide support to emerging artists who show a lot of potential, as well. You can start looking at friends, family, or collaborators to see if they would be willing to invest in your career, but you should have a pitch ready and a plan on how you’re going to use that money, and how you’re going to pay it back. It’s also crucial to stay connected and to build a network of industry connections, because you never know where your big break will come from. You can try to find potential investors on platforms like Invstor, The Music Fund, or the Angel Investment Network, and start from there.
4. Grants and scholarships
There are countless organizations, foundations, and government agencies out there nowadays that offer grants, scholarships, or fellowships to emerging musicians, so it’s worth looking into it if you’re gearing up for a career in the music industry. You can check their websites and see if you’re eligible, and what kind of grant or scholarship would fit your style, location, and your genre. Some examples include local arts commissions, different associations, and Arts Council grants. You’ll have to do some research and compile a list of potential grants and scholarships that fit your specific needs, and prepare a proposal and any other required materials for submission. Just know that competition is intense for these grants, and it might take a long time before you get an answer on your proposal, so be patient, and keep sending in applications.
5. Artist residencies
Another option to kick start your music career as an independent artist is to look into artist residencies. These are great opportunities offered by organizations and institutions that support the arts, with the goal of promoting artistic creativity and exploration in a distraction-free, professional environment. Artist residencies provide a space for emerging musicians to focus on honing their skills, experimenting and creating music without distractions, and this can be a breath of fresh air for any artist. It can also become a collaborative environment providing ample opportunities for networking, which can help you forge long-term, successful business relationships. Some residencies offer artists access to professional equipment, facilities, and resources, while others also include public performance or event opportunities, and all these things can really help independent artists take their career to the next level.
6. Music licensing and publishing deals
Another way to get funding for your music career as an independent artist is to look into music licensing opportunities that can provide steady income as you work on your next release. Getting your music placed in films, TV shows, commercials, video games, and other media channels can provide exposure as well as income, and you can use the proceeds to further develop your career and invest in new equipment, merchandise, or music studio time. If you’re also a songwriter, you can look into signing a music publishing deal that can provide upfront advances and ongoing royalties. Just keep in mind that by signing a music publishing agreement, you’ll assign the publisher the copyright to your work, and the publisher can work to find opportunities to place your music on different channels or with different artists.
7. Record label advances
One of the most common ways to get upfront money to fund the next stage of your music career is to sign a deal with a record label and get an advance. This is usually part of a conventional contract with a label, where the label provides an upfront advance to help you cover the costs of recording, publishing, video production, marketing, promotion, and more. These advances can range from $20,000 or $50,000 to $1 million or more, depending on your reputation and track record as an artist. Labels generally will offer smaller advances to emerging artists, to eliminate risk as much as possible and ensure they will get their money back in the end. You should always check with a legal expert before signing a record deal, and be sure that you will be able to repay the advance no matter what, because labels will look to recoup their investment once you start making profit. An advance is not free money, it’s basically like a line of credit that you will need to pay back in full, with interest, so make sure you know what you’re committing to.
The lure of that elusive record deal with a major label has lost some of its appeal in recent years, with the rise of social media and streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, or TikTok. Artists nowadays can make a living and achieve success in the music industry without signing a traditional record deal with a label, and going the independent route while maintaining creative freedom and control over their careers. However, without an advance from a label or an investor, it can be hard for emerging musicians to get the funds required to record, release, and promote new music, but luckily there are alternatives.
There are platforms out there that offer advances similar to those provided by record labels, but with a lot less risk. Some platforms can provide advances to artists that allow them to keep 100% of their income at the end of the contract. They also don’t take a share of an artist’s merchandise sales, sync, publishing or touring, only streaming and soundexchange. The deals are also a lot more beneficial to the artist compared to conventional record label advances, so it’s an option worth looking into if you don’t have the budget to fund your own release but you also want to stay in control of your career.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get funding for your music project?
To secure funding for your music project, explore diverse avenues such as crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, applying for grants and scholarships from arts organizations or foundations, seeking sponsorship from brands aligned with your music, leveraging streaming royalties and merchandise sales, collaborating with fellow musicians or businesses for joint ventures, and considering personal investments or loans if appropriate for your financial situation.
How do you get a loan as an independent artist?
To obtain a loan as an independent artist, start by researching financial institutions that offer personal or business loans. Prepare a clear business plan outlining your music project's goals, expected expenses, revenue projections, and repayment strategy. Compile your financial records, including income from performances, streaming, merchandise sales, and any other sources. Approach lenders with your comprehensive proposal, showcasing your potential to generate income and repay the loan. Keep in mind that interest rates, terms, and approval criteria can vary, so compare options and be prepared to demonstrate your ability to meet loan obligations.
Where can I get a sponsor for my music?
To find sponsors for your music, start by identifying brands or companies that align with your musical style, values, and target audience. Research local businesses, music-related companies, or brands with a history of supporting the arts. Craft a compelling sponsorship proposal highlighting the mutual benefits of the partnership, such as brand exposure through your music events or online presence. Reach out through professional networking, social media, or direct contact to pitch your proposal and establish a mutually beneficial sponsorship arrangement.
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If you’re looking to kickstart your music career but have limited resources, we can help you get funding for your next project while staying in control of your own work and career trajectory. You keep 100% ownership of your masters and get an advance ranging from $1,000 to $3 million to get your career off the ground. Get an estimate now and start turning your dream into reality.