Audience Engagement

Audience Engagement, Music and Finance, Opportunity, Technology

Deductions are the name of the game

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#MusiciansandFinance is musicovation’s blog series exploring finance for musicians. All posts are contributed by graduate students in New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Music course  Finance 101: What Musicians Need to Know taught by NEC alum Jessi Rosinski

by Conrad Shaw

What are the most important things musicians need to know about finance?

Having a good understanding of basic finance is something that everyone can benefit from. Being practiced in the art of balancing a budget is a useful skill for absolutely anyone, and is almost essential to live in society. While there are certain aspects about finances that apply to all occupations, there are some aspects that have particular weight and significance when applying to a music career. I think the most significant is the use of taking deductions on taxable income. As a musician, particularly a self-employed one, one must understand and take advantage of the many deductions of taxable income.

Whether or not your main form of income comes from a salaried position, such as an orchestra, most all musicians are involved in at least some form of freelance work throughout the year. By doing this, you can claim that you are self-employed and take advantage of some of the many benefits from this status. The greatest benefit of doing this is you can claim deductions from your expenses as expenses for your self-employment, and therefore record a low income. By doing this, you are being taxed on less than what you have actually brought in for the year, because you used some of that money to fund your musical career.

What can I deduct? The obvious ones come to mind. Instrument. Anything from purchasing and instrument, to repairs, to buying accessories for the instrument as big as a tuba mute or as small as a guitar pick, all can be deducted from your taxable income because you made those purchases are considered an “expense for business purposes.” Where this begins to get really exciting is to go beyond the obvious deductions, and take advantage of citing every possible expense that is music related.

Do you spend time on your cell phone talking to contractors and colleagues about the next gig? How much time? Whatever it might be, you can deduct that portion from your cell phone bill. Do you drive back and forth from gigs or spend money on public transportation? If so, you can deduct that expense. What if you have to travel far and spend some nights in a hotel, or buy and airline ticket? All deductible. Any travel expense from renting a car to getting a meal on the road is entirely deductible as long as it is related to your musical career.

Taking these deductions can also become very detailed. For instance, if you use part of your home to teach lessons or do any sort of musical work, you can deduct a portion of your rent and utilities because it is being used as a home office. You can even take deductions on small purchases such as concert tickets. These are considered professional development and can be deducted from your taxable income. Other personal things such as massage or physical therapy can also be claimed as deductions as they provide support for your overall health of your career. And the list goes on and on.

When it comes to taking deductions from your income it is to your advantage to be as detailed and organized as possible. The more expenses you can record as being a part of your musical business the more deductions you can make to reduce your taxable income.

Want to learn more about what deductions you can take? Visit and see list after list of all the different deductions you can take, and also learn some other great tips!

Audience Engagement, Inspirational Stories, Music and Finance, Opportunity

The Conservatory Graduate at the Deli Counter: Why musicians should always think about finance

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#MusiciansandFinance is musicovation’s blog series exploring finance for musicians. All posts are contributed by graduate students in New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Music course  Finance 101: What Musicians Need to Know taught by NEC alum Jessi Rosinski

by Ari Sussman

I am a baccalaureate in classical composition from one of the most prestigious conservatories in the United States. I am pursuing an advanced degree at the same conservatory in the same field of study. I have been playing music since I was five and I have been writing music since I was about eleven. Music is a passion of mine that I have always wanted to pursue in some obscure form or another.

The $1,000 question is, (gee, that sounds nice), why am I working at a deli counter scooping potato salad into plastic cylindrical containers? Why am I slicing hams, turkeys, and cheeses and neatly layering and placing them upon each other in taped wax paper for consumer purchase?

Well, I should probably clarify. My parents owned a very successful deli, restaurant, and catering company in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia.As the recession hit, my parents had to sell the business of about sixty years that my grandfather passed down to my father. As a kid, I used to work in the deli as a cashier’s “helper”, and of course, scooping potato salad into plastic cylindrical containers.

With the success of the business, I lived a jovial and problem-free childhood, attending private Jewish schools from preschool through High School. While my parents worked endlessly to provide me (which I now cannot even begin to show my appreciation to them for), I also became exposed to the art of classical music. The music immediately spoke to me, and I began taking piano lessons.

I got good at music. Really good, in fact. I concertized as a kid and as a teenager, playing Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Preludes and Fugues in concert all throughout the Philadelphia area. I began writing music. As High School blew by, I (like to think that I) got pretty good at that, too. While I am by no means attempting to boast or brag, I think it caught my parents by surprise that the only son of deli owners was going to pursue a career in classical music.

By then however, things began to become, to say the least, interesting. It is now close to eight years since my parents sold their business; just another victim of the vicious recession that hit this country not long ago. My parents continued to endlessly provide for my lessons and education, despite having no flow of income.

After graduating High School and moving away from home for the first time to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, this determined, hazel-eyed, and naïve freshman was ready to take Boston by storm. Unfortunately, I immediately began to learn about how to handle money in a way I never had to before. Can I afford that $5 coffee with no steady income? I was losing money like there was no tomorrow.

By my sophomore year, I had a steady part-time job, making up for the lavish freshmen year losses. After completing my undergraduate degree having had multiple part-time jobs around Boston, my parents always gave me the financial advice that I needed, teaching me how to not get overly excited over that huge pay check, and how not get too down over that one major expense. I soon began to realize that the wealth my parents accumulated in my innocent childhood was never spoken of around me. Likewise, the losses my parents began to accumulate while I was in high school and college was never discussed around me.

My parents have taught me so much about handling financials, sometimes without even uttering a word. I see these abilities in them, and it is something I greatly admire. To be quite honest, I am always thankful for it as well. With all of this help that my parents have given me, I feel confident in my abilities to handle my financials in the future.

Now, I am a Master’s student in conservatory. I only have half of the time that undergraduates at “real colleges” get to put themselves into the job market and help stimulate our nation’s economy. Here I am, that once happy adolescent who discovered and wholeheartedly embraced classical music. Just like many of us, I am now struggling to figure out what to do with my life after school. I have had the great opportunity to take a class on managing finances at NEC. In such a short time, I learned about handling taxes, how to negotiate, managing my budgets, and so much more.

With all of these tools learned, it has made me more aware of not only how I will spend money, but also how to make money, balance out money flow, and make ends meet. If I need to travel somewhere for a major musical opportunity, I now have the tools to be able to attempt to cover the costs of travel, lodging, food, etc. If I am able to “land” a gig playing the piano at a major event, I now know some useful and important negotiation techniques to plead my case for how much money I should be making.

After having taken this class, I feel so much more confident in my abilities as a musician to go out into the world. However, it is a big world out there. Who knows? Hopefully I will not be scooping ice cream. Or better yet, potato salad.

Audience Engagement, Inspirational Stories, Music and Finance, Opportunity

Finding the Funds for Free Programs

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#MusiciansandFinance is musicovation’s blog series exploring finance for musicians. All posts are contributed by graduate students in New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Music course  Finance 101: What Musicians Need to Know taught by NEC alum Jessi Rosinski

by Amanda Ekery

Art is for all. This is a statement I have constantly been reminding myself of while booking a tour for a band I co-lead, The Lomax Folk Project. The Lomax Folk Project is an interactive educational program that combines history, music and is free-of-charge to the public. I am currently in the process of contacting venues; however, I have been concerned about the financial challenge that has developed between balancing the funding needs for fair, equitable pay for the musicians and keeping the project free and accessible for audiences. After all, the Lomax Folk Project is about the music and history found in your own backyard…and who wants to pay to visit their own backyard? Below is what I have discovered so far.

First things first – Where to play? Most traditional music venues make their revenue from ticket sales, food, drinks, and venue rental fees. The Lomax Folk Project strikes out on all four. Therefore, I decided to contact nontraditional music venues to perform in like libraries, historical societies and art museums. These locations not only have a budget for programs but also lack diversity in their programming. Many places I have contacted have told me they have never had a musical performance before. Although this may not work for every music act, for the Lomax Folk Project it is ideal because we have an educational

What if the Library spent all their money on Chess Club? I contacted a library that is super excited about the Lomax Folk Project but doesn’t have a budget for outside programs. This is where alternative funding comes into play. Many cities have community grants that are specifically for programs that enrich the lives of their community members. The Lomax Folk Project shares the rich history of specific locations where the Lomaxes recorded and is a program – check, check. Spending hours googling, I have also discovered other grants that are designated to help musicians fund projects; for example, grants from the Grammy Foundation, the Awesome Foundation and Universities.

I think I know a guy. Use your friends! Other huge costs for this tour come from transportation, promotion and housing. I have been contacting friends who live in the cities we will be visiting to ask if we can couch surf for a night. I have a family member who owns an advertising bureau who will be donating postcards and posters. People are usually more than willing to help you, all you have to do it ask. Maybe a friend’s friend owns a business where you can hang a poster. Maybe a friend from high school who works at the radio station can have you on air for five minutes promoting your program. Use what you already have access to.

The Lomax Folk Project will be going on tour in the summer of 2017. I’m only in the beginning stages of planning but have found a lot of resources online and by asking for help. Art is for all, and I think it’s important to find opportunities to keep it that way!