Over the last several blogs, I’ve mentioned several things artists could be doing to help manage their business on the road. Most of these have been guidelines and haven’t actually been specific tools that an artist might use. There are numerous ones out there – so I thought I’d begin the discussion by sharing the ones that I used during my 13 years as an indie artist. And certainly, if you have any that you feel are worthwhile – PLEASE SHARE with us!!
Accounting Software - Keeping track of revenues and expenses is so critical in the long-term success of an artists. Its so easy to watch money from a gig come in on a Friday night – and watch it go out by Saturday – so having a system that helps monitor this as well as budget for the future is essential. Over the years, I used several accounting software programs – but landed ultimately (and one I still use for my business) with Quickbooks Online. Quickbooks is a great program, fairly easy to use (even if you don’t have an business degree) and the Online feature allows for multiple users to access the same info even if they are not in the same city. I had a user access for my accountant, a board member, and one of my staff who handled our expenses and myself – and all of us could be on simultaneously checking our finances.
I asked my friend , Brian Smith, an Artist Business Manager who handles several well-known Christian artists (www.bribiz.net) what he uses and he too uses Quickbooks. Though he said he only uses the online version for one of the his artists – but he uses the desktop version extenstively in handling the finances of many artists.
Email Marketing – There are numerous companies out there that handle email accumulation and email message distribution. For the greater part of my traveling life I used Constant Contact, though I have recently become more familiar with My Emma. There are many others – but regardless of the one you use – its just a great priority to reach out and communicate consistently with your fans, especially when they have signed up requesting information from you as an artist. They want to know about what’s going on – Let them know! Of course, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace continue to be great mediums for fan communication.
Calendar, Booking, and Contacts – One of the great things about technology is the ability to systemize alot of the work that artists do and integrate all of that info. My grandad used to say – “Back in the day” – and I would always roll my eyes. But seriously – “Back in the day” we kept our schedules on paper calendar, mailed or faxed our contracts out, and kept our contacts on a roladex. Today is definitley a more effiecient day!! One of the great new systems I’ve found in this area is Marcato. (www.marcatomusician.com) This great software allows for an artist to upload all of their bookings, contacts, events, etc, and also be able to give user access to any number of users with various levels of information. And the greatest thing – its currently free for Indie artists!
Another software that I’ve just become familiar with – but haven’t used is Band Central (http://bandcentral.com) – I don’t know much about this program – but at first look it appears to have some great features that would be a huge benefit to the artist.
Final Word – I read a great blog by Seth Godin yesterday about Consumer debt – and it reminded of a great principle for us all – but especially for artists. It is so easy to ‘rationalize’ the need to borrow money for equipment, transportation, etc - after all – won’t the artist be able to do their job better and ultimately be more successful. Seth shared a Dave Ramsey philososphy about debt: Consumer Debt is not your friend. You should never borrow money for anything that doesn’t increase in value. Too often we rationalize the need to borrow for equipment that we pay out over 3 years – but isn’t worth its value even 6 months later…….and the artist is still paying on it. Cars, Computers, Gear, Production equipment – almost all of these assets fit this category – and yet the number of artists who are in opressive debt is staggering. Dave Ramsey goes on to say in his blog – if you have debt you are a slave. Wow! and True!
I’d love to hear the tools that you have found helpful for staying focused and for staying in business as an artist. Enough rambling for now – hopefully there are some things in this that will be beneficial to you!