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The 'Dave Ramsey' Approach to the Music Biz
By Paula Carpenter - 05/31/2009 - 01:11 PM EDT

(how NOT to spend too much money!)

Copyright 2009, Paula Carpenter, StarBright Music & Creative Group

Hey, songwriter friends. It occurs to me that sometimes, in our desire and efforts to get our songs out there, maybe we make some misjudgments re: financing our goals. (I started to type ‘dreams’ instead of goals…but sometimes people read that word and hear the implication of ‘pipe dream’… so…goals it is. But keep {valid} dreaming!)

Enter my hero, Dave Ramsey. What a guy! His no-nonsense, values-based understanding and teaching of basic common-sense principles on HOW TO GET OUT OF DEBT, and how to MANAGE YOUR MONEY…is absolutely fabulous. My husband and I are Dave groupies, and strive to apply his principles to our *own* finances. Note: we are NOT financial experts or financial or investment advisers, so the below is just some common sense advice that works for most people.

So…let me give you some advice that I think ol’ Dave would be proud of:

• When you write some song material and set out to demo it, please remember that ‘less is more’. Don’t go to the expense of paying engineers, studios, and instrumentalists to produce a basic first demo of your song. ESPECIALLY do *not* do this, if this is the first or rough draft of your song. Yes, I know you’re proud of it…but before you have submitted it to songwriter resources such as consultants, critiques, seminars, conferences, publishers… don’t spend the money. The expert input (given by people YOU choose!) may be something that makes you take another look at that precious song, and you may/probably will decide it needs some tweaking. Then, if you’ve already spent your big wad ‘o cash on the demo, now you’re looking at having to go back in and re-cut vocals? Change some of the chord progressions? That would SO not be a cost-efficient process, now would it? So please…when offering your BASIC demo to those whose opinions you desire…keep it simple. A basic keyboard/vocal or guitar/vocal should suffice.

 • If you have occasion to travel to Nashville or LA on business…consider driving there in a non-gas-guzzling vehicle, depending on where you live of course. I can drive to Nashville much more reasonably than I can fly…and I often do. Get out a calculator and figure up the gasoline expenditure/your car’s fuel efficiency etc…as opposed to a plane ticket and a rental car!

• Also, in traveling to the music centers to do business - or to WHEREVER to co-write/perform/record, etc - don’t treat it like a vacation! If you are traveling on your own dime, *don’t* stay in a posh hotel as if you were out treating the family to a great trip; stay on the cheap.Go to,,,, and similar sites - we don't recommend any particular ones - and look for bargains. Look for hostels, B & B’s that specialize in renting rooms to music industry (N’ville has some of these), and so forth. Eat cheap. Don’t eat in restaurants ALL THE TIME (though sometimes it’s a treat)… go to the grocery; make yourself a sandwich and brown-bag it. No, I’m not kidding. Be smart…this is business, not pleasure (though I must admit, the music business IS REALLY a lot of fun! But you know what I mean…) if you’re not ‘in the money’ yet, you don’t want to waste precious money on things that don’t need to be expensive. You want to save that money for when you REALLY need it.

• Try to use your debit card to pay for your expenses, rather than a credit card…if you have the cash, that is. This is a ‘Dave Basic’. No matter whether it’s music biz, home expense, groceries, or anything else in this world…try to pay as you go. Cash is best, if at all possible.

• Consider (that means talk to your spouse about it – don’t run out and make big important decisions all by your lonesome, if you are married…this creates hard feelings, doncha know!) re-financing your home while interest rates are down (hurry!), but *DO NOT* add money to the amount you want re-financed – because if you do that, you’re adding years and years to your house payment. Simply use that extra cash on hand each month because of your lower house payment to pay CASH (as mentioned above) for your music expenses.

• Look at your home’s assessed value and compare it to homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood. Are you being taxed too much? Home values have generally gone down across the country. If you want to lower your taxes the city/county charges you…consider protesting your home’s assessment. Generally tax appraisal districts will allow you to do this, in the form of a written protest (most of them have forms) and you probably will have to appear before a local tax board to present your case. You could lower your taxes quite a bit, in a down economy with homes being appraised for less. However, if you intend to SELL your home soon, you may NOT want to do this, since if the appraised value goes down, your home might logically be priced to sell at a lower price. Also check the property ownership tax exemptions in your county/parish/city… and make sure you have applied for all the ones that apply to you, such as homestead, historic, over-65, etc. If you decide to do this, you could save several hundred dollars a year, and this could be applied to your music business goals. Or put into savings/investments (I don’t give investment advice…you figure that one out!) that generates interest, to be used later for these goals!

• As alluded to above, always discuss your music goals with your mate/spouse…spending money on a business plan that you have created without the input of your best friend/mate/spouse… is asking for hurt feelings and trouble. The loving support of your husband or wife is the key to your success! Leaving them out…is generally a recipe for failure and relationship struggles.

Sell stuff you don’t need. Really. I mean, how much stuff can one person really collect? (she says to herself, the collect-a-holic…) There’s eBay, garage sales, estate sales, selling to friends. Try to get on the road to realization that you only have so much room, so many hours in the day, to use the lovely items/clothing/dinnerware/collectibles…that you felt at the time were ‘must-haves’. Sometimes lovely things wind up in storage. Then why have them? Consider getting rid of what you don’t need, and putting the money into your music business account/savings account.

• Either you, if you’re not the breadwinner, or your spouse if you are…apply to work at a Starbucks part-time. Did you know (this is hearsay, I haven’t actually applied for work at Starbucks), that according to what I’ve heard, they offer full health benefits to even part-time employees? I know one couple who, when the guy left his ‘establishment job’ and went into real estate…his wife went to work part-time at Starbucks to get the family the health benefits they needed. COOL! And the coffee is so great, too! So. not only do you make EXTRA money by the part-time salary…but you can drop the more expensive health coverage you may be paying for.

• If you have a website, make sure you include the cost of your web-hosting and other related expenses…in your income tax deductions. And while we’re on that topic, take a hard look at all the OTHER possible deductions you may have…I don’t know what they are, but you should. Really examine your expenses, be it car, gasoline, airline tickets, online music biz education costs & subscriptions, music org dues (ASCAP, NSAI, etc) and the obvious recording/studio/CD manufacturing/ expenses, etc… to make sure you get every possible tax deduction.

Well….those are just a FEW tips…and some of them, as you can see…apply to not only the music business, but life in general. The PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARDS theme that Dave Ramsey espouses, is so basic, I didn’t think to make it a bullet up above….but that is something you DEFINITELY WANT TO DO. GET OUT OF DEBT!

Then…you’ll have MORE money to use wisely on travel, recording, and other important music demands. That will help to remove “I CAN’T AFFORD IT” … when you ask yourself… “WHY NOT ME?”.

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