It’s time to talk about money mindset! This is a topic I am very passionate about, because I think it can really make or break our potential to build a sustainable music career. And let’s be honest: a lot of us artists struggle with charging for their work.
One of the biggest obstacles to building a sustainable music career
I am convinced that limiting beliefs about money – otherwise known as money blocks – form one of the biggest obstacles to building a sustainable music career.
You can be super talented, know everything about marketing and strategy and have all the practical tools. But if you struggle to charge for your work, if deep down you feel you don’t deserve to be paid good money for your art, then all that talent and knowledge will only get you so far.
So in this blog I want to talk about money mindset and bust the myth of the struggling artist. I could write a whole book about the subject of money mindset. In fact, many books have already been written about it, some of which I have read. However, for this blog I will do my best to keep it short yet value packed! Pun intended 😉
Where do our money blocks originate from?
So where do our beliefs and emotions around money come from? There is no straightforward answer to this question, it’s part nature and part nurture.
The first step in dismantling your money blocks is looking at your upbringing and past experiences. Obviously our parents (or caretakers) have our best interests at heart, they love us and want the best for us. But to a certain extent we subconsciously inherit their beliefs around money.
Nature vs Nurture
Maybe your parents would often say things like ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’. Maybe they had to work really hard to make ends meet. Instilling in you the idea that money is a limited resource, and the only way to earn a living is by working all the time. Maybe your parents are divorced and used to argue about money a lot, which could lead to a subconscious belief that money is problematic and no good can come of it.
Money blocks can also be the result of certain past experiences. You might be surprised to hear this, but for a period of time I was bullied as a child. Because of that my self esteem took a big hit. Even though I overcame this and have grown into a generally confident and happy person, deep down inside I sometimes still fear I’m not good enough. And let’s face it. Knowing your value and charging properly is more difficult if you don’t feel worthy.
Certain character traits can also get in your way. To give you an example: I am a helper by nature (guess why I became a coach) and a recovering people pleaser. According to my parents I have been like that since I was a little girl. Meaning I would often put other people’s needs before my own, either to help them or out of fear of not being liked. If you pair these traits with limiting beliefs such as ‘money is a limited resource’ and ‘if I earn money this comes at the expense of someone else’, then that’s a pretty solid money block to work through.
By now I have learned that you can’t give from an empty cup and that I have to fill my own cup first. Besides that I have come to understand that I have something of value to offer, my music, and it’s totally fine to receive money in exchange for this. And that when people make an issue about this, this is usually an indication of their own money blocks. It is an ongoing learning process though, and in some situations my money mindset is better than others.
The influence of society and the myth of the starving artist
Then there’s also the society as a whole that affects us. First of all there is this pervasive myth in our society that I want to talk to you about. And that is the myth of the starving, struggling artist: the idea that credible art comes from artists who sacrifice everything for their art, even if that means living on minimum wage. A romantic notion that is often talked about in movies and books.
With, as a result, that a large portion of our society, in my opinion, has become convinced that making genuine art (music in our case) and making a decent income from our music is mutually exclusive.
Especially amongst artists there is a lot of judgement around the topic. You might recognise yourself in this: many artists feel self conscious about promoting themselves and their music, the idea of ‘selling’ makes them cringe. I mean, for a lot of us the worst thing someone can call us is that we are commercial, right? Or a ‘sell out’. And the sad part is that this judgement often comes from our peers. From our fellow artists.
To me that is a clear sign of how persistent this myth is and I really think it is time to let go once and for all of the idea that somehow it’s ok for artists to be poor or that your music will be better if you go through life suffering.
I like to look at it this way: pouring your heart and soul into your music and making a comfortable living off it are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, money is energy, and when you make enough of it to live comfortably, without having to worry about your bills, this will create even more space for you to create or teach music and you’ll be able to give even more to your fans and clients.
Break the cycle of underpayment in the music industry
Now, an often heard complaint from artists is the devaluation of music due to illegal downloading, and more recently streaming. The idea that society has become accustomed to the fact that you can get music either for free or have access to an unlimited amount of music for as little as €10 per month.
Even though there may be truth to this I do also wonder sometimes: is the root of the problem that society that isn’t willing to pay, or is it the artists who, due to limiting beliefs and the myth of the struggling artists, fail to make it a priority to charge for their work and negotiate fair terms with, for example, their record labels?
I think that’s an interesting subject for a debate, and I don’t have the answer to this. What I do know is: I prefer to focus on the things I can control. And even though we can’t control society, we do have control over our own behaviour.
I truly believe that if we, as artists, value our own work, eventually others will have to do so as well, whether it’s record labels, event promoters or society as a whole. Breaking the cycle of underpayment in the music industry starts with artists becoming more assertive.
Now I am not saying you should never do something for free or for a lower budget, when you’re at the start of your career it can help to get your foot through the door and the more you grow and build your status, the more of a negotiating power you will have. But even in the early stages there has to be an equal trade off in some way. And I would definitely always try to see what’s possible, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Your die hard super fans will value you
One last thing I want to share with you is the importance of building a fanbase of die hard super fans. Maybe the general public nowadays isn’t willing to spend much on music, die hard super fans are. They are the type of fan that will eagerly pay for your new album, for exclusive perks, your merchandise, to attend your live shows etc.
I often see this in my own genre for example, the Trance music scene. There are a lot of die hard Trance fans who spend hundreds sometimes thousands of euros a year on physical products by their favourite artists, to subscribe to their fav artists’s Twitch channel, on flights to attend Trance events across the world etc. Besides that, having a loyal fan base gives you more leverage with labels, event promoters etc as well.
I have created a free 40mins video lesson on how you can grow your visibility and build such a fanbase of die hard fans. It’s called Fanbase Boost Blueprint and you can download it for free via susanavocalist.com/fanbaseboost. I will also add the link in the show notes for this episode.
And if you feel you can use some extra help with dismantling your money blocks and practical advice on how you can start charging what you’re worth, this month – March 2021 – I have a special offer for one-on-one coaching via Zoom. Now, because I’m also busy with my other projects there are only 6 spots available. If this is something you’re interested in you can check susanavocalist.com/coaching or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alright, it’s time to wrap it up! Change starts with awareness, so I invite you to write down which thoughts and fears come up for you when it’s time to negotiate, set your prices or otherwise talk about money. Where do you think those thoughts and fears originated?
Work on adapting an abundance mindset. There is more than enough going around for everyone. You have something of value to offer the world and you’ll be doing yourself and others a disservice not to charge what you’re worth.
You deserve it!
Join my ‘Business Coaching for Artists’ Instagram Community. A private Instagram account with inspiration, tips and tricks to help you share your music with the world and grow a sustainable career. You can request access here.