Budgets for Bands

No one likes the “B” word… “Budget”… just saying it can make your skin crawl. No one likes to create a budget and no one enjoys living on the budget they created. “Budget”… in the immortal words of the popular girls on HULU, “Ewww, seriously, that’s so gross!” Just like the overweight man on the commercial, we would rather eat whatever we want whenever we want regardless of the cost. But, also like the man on the commercial, most of us recognize that we simply cannot do that if we want our Christian bands ministries to succeed.

So, why should your Christian band take the time to create a budget?

Actually it’s about more than just the money.
Christian Band Budget
Budgets free up cash to buy what Christian bands really want.

Benefits of Creating a Band Budget

Forces the band to work through the process of goal setting

Forces the band to determine what need to be done to reach those goals

Forces the band to evaluate their physical assets and needs

Forces the band to evaluate the intangible aspects of the ministry

Most importantly, budgets force the band to work together to determine steps to take to achieve their goals

Agreeing on priorities ahead of time saves friendships later

Allows room for crisis management before a crisis so the ministry does not get derailed

So, in reality creating a budget is more about relationships within the band and goal setting for the ministry than money. The money is jut a tool used to achieve your goals and expand the ministry.

Let’s look at possible band scenarios:

Band #1 does not have a budget, has not discussed goal setting or priorities for the band. They just like to play music and spend all the money as they get it, travelling to gigs and buying a few pieces of equipment as they go. They are doing OK, getting paid for some shows and selling merch., money is coming in and money is going out. They are not in debt or crisis. But eventually one of the members starts talking about recording a good quality, full length CD. As he talks the other members get on board with the project and they cut back a little to start saving. It’s a long process. A year later they have about half the needed money saved and all the songs are written. They can’t get a loan and haven’t planned any fundraising. Then, the sound board dies. It is more expensive to repair it than it is worth and the band needs to have a sound board for the next show. So, a member of the band spends the money that has been saved to replace the sound board with a little bit better one than they previously had. He doesn’t want to leave the band completely broke, so he adds some of his own money to upgrade to the better board. No problem because the band had the money—right? Not so much, the first member that originally had the idea to record is livid because money set aside for recording was spent on equipment. That member does not feel that travelling with a sound system is more important than recording. The member that bought the board is angry because he assumed he was doing the band a favor by taking the time to research the best board and get it delivered in time for the next gig. The other two band members are caught in the middle – seeing both points of view and being challenged to take sides.  In the meantime, recording is put on a back burner. It is unlikely the band will survive another year with this kind of conflict.

Band #2 went through the goal setting and budget creating process. They have the same amount of gigs and money coming in and out as band #1. This band has already agreed that recording is a higher priority than travelling with a sound system. They have a sound system and use it whenever they can to make extra money (the same as band #1). But when the soundboard dies, this band rents or borrows a board to get them through the shows they already have contracted to provide sound. It costs them a little bit to rent the board and they have to use some of the money they saved for recording. But this is a small setback compared to replacing the board.  They do not book any more shows that require sound systems unless the gig pays well enough to cover the rental costs. Additionally, because of their budget planning this band realized it would take about 2 years to save all the money they needed for recording. They did not want to wait that long so they planned some fundraisers. Their families held a garage sale, they used Crowdfunding with kickstarter, they created some of their own merchandise to boost merch sales, and cut food expenses by using per diems and snackifying the band. This was a huge amount of hard work. A year later, they paid cash for their recording and the first 500 CD’s. The band members and their families spent quite a bit of time together making it all happen, sometimes people got cranky and apologies had to be made. But a funny thing happened… in the process they developed a solid ministry built on relationships with each other.

After looking at these two scenarios, we can see how setting goals and a budget is critical to the long term survival of your bands ministry and friendships with each other. Making the time to evaluate where you are, discuss your goals for the future, and create steps to get you there is one of the most loving things band members can do for each other. In fact, NOT setting up a budget should illicit the response, “Ewww, seriously, that’s so gross!” because we are eating junk food so to speak – setting ourselves up for failure.

Rules to Set Up a Budget

Rule #1 Know that the budget is not set in stone – it is a guideline to be followed as closely as possible. Income and expenses are not always precisely predictable, so allowances must be made. Setbacks will probably occur.

Rule #2 Agree that deviation from the budget must be talked about with and agreed upon by all band members prior to money being spent.

Rule #3 Treat each other, and each others viewpoints, with respect during the budget creation process. Friendships are always more important than money. Anger has no place in the discussions. But neither does unwillingness to state your opinion out of fear of being wrong or rejection.

If you can follow these 3 rules, the rest will come with time.

How to Set Up a Budget

Set aside time – many bands use an hour before or after each practice, others talk during times set side for several band practices instead of playing music. There is no time limit for how long this should take – it takes as long as it takes. Do not be in a hurry; you do not have to solve all the band issues in one meeting. When the allotted time is up, table the rest and pick it up next time.

Evaluate the bands tangible assets

Evaluate the bands intangible aspects

Set goals based on improvement over last year

Prioritize goals

Break down each goal into the steps it will take to reach those goals.

Estimate the cost of each step.

Now you should have an idea of your anticipated expenses. You should know where you are, where you want to be and what it will cost to get there. Most likely, it will cost more than you have.

Look at how much you made last year. Use the same amount of income from shows you expect to get again. Do you best to guess at any new gigs you hope to get, how much they will pay, what your expenses will be, and how much you can make on merch.  This should give you a ballpark figure for income.

Now you will probably see that your anticipated income will not be enough to meet your band goals. The band will have to choose between fundraising or cutting back on the goals. Most of the time a combination of both occurs. The most important thing is to talk about all the options and agree on a plan. Write down the plan so the band will have a frame of reference if differences of opinion come up later and to next years budget planning easier. The accounting method is not very important – keep it simple enough for everyone to understand. I like to use a simple spreadsheet with a few categories of expenses and income broken down by month.  The charts in “Managing Your Bands Finances the Easy Way” work well for estimating your future income and expenses as well as recording your past. You get these charts free when your order The Christian Band Handbook.  Or you can use a program like Excel to create your own.

No band budget is perfect. It will always have to be adjusted as you go along. The communication involved with the process of creating a plan and a budget is in itself extremely beneficial to the ministry of the band. Plan for the future success of your bands ministry, be diligent, have integrity and you will achieve your bands full ministry potential!

The Christian Band Handbook

Do you have more questions about band budgets?

The Christian Band Handbook

has an entire chapter called Funding, Finances and Assorted Finagling.


to get your copy today!

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