Metalhead Money is very excited to start this Music and Money interview series! We'll talk with underground artists who are making great music -- and "making it work."
Kicking off the series is composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and all around cool guy Francis Roberts. Hailing from sunny San Diego, Roberts has a new album coming out November 6th called Story From Another Time. He touts the thirty-six minute work as "a film score for your imagination" -- and indeed, the synthesizer-based journey transports listeners far beyond the mundane tasks of everyday life. Give the teaser track a listen and check out what Roberts has to say about finances in the DIY music world!
Tell our readers all about your band! When did you get started? What is your music like?
What are your goals for your band?
I'd like to get to the point where my bands are being asked to do things like music cues for film and games. It'd be fun to have financially reasonable fly in offers. To be honest I'm not as into touring as I used to be. I still enjoy it sometimes but I like producing and recording music more than I like performing it.
What do you do for a living?
I teach music and music production, and I do session work and production/composition work for media.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
I don't know how to create boundaries with work and personal life outside of basic things like "I have another private student coming so we have to end this lesson." Almost everything I do is music related and most of it is really fun, so I'm bad about logging my hours when I work on something unpaid like mixing my own album.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
Early on: Lessons with a variety of strong mentoring figures (take lessons from more than one person if you can).
After that: Deciding to tour with no management/label/agency. Just picking a route and going for it, sending emails, messages, etc.
Later on: Learning to play instruments beyond my "main" instrument.
Overall: Investing in a functional home studio over the years. It's cool to be able to record as many albums as I want using money I spent in the past.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician/band?
More than two electric guitars. You either grow up to be a working musician and sell all but your main and a backup, or you become rocker dad with 45 Les Pauls that collect dust.
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
I think apparel generally sells the best. High quality shirts sell better than low quality ones. It's worth the extra couple of bucks per unit, even if you don't raise your selling price. And I think I mostly buy LPs and screenprinted patches (which I use as coasters).
If you've been on tour, can you share some tour budgeting tips?
Sleep literally anywhere but a hotel early in your career. When you book your tour (or have a tour booked for you), ask the local bands on the bill if any of them or any of their friends are used to having bands sleep on the floor. Obviously use your best judgment; I've taken a park bench over a couch when the couch was visibly attached to a meth lab. Sometimes you end up in scary situations, so take care of yourself before your wallet, but 90+% of the situations won't be too bad.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
I don't think any of them are very good independently. The people who really support your band are the ones who follow you on two or three platforms. It's hard to know who those people are or what they like buying if you're only on one platform. I like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. There are plenty of other good ones. Start with whatever your friends use, as they will be your first "fans" before you grow.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2020?
To me, "making it" means being in a position to turn down gigs and work that I don't want to do. So like "This festival pays well but we only get a five minute line check and a 30 minute set" is going to be damaging to you and your band's mental health because of how awful your stage sound is likely to be, and if you can afford to turn that gig down, that's fantastic. That's making it.
IDK about you guys, but I LOL-ed at the rocker dad with his dusty Les Pauls. Thank you, Francis, for sharing your thoughts with us!
Connect with Francis Roberts
Order Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials in paperback and ebook formats: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
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