Being a musician rocks, but plucking the extra bucks out of your wallet for instruments, training, and gigs can be a source of a lot of discordant emotions. Don't worry; we have lots of money tips for musicians that will help you stay upbeat! If you want your finances to be as harmonious as your music, then stay in sync with these money management secrets. We have some simple ways to learn, save, and make money for young would-be musicians hoping to avoid going broke.
Getting Musical Training and Financial Help
If you're a high school student looking to go to college for music or something in the musical arts, it can be hard to justify to your parents at first. But there are many different types of scholarships to apply for that will help cut down costs. Many of the grants for music education come through competitions and recorded submissions. Keep in mind that there are other ways to get musical training and financial help down the line as well.
First, focus on which college you want to go to, as the colleges themselves have lots of financial programs. For instance, if you're looking for full-ride music scholarships, you may want to look at Berklee and combine their scholarships with others on this list. The National Music Scholarship Fair is a performance event where a lot of colleges show up to hand out or consider musical scholarships, so definitely keep that in mind as well. Here's a list of college grants for musicians:
- The BMI Foundation John Lennon Scholarships for Songwriters and Composers - Yoko Ono and the BMI Foundation created this program in 1997 to honor the memory of the Beatles' legendary John Lennon. It offers three scholarships totaling $20,000 for U.S. college students between the ages of 17 and 24. You must not be signed with a label.
- National Federation of Music Clubs Scholarships - With small awards for every type of musician, from reed players to musical therapy students, these clubs offer music scholarships for high school students to check out!
- Federated State Associations for Music Education - Check your state's music education association, as some will offer music scholarships for high school seniors looking to teach music. Each state has its own rules, and not all offer a scholarship, so see what's out there!
- National YoungArts Foundation - Students 15 to 18 years old can apply to win a $10,000 cash award, take a master class, and achieve national recognition.
- School Band and Orchestra Magazine Essay Contest - Many of these applications require performances, which can be stressful. These small scholarships for high school students (grades four to 12) require written entries.
- VSA International Young Soloist Competition - An award of $2,000 is given to an outstanding musician with disabilities, and that musician gets the opportunity to play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
- Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Performing Arts Scholarship - These are scholarships for music majors who are African-American full-time students with a GPA of at least 2.5 and who are permanent residents or citizens. Award-winners get a grant of $3,000.
- Glenn Miller Birthplace Society Scholarships - This foundation, named for the famous big-band trombonist, gives out $12,000 in scholarships after a competition.
- John Philip Sousa Foundation's Dr. Robert Hawkins Memorial Scholarship - This scholarship is for those looking into instrumental music education.
- Drum Corps International Scholarship - Marchers may be interested in this program, and you don't need to be a music major to apply!
- Women Band Directors International (WBDI) Scholarships - If you're hoping to become a band director and are enrolled in a university curriculum for music education, this award could be for you!
- Chopin Foundation Scholarship Program - For young pianists ages 14 to 17, this program requires playing Chopin's works.
- Strings Magazine Edith Eisler Scholarship Award - For string students, this $3,000 grant can help pay for an accredited college or conservatory program, based on financial need.
- Opera Foundation Scholarships - Opera singers can compete for these highly prestigious awards.
- Bel Canto Vocal Scholarship Foundation - This annual competition is for vocal students ages 21 to 33.
- Zildjian Scholarships for Percussion Players - The famous cymbal company offers scholarships in Kerope and Armand Zildjian's names.
- Percussive Arts Society Scholarships and Grants - High school students who play percussion instruments, whether it be timpani or the vibraphone, may qualify for these small scholarship programs.
- Jazz Education Network (JEN) Scholarships - Several student scholarships are available for university and high school students of jazz.
- Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge - High school students with a passion for musicals can submit a song of their own creation. The national champion earns a scholarship of $25,000, and the finalists will have their songs officially published.
- American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) Scholarships - Undergraduate and graduate students may apply.
College is all well and good, but what if traditional schooling isn't your forte? What if you want to hit the road or study something different? There are also grants for independent musicians not relating to a classical college education, though they can be a little bit harder to get.
The National Endowment for the Arts - This organization is the top source for government funding for musicians. They offer dozens of programs, including these helpful ones:
- New York State Council on the Arts - Applying for state-level funding is another way to get government grants for musicians. This is an example of what's available for artists living in New York.
- Americans for the Arts - Get funding for special arts-related projects via one of the largest nonprofits.
- The Alice M. Ditson Fund - This fund offers grants for younger musicians who are both American and relatively unknown. If you are currently unrecorded, this project may be the best bet for you.
- Amphion Grant Program - Composers of contemporary concert music "at a high level of excellence" may apply.
- S&R Foundation Washington Award - A cash prize of $10,000 is awarded to the winner of this highly prestigious competition in the arts.
- Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Grants - The ARSC is all about preservation of recordings both public and private, so if the preservation of sound and museum collections is important to you, check it out.
- American Country Music (ACM) Lifting Lives Grants - If your music improves lives, these grants can help with musical education, therapy, and purchasing instruments.
- The Awesome Foundation - This might be a pretty simple way to think of it, but it's how the foundation works: the funding of awesome ideas!
- Tarisio Trust Young Artist Grants - For string instrument players, these grants can be used for a single project.
- Levitt Foundation Concert Series - This foundation is meant to help produce local, outdoor, free concerts and features online public voting.
- New Music USA - Contemporary, modern musicians can apply for project grants, composer-in-residence programs, and small ensembles.
- 92Y School of Music - The YMCA (like the song, yes) in New York City offers practice rooms and cheap master classes, essentially giving a future musician plenty of room to practice and learn.
- Dramatists Guild Foundation - Those who write musicals may want to look into these grants for the arts.
- Fender Music Foundation - The famous guitar-makers offer grants for aspiring guitar players.
- Puffin Foundation Grants - Artists who are often excluded from mainstream artistic opportunities due to race, gender, or social philosophy can qualify for this grant.
- Native Arts & Cultures Foundation - Native Americans interested in musical, storytelling, film, or traditional arts projects can get funding.
Of course grant money for musicians often results from research, competitions, and long applications, but what if you need more immediate help? These financial resources are for musicians who've landed in pretty dire straits.
- Grammy Emergency Financial Assistance - For struggling musicians who may need help with medical expenses, basic expenses, rent, and utilities, this program can help.
- Sweet Relief Musicians Fund - Career musicians who are struggling with medical expenses and other issues can use this fund.
- The Songwriters Lifeline - From the Actors Fund, this assistance to songwriters, composers, singers, and musicians is for those facing work or personal problems.
- Jazz Foundation of America Housing and Emergency Assistance - This organization offers jazz musicians counseling, housing, and many other forms of aid.
- Music Maker Relief Foundation - This organization's mission is to ensure that musicians' voices "will not be silenced by poverty and time."
- Musicians Foundation - If you've worked as a professional for five or more years, you may apply for this aid.
How do musicians make money? Musicians typically make their cash via live "gigs" or performances, royalties, advances, licensing fees, selling merchandise, online streaming, and more. But there are many different ways to earn.
Streaming services like Spotify pay very little to artists, and radio is falling out of favor. More often, musicians have other, supplementary means of making income, from merchandising to YouTube videos to advertising.
Musicians can take many small steps to make sure their costs don't spiral out of control. For example, making wise choices about food and hotel stays while on small tours, learning some DIY instrument fixes to avoid paying for repairs, and being smart with your equipment to avoid wear and tear can all stack the cards in your favor. There are literally dozens of ways for musicians to save money, but these few can really help in the long run.
Treat your musical career as what it is: an entrepreneurial business, with its own costs and needs. Whenever you have an extremely good run, put it in its own band savings account. Then, you can take that money and reinvest it in the business.
Don't rely on one personal account to keep you going! Keeping expenses separate can help you really understand when the band or your music is performing or under-performing financially.