Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Financial Adventures of Managing a Band"

Here's a fun story about managing my money, while managing a band.

Five years ago, I left a job making $10,000/month to manage music band Here II Here.

My first month with the band, I made $25 (paid 10% on a gig earning $250).

In my 5th year with the band, we had our best year ever, spending about 10 months on the road touring across the country, performing around 130 times. I made $18,000 ... for the entire year ... average per gig income about $1100 (gross for the band).

Now, with the demise of Here II Here, I'm moving forward with Here II Here's lead songwriter, main vocalist, and human being extraordinaire, Ash Ruiz, in launching his solo career.

Having worked my way through the comfortable zone of my savings over these past 5 years, I'm now in my uncomfortable zone, which means I've got a few months left before my savings no longer support giving my full-time attention to managing an artist.

Mind you, in this time, I've hardly been living in comfort. The past two years, I've lived with the band where they lived ... on the road, in other people's homes, in basements and living rooms, in spare bedrooms and "rooms by the garage". I've slept on an air mattress for most of the past year, and I've never felt so bathed in luxury as I have recently when I decided to invest the last of my savings in a simple 2-bedroom apartment for me and Ash, in which I have my own room and bathroom.

After almost two years living with a touring band, having my own room, my own bathroom, even sleeping on a futon, is pure, delicious, blissful luxury.

Before the band, I had my own house. I often paid for friends' meals at restaurants. I brought friends to concerts they couldn't otherwise go to. I ate whatever I wanted. As a worldwide PR spokesperson for an international luxury watch/human energy science company, I traveled the world ... Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Colombia, Ukraine, London, New York, Ireland and more.

But then that stopped being fun. I lost respect for the people I was working for. I saw their only real motive was making money; they weren't inherently bad people, but they were cutthroat and I couldn't be a part of that culture anymore.

So when the band, my friends at the time, asked me to manage them, I took my $50,000 in life savings and went all in. Financially, I gave up $10,000 for $25.

Now 5 years later, I'm about at the end of that financial rope. I lost a lot when the stock market crashed in 2008. I've spent a lot on a very difficult relationship with one particular woman. I invested a lot in the band. I've given money away when friends asked for help.

Here I am in November, 2011. I've a few thousand left. Enough to give Ash and I our own place to live and create for about 3 months. Maybe 4.

I went to college. I have a masters degree. Entrepreneurs don't usually get masters degrees. Or even bachelors degrees. People generally get college degrees to work for other people, typically entrepreneurs. In other words, I confess I'm not a born entrepreneur.

I've had to learn entrepreneurial skills in the most difficult, though perhaps the only way possible ... pure experience.

Five years later, as the money's running out, I feel as if I'm still a beginner. Sure, I've learned a lot, though I know probably more what NOT to do than I have figured out just what TO do. Sure knowing what NOT to do is valuable, but I would really like to finally know what TO do to guarantee success.

But that's the rub. We just don't ever get that level of certainty in life. Even if I knew exactly what TO do, I could do it and still not be guaranteed the results I want. I know plenty of people in this business who seem to have a LOT more clue than I do, but who have yet to "break through" to any measurably meaningful form of success.

So I just continue following my inspirations.

I heard an NPR story tonight about the intelligence of quitting. That even the most successful people are excellent quitters because they just don't waste time on something that isn't working for them. Instead they move on to other opportunities that DO work for them.

I'm envious of that. When I think about making money. Or having a long-term healthy relationship with a woman.

But I remember a line from the movie, "Into The Wild". The lead character, a young American man who runs away from his upper east side riches and every last possession he owned to explore life completely void of material attachments. "Money makes people cautious," he said. "I am happier when I have nothing."

There's nothing wrong with money, or possessing things. But I notice how long I've worried about the money running out. I notice how many times I've denied myself joy due to the fear that the money is going to disappear and I won't THEN be able to "attain my dreams".

But you should see how much fun Ash and I have as the foundation of this project is starting to form - the new website, his new musical meditations, the new album, the video campaigns we're putting together, and more.

I'm not making any money right now, and I just might be leading myself into financial ruin.

But I'm living my dream. I've been living it for the last 5 years, even when I slept on a kitchen floor in a fan's home. Because my dream doesn't depend on having my own room and enough money to follow whatever whim comes along.

My dream is to bring beauty into the world, and be a beneficial presence to others, and be an example of thoughtful, passionate, juicy living. So even if the few thousands I have left disappear in the next 3 months, the life of my dreams will never be more than a simple, inspired thought away!

1 comment:

  1. Well said Bryan! People before profit and love over money every time... I'm sure you'll be given help when you need it most - there has to be some justice in the world, after all!