--Photo by Gilmoth
Money. You need it. And it's a tough thing to come by if you're starting or running a musical group- be it a band, a choir or a taiko troupe.
If you're running/starting a group, there's only so much personal money you can front. The group itself needs to form a source of income if it plans to stick around. Here's a couple tips for anyone who's planning to, or recently started to run a musical troupe.
1. Establish credibility
At some point, you're going to need to ask people for money. But they won't give you much if you haven't proven who you are or what your group is capable of. So the first thing to do is to define your group.
Who are you, what do you do, what are your goals and what makes your group different from others. Type it up and make a document. Make a website or facebook page. Find friends to support you on the sites/pages.
If you have a way of obtaining the instruments for minimal cost, do so and take pictures of you with them. Get these on your sites/pages, and add pics to your document.
Even if at this point, you have zero skills in the music, the fact you have something solid to present makes a world of difference.
2. Be prepared to front some cash
In the beginning, members may have to chip in some personal money. There just needs to be something to start with, even to do some fundraisers. Fortunately, if your fundraisers are effective, the money will come right back.
Try bake sales. No joke. Doesn't matter if you're a death metal band. People pay for cookies. If cookies aren't for you, brainstorm with your group and get creative. Sell t-shirts, offer to do chores, wash cars- or anything that may be unique to your group.
Do these fundraisers where people gather- like community centers, parks, and college campuses (make sure you get permission). This in itself will help sell your name. With this initial cash, invest in more fundraisers, and also try to get the minimal numbers of instruments you need to function as a group.
3. Ask Ask Ask
Everyone feels a little shame when asking someone for money. But if you ask right, this can be the best way to get financial support.
If you're a taiko troupe, for example, find Japanese associations and clubs, or groups/organizations that work to promote arts and culture. If you're associated with a university, try asking the different departments (musical, Japanese, arts, etc.). If you know individuals interested in your art/music, ask them too. They know the pain of starting things up, and will be willing to listen.
Present your aforementioned document to them and really tell them what you're about and what you're trying to do. And this next part is key. Tell them what you can do for them. If they can benefit in even in the smallest way by giving you a donation, they'll be far more generous.
Assure them that by supporting you, their name/organization will be well promoted. Tell them you'll do a free show for them. Put their names down on your 'supporters' column of your website. Link to their sites. Anything you can offer. By showing your gratitude to them by telling the world that they're great supporters, they'll be happy about their choice to fund you.
A very important thing is to ask lots of people. Ask ask ask. And be courteous and polite about it. Once you get in the asking rhythm you'll find it surprisingly easy (and even fun).
Finally, even after you receive donations, be sure to update your donors with your progress on a regular basis.
4. Free shows
Free shows are important because no one pays at first to see a band/group they know nothing about. Get your art out to the people and don't worry about the cash.
Do have a donation box though, and let them know that their help is very much appreciated.
And communicate with the people who see your shows. Connecting with individuals will get them to be greater fans of your troupe. In fact, this is how you start getting offers. People who see you, people who you talk to at the shows are often the ones who hire you for future shows.
5. Workshops/Membership fees
Once your name is out there and you've got some instruments, people may want to participate. Especially when it comes to taiko drums.
Open some workshops, and do them for a small fee. If you're workshops are popular and you can do them regularly, this'll be a steady source of income.
You could also have membership fees for people wanting to join. There are always maintenance costs and members should understand that their fees are being put to good use.
6. Sell tickets
Finally, if you've gone through all the trouble of the first five steps, you're surely established enough to sell some tickets.
Find a cheap venue and advertise as much as possible. Advertisements can be cheap leaflets that you can make by the thousands at Kinko's. Pass them out at popular places and spread your show through word of mouth.
Tickets shouldn't be expensive. It's better to sell out with cheap tickets, then have a half-full hall with pricey ones. Tell your friends, family, supporters, donors, everyone. If you really get everyone to spread the word and advertise, selling out your tickets is not nearly as hard as you think.
These are all just a couple ideas, but some, if not all, can really work for you. If you and your members are enthusiastic about it, raising money can not only be very successful ($$$!) but it can also be a whole lot of fun. Good luck!