Realistic Music Careers 101: Bartering
COLUMN: In this hurting economy, many people are finding their bank accounts, wallets and savings a lot leaner lately. These same people are finding their credit card debt and their bills mounting. If money makes the world go round, the world’s been turning a lot more slowly lately for most people. It is hard enough to get the money for bills without adding the financial responsibility you have to your music, your career and your business.
Unfortunately, waiting until the recession ends or for the economy to right itself is a passive and ineffective approach. You still need to find the ways to move forward and onward even in the hardest times. Instead of sitting back in a dark place and thinking about all the money you need to pay for the things you need, why not think about what you have as skills, abilities or services that you could potentially barter with someone who may have some of the skills, abilities or services you need? Bartering is an excellent way to work directly with other individuals, build community and networking ties, and still get things you need done accomplished.
Supply and Demand
Sit down and think about what you do, what you can do and what it is worth. Many people have a lot more abilities than they know. Take the time to write down and review what you know and what you can do and think about people who may have a need for those services. Make sure those people who may have a need for your services, have a service or services that you need yourself.
Do you know a band that has a member who designs websites and you need a website. Maybe someone in your group is a plumber by day and you know the band house they live in is having plumbing problems. This is a perfect fit where both parties can help each other and save money at the same time.
Offer and Ask
Reach out to other bands, fans and friends. Talk about what you need from web work to flyers, recording to mastering, car repair to editing. It does not have to be a trade for two entertainment or music services, it can be anything just as long as both parties feel there is a fair and well defined understanding of what is being traded for what.
Talk to people and ask them if they would be willing to barter. Find out what they have to offer and what you have to give. Think about how trading service for service could benefit both parties. Sit down with the band and brainstorm a list of what you can do and send it to friends, other bands and people whom you feel might have services you could use in return. Added bonus: this can lead to extensive networking that can potentially help you long after the economy has stabilized again.
Be considerate and careful about how you ask and how you offer. Some people just don't barter or may be offended at the offer. Just because it may make sense to you doesn't mean it is going to make sense to everybody. Ask first if they would consider an exchange or trade for services. Would they be open to having a discussion about bartering? Is there something they need or are looking for? Be assertive, but not aggressive when it comes to asking and make sure that what you are offering is truly worth what you are looking for in return.
If you are a beginner web designer and you are asking a professional mastering engineer to do a barter for services, show some class and offer a lot more time and a lot of extra design time to make it balance fairly. Consider the experience and reputation of the person you are hoping to barter with and make sure if you do not match that record that you are supplementing it fairly. This can be by doing a little more work or even paying a very small fee to make it feel like a fair and even trade.
Get it in writing
Let’s say you reach an agreement with someone to trade and barter services that both of you need. You are getting something you need without the cost of paying for it and the other party is receiving the same. Make sure to put it in clear and concise writing. Many relationships, personal and professional, have ended due to lack of communication, clarification and understanding of the other’s expectations.
Consider your actions the service and your agreement the invoice. While no money is being exchanged, you are still being paid.
Make sure to clearly identify what services are being exchanged as well as the extent of those services. Clarify the circumstances of potential â€œovertime.â€ Clearly describe and make sure you know the expected outcomes. Make absolutely certain to get all of this in writing in order to avoid conflict and maintain the relationship.
Just because the economy is in the hole doesn't mean you have to slow down your career and skimp on the things you need. Network, communicate both with people you know as well as people and businesses unknown to you. Be prepared for the rejections because there will be many. But those rejections will also open the doors for the acceptances. Do not be offended and do not try to sell or push people. If someone says they do not barter or do not need any of your services, ask them if they know anyone who does.
Get and stay out there. Keep moving your career forward and use what you have to fulfill the requirements you have. Reach out to find those that you can help while they in turn help you. You will save money, network and open new doors to people, businesses and opportunities you may not have seen before.
And hey, if you think you have something I could use, or a service you think I would benefit from, drop me a note. I am open to bartering too.
Watch out for Loren Weisman's book â€œThe Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Businessâ€ coming soon.