There has been some moderately energetic debate going on in one of my bands recently about whether to make an album, largely on terms of how to afford to do so. On one side the argument largely runs ‘We should really have an album, it would do a lot for the album profile, if we do more recording we can do more music videos, plus we can sell it for real money, and surely we want to have a permanent artefact of what we already do as a band?’ I’m sat in the other corner (the remaining band members are trying to steer a middle path between these) going ‘I can’t afford to pay to make an album. All right, gig proceeds after expenses can go into an album kitty. Oh but in that case rehearsal room hire has to come out of the kitty because I can’t afford to pay that either if I’m only keeping gig expenses from gig fees. No, I don’t care if that means the kitty barely increases, keep pushing and I will quite (or at least stop showing up to rehearsals which is rather similar).’
It’s an unfortunately extreme example, but what it puts under the spotlight is a severe bind for my future planning.
My income and expenses have been bumping along at roughly equal for the last 4 months or so. From when I went part-time in my day job until about May, I was simply spending a lot more than I made. I’ve already hugely chopped down my charitable giving, started buying significantly cheaper food (farmer’s market to Co-op essentially, varied with Costcutter), practically given up getting takeaways, done what I can to reduce travel costs. If the numbers aren’t looking up noticeably at the end of this month (September), then the veg box will have to go in favour of less nice and probably less ethical but presumably cheaper supermarket fruit and veg. And I’m genuinely not sure when I last bought clothes, though I occasionally splurge on some music or (secondhand and very cheap) books.
In other words, my expenses can’t be cut that much further without moving into an absolute dump – I already live in a three-way house-share in one of the less fashionable, cultural and accessible parts of Oxford. Significantly further down the scale and I would start to get worried about neighbours / housemates stopping me practising, or sheer lack of practical space to work from home half the time.
At the same time, I seem to have hit a wall as regards pushing income up. Even if I didn’t see it as simply a step backwards, increasing my hours in my desk job would almost certainly push me back into proper mental illness, whereas at the moment I generally balance more or less, even with issues of tiredness, keeping ridiculous hours and perpetual uncertainty (though serious worry about ending up slowly bleeding off all my savings is making it noticeably more difficult to maintain that balance). And there doesn’t seem to be anything new opening up in the music sphere. Freelance seems flat, where I’d hoped it might pick up in the autumn; neither band is making any money for its members, barely paying their ways on internal expenses; I’ve yet to get any more cash from hoped-for ongoing contacts and return invitations. The last effort at putting together a group to hit the function / wedding / agency scene was not only personally draining and depressing, I put a lot of money into a black hole. I can’t do that again and I don’t think I’ve hit a new magic bullet to avoid it on another attempt.
I’m not that convinced that investment in some radical new asset would help. But it certainly is annoying that I don’t (until the next fixed-term bond matures – if I want to seriously start spending my savings – by which I mean my inheritance – if if if – ) have the means to consider something like a performance qualification, a new instrument or some swanky additional promo material. I more or less have to keep doing what I’ve been doing for a year and hope something external changes, which is less than logical in total honesty.
So the album might have to wait. And the chateau in France, the viola da gamba, the getting the violin serviced for the first time in 15 years and the new pair of shoes.