Even though the newspaper says the economy is turning around, that doesn’t mean each one of us isn’t pinching our pennies and living on a budget. So when you make the decision to pursue a career in music you should familiarize yourself with the best ways to get a music scholarship. There are a lot of great options out there for scholarships but you should put your best foot forward and give yourself the greatest chance to make sure you get a scholarship. In this blog post we will give you 5 tips to help you secure a music scholarship. We want you — “In class, not mowing grass!”
1. RESEARCH THE DIFFERENT MUSIC SCHOOLS
The most important and possibly overlooked path to getting a music scholarship is fully researching the music schools to which you will apply. Choosing to pursue an education in music is one of the biggest decisions you are going to make; can you believe some people don’t properly look at the school before applying? Believe it or not, some schools say right on their website that they don’t offer any financial aid or the school doesn’t provide scholarship info! A good indicator is if they have a financial aid director on staff and/or a page dedicated to scholarships and financial aid. LAMA, for instance, has all of the above!
2. TRANSCRIPTS AND RECORDED PERFORMANCES HOLD THE MOST WEIGHT
Often times a music school will have to choose from many different applicants, and certain areas hold more weight. LAMA’s own Vice President and resident sight-reading drumming master Mike Packer was recently interviewed and said that transcripts and recorded performances hold the most weight. Fellow musicians, make sure that your high school transcripts and any other schooling you have had are turned in on time. If you are still in high school, keep this in mind when you have to choose between going to a party and getting an A on an exam. Quality music schools will require you to submit a recorded performance showcasing your musical ability. Like your transcripts, the recorded performance holds more weight. If you flub a note, redo it! Let your soul shine through your playing to differentiate you from other applicants who are just phoning it in.
TIP: google LA Music Academy Scholarship videos to see what others have been working on.
3. PRODUCTION QUALITY AFFECTS THE SCHOOL’S DECISION
Almost as overlooked as researching your school is the production quality of your recorded performance. When the school actually gets down to listening to your demo and they have to choose between your demo and someone else’s, in which the performance quality is the same, they will side with the better production quality! Just because you have a Mac with Protools or Garage Band on it doesn’t mean that you are the next Rick Rubin. Reach out to a friend with some trusted skills and equipment who can record something nice! It might even be worth it in the long run to spend a little bit of money, if the reward could mean a scholarship. Don’t be shy either, you could be surprised to find out how willing the biggest recording studio in town might be to do a little “pro-bono” recording work if you properly explain it’s for a scholarship. If you decide to record it on your Mac, make sure your software is in order!
4. YOUR ESSAY ANSWERS SHOULD NOT BE PASSIVE
Often times you will be asked to write an essay or answer essay questions to help the school learn more about you as a person. Hopefully the school you want to apply to will have a financial aid person on staff who you can give you advice (LAMA for instance has a fulltime Director). A common mistake in essay writing is using passive voice. Instead, you should write in the active voice, which makes your writing stronger. For example, instead of writing, “The song writing competition at Guitar Center was won by me,” you would want to write, “I won the song writing competition at Guitar Center.”
5. BE CAREER ORIENTED!
When scholarship directors read your application, they are looking for applicants who are the most career oriented. They want to award scholarships to those who show the most potential in becoming future leaders in the music industry. This is why it is crucial to explain your future career goals: WHY do you NEED this scholarship? What are YOU GOING TO DO with a career in music? Be specific! Show your passion and dreams by describing how you plan to be a session drummer, or a music teacher, or touring the world with your band! (For more ideas on possible careers make sure to check out our Careers series of blog posts!). Would you give money to a friend who didn’t have a good reason for needing it? Our point exactly!
There you go future music grads! 5 tips to hopefully give you that competitive edge to get a music scholarship and make your dreams of music a reality. Make sure to have a friend or parent look over everything before you submit, they might catch something you didn’t think of. So when the time comes to start looking for scholarships, be patient and don’t get discouraged because those scholarships will mean fewer student loans!
Dealing with one’s finances can be a daunting task. However, learning the basics and using a consistent approach to managing your personal finances, the task is not all that difficult after all. Below are the five most important finance concepts every musician should know:
1. The Time Value of Money
Despite recessions, deflation threats and falling house prices, a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. This is really one of those big dilemmas in the world of finance because you have to make a choice between something of value (your cash) for another thing called time. You can’t have both at once. You either spend your money now or you save your money and spend it later. If you wait and spend it later you want your money to grow over time and be rewarded for not spending it right now. Otherwise, why bother waiting knowing that your dollars will buy you less over time. Can you see that time has value? How much value is better understood once you appreciate the power of exponential growth and how it applies to interest.
2. Compound Interest
Albert Einstein once said: “Compound interest is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” Yet, everyone seems to memorize his famous E=mc2 in favor of the good old compound interest formula. What was that formula again? Here it is:
Pn = P0 (1+r)n
Where, Pn = Future Value, P0 = Present Value or Principal, r = interest rate (per year), n = time (in years) a.k.a. compounding periods
To really appreciate the power of compound interest let’s call it by its real name: Exponential interest. Exponential interest is based on an exponential function with the value for time being the exponent. For longer periods of time, the exponential increase of the interest amount becomes all the more clear when comparing it to a linear growth rate, the much more intuitive way of looking at increases over time.
This can have particularly devastating effects when underestimating the power of exponential interest for credit card and other debt. Understand the exponential function to get a sense of how the power of compound interest can make or break you.
3. The Rule of 72
The Rule of 72 is a simplified way to estimate how long an investment will take to double, given a fixed compound interest rate. Here’s how it works:
72 ÷ interest rate = # of years it takes to double your money
For instance, if you could earn 6% return on an investment each year, it would take approximately 12 years (72 ÷ 6 = 12) to double your money. If you are a guitar player, the number 72 should ring a bell. In case it doesn’t, please consider the Guitar Player’s Rule of 72.
4. Understand Credit, Debt and Leverage
Consumer credit, credit cards and various ways of financing have become an essential part of today’s economy. No industry has been untouched by the pervasive use of credit and the global economy would come to a standstill if credit were to dry up completely. During the financial crisis of 2008/2009 we saw a glimpse of what could happen when the well of instant credit dries up.
It is essential to understanding how interest and financing charges on your credit cards and loans work. But it is equally important to limit the amount of overall debt. Credit can be a tool just like a lever; it can multiply your purchasing power. The downside however, is also clear. If you use leverage to purchase depreciating assets like consumer goods and electronics, you may find that the amount of debt you took on can be overwhelming.
I use credit cards for their convenience and for some of the benefits they provide. In essence, credit cards give you about 20 days to use their money without any interest charges. The tricky part though, you should be prepared to pay back any outstanding balance in full when it’s due. That takes a lot of discipline. More often than not, you may only have a partial amount of the payment available and try to catch up making installments as you go. Credit card companies are banking on your inability to pay back the money they lend you. Be very careful when you purchase goods with a credit card. Only ever charge something to the card when you know that you can pay it back in full at the end of the month.
5. Plan Ahead, Budget and Live Within Your Means
Planning and budgeting are essential concepts when it comes to managing your personal finances. It’s all based on the notion of living within your means. As they say: It’s Not What You Make, It’s What You Keep!
Making a ton of money does not mean that will remain financially successful. Just do a Google search for famous bankruptcies or bankrupt musicians. You will get a list of names that rivals any guest list at a red carpet Hollywood event. Their money problems were not primarily caused by an inability to make money. These artists all made plenty of it, often tens of millions each year. Yet, they spent more than they earned and therefore ended up in bankruptcy court.
Learning how to establish and keep reasonable budgets is the key to living within your means and to get financially ahead. Musicians and independent artists often have highly fluctuating incomes. They can make a ton of money for a few months only to experience a dry spell and earn substantially less during the following months. For instance, a musician may go on tour and earn quite well. When the tour ends, the regular payments end as well.
Who knows, that one project that wasn’t going to pay you until completion 4 months down the road could be the most important musical project of your career. But without having enough of a financial cushion, you will simply not be able to afford the project that might make you as an artist.
Taking care of your personal finances is not rocket science but it does require some work, lots of discipline and a healthy dose of common sense. Musicians know all about discipline and hard work. Nobody wakes up one day to become a great violin player or pianist. It takes years of practice. Similarly, it takes some practice and some time to learn how to manage your finances. Start saving early, spend wisely and always live within your means. Your financial success depends on it!
Clemens Kownatzki, one of our guest bloggers, teaches a finance elective at LA Music Academy College of Music.
He is the author of the just released Music Money 101 (pictured at left; available on Amazon).
Rudder stopped by LA Music Academy earlier this year for a fantastic clinic. Featuring Keith Carlock (drums), Tim Lefebvre (bass), Henry Hey (keys) and Chris Cheek (sax), the guys played a groovin’ set. We captured footage of the concert as well as some important insight from Keith and Tim about music education. Check out the video below:
Los Angeles has a lot of stereotypes. Don’t pretend like you haven’t heard them: people are self-centered, blonde, plastic surgery obsessed, vapid, an expensive place to live… While not as crazy as New York or Tokyo, LA can be pricey, but the good news is there are ways to live on the cheap in LA. If you are going to be moving here for music school, this blog post will go into detail on how to do just that:
Real estate in Los Angeles is probably what hurts your wallet the most when compared to other cities. The money that a giant apartment gets you in Ohio might get you a small studio in LA. The good news is that most people don’t live in LA. They like to live close enough to LA to enjoy the great city but avoid the high prices. If you already are or are going to be a student at LAMA, it is located in the safe and cheaper city of Pasadena, which is just minutes away from downtown LA but without the high price or crime statistics. Other low cost areas outside not too far from the heart of Los Angeles include the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita and even Simi Valley.
As tempting as it is to go out to eat after a long day of class or to celebrate a good grade on an exam, eating out will murder your wallet. There is no other way to say it: you save money by cooking at home. It depends on where you are living, but coupons and savers usually come in the mail midweek– become a clipper! Clip out good deals and find out where the cheapest market near you is. Markets like Food4Less charge cheaper for food. Don’t let eating-in sacrifice your ability to eat healthy as well. Pick up a book like The Healthy College Cookbook: Quick. Cheap. Easy. to learn how to make all your meals for the week on one or two designated days. Tip: Reward yourself for saving money. If you don’t eat out for a whole week go celebrate with a modest meal at a local restaurant.
For those of you that regularly read Get to the Music, you probably already know the answer to this. There is hardly any need to ever pay for live entertainment in LA. Make sure to check out our blog “5 Tips: Seeing Live Music On The Cheap”. In that post, we laid out that every night of the week there are tons of free entertainment if you look in the right places. Free alternative weeklies, newspapers, and online email deals like Goldstar are your friend! Also, if you are a student at LAMA, you already know that your professors often are playing live around town – ask them to put you on the guest list for their gigs…could get lucky!
LA has some of the world’s most famous nightlife. People flock from all over the world to check out everything from The Troubadour to Skybar to The Rainbow Bar & Grill. You may want to hit up these spots – to save money though, stay in on the weekends and sample the night life on a Monday / Tuesday. Often entry is free and drinks and food are severely discounted. The one thing that will kill you though is buying drinks at premium LA prices. If you have to go out on weekends, make sure you have a designated driver (taxis are expen$ive!!) and perhaps try drinking at someone’s house BEFORE you go out to the nightlife. We all know how our minds work after a few drinks and staying on a budget might not be one of them.
If you are lucky enough to have a car, you will soon learn that gas stations drastically raise prices depending on the neighborhood. Try to learn where the cheapest places near you are. You can also use a website like www.gasbuddy.com to help. If you have a family member with a Costco account, have them put you on their account since they have very cheap gas and you can stock up on your food. If you don’t have a car or want to save on gas, LA Metro has tons of great options from busses to trains. They also offer great travel cards and packages to students. You may even qualify for a free bus pass or one at a nominal fee. No more gas bills! Just make sure your iPod is charged up and you leave early enough because LA transportation can be a little off schedule because of so much traffic.
You live in the greatest city in the world! Don’t pay the LA “tax” of high prices and premiums when you don’t have to. Think before you leave the house of what you can do to make your day cheaper. Can I walk there? Do I need that coffee? Can I make that coffee myself? Once you start asking the right questions, you will see how easy it is to live on the cheap. Wouldn’t you rather have money to buy a new guitar or snare drum than spend it on frivolous stuff?
Well this is no way to start our week! News came in today from LA Times’ Culture Monster that high-end department store Nordstrom is cutting back on its in-store piano players. For years, anyone who shopped Nordstrom’s was treated to live performances from traditional pianists who would often play jazz, classical and Broadway tunes…even pop. It was always a real treat for shoppers but according to a Nordstrom spokesman, the customers today prefer more contemporary, recorded music. Say it ain’t so!! Who are these people — we want to meet you 🙂
Anyway, the good news is they aren’t completely eliminating pianos from all the stores and some will still have pianists for special occasions. Read the full story here.