If you’re an ethical music listener, you might care to know whether or not the artists you love and support are actually benefitting from your listening to their music. In zee olde times, when you would have to buy a physical copy (be it CD, tape, record, or what-have-you), you could be pretty sure that at least some of that money was going to the artist – probably enough that if they were famous enough, they could survive off of it. But what about in the current day and age, with most people listening to music on streaming services?
We did a “fun” little thought experiment to try to get to the bottom of what the per-stream rates really mean. For this article, we used the 2020 per-stream figures as reported here. To summarize, here are the per-stream payouts on each service, from most to least, rounded to the 4th decimal place:
Apple Music $00.0078
Google Play $00.0068
Amazon Music $00.0040
So first off, let’s note the obvious thing screaming out at us here – yes, that is zero dollars and zero cents when rounded to the 4th decimal place for YouTube. Technically the original article typed it out as $0.0.00069, using weird ways of noting decimals so they could remove one zero from the sad, tiny number. We’ve decided to keep in the more intuitive number of zeros but give them the benefit of rounding up, and used $00.000007 in the rest of our calculations.
Next off – let’s note that only two services pay actual pennies, rather than fractions of pennies per stream. That’s Napster and Tidal. If you love and want to support artists, the easiest conclusion to come to is that you really should be paying for one of those two services. You can get a Napster subscription for $10 per month (again, we’re rounding for the sake of simplicity…by one penny here) for an individual or $15 per month for a family of up to six (so it’s worth it even if sharing with just one other person). You can subscribe to Tidal for the exact same cost for a normal subscription, or double that for high fidelity sound. Spotify premium also currently costs exactly the same as both of these. So, technically, Napster is your best bet for making sure your money goes to the artists you love. Perhaps they’ve chosen to do this since they are, for better or worse (we’ll pretend this is still debatable), the ones who popularized all this stop-paying-for-music-from-artists-you-love-by-getting-it-on-the-internet stuff in the first place. We’ll consider their high per-stream payout some version of a penance / community service.
But now for the fun part of the thought experiment. Those numbers are so tiny that it’s hard to understand how/if they could ever add up, so we came up with another way to think about it. What if a person were SUCH a big fan of a band that they played that band literally every single moment (waking and asleep) of every single day in a year. What is the absolute maximum a single fan’s devotion could mean for the band’s bottom line? To calculate this, here’s the formula:
pay per stream x (60 minutes per hour / average song length) x 24 hours per day x 30 days per month x 12 months per year
(you could just do per day times 365 and technically it would be more accurate, but that wasn’t how our brains worked.)
So, for this author’s band, The Dandy Highwaymen, we briefly surveyed our catalogue and, without doing actual math, surmised that our average song length is about 3 minutes. By plugging that plus the per stream revenue noted above, we have determined that the 100% dedicated fan who streams the band’s music on a given service would bring in the following amount per year for that artist on each service:
Napster = $3,283
Tidal = $2,211.84
Apple Music = $1,347.84
Google Play Music = $1,175.04
Deezer = $1,105.92
Spotify = $760.32
Amazon Music Unlimited= $691.20
Pandora = $224.64
Youtube = $00.00 (……if we very generously use the $.000007 number, it comes out to $1.21 for the year for 172,800 song streams.)
So what does this all mean? Well, first off, you may want to consider not using YouTube to listen to music if you care about that music going to artists. That’s about as generously and kindly as we can say that. (Yes, we are proud of ourselves for not swearing here.) If you want to use a service that doesn’t cost you anything but sends the artist relatively the most money, Spotify is the way to go. Listen to some ads and you’re good – your favorite artist will be paid their almost-penny each time, making them a whopping $760.32 if you listen every single moment of every single day for the whole year. If you have the money to shell out for a premium account, Napster is by far the best choice you could make, as both they and Tidal both pay actual pennies, rather than fractions of pennies, per stream. When you compare Napster vs. Spotify, you’ll see that they pay well over four times as much per stream, yet costs exactly the same to you, the fan who wants to support the artist.
So, your plan, please, should be: Use Spotify for as long as you are willing to put up with ads. Then, once you are sick of ads, and/or decide you get enough value out of having music in your life that you should probably actually pay for it, do not just upgrade to Spotify premium. Go sign up for Napster instead. The first month is free, so if you hate it, you can always just go back to using Spotify for free.
If you’re like me, though, you’ve already got your family plan on your previously selected service all lined up and paid for, and you’ve gone to great lengths to get it set up on your less-techy-savvy parents’ listening devices of choice, with setting up apps, enabling skills, creating desktop shortcuts, and whatnot. Switching is hard. But if you consider the value that you can bring to the artists you love for just a little effort on your part, and zero extra dollars, here is hoping you may consider it worth it to break through the inertia and put in that extra bit of effort to make the switch. I know it is something I will be striving to do as soon as this pandemic is over and I can safely visit my family indoors and go through changing everything around on all their devices for them.
(I have not been paid by any of these parties to write this, and everything written is purely my personal opinion. Any numbers used for these calculations were reported by a third party, and I make no claim as to their accuracy. I may add affiliate links to sign up for these services – at least the ones in the higher-paying half of the list – eventually, and if I do, they will credit my account for some free service time if you click on my link to sign up for an account.)
Note: The author is not a tax professional, just an artist and small business owner relaying her own personal experiences. For professional tax help, visit your nearest Certified Public Accountant (CPA). First published on another site, moved here and updated in 2020.
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably tax time! Or perhaps you’re super on top of things and planning ahead for when that time comes. As a small business owner or artist, what are your obligations, and what can you expect? What is the best way to get all these calculations and paperwork done? And of course, everyone’s biggest and most favorite question – what sweet, sweet tax deductions are you able to take as an artist to lower your taxable income?
If you’re reading this at tax time, we’re going to assume you’re in a bit of a last-minute panic mode right now, so we’ll give you the use-right-now tips first. But please do save a link to this article (perhaps by pinning the image at the top?) to read for later, as well, as the second half has the sorts of tips that will help you avoid precisely this panic for next year.
If you’ve got the budget and the idea of doing your own taxes stress you out, by all means, go see a CPA right now! The sooner the better. They’re all crunched for time right now, but they can help you file for an extension so that you can get through things at a pace that allows you to be completely thorough.
But you’re probably here because you’re looking for some other solution – of course you know that going to a bookkeeper or an accountant is the easiest way to get this done professionally. But for whatever reason (probably mostly money, or you’re a control freak who needs to do everything themselves), you want to do this yourself.
So, what are the best things you can do on your own RIGHT NOW to get your taxes straightened out?
1. Get Everything Organized
Are ALL of your income and expenses recorded in one easy to read file, or a series of neatly organized files? If yes, you’re a step ahead of the game. If you’ve got a pile of some 1099’s and a box of receipts and that’s it, you’re going to have some more work to do. Don’t procrastinate any more – just dive in and get to work. Reading this article should be the very last thing you do before you start actually making sure you’ve got all your income and expenses recorded.
You’ll need your records for:
every sale you’ve made
every service you’ve provided that you’ve received money for
every time you provided a service /made a sale / etc and a business issued you a 1099
basically every time anyone gave you money for anything in your business
And then you will want your records for:
anything you ever spent money this year on that had a business purpose
When can you start? You should ideally be tracking everything throughout the year, but starting January 1st, you can start really making sure you’ve got good records for the prior year. You’ll need to wait a while longer to file, though, as a small business owner, as you need to wait for any 1099’s that may come. Technically people who’ve subcontracted with you and are paying you as “nonemployee compensation” need to mail them out by January 31st (new as of 2017), but you’ll want to wait until mid or late February to really get started with your filing, so that you aren’t stuck getting someone’s late-mailed 1099 after you’ve already filed, triggering an audit.
Start working on your expenses first – you’ve got a bit more control over those, as no one but you is responsible for filing with the IRS about them.
2. Track Your Mileage
Mileage is one of the biggest deductions you may be able to take, especially if you travel a lot in the name of your arts based business.
Have you been tracking your mileage all year? Awesome! Then this should be easy.
If you haven’t, here are ideas for mileage that you can probably reconstruct so you can write it off:
Expense-related mileage Go through your expense receipts again. For each of the things where you had to drive somewhere to get/do the thing on the receipt, that was a legitimate business use of your car. So use Google Maps to figure out how far that roundtrip drive was.
Income-related mileage Go through your income. Did you have to drive somewhere to earn that income? Then you should write the mileage for that trip off.
Meeting-related mileage Have you had regular meetings with other people in your industry, to discuss business? Or perhaps you drove yourself to a regional conference, panel discussion, or networking meeting? Do you have records of where and when those happened in your calendar? Write off the mileage for each of those trips.
Promotion-related mileage Do you go around your area to drop off promotional materials on a regular basis? How often? Where do you go? Do you have records of those trips? Write that off too.
3. Track Your Meal Expenses
Traveling for work If you’re away for substantially more than a normal work day (think 8 hours), and you’re traveling outside your normal business service area, your meals while traveling are 50% deductible. You can either save receipts, or use IRS guidelines for meals per diem in the area you’re working in.
Meals for business purposes If you meet with a current or potential customer or client, or an employee, that meal is also 50% deductible, as long as you discuss business during, immediately before, or immediately after the meeting.
100% deductible meals The food for company-wide events where all employees are invited 100% deductible, as is food purchased for work-specific purposes – ie buying people lunch so they stay to keep working, getting donuts for the whole office, etc.Here’s the IRS publication that will explain everything. But also, Turbo Tax will guide you through it very carefully.
Don’t go nuts Remember… while 50% of the non-food part of entertainment for clients used to be deductible, that is no longer the case as of 2019. Also, you can’t deduct the cost of alcohol.
4. Home Office Deduction
Do you have a dedicated space where you sit to do your business and/or art, and nothing else? If yes, cool – you can easily write that off! If not, definitely consider the merits of making such a space. Having an office space / studio that is big enough for you to truly get all your work done in / keep all your supplies in / etc is important not only for tax purposes, but also for the increased efficiency and work/life balance you’ll find you get from having a place you “go to work” that you can close the door on or at least step away from when the work day is done.
If you’re using a good online tax preparation program, it will guide you through what does and does not count as home office space, what percentage of your living space that makes up, and which expenses to remember to include – everything from utilities like heat and electricity to whole-home and just-office repairs are covered. There’s a lot to this, so let your tax prep program be your guide. ….which brings us to #5.
5. Use An Online Tax Preparation Program
Using an online tax preparation program will help guide you through this, helping make sure you don’t forget anything. I have used Turbo Tax for years, and it has always served me well. You will not regret paying for the version that guides you through deductions step by step – the money it costs will be saved in the long run if you have any significant income from your arts based business.
This article is not a review of all the different online tax prep programs you can use, but you can find that on Nerdwallet.com, Reviews.com, and PCMag.com, if that’s what you really are looking for. These links reliable are sources, pop-up-ad free, and pretty useful. But if you just want to skip to my own personal conclusion – just shell out the money for TurboTax Self Employed if you have made a decent amount of money and have any significant expenses to report.
6. Remember to Take Key Deductions
We talked about mileage, meal, and home office deductions, because they are some of your biggest ones that don’t automatically have a dollar amount and receipt associated with them in your records already. Many of the other deductions do have dollar amounts already associated with them, but you might forget to track down the receipts and add them to your total without reminders. So here are some reminders!
Subcontractors Do people work for you who aren’t your employees? People who come to help you do particular tasks at particular times, just when you need the extra hands? You should be issuing them a 1099. If you didn’t do it this year, make a vow to yourself that you will next year. Otherwise, you’re basically paying them under the table and can’t write off what you’ve paid them – so you’re stuck paying what should be their income tax bill. Oh, and you’re also paying their social security and medicare…at the 2x self employment rate! You do not want to do this… and if you do want to pay their social security / medicare and help them withold taxes…maybe you should consider the merits of hiring them as employees rather than contractors.
Rent If you rent an office or studio space, this will be an obvious thing to write off. But if you pay to rent booth or table space at different art shows, festivals, pop-up shops, etc, that is also rent. Don’t forget to write it off.
Supplies You can write off both your art supplies and your office supplies. Keep the categories as distinct as possible. Where there is overlap (printer paper, your favorite pens and pencils, etc), err on the side of putting them in the category that is currently smaller, and then continue to do that in the future.
Advertising Write off your business cards, your banners, and your signage. Write off your website hosting, and any social media ads you run (although we’ll discuss whether or not you actually want to be doing that in another article soon). If you print brochures to promote your business, be sure to write that off. Think of all the ways you spread the word about your business, and consider any associated costs.
Communications Don’t forget to write off all the important and expensive communication connections that keep your business going. You need internet access and a cell phone for sure. Be careful if you’ve got a family plan for your phone – you can most likely write off the main plan, and your own line, but definitely not the lines for family that does not work for the business. Consider the merits of getting a plan that is 100% for your business to keep it simple.
Mailing Stuff If you send your work through the mail, your mailing expenses will be a huge deduction for you. I like stamps.com best, so far, for purchasing postage online, since it tracks your expenses for you and generates easy-to-read reports. Unfortunately, if you buy postage directly at USPS.com, or in person at the post office, there is no automatic system for creating expense reports. You can save all the receipts and add things up manually, but it sure isn’t easy.
Everything! You can write off everything that you actually need to get business done. If you legitimately needed it to run your business, write it off. If it feels like a questionable stretch to say it was for business….it probably is – better to err on the side of caution.
What are some steps you can take to make this all go easier next year?
1. Have a System For Tracking Income and Expenses
If you’ve gone through this year without a system for tracking your income and expenses, you’ve already realized how important it is to implement this for next year. A lot of people like to use a cloud-based accounting software solution – here’s a review of a bunch of those, and which are best for different types/sizes of businesses. However, if you don’t want all of your financial information on the internet, you might want to consider a local-only solution. There are still a few non-cloud-based accounting software options out there, and then, of course, there is the infinitely-customizable, non-sexy option of tracking everything in spreadsheets, ie Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers. When using these, do keep in mind that you’ll want to save at least a backup copy of your files in the universal .csv format in case you switch programs / operating systems in the future. (This author still, to this day, uses an Excel spreadsheet, and sees no reason to pay extra for anything else.)
2. Use Your Accounting System Faithfully
Putting the receipts in a box and not bothering to input them into your organizational system until tax time is not helpful. It’s better than not saving your receipts, but just barely. Make a point to track your income whenever you receive it – within 1 business day at the most. You can use an app on your phone to track physical receipts, and make a Receipts folder in your email to track all digital ones. You can also just have a place you always faithfully put paper receipts, like a particular pocket of a purse/walllet/backpack/briefcase, and make a point to process them with some frequency (shoot for weekly, but at least you’ll have to do it whenever the pocket gets too full).
3. Consider Hiring a Bookkeeper
If tracking everything yourself seems just too tedious for you to bother with, and you’ve got both bigger/grander things to worry about and the time to pay someone else to sweat the small stuff, hire a bookkeeper. They will take care of properly inputting and categorizing everything you hand them. The thing is, you have to remember to hand them everything – so you still need to have and share the records, even if you’re not the best at organizing them.
Hopefully you feel better prepared to go and take care of your taxes!
I listen to a lot of audio books… a whole lot. I am lucky that my library participates in Overdrive aka Libby (same company, different…degree of app crashiness?), which means I borrow all my audio books and ebooks for free-ninety-nine. Overdrive is the non-crashy, older-school version. Libby made my phone crash no matter what I did, but theoretically has better graphic design and whatnot.
And really, there is no better way to kick off this little list of resources to help you get your financial life in order than to remind you that you should take the best advantage that you can of the free resources at your fingertips, right? Okay good. Go ahead and install the Overdrive or Libby app now if you don’t have it already. I’ll wait… Okay, cool, now you’ve got that installed, and maybe plugged your library card info in (if you don’t have one at the ready… put that at the top o’ the old to-do list stat). You’re ready to add a bunch of books to your queue of things to either borrow now or put a hold on for when they become available. Let’s get into those recommendations!
You’ll notice that there are links to where to get these on Amazon. I am providing this in case this is your preference, as there’s definitely the possibility of the immediate satisfaction of an ebook/audio download right now that way. I’ll break this down by category, and then provide reviews/summaries of each suggestion. Here’s an index to the options for easy reference:
Start Here (in this order):
The Latte Factor (change your mindset – start small)
Suze Orman’s Action Plan (get out of debt)
Meet the Frugalwoods (frugal living)
The Tightwad Gazette (frugal living)
Worth It (change your mindset – further growth)
Frugal / Simple Living:
The Complete Tightwad Gazette
Meet The Frugalwoods
Money Secrets of the Amish
How to Retire the Cheapskate Way
Being a Millionaire:
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
The Millionaire Next Door
Real Estate Investing for Beginners
The Automatic Millionaire
Broke Millennial Takes on Investing
The Intelligent Investor
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing
Getting Out of Debt – Plans to Follow:
Suze Orman’s Action Plan
The Total Money Makeover
Getting Out of Debt: Changing Your Mindset:
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
The Latte Factor
Thou Shall Prosper
Know Your Value
Start Here (in this order):
I didn’t read these books in this order. If I had, I would’ve saved years of kinda-sorta doing some of the right things, but not so truly and deeply understanding the fundamental reasons why. I would’ve started doing those right things with the sort of enthusiasm and vigor that it will take to actually achieve my goals starting much younger, which would’ve saved me many years, and maybe decades, of being quite uncertain about my financial future. Consider this your opportunity to learn from my fail.
1. The Latte Factor
Why You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Live Rich by David Bach and John David Mann Purpose: Change your mindset
This book is told in a sort of parable style. The author creates a fictional young person who is making not-so-hot financial decisions in their life. That person meets up with a sagacious old person who seems to just hang out at a cafe all day yet somehow has really inspiring advice about how to live a good life and line up your finances to help make that happen. Many conversations ensue. Many big picture questions are addressed. Many small steps to towards achieving financial freedom are laid out. If you’ve learned as much as the young person in this book by the time you finish reading, and have acted upon even one or two of the pieces of advice, you will be well on your way!
2. Suze Orman’s Action Plan
New Rules for New Times by Suze Orman Purpose: Get out of debt
Suze provides the tough-love perspective you need to accurately assess where your finances currently are right now, and how to solve the problematic parts of that. You’ll learn to figure out just how much debt you’re in right now (sounds fun, right??? wheeeee!), and then, even more importantly, create a plan for how to get out of that debt. Once you’re out of debt, you’ll feel a much greater sense of control over your finances and, in turn, your life. If you know you really should put together a budget and start saving something for retirement so you don’t spend your later years eating cat food and praying the government doesn’t mess up Social Security too badly, well…now is the time. And Suze will be your own personal drill sergeant to see to it that you get on it.
3. Meet the Frugalwoods
Achieving Financial Independence through Simple Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames Purpose: Live frugally
In this autobiographical tale, you’ll follow Elizabeth through her retelling of how she and her husband went from hustling hard for every quickly-spent dollar to living more calmly, purposefully, and meaningfully by means of frugality. They basically decided to save money, and then they just…did. After three years, they had enough to buy the home in the woods of their dreams. If you want to be truly inspired to give this frugal living stuff a go, while also getting a lot of great advice about how to go about it, this is a great place to start.
4. The Complete Tightwad Gazette
Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn (aka The Frugal Zealot)
Alternatively, this could be retitled The Frugal Living Bible. This book is a compendium of what back in the 1980’s and 1990’s people used to call a “newsletter”. Think of it like a blog without the internet. It arrived in the mailboxes of enthusiastic tightwads around the country and indeed around the globe each month for many, many years. This beast of a book is over 900 pages, and filled with so many well-indexed tips on a wide range of money-saving topics that you’ll eventually want to cave and buy a copy for yourself. Seeing the adorable page layout is part of the charm, as the author quit her job as a graphic designer to work on The Tightwad Gazette instead. I find myself referencing its helpful articles regularly, which is easy thanks to the elaborate index. From a step-by-step guide to talking your family down from holiday spending madness and getting them to embrace the joy and charm of homemade and thoughtfully-but-cheaply acquired gifts where it’s really the thought that counts, to how to cut your grocery bill down to far less than half of what you’re currently spending and not being even a little sad about it, this book’s got it all. The universal muffin, quiche, and casserole recipes alone, designed to help you get more creative with your cooking so you can confidently use whatever you’d got on hand rather than shop last-minute for the “just right” (expensive) ingredients called for in some recipe, are worth far more than their weight in gold. The power of the book comes largely from Amy’s dedication to doing thorough research and her ability to communicate her findings effectively. Did you ever wonder whether it was more efficient to fill your washing machine and/or dryer to the brim with clothes or do smaller loads? Amy has done that math for you on that question and just about any others you may have. The answer is that you should do smaller loads in the washer, but double up and put two loads at once into the dryer…that is, if you want to spend the money on your electric bill when you *could* hang everything out on the line to dry and get all sunshiney fresh instead.
In sum… if this is indeed the Frugal Living Bible, consider me an apostle. You. Must. Read. It.
Purpose: Take those extra dollars you’ve been saving and put them to work for you.
Worth It (change your mindset – further growth)
Have you read all of these books and found yourself still looking for more? Want to stay mentally engaged in this new project you’ve embarked upon? Here are all the other books I’ve read / listened to on investing lately – except for the true duds. Those are a solid third-to-half of the books out there on financial stuff, so you’ll be glad to know that I’ve already weeded those out for you, so that you don’t have to waste the same hours of your life on them.
Category: Frugal Living
The easiest way to have more money is to keep more of what you’ve already got. Oh, you can bet that there will be a LOT of posts about the benefits of frugal living on this blog over time. But to kick us off, I’d like to share with you my very favorite books by others.
If you’ve already read the other two books I’ve recommended, none of the fundamental financial concepts here will actually be very new to you. The reason you should read it, though, is because while the previous two books were about plucky young people going against the grain of our consumerist culture, striking it out on their own and being willing to be completely weird and swap their values and priorities around compared to everyone around them…well, this book is kind of the opposite. It’s about how an entire (sub)culture of people have long viewed life, its pleasures, and how to best enjoy them in a way that is precisely in line with those exact same values and priorities that some of us are just catching onto now. This book will hopefully reinforce for you the value of working together towards the things we all want in this life, and encourage you to seek community with other likeminded individuals with similar goals.
……………………………………..more coming soon. This post will be updated frequently until it is complete. last update: 7/31/20