Episode #063: How To Fund An Album When You’re Broke


On today’s episode, Leah and CJ talk about creative ways to fund an album when you do not have the money. Often, people make excuses for why something is not possible, so before even tackling the issue of money, you need to tackle your mindset. Whether you have or don’t have money, following your passion requires sacrifice, be it money, time or energy. Once you have managed to sort your attitude out, the rest will unfold more easily. With smartphones and social media platforms, you can build an audience with very little financial capital. You can then leverage your fanbase and raise money for an album through something such as crowdfunding. There is a myriad of possibilities once you shift from a mindset of poverty to one of abundance. It is not necessary to take the traditional route of getting signed to a record label. You can and should do things on your own terms and if Leah managed to do it, then so can you. For all this and more, join us today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Working towards your goal requires some kind of sacrifice. 
  • Mindset is more of an issue than money ever is. 
  • Why you should be cautious of using investors to fund your work. 
  • Leah’s preference for initially getting your music out there. 
  • Why you should release an EP rather than singles.  
  • The reasons other than raising capital that crowdfunding is important. 
  • Why fans and not a record label are the real capital. 
  • Some creative ways you can raise money other than through crowdfunding.  
  • Your biggest obstacle in this project! 
  • And much more!


“If you’re that determined, it’s not if, it’s how.” — @LEAHthemusic [0:05:19]

“Even when you are broke or not broke, you should be thinking about how to involve your fans this way.”  — @LEAHthemusic [0:14:34]

“You have a business when you own traffic – in other words, when you have an audience.”  — @LEAHthemusic [0:20:20]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Quick Cash Generation Guide — www.savvymusicianacademy.com/cashgeneration 

Savvy Musician Show Episode 50— www.savvymusicianacademy.com/50 

Call Savvy Musician Academy — www.callsma.com

Inner Circle Newsletter — https://savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle

Randy San Nicolas (Student Spotlight) — https://www.randysannicolas.com/ 

Click For Full Transcript

00:22 CJ: Well welcome once again to the Savvy Musician Show, this is CJ Ortiz, I’m the branding and mindset coach here at the Savvy Musician Academy and I am joined once again, I get to be the one who sits across and asks awesome questions from this awesome lady, the lovely Leah McHenry. Leah, how are you?

00:42 Leah: Doing wonderful, now that we’re recording this podcast.

00:47 CJ: Isn’t it great to see me?

00:49 Leah: Yes. It is.

00:53 CJ: Tell everybody. It was good to see me, wasn’t it? Tell everybody because I always want to go where I’m celebrated, not where I’m tolerated. I make that as a general rule. But anyway, so good to have each and every one of you listening again today. We’re talking about a pretty cool subject, Leah’s brought it up in the past in which she dealt with – when I say Leah’s brought it up, it usually means she says, ”oh,  I have a whole lot to say about that.”  Then we make a note and we say, “Well, let’s come back on this podcast and we’ll cover that subject.” Today we’re going to talk about how do you fund an album when you’re broke. 

You should know if you heard the last episode, she told you about she got started herself during her broke days. But there are some creative ways that you can get actually fund your album when you’re broke. People think, Leah that no matter what it is in their music business, they are without options. They always think, “oh, I can’t because of this, I cannot, I’m not a marketer, I’m not this.”

All of the problems or the obstacles they perceive to be obstacles can be easily overcome once they learned how. And nothing will motivate you more than knowing how to solve your problem. You won’t need a cheerleader if you know-how. You don’t need me, a motivational speaker like me to come in and rev you up if you know how to solve your biggest problems. 

All that motivation is already built-in. So, hopefully, we’ll get some of that done today.

In our student spotlight, we are highlighting another Elite student. This is Randy Nicolas and he writes a win. He says, “I hit 100 email subscribers today just a month ago, I didn’t have a website or a clear path to building a fan base. I’m learning so much and I’m super grateful. Now, back to list building.” 

02:42 Leah: That’s music to my ears.

02:43 CJ: Isn’t it?

02:45 Leah: List building that you can say anything better.

02:46 CJ: I mean yeah. For somebody who started with them, just a month ago, no website, and he already gets it and we’ve been talking about this in the last couple of episodes. You’ve said it time and time and time again, about building that list, that email is not dead and that you can own your own. He’s on his way to that thousand super fans that you always talk about. You get a thousand fans that are just raving about you, spending $100 with you in a year, that’s a six-figure income with the music business. Just 1,000 super fans. Well, he hit 100 email subscribers on that day and he’s back to list building, so that’s how it’s done, ladies and gentlemen. That’s all we had to say, this podcast is over. Lead by example, right? 

Well, Leah, I’m sure you’ve gotten this question before. Of course, you had to do it and I’ve heard you talk about it in the past but someone wants to put out an album and they say, “ I’ve got this but you know what? I don’t have any money and I know it cost so much money to fund an album.” 

What are you going to tell somebody who wants to fund an album but they’re ‘broke?’ 

03:54 Leah: Yeah, well, I think first of all, you know, I always question people like, “are you really that broke? Because I’m pretty sure you spend money on all kinds of frivolous things you do.”  Everybody has a disposable income if you live in North America and most – well, certain parts of Europe I guess. But like most people do have disposable income.You’re just spending it on things that are not getting you towards your goal. 

So, first out of the gate. You have to understand that if you really want to do this, there’s going to be an element of sacrifice and I don’t care if you do have the funds. If you don’t have the funds, you do read, you will sacrifice something, you will sacrifice time, you’ll sacrifice energy, you will sacrifice money, something is going to be exchanged for something else, something better.

Get that out of your head about the financial part of it because if you’re really determined to make this work, and to have success, to launch your album, to build an online brand that even outlasts you, even when you’re dead and gone, your music brand can survive, it can go on forever, which is really the morbid thought, but also important. I mean look at – 

05:04 CJ: Legacy.

05:05 Leah: Legacy, that’s right. Look at all the classics that people study in school and colleges to this day that we teach our kids, my kids are learning piano pieces from dead guys that are from hundreds of years ago. So, there is something bigger that you’re building here. If you’re that determined, it’s not if, it’s how. That’s actually my motto in life. And I say that to Steve often, he’s more of a glass-half-empty guy, I’m more of a glass half full person. 

I just say, whenever somebody, even in a spousal situation says, “I don’t know about that.” I say, “no. It’s not if, it’s how do we make this work, how are we going to make a way?”  That’s really my motto in life. And if you don’t take that on, the road will – it will still be difficult, but you will also be unpleasant.

I think it’s a lot more fun in life to have that motto too because it’s all about where there’s a will there’s a way. And so, first of all, before we can address the broke situation, let’s address the mindset behind the broke situation. And I do have a free download for you listening. If you are really, really struggling with money situations, it will be linked in the show notes and I’ll tell you a little bit about it later on. But you just have to understand that there will be sacrifices and it’s not going to be easy no matter what.

Even if you had the funds or you had an investor or something, At some point, it’s going to cost you and you don’t even want to know what I spend, even on my Facebook ads for my music. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars this year already, just mostly building my email list, to be honest. Building my email list and retargeting a lot of people. It costs me money.

And I also as I say, a lot, I experiment a lot, I am a guinea pig, I get to try things so not everything I do works. Sometimes the money – I’ll spend it and I don’t see it back because I’m willing to put myself out there, I’m willing to take that risk so that I can learn from it and then hopefully help other people. So, when it comes to the basics of you starting at ground zero, you don’t have the funds for an album. You know, there’s some different roots you can take.

We talked about in a previous episode, which we’ll also link. The episode about the chicken or the egg scenario like how do you launch something to out there if you don’t have fans, if you don’t have fans, you know, how are you going to launch something. That whole scenario, this is going to be a little bit similar to that, but I do want to address this from the financial perspective. 

So, if you’re broke, I mean, there are a lot of people, even that we talked to on the phone where they’ve had some kind of investor, you know? Like their family member or somebody who believed in them. There are companies out there that do this sort of thing. I just want you to be wary of investors. I don’t think you have to go that route.

They’re not always bad but at the same time, I think that there are ways you can accomplish the same thing without obligating yourself to some kind of a debt or the strain that that can put in the stress and the pressure that can put on you to somehow make that back, especially if you haven’t validated your music yet.

If you haven’t validated it yet, you don’t know if you’ve hit the jackpot so to speak with that niche with matching it to the right audience yet. My perspective preference would be for you to somehow get a recording out there, the best quality you can for the cheapest that you can, even if it’s just you playing on your iPhone like in your living room, doing a Facebook Live. 

If that was all you could afford and guess what, YouTube, you have a TV show like a network at your disposal. Why can’t you, whether if you’re playing live gigs or just something really casual just setting it up in your basement or you know, there’s so many different scenarios. If you are just playing live. Why can’t you do that?

People can hear, listen, pop stars like Ed Sheeran stuff, back in the day, I don’t really know too much about him. But I know acoustic guitar is a big thing for him and a lot of people saw talent in him and a lot of other stars. It was just literally a very home-grown YouTube video.

I mean, you can definitely get your start and build a fan base with virtually nothing. You know? Every single person listening to this has a smartphone so you could do so much with that. That one thing alone, you know, Instagram live, Instagram TV, all these different platforms. Like there’s really no excuse to not get yourself out there at some point. You’re probably going to want to raise some funds to either launch your first album or EP. And I would say you want to do an EP over singles because I mean, no one ever got rich off of singles unless you are like the Beatles or somebody extremely famous already.

No underground star ever got rich or even comfortable based off of singles. So, I would say, put together an EP, you know, a minimum of three songs because people, you don’t even – it’s hard to get a taste for what you like if you like this artist off of one song, it’s difficult. Start out that EP, that’s where I would begin.

10:27 CJ: Isn’t there – I think you have to almost – I appreciate you saying you’re addressing the mindset because that has to be addressed first because we say things like broke. You’re not really broke, right? If you’re looking through everything from a poverty mindset, then you’re not going to see the opportunity, right? You’re not going to see where things can come in.

And I think what’s important about what you just said is you got to understand that an audience is capital. In other words, so that’s something you can spend. So, you might say, “well, I need money for my album launch.” Well, let’s break that down. No, you need fans. That’s what you need because you can monetize a fan base and that’s for the most part, free. 

In terms of the apparatus to do that which is the social media challenge you mentioned. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram. So, somebody can build that fan base with like you just described, just their iPhone or you know, somebody recording a live gig or whatever. You can begin to target the ideal fan for yourself. Build that base of supporters that you know, love what you’re doing, they will invest in you.

Because you’re just about this as we speak right now, you’re just releasing a music trailer from your next album, your fifth album, you will start the crowdfunding campaign, Leah. Next week. So, here you are, she’s made it, right? Stay at home mom who went six figures in all this stuff, but you are still treating your album release as if you’re broke.

12:07 Leah: That’s right. I am still doing the same activities that I know work. And crowdfunding have multiple purposes and you know there is some very distinct reasons why it works so well. But crowdfunding isn’t just about raising money because you don’t have it. That is not why I am doing it, my album is paid for, for the most part. It is a huge part of the marketing. So, I was going to say even if you don’t need the crowdfunding campaign, you should do one because of the marketing. 

The buzz it creates, people get so excited. Fans want to be part of the journey. It is also a huge part of my pre-orders. These orders count toward my total number of sales before I have even launched it. And most of all, I think my favourite part of all of crowdfunding is the ability to especially if we have a big enough crowdfunding campaign, the ability to come out the other side with a positive return on investment before it’s even dropped before it is even released. You can’t ask for anything better than that. 

There is no record label on the planet that could make me feel better than that situation. Like coming out of a positive ROI before it is even released. That is all I mean to even if you could just break even before it even comes out, you are singing. So, there’s so many amazing things about crowdfunding. And then inherent within crowdfunding is scarcity and urgency and those are important psychological triggers that inspire and motivate people to take action. 

So, you know scarcity has to do with limited quantity and urgency has to do with limited time and crowdfunding has both of those. There is limited time that you can pre-order this or fund this campaign. Whatever you’re doing and there is always some kind of scarcity involved like limited edition vinyl. Limited autographed things like limited. You got to think through what is juicy for those fans and so that is why crowdfunding is so amazing. 

But again, all of this stuff goes back to mindset. Like he said I am still doing the same activities even though I don’t have to do this. It is a crucial part of my whole campaign, my whole launch strategy. Crowdfunding is a big part of it. So, you know even when you are broke or not broke, you should be thinking about how to involve your fans this way. This is the new music industry. This is the new way and I think eventually it may take time. 

I think eventually there is not going to be much of a place for the big mega labels. I think the way in which they operate they will either go out of business or they have to change what they are even offering to artists because – and it has even changed already so much to the fact to where labels are approaching artists and expecting the artist to raise their own funds. They don’t want to put out the capital to fund their album. 

They need to do their own crowdfunding campaign. And in a way it is smart for the label because less risk for them and the music is validated. So, anything that they are investing in them, they know it is going to go far because people obviously believe in this band. But times are changing the way album – or the way labels what they are offering and what they can even do. I mean we have talked about how so many labels are in the dinosaur age anyways. 

That you know I didn’t even address in here yet about how some people are still trying to get a record deal and that’s how they think they are going to fund their album is from a record label and I just think you get that idea out of your head. 

15:56 CJ: Yeah and again, this is why it is so important that we change the paradigm and the paradigm what you think is I need the label because the label has the money. No, you need the fans because the fans have the support and you don’t need like you said the big investor. So, you are obligated to this one person or small group of people, no. Get yourself connected right away with a bunch of raving fans who support what you do, who have something invested in you, who are excited about it, who are going to follow the process of your recording project.

And like Leah just said, the sense of satisfaction that you are going to have doing it that way because I can’t think of anybody no matter how big they are as a musician, I have never heard a good record label story. 

16:47 Leah: No, there are not very many. 

16:49 CJ: You know I have never heard anybody say, “oh, yeah it was so great with this label.” No, it is just the same old thing again and again and again. Let’s put you in the driver’s seat, right? Let’s put you in that CEO chair and it is all going to begin with something as simple as like Leah said, your webcam or your smartphone or whatever, you just start getting your message, your music out there building up and we’ve got plenty of content on how to do that. If you have been listening to this podcast, you know we have talked about all of that. 

But you could be building a Facebook group, you could be building a thriving Facebook page. You will have to spend some money there but that is nothing compared to what you would have to raise to fund an album or payback to a label. If you are spending five or 10 bucks a day just building up your Facebook page and email list, then you’ve got somebody that you can market to. 

You’ve got somebody that you can get invested in your project. So, remember, it is not so much about the money. It is about the audience. Audience is capital. Just keep saying that to yourself. People like Leah and myself, we have learned this from being online for so long, that it really is capital. We are not talking about vanity metrics here and just followers for follower’s sake. No, we are trying to take you to have a lot of people that are just hanging on, they are not going to be invested in you. But you got to go through all of that to find those who are, again what Leah refers to as the super fans, those who are going to be really, really committed and dedicated to your project and so that’s really what we’re looking for. 

But again, as Leah mentioned earlier there is a freebie that she has for you today called The Quick Cash Generation Guide and this is a downloadable PDF that you can get, the link to will be in the show notes but it is The Quick Cash Generation Guide. Leah, do you want to tell them anything more about that? 

18:47 Leah: Yeah and the whole purpose behind that is for people who are like, “I want to take one of your courses, but I cannot afford it.” Or “I need to fund an album and I can’t afford it.” Or, “ I need to do blah-blah-blah fill in the blank and I can’t afford it.” I got really tired of hearing that. I was like guys, you’re just not being creative right now. I can give you 10 to 20 ways off the top of my head that you can create some cash right now or on the side. 

So, I put that together in a PDF so you have no excuse. You have no excuse to not educate yourself. You have no excuse to not do the things that you need to do. Don’t let money get in the way of your dream, don’t let it get away of what you can or can’t do. It is not if, it’s how. So that’s what I did because I was getting very annoyed and I will teach you how to make money on the side. There are small tips, but they work. If you are really desperate you are going to do it. 

I have done everything from selling a dress that I wore on my album cover on eBay, you name it, I have done all kinds of stuff. Garage sales stuff just to get cash for my Facebook ads. You do what you got to do and now there’s Facebook marketplace that is another fantastic Craig’s List type thing. Sell your crap that you don’t use. There’s all kinds of stuff in there and you just need to make a habit of saving that cash and then put it towards something that is actually going to benefit you. 

So, in the last thing, I will say on this episode is just to reiterate what you are seeing CJ, I heard someone say that a lot of people think they have a business when they have a product and that is not the case. You don’t have a business that is just a product. You have a business when you own traffic – in other words when you have an audience. When you have an audience, you have a business because now you can sell anything, it doesn’t matter. 

You know next however many records I can sell them, merchandise I can sell them, tickets I can sell. I can go with a myriad of ways of selling something once I have that audience. So how do you fund an album when you are broke? Find an audience. 

20:42 CJ: Right, yeah and guys we can’t emphasize that enough. Again, it is a paradigm. Your biggest obstacle is not money. It is not money. Your biggest obstacle is not your circumstances. It doesn’t matter what is going on. Your biggest obstacle is not the music industry. Your biggest obstacle is you. Your biggest obstacle is your thinking. Like Leah said, she’s a glass half full type of person and that one simple thing, I know it is something that we have said for years and years and years.

Glass half full or is it half empty but there are millions of dollars and dreams achieve just based on how you look at that glass. Is it full or is it empty? And if you can see it that way, then you are going to find an opportunity. If you are not looking for them, if you are too focused on the problem, if you’re too focused on the obstacles you are not going to see. You are going to blind yourself, which is a terrible thing. There’s that verse that says, “if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness?” 

Why? Because you think it’s light. You think that you have such an accurate perception of the poor status of the music industry and how bad your circumstances are. So, you think you’re seeing clearly, you think you have such a great grasp of the problems. Yeah, you do, to such a degree that you can’t see a single opportunity out there and that’s what this is about. It is helping you begin to see again, see opportunity, know that your dreams are possible. 

Leah has done it. She was in the same situation you were in and she climbed her way out of it. We have seen other people do the very same thing. You are only as limited as you think you are. So, let’s change the way that you think. So again, take advantage of that Quick Cash Generation Guide downloadable PDF. There is a link in the show notes and for those of you who are interested in taking your music career to the next level, we encourage you to book a call with us. 

And see about the elite program, see if it is a good fit for you, you can go to callsma.com and the last thing that I am super excited about is the Savvy Musician Inner Circle newsletter. If you are not subscribed to this, you have got to subscribe to this today. Do this as soon as the podcast ends, I want you to go to savvymusicianacademy.com/innercircle. Again, it will be in the show notes. Sign up, it is only $19.99 a month. You are going to get all of the insider information that you are looking for to keep you a Savvy marketer in pushing your music business forward. 

So, do that today. And again, you can always leave us a review and stars on whatever channel you’re listening on that helps us tremendously. Leah, thank you as always. Always a pleasure and we will see you next time. 

23:30 Leah: All right, bye guys. 

Leah McHenry

It's become my absolute obsession to find out what will make musicians successful today. In the face of many obstacles, and in the vast sea of the internet, we have an opportunity that has NEVER been available to us in the history of the music business.