Introduction to Managing Quartet Finances
Managing quartet finances can be difficult. Now is a great time to align your financial goals, open a bank account, and prepare your taxes, so when the time comes, you’re ready to perform again!
What has your quartet done during quarantine?
Probably not a whole lotta singing, to be honest.
Do you know what you CAN do in the meantime?! MANAGE YOUR QUARTET FINANCES!
*WOW I can hear everyone losing interest and running to go watch Netflix*
I get it. Talking about money is uncomfortable. It can break up relationships and hold a lot of emotional weight. And now, you have to make financial decisions with four people.
I wanted to write this blog because finances are rarely talked about in the quartet world. I know - this may seem really silly to focus on opening a bank account when nothing is happening in our world.
If you’re in a barbershop quartet at the moment, please stay with me and HEAR ME OUT! Since we’re not able to sing as much as we want, now’s a great time to align your financial goals, open a bank account, and prepare your taxes so that you’re ready to perform again.
Having your finances ready to go when we do come back is going to allow your quartet to hit the ground running and start singing! When I was learning about it all I felt like we were in a secret club or something. Now, I love it when I can get some quartet friends to talk about their taxes or bank account setups. I feel like a ninja!
Please note - it’s likely that every quartet has done something a little differently when it comes to their finances. My quartet, GQ, started out with VERY LITTLE FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE. In this blog post, I plan to share how GQ handles our finances and some lessons we learned along the way (and trust me...we learned a lot)!
The Basics: Financial Terminology & Common Quartet Costs
This might be the most obvious section of this blog, but I want to break these terms down so you can think of them in real examples.
Income is any revenue that comes into the quartet. The most common forms of quartet income are:
- Performance fees -- how much you charge just for singing
- Merchandise sales -- shirts, albums, etc.
- Donations -- If your grandma really believes in you and slips you a $20, or more likely, a Kickstarter
- Startup donations -- the initial cash infusion from quartet members to get going with registration, costumes, first travel, etc... all BEFORE you’ve earned any other income!
Expenses are anything you have to buy for the quartet. I sort them into three major categories:
- Food (GQ laughs every year at how much we frequent Starbucks...we should buy stock)
- Travel (flights, rental cars, baggage fees, mileage, gas)
- Supplies (Music, tracks, membership dues, outfits, equipment)
You will also distinguish all expenses as pure expenses (what the quartet does for itself, like music purchases) and as reimbursable (expenses that the client pays for from a gig).
The Quartet Fund is basically another word for your quartet bank account. This is the collective pot of money that’s used for purchases not directly related to your gigs. This includes music, tracks, membership dues—think of it as the overhead of what it takes to be in a quartet.
“Quartet Card” is the debit card that links to your quartet bank account. You should use this to buy all quartet expenses.
Establishing Quartet Goals
Consider your long term goals as a quartet:
- Have we formed strictly for a barbershop contest cycle? ($$$$)
- Have we formed to sing on chapter shows or youth camps? ($$$)
- Are we a community- or outreach-based quartet? ($$)
- Are we just doing this for fun? ($)
If your expenses will be limited to simple costumes and travel for one-off events, you might get by with dealing out of pocket individually. Almost anything beyond that -- competing, getting coached, traveling, etc. -- will probably mean you will want a more formal structure of income and expense -- a “quartet fund.”
Opening a Quartet Bank Account
You might be thinking to yourself “Wait, why do we need a separate bank account for this? We don’t make THAT much money off of our performances and I could just take that money and split it up among us!”
Yes, you could do that, but trust me: it’s so much harder to track that way. If you allow all of your income and expenses to “flow” through one separate account, your taxes will be SO MUCH EASIER. No one personal bank account will act as the holding ground for all this money. Keeping quartet money separate is a good thing!
So now that we’ve established that you need a bank account, here are the steps to opening one:
- Get a Tax ID by submitting a Form SS-4 (US) to a tax professional. Since tax laws may vary in every state and province, I recommend reaching out to a tax professional. They’ll walk you through what sort of business entity you can be based on your goals (in the U.S., most commonly an S-Corp, an LLC, or a nonprofit association) and how to file your taxes.
- Choose a bank. I recommend a bank that’s convenient for all your members; a bank with a national footprint (Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, etc.) might make it easier to transact with clients.
- Decide which members will be listed as account holders. For GQ, it was only me and Katie G. at first listed as account holders. This meant we had mobile banking log-ins plus a quartet debit card linked to the account. I must say, that got annoying rather quickly! We brought Amanda and Ali into the mix as account holders, too, so now we all have equal accessibility and responsibility.
- Open a checking account IN PERSON with selected account holders. That might take some coordination if you’re a long-distance quartet, or you can work with at least two members listed as account holders. Call the bank you're using to discuss options of virtually opening an account.
- Consider connecting your account to services such as PayPal for easy transactions with customers.
You now live with a quartet fund and quartet cards! YES! This is a big deal and you should celebrate! So now, you live your best life as a quartet performing on shows, making tons of money, you know… OH WAIT right, there’s a global pandemic and none of us are performing really. Well, on a positive note, that means your quartet taxes will be very easy this year!
Managing Your Taxes
If your quartet has made $1 or more in income, you must report that income with the IRS. Always disclose all income, whether the client issues a Form 1099 or not. And because you asked a tax professional to get a tax ID and open your bank account, you can confirm what they’ll need at the end of the year to file.
Throughout the year for tax planning, be sure to:
- Save all receipts of EVERY purchase (I have a manila folder and paper clip receipts by month)
- Save all 1099 Forms - these are the Misc. Income tax forms that clients will give you.
- Do your taxes in January of the following year! EARLY! On time! Your accountant will LOVE YOU.
When I say “Do Your Taxes” in step 3 above, what I mean is at the end of every year, you’ll need to add up all expenses against your income. And since you’re having all transactions go through your bank account, it’ll be in one place! How convenient! Reach out to your tax professional to make sure everything is in the format they want.
I’ve only scratched the surface of quartet finances in this blog. If you’d like to learn more, you can join me and Ali from GQ in a Virtual Harmony University elective on Saturday, August 1 at 5 p.m. CDT: Everything But the Singing: Quartet Management Techniques.
For even more tips for your quartet (including choosing music, different rehearsal structures, and booking gigs) all registered BHS quartets have access to The Guidebook for Performing Quartets, accessible from your benefits page!
If you need a refresher on where to access your quartet benefits, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all here to help you!
About the Author
Katie Macdonald is the Recruitment and Retention Manager for the Barbershop Harmony Society. She is the bass of Barbershop Harmony Society Quartet and 2020 3rd Place Sweet Adelines International Quartet GQ.
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Katie grew up performing in musical theater and opera throughout high school and college. She majored in Music with a minor in Business from Towson University.