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    Crowdfunding and the taxes that go along with it

    July 15th, 2017

    So you’re an up and coming band that wants to create an album/EP and lack the funds to do so. Or you have a 4 song EP deal with your label and they say if you want to make it a full 12-12 song album you have to come up with the rest of the money.

    You can’t just go to your local bank and take out a loan. If you have quite a decent number of fans crowdfunding may be the option for you.

    There are many different crowdfunding companies to choose from, each with their own appeal. In this article I will talk about PledgeMusic, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. I will also talk about your tax obligations with the funds generated from them.

    PledgeMusic: PledgeMusic considers itself a direct-to-fan platform as opposed to a crowdfunding website. Features of PledgeMusic that distinguish it from other crowdfunding systems include that it:[1] is solely focused on raising funds for musicians does not retain any ownership or rights to any music created through the platform encourages artists to include contributions to charity as part of their fundraising project absorbs all transaction processing costs involved in pledging on a project encourages artists to offer a wide range of incentives and exclusive content to pledgers does not process any funding transactions until the funding target is reached is international, accepting artists, projects and pledgers from all over the world allows pledger refunds PledgeMusic allows two distinct types of campaigns: direct-to-fan and pre-order. I

    n direct-to-fan campaigns, fans are not charged until the project target is reached, at which point money is collected in an “artist account” that holds the money for disbursement to the intended recipients. If a target is not reached, fans are not charged. In pre-order campaigns, fans are charged immediately, and the artist is paid directly upon project completion, much like traditional online retail.

    PledgeMusic is reported to have a 90% campaign success rate (higher than Kickstarter or Indiegogo), with most artists raising an average 140% of their goal.

    PledgeMusic artists have the option of donating a percentage of their total or post-goal revenue to a charity of their choice. Currently, 67% of projects are linked with a charity.[3] Artists without a cause in mind are able to meet with the company’s charity outreach specialist to pair them up with charities.

    PledgeMusic keeps 15% (yes, you read that right: 15%).

    Kickstarter: Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation[2] based in Brooklyn, New York, that maintains a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity.[3] The company’s stated mission is to “help bring creative projects to life”.[4] Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.[5]

    People who back Kickstarter projects are offered tangible rewards and/or experiences in exchange for their pledges.[6] This model traces its roots to subscription model of arts patronage, where artists would go directly to their audiences to fund their work.

    Kickstarter is one of a number of crowdfunding platforms for gathering money from the public, which circumvents traditional avenues of investment.[24][25] Project creators choose a deadline and a minimum funding goal. If the goal is not met by the deadline, no funds are collected (a kind of assurance contract).[26] The platform is open to backers from anywhere in the world and to creators from the US, UK,[27] Canada,[28]Australia, New Zealand,[20] The Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Mexico.

    Kickstarter applies a 5% fee on the total amount of the funds raised.[29] Their payments processor applies an additional 3–5% fee.[30] Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. The web pages of projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.[31]

    There is no guarantee that people who post projects on Kickstarter will deliver on their projects, use the money to implement their projects, or that the completed projects will meet backers’ expectations. Kickstarter advises backers to use their own judgment on supporting a project. They also warn project leaders that they could be liable for legal damages from backers for failure to deliver on promises.[32] Projects might also fail even after a successful fundraising campaign when creators underestimate the total costs required or technical difficulties to be overcome.[33][34]

    Asked what made Kickstarter different from other crowdfunding platforms, co-founder Perry Chen said: “I wonder if people really know what the definition of crowdfunding is. Or, if there’s even an agreed upon definition of what it is. We haven’t actively supported the use of the term because it can provoke more confusion. In our case, we focus on a middle ground between patronage and commerce. People are offering cool stuff and experiences in exchange for the support of their ideas. People are creating these mini-economies around their project ideas. So, you aren’t coming to the site to get something for nothing; you are trying to create value for the people who support you. We focus on creative projects—music, film, technology, art, design, food and publishing—and within the category of crowdfunding of the arts, we are probably ten times the size of all of the others combined

    IndieGogo: is an international crowdfunding website founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann,[2] Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell. Its headquarters are in San Francisco, California. The site is one of the first sites to offer crowd funding. Indiegogo allows people to solicit funds for an idea, charity, or start-up business. Indiegogo charges a 5% fee on contributions. This charge is in addition to credit card and PayPal charges that range from 3.5% to 9%. Fifteen million people visit the site each month. [3]

    The site runs on a rewards-based system, meaning donors, investors, or customers who are willing help to fund a project or product can donate and receive a gift, rather than an equity stake in the company.[4] Following changes in Security and Exchange Commission rules earlier in 2016, Indiegogo has partnered with MicroVentures to offer equity-based campaigns beginning in November 2016, allowing unaccredited investors to participate with equity stakes.[5]

    In 2014, Indiegogo launched Indiegogo Life, a service that people can use to raise money for emergencies, medical expenses, celebrations, or other life events. Indiegogo Life did not charge a platform fee. In 2015 Indiegogo Life was renamed to[6] Donors use solely credit cards to donate, and processing is conducted by Stripe.[7] Stripe’s processing fees of 3% plus 30 cents of every donation still apply.

    In 2002, while working as an analyst on Wall Street, Danae Ringelmann co-produced a reading of an Arthur Miller play. Though the performance was popular with audiences, there was little financial incentive available, and Ringelmann decided to seek alternative revenue streams.[9] Ringelmann was originally inspired to work with independent filmmakers and theater producers after a filmmaker 50 years her senior saw she worked at JPMorgan and asked her to fund his film.[9][10][11]

    In 2006, Ringelmann went on to the Haas School of Business to start a company she felt would “democratize” fundraising.[9][10] There she met Eric Schell and Slava Rubin, who had had similar experiences with fundraising.[11] Schell had previously worked with The House Theater Company in Chicago,[12] while Rubin had started a charity fundraiser for cancer research, after losing his father to cancer as a child.[13]

    Ringelmann, Schell, and Rubin developed their concept in 2007, under the name Project Keiyaku.[14][15] The site officially launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2008, with a focus on film projects.[10] In June 2010, MTV New Media partnered with Indiegogo to develop new content from the site’s projects.[16] In September 2011, the company raised a $1.5 million Series Seed financing round, led by Metamorphic Ventures, ff Venture Capital, MHS Capital and Steve Schoettler, Zynga’s co-founder.[17] In February 2012, President Barack Obama’s Startup America partnered with Indiegogo to offer crowdfunding to entrepreneurs in the U.S.[18]

    In June 2012, Indiegogo raised a $15 million Series A round from Insight Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Steve Schoettler, Zynga’s co-founder.[19] In January 2014, a Series B round of funding added $40 million to bring the total venture capital raised to $56.5 million

    Patreon: Patreon is an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”[1] It is popular among YouTube videographers, webcomic artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other categories of creators who post regularly online.[2] It allows artists to receive funding directly from their fans, or patrons, on a recurring basis or per work of art.[3] The company, started by musician Jack Conte[4] and developer Sam Yam[4] in 2013, is based in San Francisco

    Patreon was founded in May 2013 by artist Jack Conte,[4] who was looking for a way to make a living from his popular YouTube videos.[6] Together with Sam Yam he developed a platform that allows patrons to pay a set amount of money every time an artist creates a work of art. The company raised $2.1 million in August 2013 from a group of venture capitalists and angel investors.[7][8]

    In June 2014 the company raised a further $15,000,000 in a series A round led by Danny Rimer of Index Ventures.[9][10] In January 2016, the company closed on a fresh round of $30 million in a series B round, led by Thrive Capital which puts the total raised for Patreon at $47.1 million.[11]

    The company signed up more than 125,000 “patrons” in its first 18 months.[12] In late 2014, the website announced that patrons were sending over $1,000,000 per month to the site’s content creators.[13]

    In March 2015, Patreon acquired Subbable, a similar voluntary subscription service created by the Green brothers, John and Hank Green, and brought over Subbable creators and contents, including CGP Grey, Destin Sandlin’s Smarter Every Day and the Green brothers’ own CrashCourse and SciShow channels.[14] The merger was consequent of an expected migration of payment systems with Amazon Payments that Subbable used.

    In October 2015, the site was the target of a large cyber-attack, with almost fifteen gigabytes’ worth of password data, donation records, and source code taken and published. The breach exposed more than 2.3 million unique e-mail addresses and millions of private messages.[15][16] Following the attack, some patrons received extortion emails demanding Bitcoin payments in exchange for the protection of their personal information.[17][18][19]

    In July 2016, Patreon sent out an email[20] to its users, announcing changes for its more adult-oriented creators. Notably, content creators working under the “NSFW” Not Safe For Work categories on Patreon can now accept payments through PayPal via PayPal’s subsidiary Braintree. This move now allows Adult Content creators on Patreon to accept payment more easily. Before these creators could only accept payments through credit cards.

    In January 2017, Patreon announced that it had sent over $100,000,000 to creators since its inception.[21]
    In May 2017, Patreon announced that it had over 50,000 active creators, 1 million monthly patrons, and was on track to send over $150 million to creators in 2017.[22]

    In June 2017, Patreon announced a suite of tools for creators to run membership businesses on the Patreon platform. Notable improvements included a CRM system, a mobile app called Lens, and a service to setup exclusive livestreams.[23]

    Patreon users are grouped by content type, including video/films, podcast, comedy, comics, games, education, etc. These content creators set up a page on the Patreon website, where patrons can choose to pay a fixed amount to a creator on a monthly basis.[24] Alternatively, content creators can configure their page so that patrons pay every time the artist releases a new piece of art. A creator typically displays a goal that the ongoing revenue will go towards and can set a maximum limit of how much they receive per month. Patrons can cancel their payment at any time. Creators typically provide membership benefits (commonly in the form of exclusive content or behind-the-scenes work) for their patrons depending on the amount that each patron pays.[19][20]

    Patrons can unlock monetary tiers that increases the content type they see from the user. A number of content creators on Patreon are also YouTubers. They are able to create content on multiple platforms and while the YouTube videos may be available to the public, the Patrons receive private content made exclusively for them in aiding the Patreon user’s goal.[25] Patreon takes a 5% commission on pledges. As of May 2017, the average pledge per patron was around $12, and a new patron pledged to a every 5.5 second.

    Those are the current crowdfunding sites as of July 7,2017 perhaps more to come.

    The funds received from any of these sites is taxable when received and any promised or expense related to the projects are deductible.

    For example: A band needs money to record their new album. They set up on any of the crowdfunding pages above and set the goal of funds needed. They make promises based on various levels of fund raising. They may promise a copy of the CD for a $10 pledge or maybe a vinyl record for a $50 pledge.

    In my example, the band is successful and raises $10,000 the crowdfunding site takes 5% off the top. They get a check for $9,500. they spend $7,000 studio time and manufacturing compact discs, they have a net profit of $2,500 taxable.

    A possible tax trap a cash basis taxpayer which individuals are by law. If money is received in one year and not spent until the following year it Is taxed in the year received and deduction when spent in the next year .
    If money is received and never used for the purpose intended it is all taxable income. So if you are raising funds spend it for the original reason stated or pay the income taxes.

    Jerry Catalano is a practicing CPA known as The Music CPA that provides tax, audit and accounting services for music and entertainment industry professionals nationwide. He is a founding partner of Catalano, Caboor & Co. He’s also lead vocalist and guitarist in his band “The Fource” that have 3 albums on CD and iTunes. Jerry is member of the American Institute and Illinois Society Of Certified Public Accountants, ASCAP and the National Academy Of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). He can be reached at


    Jim Catalano is the Marketing Director for The Music CPA and Catalano, Caboor & Co. He’s very passionate about music of all genres and makes #CatmansChoice posts daily of songs he loves. Jim also advises indie artists worldwide on marketing and assists them with their social media needs. He can be reached at and on Facebook and Twitter. Jim is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

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    November 4th, 2015

    The Musician’s Dream

    On the evening of May 23, 2000, I had a major lesson in music performance royalties. Blues legend Son Seals from Chicago did the song “Let It Go” on the “Conan O’Brien” show. He performed the song at approximately 2:30 a.m. EST (New York time), 1:30 a.m. CST (Chicago time).

    I wrote that song and owned the publishing rights, so I received 100 percent of the composer royalty paid through the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

    The check I received was $1,500 for that one performance, the rate for a song performed after midnight EST on network television. A song performed or played on the air in prime time 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. EST would have paid about $2,700.

    You now know why all music on talk shows is played after midnight — the royalty savings are substantial. The power of writing royalties is also evident in this lesson, as I made more money that night than Son Seals, who received about $300 as a performance fee.

    Songwriting royalties

    Songwriters vs. the musical performers get paid for media play on network radio, TV and film. Songwriters also get paid for music sales.

    Royalties are paid from several sources, the primary two types of royalties are mechanical and performance.

    Mechanical royalties

    Mechanical royalties are paid from the physical or download sales of recorded music. These royalties are paid usually by a record label to the performers and the writers of recorded music. Songwriters get paid generally at a rate of 9.1 cents per unit sold or downloaded. This statutory rate is set by Congress for the writer and his or her publishing company. The amounts paid to performers are based on a contract from the record label.

    For example, a beginning artist will generally get 7-14 percent of the retail sales price of a recording, minus the cost the record label paid for the recording. If you sell 100,000 downloads of a single song at $1, your royalty might be 0.13-0.27 cents per download for a total of $13,000-$27,000, less the cost to be repaid to the label. The net profit is split among the band members according to their agreement.

    The composer or composers of this song would receive 9.1 cents: 50 percent paid to the artist, and 50 percent paid to his or her publishing company. So for the 100,000 downloads example, the songwriting royalty would be $9,100 with no cost to pay back.

    Performance royalties

    Performance royalties are paid by media for radio, television, satellite and Internet air play every time a song plays. These royalties are paid primarily to the music composer.

    If you have performed on any music being played on Internet or satellite radio, you are entitled to a very nominal royalty.

    Note: In the rest of the world, performers are paid for all media play. The U.S. and Brazil are the only two countries in the world that have not signed the International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (referred to as the Rome Convention). This agreement pays performers of music a royalty for media play.

    The U.S. Congress allowed the formation of  as an olive branch. This allows performers to get paid for public performance of music on Internet and satellite radio. The sad fact is that American artists’ royalties are being paid in all these countries, and the governments of the world are keeping the money.

    Who disburses the royalties?

    Performance royalties are collected and disbursed by two nonprofit composer organizations, ASCAP and Broadcast Music Inc. These organizations collect the air play information by reports submitted by the media or surveys. Since performance royalties are difficult for artists to verify, they must belong to and rely on either ASCAP or BMI.

    The network radio stations pay about 1 cent per play, compared to Internet radio streams that pay about 0.00495 cent per stream.

    Music used in film and television pays varying amounts according the time of day of a broadcast.

    Licensing and syncopation fees

    These fees are not royalties but negotiated contractual use of music in film and television commercials. These fees are paid to the composer and publisher.

    For more information on music royalties, visit the ASCAP and BMI websites.

    Jerry-Profile-PicJerry Catalano of Catalano, Caboor & Co. and The Music CPA started in the music business as lead vocalist in three different bands in the late 1960s. The Viet Nam War caused all the bands to break up, as his band mates went off to war. In 1970, Catalano did A&R work for a local Chicagoland production company, signing artists to management contracts and acting as resident songwriter for those without original material. He became a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and currently gets to vote on the Grammy awards. Catalano is also a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and has had other artists record his original songs.

    As a certified public accountant and an active musician, Catalano uses his passion to help others in the music industry. He is lead vocalist in a band THE FOURCE, which has two albums of original music on iTunes and just released a new single.

    Catalano, Caboor & Co.
    And The Music CPA


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    Tax Options for Pros

    September 7th, 2015

    Musicians as legal entities

    The last article I wrote “Do I Have to Pay Taxes on That?”primarily dealt with weekend warrior musicians. In this issue, you’ll find out more about tax options for musicians who actually make a living from their music.

    As an accountant, the first question I always ask is: Are you a permanent member of a band or a subcontractor?

    If so, let‘s compare entity types:

    • Partnership: This is the simplest entity type; the band mates negotiate an agreement as to the split of revenue and expenses. An IRS form 1065 is filed annually, and each band mate receives a Schedule K-1 tax form to report on his or her annual 1040 filing.
    • Corporation: A separate entity known as a type C-Corporation can pay its own taxes. A type S-Corporation can elect to pass income to shareholders. S-Corporation shareholders also get a K-1 form to report their income on the 1040 form.
    • Limited Liability Company: An LLC usually functions as a partnership but can elect to be treated as an S-Corporation. Limited liability companies have been created by all of the states in the S. in the last 20 years to allow partnerships to limit their liability from creditors to the extent of assets in the LLC.

    taxes conceptWhy should musicians worry about limiting their liabilities by forming either a corporation or a LLC? There are many possible ways to be sued, such as an errant drumstick slips and injures an audience member, and you are sued beyond your insurance coverage. The limited liability entities mean you can only be sued to the extent of the assets in the LLC or corporation.

    Equipment and other expenses

    As a member of a partnership, or LLC treated as a partnership, all of your net income is subject to self-employment taxes and income taxes. If you have expenses that are part of your music business but not paid for by the band, you can deduct them from the net income of the partnership.

    Most musicians will maintain ownership of their equipment and not contribute the assets to the band. The expense related to the cost of the equipment and any non-reimbursed expense can be deducted against the band net income from the partnership.

    Being part of a corporation allows W-2 payroll to be issued and if an S-Corporation, a K-1 for the net income.

    What about the solo professional musician?

    All of the entities mentioned earlier are available to the solo artist who does session work and work for hire. He or she can incorporate, form a LLC or remain a sole proprietor.

    These entities are for performing musicians and for songwriters, producers and promoters.

    Retirement tax planning

    Any musician who fits into the category of weekend warrior, local hero or professional can contribute part of his or her profits to a retirement plan. Following are the various types:

    • Individual retirement account (IRA). Professional musicians can contribute up to 100 percent of earned income up to $6,000 plus $1,000 if age 50 or older, if your net income is from a Schedule C sole proprietorship or self-employed earnings from a partnership Schedule K-1. If your income is from a W-2, and you are covered by another plan from a different employer, you may be restricted in your contribution.
    • Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Arrangement (SEP IRA). If you have this kind of an IRA, which business owners adopt to provide retirement benefits for themselves and their employees, you can contribute 20 percent of your self-employment income from a sole proprietorship or partnership.
    • Defined benefit plans. If you are making superstar money, you should be represented by a certified public accountant and ask him or her about this type of plan. The explanation is an article in itself.

    I hope any of you reading this will come to the conclusion that you will need an accountant to prepare your year-end taxes. The information I provided should help you gather the right amount of data and ask the right questions.

    Jerry-Profile-PicJerry Catalano of Catalano, Caboor & Co. and The Music CPA started in the music business as lead vocalist in three different bands in the late 1960s. The Viet Nam War caused all the bands to break up, as his band mates went off to war. In 1970, Catalano did A&R work for a local Chicagoland production company, signing artists to management contracts and acting as resident songwriter for those without original material. He became a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and currently gets to vote on the Grammy awards. Catalano is also a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and has had other artists record his original songs.

    As a certified public accountant and an active musician, Catalano uses his passion to help others in the music industry. He is lead vocalist in a band THE FOURCE, which has two albums of original music on iTunes and just released a new single.

    Catalano, Caboor & Co.
    And The Music CPA


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    Do I Have to Pay Taxes on That?

    July 7th, 2015

    Questions from the weekend warriors

    So you just finished a successful weekend, have $200 in your pocket, and away you go. The question pops into your head: Is this money taxable? I got it in cash. No one really knows about it …

    TAX word cloud, business conceptThe answer is yes, it is reportable on your annual 1040 per Uncle Sam and his collection agency the Internal Revenue Service.

    The good news is you can deduct ordinary and necessary deductions against any income, including the following.

    • Auto expenses: A musician must haul musical instruments and equipment, usually in a car or van of his or her own, unless the band has its own bus. The weekend warrior usually hauls his or her own equipment. For auto expenses, you have two ways to deduct expenses:
    1. Direct out of pocket expenses: gas, oil, repairs, auto insurance, car washes, XM subscription, tires, license and registration and depreciation of the vehicle cost. Total these costs, and divide by the business use.
    2. Straight mileage deduction of 56.5 cents per business use mile.

    Calculation of business use mileage:

    • From your home to the gig and back.
    • To rehearsal, if not in your home.
    • To pick up gear or supplies.
    • To promote band appearances.
    • For band meetings.
    • To the attorney’s office to review contracts.
    • To the accountant’s office for tax preparation and tax planning.

    Once you track and calculate your business mileage, divide that number by the total mileage on your car for the entire tax year. For example, of 10,000 total miles, if 5,000 of them are business miles, you can deduct 50 percent of the auto expense or 5,000 miles times the 56.5 cents per mile. You can use only one method — direct expenses or straight mileage — so choose the best overall deduction.

    • Business expenses: Being a professional musician is a business, so treat it as such. Pay your expenses from a separate checkbook; use a separate credit card for your music business only. Track your income and expenses using QuickBooks or an Excel spreadsheet. Here is a list of possible expenses:
      • Supplies like guitar strings, cords, picks, drum skins, etc.
      • Out of town travel, airfare, hotel rooms, meals on the road.
      • Advertising costs such as fliers, print, Google and newspaper ads.
      • Business insurance costs other than auto expenses. Some musicians carry property and casualty insurance on their instruments and equipment in the event of a loss. Liability insurance is in this category as well.
      • Web hosting costs.
      • Internet costs.
      • Postage and delivery costs.
      • Cellphone and telephone costs.
      • Any other costs that can be attributed to your music business.

    You will need to determine on costs such as your cellphone what percentage is deductible as a business expense by keeping track of your business use.

    • Home office rehearsal area: To qualify for home office expenses, you must have a dedicated space used regularly and exclusively for rehearsal. The calculation of the deduction is the square footage of the rehearsal area divided by the total square footage of your home. That percentage is applied against the total costs of the home (mortgage, utilities, maintenance, etc.) to determine the tax deduction.

    In 2013 the IRS issued a new regulation allowing a safe harbor deduction for home office of $5 a square foot for a maximum deduction of $1,500. If you elect this method for home office deductions, you can still itemize your mortgage interest and real estate taxes.

    When you add up all the expenses in running your music performance business, your $200 earned per week for a total of $10,400 annually will be probably 80 percent offset by expenses, and you will be in full compliance with IRS rules and regulations.

    These are the basics for the weekend warriors. In future articles I will discuss choosing an entity to do business as, hobby loss rules, professional musicians and retirement planning.

    Jerry-Profile-PicJerry Catalano of Catalano, Caboor & Co. and The Music CPA started in the music business as lead vocalist in three different bands in the late 1960s. The Viet Nam War caused all the bands to break up, as his band mates went off to war. In 1970, Catalano did A&R work for a local Chicagoland production company, signing artists to management contracts and acting as resident songwriter for those without original material. He became a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and currently gets to vote on the Grammy awards. Catalano is also a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and has had other artists record his original songs.

    As a certified public accountant and an active musician, Catalano uses his passion to help others in the music industry. He is lead vocalist in a band THE FOURCE, which has two albums of original music on iTunes and just released a new single.

    Catalano, Caboor & Co.
    And The Music CPA

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