Managing Your Business
Should Musicians Start an LLC?
In the United States, the music industry is big business, contributing more than $170 billion annually to the GDP and creating nearly 2.5 million jobs. From recording and streaming to live performances and merchandise, making a living off your music offers a world of financial possibilities.
Knowing how to take full advantage of legal and tax benefits isn't the most fun or intuitive thing for many creative types, but it can be a tremendous benefit to your musical career. Keep reading to learn more about LLCs, signs you are ready to start one, and how you can begin to benefit both now and in the future.
What Is an LLC?
A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular business structure in the U.S. LLCs are recognized by federal, state, and local governments and offer ways for business owners and artists to take advantage of pass-through tax benefits and limit their personal liability. LLCs can be formed by an individual but take advantage of some of the same laws and statutes as large corporations.
What Types of Musicians Can Form an LLC?
Forming an LLC is a viable option for nearly any type of musician, whether you're a songwriter, solo recording artist, or a live performance group with multiple members. Musicians who should consider the benefits of an LLC include:
- Independent Artist
- Live Performance Artists
- Music Engineers
- Music Hobbyist
- Music Teachers and Tutors
- Session Musicians
5 Benefits of an LLC for Musicians
Forming an LLC does require additional time and money. However, when done properly, an LLC can provide benefits and opportunities that are simply not available to an independent contractor or sole proprietorship making their living from music.
1. Formalizes Your Working Relationships
If you're a musician looking to grow your side hustle or hobby into a professional career, consider forming an LLC. Formalizing your work, band, or business as a legal entity will help legitimize your work in the eyes of others. Establishing this formality is especially critical when working with partners or bandmates. If you sell your services as a studio musician or recording engineer, it also helps provide trust and credibility for your clients when billing or sending invoices.
2. Establishes Rules Band Members Will Be Required to Follow
LLCs can also provide an Operating Agreement between band members. If your music involves multiple people, this Operating Agreement can help establish rules for your LLC that all members will be required to follow, including requirements for leaving the band.
3. Allows for Profit Sharing
Forming an LLC can also help ensure fair and proper profit sharing. An LLC lets you assign members different ownership and voting rights, allowing you to outline who will receive what share of net profits.
4. Offers Possible Tax Benefits
One of the biggest benefits for musicians who form an LLC is its flexibility when choosing how their income will be taxed. Many LLC owners use pass-through tax perks, helping them avoid double taxation. LLC owners can also take full advantage of business-related expenses and losses to save some money on taxes.
5. Limits Your Personal Liability
Forming an LLC could also help you save money should anyone ever take legal action against you. Whether putting on a music festival or providing services within the music industry, there may come a time when a person or business seeks damages from you.
If you are a sole proprietor, your personal assets may be in jeopardy if a court makes you pay damages in a lawsuit. However, forming an LLC and following your legal responsibilities in good faith will limit all future liability to the assets of the LLC and not your own. This legal distinction could help keep your home, car, and personal bank account safe from being seized in the event of a lawsuit or other litigation.
Things to Know Before Forming An LLC
Before you can enjoy the benefits outlined above, here are some things you should prepare for before forming your LLC:
- Depending on your state, filing fees can vary between $40-$500.
- Paperwork must be filed in the state of your choosing. This could take a few hours.
- Most states require a registered agent. If that won't be you, expect additional costs.
- Ongoing or annual fees, meetings, and paperwork may be required depending on your state of incorporation.
Signs It's Time to Incorporate as a Musician
While forming an LLC as a musician is optional, there are some signs you should watch for to know when an LLC may be in your near future. These signs may include:
- You're going from part-time side hustle to full-time musician
- Your profits are growing, and you need to limit your personal income
- You're looking for investors, sponsors, and other business partners
- You've recently hired employees or contractors to help
Bottom Line: Is an LLC Right for Your Music Career?
Ultimately, you will need to decide for yourself if an LLC is right for your music career. You should take a close look at your finances, how you are currently conducting business, and weigh the pros and cons for incorporating. For many independent musicians, the tax benefits and ability to limit their personal liability in the event of a lawsuit is motivation enough to move forward.
Focus on Your Music; We'll Take Care of the LLC Paperwork
Swift Filings can help any musician with the complexities of forming an LLC, freeing up time to focus on the art. This means you could start your LLC today online in as little as 10 minutes. If you are a busy musician ready to begin an LLC today, you can get started here.