I find it interesting that people contact me to discuss custom trumpets, options and accessories, but then state that they cannot afford what they really want. Instead of choosing the options they have in mind, their attitude is to get as much trumpet for as little money as possible. Not all clients have this attitude, but the few who do usually use words like spend, cost and money.
Obviously, almost all of us are working with limited resources so budgets apply. But have you ever sat down with calculator and determined what you are worth? Seriously, add up your time, dedication and true value to this world and come up with a number. If your number is more than you make in a year, consider why you make less than you could. Perhaps there are very good reasons you make less in dollars such as the benefits or the rewards of your position, company, colleagues, family life, etc.
I personally make much less in dollars than I am worth. This is a conscious choice as I truly love my work designing, building and sometimes playing brass instruments. I believe that if I pursued another field, I would likely be the president of a company and would make over a million dollars a year. Beyond some vacation time and living expenses, spending money is not really interesting to me so I am very happy making a regular wage.
However, investing in my future and the future of Harrelson Trumpets aligns with my vision of the future. Investing is the act of allocating resources to a specific goal with the intent of gaining value throughout the course of time. I put my money back into Harrelson Trumpets because I want our company to grow and prosper while offering the very best instruments in the world.
Did you notice that I put the words spend, cost, money and investing in italics? Our speech is telling of our attitude towards all things including money. How you approach money could be the difference between stress and relaxation, opportunity and limits, failure and success.
Spending versus Investing
The vast majority of my clients use the following words when discussing their future custom trumpets; investment, excitement, inspiration, value, growth, practice, album, tour, concert, event, children. They are describing how they see their new instrument... as a valuable investment that will inspire hard practice to record their first (or next) album and prepare them for their next concert, tour or event that will eventually be handed down to their children. In fact, I would estimate that over half of my clients mention they are excited to have their new trumpet built because of some major performing event(s) on the horizon.
Seeing your custom trumpet as an investment is beneficial in many ways. It makes the process a lot more fun and rewarding since value is something subjective. Creating your own vision of the perfect trumpet is then more valuable to you personally. Investing in your future as a musician is an important and useful part of improving technically, musically and spiritually. By seeing your time, energy and instrument as an investment, you enable yourself to grow far beyond your current reality. I use the phrase, "Take your playing to the next level" quite often. In my mind, this is an attitude that applies to anything in life. You simply need to invest in doing so!
I don't really sell trumpets when I work with clients. I answer their questions, give them insight and never bring up purchasing anything, not even simple upgrades. If a client doesn't specifically state that they want to start their order, I don't ask. You see, I only want to work with clients who are so excited to have a horn built that they cannot wait to tell me. If you're not excited about your new investment, then why should I be excited? I want tangible challenges, goals and a shared vision to work with while building your instrument. And most importantly, I want you to be excited, inspired and motivated by your decision to invest in your musical future.
What is your musical future worth?
Many of you reading this need no convincing that your new trumpet, trim kit or 5MM mouthpiece is an investment. You already see the benefits and you were just hoping I was revealing a new product in my blog today. Regardless, have you ever put a number on your musical future? How much is it worth?
Obviously, we have all invested a great deal of time and energy into learning to play trumpet. But how much money have you invested and where was it spent? Maybe you had a great musical education through lessons, college, etc. or you are actively studying trumpet. You may have spent tens of thousands of dollars on instruments over the course of your life and learned first-hand which were investments and which did not meet their potential. I'm not necessarily referring to re-sale value, but rather the value you received from playing them over time combined with their re-sale value if that is your end goal. I know thousands of trumpet players on a personal level and most of them share stories of a horn they love playing regardless of price or age, true examples of a great investment!
Now consider how much you value playing trumpet. Put a number to that value in terms of a percentage of your income. Maybe you've never done this, but being a trumpet builder I spend a lot of time considering where to put my money as it relates to trumpets. The majority of my revenue goes into employee wages, rents, equipment and consumable supplies. To build the next generation of trumpets, I am saving up to purchase two new machines that each cost more than a house. To invest in these machines, I will need to save a percentage of revenue and I have a number in mind. What is your number?
As the title of this blog entry suggests, I believe musicians on the low end of the spectrum would choose at least 3% as the amount of income they are willing to invest the future of trumpet playing. The average income in the United States is currently estimated at over $50,000 per year. I am suggesting that on the low end, you invest a minimum of $1500/year (.03 x $50,000 = $1500) into the future of trumpet playing. You will have higher or lower numbers and you'll have to do the math, but it can be revealing to do this simple exercise. Are you investing your money into what is truly important to you?
And how will you invest your trumpet budget? I could recommend that you call me an order a horn, but in reality that is not the best solution for everyone. Everyone is different, but knowing you have a specific budget to invest in your future as a musician is the important message. You could take lessons from someone you believe holds the answers to your questions. Or you could attend concerts or events like the International Trumpet Guild conference held every May or June. Maybe you have an old favorite horn that could use refurbishing. Other considerations include; internet/skype lessons, new sheet music, new recordings, better lighting in your studio, a high quality recorder to hear yourself more objectively, a better music stand, a piano and/or piano lessons, the list goes on.
I know everyone has different ideas behind saving, investing and budgeting so I'm preaching to the choir and possibly opening up new ears at the same time. If any of this talk about money has struck a chord with you and seems like a revelation, I would strongly recommend that you head to the book store and take your time finding and reading a good book on the subject. I recall starting my first business when I was around 10 years old. I lived in a small run down trailer court and had very few role models in the way of understanding budgeting, finance or investments. Eventually I came across a book on the subject and found myself immersed in concepts crucial to financial success that I otherwise would have never discovered.
Treat your trumpet playing like a successful business and it will thrive!
7/7/2014 11:06:19 pm
Interesting perspective and actually quite accurate. We just don't tend to think of things in this context.
7/9/2014 05:43:31 am
I can tell you put a lot of thought in this post snd it was very well put. Most people have no idea what it cost to run a small business but throw in a machine shop the cost skyrockets. How you keep the cost of your horns where they are is a testament saying you're not in it to get rich. Keep up the excellent work snd my hat is off to you.
7/15/2014 04:11:49 am
3% of anything seems so insignificant. When I worked, I was a purchaser/asset manager for a large company. I spent a lot of money. Millions of dollars every year spread over a thousand transactions. 3% would not normally hit my financial radar. 3% of my income would have amounted to $43.27 per week. I spent this much for lunch during the work week. I bought new clothes for work periodically. I sometimes paid for additional education. I spent money on suppliers. I spent money on people I worked with. Maybe 3%, but I never kept track.
7/17/2014 11:48:59 pm
Funny how people will spend thousands on TV and phones, every year, but think a custom made horn is expensive.
8/14/2014 03:48:27 am
Thanks for providing a thoughtful analysis that serves to justify the investment, in this specific instance, in a custom made, personalized musical instrument. In fact, your rationale can and should be applied universally to the entire specter of a music endeavor.
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Inventor, Musician, Educator and Founder of Harrelson Trumpets, Trumpet Momentum and Harrelson Momentum.