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Music Artists and Financial Insecurity

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Medical BillsRecently, there have been a lot of benefit concerts for artists who have come down with disease, traumatic injuries and other expensive health or family issues. In almost every case, the artist has no medical insurance to cover their care. Yes, insurance is expensive but, so is going without it. What does this do to the family when the money runs out? What about their homes? What about their future? What about themselves?

I recently visited with an artist friend of mine who was diagnosed with a major medical problem. He's still performing as much as possible but that is also taking its toll on his health. He is no longer the star he was 20 years ago. Where he used to play to tens of thousands, today, he captures audiences of a hundred or so where tickets also cost about half as much as they used to. He still manages to make the festival circuit but again, the take isn't what it used to be.

His shows are still great and the quality is there. It is just that the audiences and buying public are looking for something else -- something newer. As artists get older and their sales begin to drop, they need something to carry them into the future. A popular thriving artist usually doesn't remain that way forever. At some point, the market (audience) begins to look for something and somebody creating a new sound, image and acoustic experience. Album sales start to drop and the artist no longer makes as much per show as they used to. A new lifestyle is forced upon them, pretty much against their will or ability. The artist views the change as being out of their control and at the mercy of the buying public.

When times are good, that is the time to live off about half your income. Put at least half of it away for the future. Put it away for that rainy day. When an artist is making thousands per show and multiple shows per week, they should be investing a significant part of that income for their future. They should have medical and life insurance and possibly even long-term care insurance. They should buy it when it is easiest to afford and have anuities or trusts setup to continue paying the premiums over time. Most artists that I know do not. They claim its too expensive -- especially for someone who's livelyhood is on the road. If they think its expensive now, how are they going to afford lengthy hospital or home care? How are they going to provide for themselves, their families and their homes without any income? That is when it really gets unaffordable.

My friend still tries to perform two shows a week to support his family and pay for their home. He's on the road most of the year just trying to make ends meet. When he was in the top 10 charts for weeks and sales and concerts were massive compared to today, he lived each day as if there were no tomorrow. When the various royalties were flowing because his music was popular, times were good.

Today, radio isn't playing those songs anymore. Few buy the albums except at his shows and the royalty checks have basically ceased to provide a sustainable living. Now, he's in that "tomorrow" and he's not comfortable in that place. He can't afford to retire and his health won't let him keep going. He's between that rock and a hard place that so many other artists find themselves in today.

What happened? How did a popular and loved artist find himself in the rut he's currently in with mounting medical bills? He's already sold his home and down-sized into a more affordable and smaller place. Most of America's bankruptcies are due to medical bills that can't be paid and he is part of that scenario. Just one of the prescriptions he takes is over $200 per month -- $2,400 per year and there are others -- some costing even more.

The last time we spoke, he told me how he never thought he would ever need that money. The dream would last forever. His health was good. Life was good. It looked like the economy was to blame for a "slight downturn" in income. Then, a visit to the doctor for a pain that wouldn't go away changed the entire picture suddenly. In hours, not days, weeks or months, the rosy picture turned bleak. It is now too late. The money is gone. The insurance policies were never signed. He is doing everything he can just to make it to the next month.

Unfortunately, in the music world, he is not alone. Many face the same grim reality every year. Many that we know and have grown accustomed to hearing and seeing regularly. They used to drive around in $100,000 buses and stay in $150 per night hotels. They were on TV, headliners at festivals and concerts, playing benefits for others. In the past years, we've seen benefits for many artists in financial hardship. It didn't have to be this way.

Part of the music business is the business of taking care of yourself and your future. It is your own responsibility. Don't expect a label, manager, union or others to provide the necessities in your senior years. People do get older. The body isn't what it used to be. When you're young and insurance is cheap, that's the time to set things up. Having a sustained monthly income when your life changes can also be setup early in one's career. Waiting until your older than 55 is not the time to get started even though, a late start is better than no start at all.

I hope this helps some artist out there prepare for a better future and that fewer will need to suffer the pain of severe financial hardship due to health or other stumbling block in life. s livelyhood is on the road. If they think its expensive now, how are they going to afford lengthy hospital or home care? How are they going to provide for themselves, their families and their homes without any income? That is when it really gets unaffordable.

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