Money Mondays: The Basics of Being A Business for Performing Artists

money-256312_1920During my first tour I decided I needed to start a business. Not a big business, but operate as a business. Since I was going to be filing a 1099 for the first time, I thought it would be wise for me to have something for when I was not on tour. That was the start of my company. I knew that throughout the year, even if I was not turning, most of my income was going to be from soloist jobs, as well as education outreach. I contacted the IRS and filed for my EIN (Employer Identification Number). Since hindsight is 20/20, it was probably one of the best decisions I instinctively  made as an entrepreneur with no business experience.

Having the EIN allowed me to submit proposals to school systems that often used one purchasing vendor. Therefore, if I was asked to teach a class about opera for 4 weeks after school, I was able to use that as a selling point when trying to secure business. I was already in the school system’s vendor profile, so it made it easy for Principals to quickly submit their invoice, and for me to get paid for my services without a ton of paperwork and lost time, waiting to be approved.

Over the years, the laws within the IRS and performing artists have changed each year. Having my EIN allowed me be seen as a professional as well as using my business as a hub for all income generating opportunities from speaking engagements, performances, consultations and more. Applying for your EIN number as a musician, dancer, visual artist, etc. is your first basic responsibility as an entrepreneur, because whether you know it or not, that is what you are, as a creative artist.

Why You Need an EIN:

  1. Besides the reasons above, you also need an EIN to open a business bank account, apply for business licenses, and even to file your tax return (although you can use your social security number in most instances).
  2. Apply for financing
  3. Interactions with state business regulatory commissions or agencies.

Do I need an EIN?

Yes, If you plan on retaining employees through your company

Yes, if you operate as a corporation or partnership even if you are not an employer

Yes, if you  file any of these tax returns: Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

Yes, if you have a Keogh plan

Yes, if you are involved with any of the following types of organizations?

  • Trusts, except certain grantor-owned revocable trusts, IRAs, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Returns
  • Estates
  • Real estate mortgage investment conduits
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Farmers’ cooperatives
  • Plan administrators

How Do you Apply for an EIN?

Applying for an EIN is easy. You can log in at IRS.GOV, go to EIN and apply. There are no charges to apply for one, best of all, when your application is validated and complete, you will be given an EIN.

If you have any questions about your financial responsibilities as a performing artist and business owner, you should consult your accountant, or, check out the list of resources on IRS. gov.


20131030 STRAYER Bridgette CooperCopyright 2013 Len  Spoden Photography.
Bridgette Cooper, Mezzo Soprano

Bri Cooper is an award winning classical singer. She is featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, Scholar Magazine, Conversations Magazine and ABC Here and Now. Bri holds a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance, and an M.B.A. in International Business.  She is the producer and host of Operalusicous™ TV, radio, and podcast.



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