Do you dream of a life as an independent musician? Before you go into the studio or start performing, it is important that you get your affairs in order. Read in this step-by-step plan which rules you will have to deal with. And which practical matters you should not forget.
Check whether you fulfil the conditions for staying in the Netherlands
Entrepreneurs who intend to stay in the Netherlands must fulfil several conditions. You will sometimes require a residence permit. Our interactive tool Coming to the Netherlands as an entrepreneur can help you find out quickly if this is true for you, and tell you what other obligations you have to fulfil.
If you plan to start doing business in the Netherlands, you will also need to have or apply for a business bank account (IBAN). The Dutch Banking Association has created a Quick Scan to help you find out if you are eligible. Read how it works.
Before you start: write a business plan
It is not mandatory, but it is wise to write a business plan. You list your plans as a professional musician. For example, how do you expect to earn money? It also gives you an idea of the costs and how much profit you expect to make.
1. Register your artist or band name as a brand
If you are just starting your music career, it is important to come up with a unique artist or band name. For example, because you want to keep your private life separate. Register your artist or band name with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). This is not mandatory, but it is the smart thing to do. This way, you avoid problems with bands or artists who turn out to work under the same name.
You can register your name for a one-time fee, valid for 10 years.
2. Choose a legal structure and register with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK)
You must register in the Business Register of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce (KVK). But before you do, you need to choose a legal structure for your business. The legal structure determines your financial (private) liability for debts and tax obligations. And what taxes you have to pay.
Many self-employed professionals opt for a sole proprietorship. You can start a sole proprietorship quickly and easily. Other common legal structures are general partnership (vof) and private limited company (bv).
Choose a legal structure that suits your situation with the help of the decision tool 'Which legal structure suits you'.
3. Set up an administration
The law obliges you to set up and keep business records. Make sure you meet the requirements of the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. Your administration is the basis of your tax return.
To be able to use tax benefits (entrepreneur's allowance) you must spend at least 1,225 hours in a year on your company. So, keep track of your hours in your business administration. You are obliged to keep your business administration for 7 years.
Book of Finance for entrepreneurs
Also, read the free Book of Finance for entrepreneurs with practical tips from KVK about keeping track of finances.
4. Filing your tax return
You must pay VAT over your turnover from your income as a musician. You usually file a VAT return every quarter. But you can also ask the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration whether you can file a monthly or annual return. In addition to VAT returns, you also have to file an income tax return once a year.
In several cases, you can choose not to charge VAT on your income. You can use the artist scheme (artiestenregeling, in Dutch) for this. In that case, you have your client pay payroll taxes and premiums on your income. You are then actually employed for a short period of time. Conditions apply. Please note that you state the wages you receive via the artist scheme in box 1 of your tax return.
Small Allowance Scheme (KVG)
Instead of the artist scheme, you can also use the Small Allowance Scheme (Kleinevergoedingsregeling, KVG). You use this scheme when you charge your client expenses instead of a wage. The maximum amount you may charge is € 163. You must be able to justify the use of the KVG to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. So, keep the receipts of your expenses (for example, petrol money and a new turntable).
Good Start with the Tax Administration
Check out goedestartbelastingdienst.nl for an explanation of declarations, setting up your administration, and other questions about taxes. You can ask questions to one of their advisors via a live chat.
5. Use of deductions and schemes
When filing your tax returns, you can state business expenses that you may deduct. That allows you to pay less tax. For example, consider these costs:
- Purchase and maintenance of musical instruments and equipment
- Rental of equipment
- Promotion costs
- Travel expenses
- Rental costs for rehearsal spaces
- Office supplies
- Insurance premium
- Personal appearance
Also, check whether you can get tax relief for new companies (startersaftrek) and private business ownership allowance(zelfstandigenaftrek). Under certain conditions, you may deduct these amounts from your profit.
6. Protect your copyright
You automatically have copyright to your music as soon as you make music. But others may claim that they came up with the song or melody, for example. You can prevent this by registering your work. For example, through a notary. Or you can register your music in the I-DEPOT at the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property.
You can give Buma/Stemra control of the use of your copyrights. This organisation will then give permission if someone wants to use your music. Buma/Stemra passes on the financial compensation for this use to you. You pay a one-time registration fee and an annual contribution.
Please note: registering your musical pieces with Buma/Stemra does not offer protection of your copyright. So it cannot be used as proof of ownership.
7. Arrange your related rights
You are entitled to financial compensation if your music is played on radio or TV, or as background music in a public place. The Related Rights Act (Wet op de naburige rechten, in Dutch) regulates this. Your music is protected for 50 years from the first recording. From each song, 50% of the fee goes to the musician(s) and 50% to the producer(s). The Foundation for the Exploitation of Related Rights (Sena) collects those fees and pays them out to you once a year. Register for free at Sena.nl.
8. Arrange your insurance policies and conditions
As an independent musician, you have to absorb financial setbacks yourself. For example, if you become ill or have an accident. You can insure yourself for this. For example, with a:
- disability insurance (AOV) or a donation circle
- voluntary insurance with the UWV (only for starters, in Dutch)
Also, draw up general terms and conditions. This way you immediately make clear which rights and obligations you and your clients have.
You can also insure yourself against business risks. For example, if you have fire damage to your equipment. Or receive a claim from a club owner.
Build up pension
Because you are not employed, you do not accrue any pension. You must arrange this yourself. Read more about arranging your pension.
9. Make use of subsidies, funds, and sponsorship
Research whether you can raise money for your productions and projects.
For example, with:
- contributions from funds
Most subsidy providers and funds have their own application forms on their websites. Check out your options:
The following national subsidy schemes are available:
All forms of crowdfunding have different consequences for your taxes. So be well informed before you start crowdfunding.
10. Taking your music international
Do you hope to break through internationally with your music? Check your subsidy options. And take into account tax and customs matters:
Become a member of the Nederlandse Toonkunstenaarsbond (NTB)
The Nederlandse Toonkunstenaarsbond (Dutch Musical Artists Union, NTB) is the trade union for musicians, actors, dancers, and artists. The NTB provides legal assistance, for example in debt collection cases or conflicts with clients. The NTB can also help with your tax return. In addition, the NTB offers insurance.
Read more about becoming a member of the NTB (in Dutch).