Starting as a musician

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK

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.

Read more about trademark protection on the BOIP website

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 an eenmanszaak (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 Netherlands Tax Administration (Belastingdienst). 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.

Read more about keeping your records.

4. Filing your tax return

You must pay VAT over your turnover from your income as a musician. You usually file a VAT return at the end of every quarter. But you can also ask the Tax 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.

Read more about filing tax returns.

Artist scheme

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 (KVR)

Instead of the artist scheme, you can also use the Small Allowance Scheme (Kleinevergoedingsregeling, KVR). 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 KVR to the Tax Administration. So, keep the receipts of your expenses (for example, petrol money and a new turntable).

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.

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.

Read more about becoming a member of Buma/Stemra.

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.

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

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:

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.

Read more about business insurances.

9. Make use of subsidies, funds, and sponsorship

Research whether you can raise money for your productions and projects.

For example, with:

Most subsidy providers and funds have their own application forms on their websites. Check out your options:

Government subsidies

The following national subsidy schemes are available:

Do you have a multi-year music project or a one-off performance? Then you can apply for the Project subsidy (in Dutch) via the Performing Arts Fund NL.

Do you want professional guidance in your work as a musician? See if you can get money from the Cultural Participation Fund. The fund also subsidises small pop music projects.

Do you make an album under your own management? Then you can apply to the SENA Music Production Fund. Conditions apply. For example, you must use the money for recording and session musicians. Also, 1/3 of the contribution is an interest-free loan that you must repay in 2 years.

The Netherlands has more than 800 funds with various goals. Musicians can apply to:

Make a project budget

For a project application to a subsidy provider or fund, it is important that you send a budget plan. In this, you indicate what you expect in terms of costs and income.


As an artist, you can be interesting for companies to sponsor. You link your name to a company. In return, you receive compensation in the form of money or products or services. The most commonly used form is endorsement (recommendation). You will then receive free instruments or equipment from the manufacturer. This usually requires that you are somewhat known as an artist.

You can also ask for sponsorship on a smaller scale. For example, by asking local stores to support your album. For a fee, they get a logo on the invitation for the presentation and possibly on the album cover.

Please note: If you borrow instruments or equipment from a manufacturer, they remain the owner. In that case, you do not have to pay income tax. But when these items are given to you, the Netherlands Tax Administration sees this as income. You then pay income tax on this.


Another way of financing is crowdfunding. This is how you raise money from the public (the crowd). Crowdfunding gives you brand awareness, and you bind customers to your music project. There are different forms of crowdfunding that you can also combine:

  • donation with non-financial consideration, in the form of a product or, for example, a ticket for a performance
  • donation without reward
  • loan
  • a loan that can be converted into shares if you have a bv (convertible loan)
  • shares if you have a bv (as an investment)

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:

This agency has many contacts and experts in the international music sector. Moreover, Dutch Music Export has an investment scheme to support Dutch artists abroad.

Read which conditions apply for this Structural Multiannual Support subsidy.

If you make a short tour abroad doing at least 3 performances, you may be eligible for the subsidy scheme for Dutch performances or concerts abroad. Applications can be made via

You need a valid ID to cross the border. This can be a passport or tourist card. This allows you to work in the European Union (EU) for a short period. For a longer stay than 3 months, you need a temporary residence permit. The rules for this differ per country. Information can be obtained from embassies or consulates.

For countries outside the EU, you need a temporary work visa. You can apply for this at the embassy of that country. You may also need a work permit in these countries.

Outside the EU, import duties apply to musical instruments and sound equipment. To make this as easy as possible, you must have an ATA carnet for outside the EU. You indicate exactly what you are taking with you, how much it is worth, and what you will use it for. You can apply for an ATA carnet at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK. This costs €242 plus a premium that depends on the value of your equipment.

When performing abroad, part of your wages will be withheld as a withholding tax on income tax and social security contributions. This percentage is lower than the usual payroll tax. Back in the Netherlands, you may deduct this amount from the income tax you have to pay here.

Read more about taxes when doing business abroad at (in Dutch).

11. Pension

As an entrepreneur, you usually have to arrange for an extra pension yourself. You build up rights to a General old age pension (AOW). This basic benefit is usually lower than what you earned while working. As a zzp'er, you have several possibilities for supplementing this benefit. Read more about pension provisions for zzp’ers.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK