Growth Group | Accounting for Musicians

Four Facts For Musicians Receiving Form W-9

Musician-IRS-form-W-9

You’re getting all geared up to perform with a band or artist you look up to, but before they accept you as a part of their team you receive an IRS Form W-9. Below are some frequently asked questions musicians have about Form W9:

What is a W-9?

A W9 is a request for your identification number such as your social security number or other federal ID. The form w-9 is used to send you (and the IRS) a report showing your income from performances you do with that group.

W-9 Form Musicians Receive

Why is a W-9 required for an artist to perform?

Before being paid, professional musicians, organizations, and venues will ask instrumentalists, backup vocalists, or event talent to provide a W9. They need IRS Form W-9 from musicians to prepare a report showing the amount they paid you for performing during the year to the IRS.

You’re not an employee, so instead of a W-2 to show how much money you earned, the company will send musicians a 1099-Misc to report the amount you made. Generally, you will receive a 1099MISC if you made $600 or more total from that business throughout the year.

Form W-9 is also used when registering with SoundExchange, this gives them the information to send you tax forms at the end of the year.

How do you fill out a W9 form as a musician?

If you’re a musician who has set up an LLC, S-corp, or are operating as a sole-proprietor, you may be wondering which ID number to include on the form W-9. Here’s how to complete a W9 form for musicians:

W-9 Musician Identification Number

    1. If you’re a solo artist or sole-proprietor (meaning you are the only owner and aren’t an S-corp) enter your social security number for Part I: Taxpayer Identification Number. If you have an LLC setup but you’re the only owner, you will still use your SSN.
    2. If you’re a music LLC and there are multiple owners (you and the rest of the band) enter your Federal Employer Identification Number on the Form W9.*Here’s a FREE guide for how to get your FEIN, if you don’t have an FEIN for your band*
    3. If your band is an S corporation, enter your FEIN for the W-9.

Should each band member have a separate W-9 form?

The band is required to fill-out the IRS Form W9, if your band is setup as a business (such as an LLC or S-corporation). However, each band member should provide their own W-9 form to the venue or organization, if the band has no formal business set-up.

The W-9 may be filled out by only one band member, however, if this is the option chosen, the “responsible” band member will request W-9 forms from the bandmates so that the full income isn’t taxed only to themselves. They will then pay each member from the money received for preforming.

If I hire musicians, how do I send them a W-9?

There are a few ways you can request IRS Form W-9 from the musicians you hire, depending on your communication preference.
1. Use this iPhone app for sending musician W-9 forms. They will receive an e-mail and the ability to e-sign. This is likely the fastest way to get a W-9 form signed. Here are some additional iPhone apps for music businesses.
2. If you like using e-mail, send the w-9 to the artists’ e-mail address.
3. If you like using paper, print the W-9 form from the IRS website and ask your musician to fill it out and sign it with a pen. (We’re virtual, and don’t recommend this method).

Have you ever received an IRS Form W-9 Form as a musician? How did you handle it?

Quick favor: Please share this post with other musicians you know, so that they can be informed in business as well. Thanks!


  • Dan Komarzec

    I am in a musical group playing for fun and consider it means of sharing our talent and providing entertainment for friends in the community; of course we rehearse hours upon hours which we don’t get paid for, I put in more than $20k into our sound & lighting system, bought $10k trailer for safely transporting our gear, we all use our own personal vehicles and fuel for transporting personal gear, as well as put thousands into our own personal items – i.e. amps, speakers, instruments, computers, rack effects, stomp boxes, cables. Then there are ongoing costs such as strings, sheet music, iTunes purchases for learning songs, backtracks, stage clothing, promotional materials, etc… well you get the point – it’s a very expensive endeavor to entertain.

    Then when we play a gigs it consumes several hours, 12 hours or more each time we play out – for loading/unloading (twice), setup/teardown, sound checks and 4 hours for the performance. So when a 5 member band playing for fun is asked by the venue for one person in the band to provide them a W9 and they pay the band just $600 for the gig – we consider that very medial pay and just a little pocket cash for all the effort we put into getting ourselves in the position for performing/entertaining that day. Its all for fun and love of the art of music… UNTIL the government considers this ‘payment’ and wants a cut, dealing with tax work and having to give back a large percentage of that money back to the government at the end of the year takes some of the enjoyment out of it.

    Sorry just got on a rant there…I think government is unfair when it comes to music as a hobby. Taxes are a necessary evil… some questions I have though:
    – Acting as a band leader without a LLC – I receive the check from the venue and agree to pay the other members in my band. I understand that I should have W9 from each of them and that I’ll file 1099’s at the end of the year. The band members would select Federal Tax Classification of ‘individual/sole proprietor on the header section of their W9’s, right? But what do I, acting as the Band Leader, select for my Federal Tax Classification checkbox?
    – If I attempt to run the band as a business and act as the band leader dealing with W9’s. I would want write off my equipment purchases. However, in a business sense I am always going to be losing money year after year and never make any profit. So would this flag me for IRS for audit? How do people with expensive hobbies avoid having to pay taxes on earnings that never offset their costs?

    Thanks for your thoughts and feedback!

    • growthgroup

      Hey Dan,

      Thanks for adding your unique perspective. Your band doesn’t have to be a business. Businesses want to make a profit. Hobbies are for fun, like you’ve described. Only, musicians who depend on, or eventually plan to depend on the income from performing and selling their music are running a business.

      Venues can’t determine whether each band who performs is a business or hobbyist. So, they only have to report who they paid and how much.

      The IRS doesn’t allow bands & musicians who are “always going to be losing money year after year and never make any profit” to use those losses reduce their income from their full-time job. So, if making and performing music is a hobby, keep enjoying it, you just won’t receive tax breaks for it.

      In short, if you have hobby income you must report it, but you can only take expenses up to the amount of income you’re reporting, not more.

      Here’s some additional information about hobby vs. business. http://www.irs.gov/uac/Business-or-Hobby%3F-Answer-Has-Implications-for-Deductions

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  • Ben Verdugo

    I have a question….. My band played once last year, that’s it, for a total of $2000 paid to us by a casino. I did receive a 1099 from them for the full amount since I am the only one responsible out of the band who would take this on. There is a total of 5 guys in the band so we actually each got paid $400, even though I am the only one who filled out a W-9. How do I reflect that I did only get paid $400 and not $2000? Do I have to issue tax forms to the guys even though they didn’t make over the $600 threshold?

    • growthgroup

      Hi Ben, I can certainly understand how frustrating it can be to receive the 1099 showing income you feel you didn’t make.

      While I recommend working with your accountant, generally you can deduct the payments you gave to your other band members. However, you would not need to issue tax form 1099 to the other guys in the band because they didn’t reach the $600 threshold.

      Hope this helps!

      • Cody Charles

        Hey Alexis. Great info. Question on this thread. What if the band member didnt make the $600 threshold but you still dont want to claim that as a deduction? I purchased enough equipment to superceed my income already so I dont want to add my band members income onto mine if I dont have to. do i still send them out a 1099misc and just let them deal with it?

        • Cody Charles

          supersede*

        • The IRS doesn’t force you to take deductions! LOL they’d actually rather you didn’t, right. BUT, it’s in YOUR best interest to claim all of the deductions you’re entitled to.

          Thanks for asking, hope this helps!

      • Sonya

        If each member does make over the $600 each for the year, what is the procedure to properly get them 1099s?

  • Captain Jack

    I am putting together a show. My band is performing & we’re bringing in a “larger” act, who asked that I complete a W9. I’ve never done this. We don’t typically make more than $200 for 4 bands, and don’t expect to do much better than this. I’m a little leery about using my own Social Security number, but I also don’t want to approach the venue with this “paperwork”.

    Who should complete the W9 and what concerns should I have if I do use my Soc Sec.

    I’m interested in building a promoting business eventually, so I’d like to know what I can about this issue.

    • Hey Captain Jack!
      Whoever is responsible for the band’s finances should complete the W9. If you choose to use your SSN, you may. But, getting an FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) would probably be your best bet to avoid any ID theft issues since you’re not sure who’s hands this document could wind up in. Hope this helps!

  • Matt McAllister

    I played 4 gigs last year @ $200 per show. 2 shows ($400) at the same place and 2 shows ($400) at two other places. My question is, because I technically made $800 at 3 different restaurants, do I have to claim any of it since it wasn’t over $600 to one restaurant?

    • Matt thanks for your question. The form W-9 is a request that a venue/restaurant may ask you for so that they can send you a Form 1099 showing how much you made during the year.

      The $600 amount only tells the venue whether or not they have to send you a form. But, regardless of whether they send you the forms or not, you still have to claim the income.

      The bright part is that you can also claim the expenses! Here’s a list of expenses that you might have that you could consider putting on your return: http://growthgroup.com/tax-deductions-for-music-industry-creators-businesses/

      Hope this helps!

      • Matt McAllister

        Great! thanks Alexis!!
        Where do I file the income? The only thing that looks close to it is 1099-misc, but at the top it says, ” Enter your information as it appears on your 1099-MISC form.” And I never received a 1099- MISC from any business. I just filled out a W-9 at 3 separate places.

  • Michael R.

    Hello! my name is Michael, I am a performer and owner of a 6pc band, and just a few weeks ago I have incorporated my Band. I am new to the legal business aspect of the way I should put my Tax Classification, either C-Corp, S-Corp, or LLC. I had my corporation set up by my bank, and they put me as President of the corporation. The Bank has got me as Type – S. Do I still have to file a form to notify the I.R.S ????

  • Jon

    Hi, I’m about to go on tour as a sideman guitarist for a national act and I would like to get paid without my taxes being withheld. The band’s accountant claims that the hired members are ’employees’ and can’t be paid as freelance contractors unless they are a corporation and have proof of workers compensation. In my understanding, as long as we fill out a W-9 using our social security as our tax ID we are eligible freelancers. Can you cite any cases where touring musicians get paid before being taxed and what process may be used to accomplish that?
    Thanks!

    • Jon,
      Each band has their own rules their’s include treating you as an employee unless other criteria are met. There aren’t cases where touring musicians are required to be contractors/freelancers, it’s up to the business you’re being hired by. If you’d like to discuss what you can do to satisfy their requirements, get in touch here: http://growthgroup.com/contact

  • disqus_j7fWTS65I4

    Quick question. My wife is a music teacher and so has W-2 income. She also does small gigs for which she being issued W-2 forms rather than 1099-Misc. Obviously she would like to deduct expenses, but I don’t see a way for her to do that if she is being paid on a W-2. How can she get these small (often church) gigs to send her a 1099-Misc rather than a W-2.

    • Hi Mike,
      Certain business expenses of employed performing artists can be deducted using Form 2106. Even if that option does not fit, she can use Schedule A to achieve a similar result.

      If you’d like us to help you with your tax return for this year, schedule an appointment here: http://growthgroup.com/contact , we’d love to help.

      • disqus_j7fWTS65I4

        Hi Alexis,

        Thanks for the information. My understanding is that Schedule A deductions are not an option because we do not file a Schedule A as we do not have sufficient expenses to make it viable. IOW, we no longer have a mortgage, etc. I will look into how I can use a forum 2106 but it did seem that the last time I really fought with it I needed to file a schedule C in order to claim mileage, copy costs, music instrument parts and repairs and supplies, etc.

  • Sing Low

    Hello, I am an aspiring music artist. I will be in the studio recording music in another state. How can I write these trips off? I already receive a 1099MISC form from a local church. But I am now venturing out to become a solo artist.