Cost of Creativity: Ryan ‘RnB’ Barber discusses the finances behind music endeavors

FUNK IT: Producer and singer Ryan “RnB” Barber discusses the costs that come with releasing an album and video during a pandemic. Photo courtesy of Barber

Producer and Grammy-winning vocalist Ryan “RnB” Barber has a theory about people: No matter how much you try to better yourself, there’s always going to be someone with something negative to say — possibly even yourself.

That’s why his latest mantra, “Funk Yo Feelings,” became the title track of his 2021 album and the soundtrack for his most recent music video, which playfully depicts music as an antidote to bad behavior.

The stress of cancel culture, polarizing political climates and the pandemic all inspired the work, which Barber says seeks to bring a positive vibe to listeners. “Since music is a universal language that can make folks forget about negativity for a few moments, I felt that writing the song and releasing the video and album was necessary,” he explains.

Yet for Barber, the cost of producing the album and video wasn’t a universally positive experience. Speaking with Xpress as part of its ongoing “Cost of Creativity” series, Barber shares the financial, mental and emotional tolls that came with his latest musical endeavor and the ways he sustained himself throughout the process.

Feeling funky

In January 2020, Barber had a full calendar of live shows scheduled and was projecting his largest earnings to date as a performing artist. But — as the now well-known story goes — COVID-19 upended all his plans. Like so many others, Barber experienced major income loss and job uncertainty as bars closed and events were canceled.

Shaken but undeterred, the artist immersed himself in writing music, ultimately releasing “Funk Yo Feelings,” a song that revels in overcoming hardships and embracing the positive side of life. With so many “songs that make people cry or angry, there’s got to be someone to put a smile on people’s faces,” Barber explains.

Without live performances to offset the cost of producing both the album and video, Barber launched a crowdfunding campaign. He raised $2,000, covering just under a third of the project’s overall cost.

Barber says hundreds of hours went into recording the album and filming the video, all of which were done in between odd jobs. The endeavor’s total cost came in around $6,500, which covered new recording gear, marketing, CDs, T-shirts, vinyl and the music video produced by Kira Bursky.

Barber emphasizes that expenses could have run much higher had he not already established a home studio, allowing him to record, produce, mix and master the project on his own.

Hand to mouth

Despite the cost, Barber believes the overall project was an important and worthy pursuit. “Music makes folks happy and helps them forget about the negative for a few moments,” he says. “Even if it only inspires one person, it’s still a step in the right direction toward more happiness in the world.”

But he stresses to young and emerging artists the importance of being strategic. Though money never drives his creative endeavors, he notes “being deep in a hole of debt definitely takes its toll on your mental and emotional health.”

In Barber’s case, an additional $1,000 grant from the Asheville Area Arts Council, along with the $2,000 from his GoFundMe campaign, offset some costs. Still, the artist notes he took out two small private loans to fund the rest.

The creative lifestyle can look flashy and fun, Barber points out, yet it isn’t a hobby for most. It requires work, discipline, a business mindset and resilience, the musician says.

“Many artists live hand to mouth, especially right now,” he notes. “So when I hear people taking it lightly or calling it fun, I hope to remind them that this is also our livelihood.”

Nevertheless, Barber stresses, the pursuit is worth the ups and downs. “Never give up and never stop creating,” he says.

Among other things, he adds, “Music is great therapy.”


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