As a musician, you have to be brave enough to say, "Fans, I put my heart, money, blood, sweat and tears into this music and if you enjoy it and wish to hear more in the future please contribute financially" and come up with clear avenues that generate money for you that fans can contribute to (Tickets to live shows, CDs, T-Shirts, Virtual Tip Jar, Kickstarter).
Even at the lowest level, if you can't afford to maintain your gear it can be very crippling to your artistic abilities and significantly slow your career. Your financial goals must align with your career goals, if you really want the masses to hear your music it is an expensive journey so plan accordingly. If you only wish to play locally for friends and family, a much smaller budget will certainly suffice. And honestly, either avenue is fine, but you must definitively decide. If you are serious about it, take it serious, put out a serious product and seriously ask fans to support your career by contributing financially.
I've always agreed with Neil Young - digital piracy is the new radio. There is really nothing you can do to stop it so why not embrace it as a marketing tool. You should aspire to make music that is so good that people want to steal it, when enough people steal it they will also share it and eventually seek out your website to see your schedule, buy official CDs/Merch, fund a Kickstarter campaign, or contribute in some way. It has been calculated that you only need 1,000 true fans per band member to sustain a career. True fan is described as someone who will see every show within 200 miles driving distance, buy a paid subscription to your fanclub, buy every delux album and every piece of merch you have. So if you can get thousands of people to hear and share your music surely you can cultivate 1,000 of them into true fans who will support you financially and build a sustainable career in music.
Put as much effort into your financial plan as you do developing your music skills and align your financial goals with your long term band goals to steer your career on a sustainable path.
Good luck out there! - Tony