• Erica @ BMS Financial

Successful Musicians Have Bookkeepers

Updated: Jan 20

Great musicians make great art. Successful musicians have bookkeepers.

Miles Davis knew the importance of bookkeeping. He also happened to be one of the most influential and financially successful jazz musicians of all time.

Growing up, Miles was taught that to be successful at anything, he had to count his money. His grandfather, (Miles Davis the first) was a successful bookkeeper and landowner in Arkansas in the late 19th century, an impressive achievement for a black man in the south at that time.

In his autobiography self-titled Miles, he recalls the lessons his grandfather taught him. Davis says:

“My father told me my grandfather told him that whenever he got some money, no matter where or who he got it from, to count it and see if it was all there.

One time my grand­father gave my father what he said was $1,000 and sent him to the bank with it. When my father got down there to the bank, he counted the money and there was only $950. When he got back he went to my grandfather and said that he lost $50.

Grandpa just looked at him and said, 'Did you count the money before you left? Do you know if it was all there?' My father said, no, he didn't count the money before he left. '

That's right,' my grandfather told him, 'because I didn't give you nothing but $950. You didn't lose anything. But didn't I tell you to count the money, anybody's money, even mine? Here's $50. Count it. And then go ahead on back and put that money in the bank like I told you.' It was a lesson my father never forgot and he passed it on to his kids.

So today I count all my money."

Miles' grandfather knew what was up...

More important than who gives it to you, where it's going, or how it gets there, make sure to count your money. At all times you need to know how much money you have, who owes you what, and how much you owe to who.

As a bookkeeper at the turn of the century, Mile's grandfather literally counted his money. These days we make it a little easier.

What do Bookkeepers do for Musicians?

Bookkeepers manage and record all business transactions to generate financial reports to help understand where the business is, where it can go, and how to get there. You won't need to physically keep count your money, we use software for that. After finding a good bookkeeper they will use an electronic accounting software such as Quickbooks or Xero to organize and reconcile all of your business transactions.

Firms like BMS Financial offer finance and bookkeeping services

to help musicians with things like:

  1. Royalty Tracking

  2. Project Budgets & Goal Tracking

  3. Tax Strategy & Planning

  4. Cash Flow Reporting & Strategy

  5. Collecting Payments & Paying

  6. Decide Whether to Repair or Replace an Instrument

First and foremost, you are an artist so keep your focus on creating art.

But as your career and your earnings grow, your finances will become more and more complex. Set up a system early and have a plan in place to ensure you stay in a position to facilitate the growth and/or meet your next goal.

Bottom line:

Miles Davis didn't create The Birth of Cool by spending all his time reviewing his finances. But he learned early on that to be financially successful at anything, he needed to keep track of his money.

Create a plan. Then build a team of people who can help with the parts of that plan you won't have time or mental energy for. Know enough about what bookkeepers can do for you so you choose and can appreciate a good one.

BMS Financial specializes in the music industry because we have so much love and respect for musicians and share that passion for finance. Reach out if you're interested in working together.

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