As an artist, it’s important to have a good team around you – from managers, producers, and publicists. But one person who is sometimes forgotten about is an artists accountant! How can an artist protect their money? Why is an accountant important? We had the honor of talking with Alexis Kimbrough, founder and CEO of entertainment accounting firm Growth Group who answered all of these questions and more!
The IMC: What’s your background?
AK: I graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C., with a degree in accounting. Then I went to American University,and got my masters in taxation. So my background is more so in finance and accounting, but if you wanted to ask where the music part came from, I went to school on a marching band scholarship at Howard so music paid for my accounting degree essentially. So my talent in the music area is what contributed to where I am now.
The IMC: What made you want to practice accounting?
AK: I don’t really know. Honestly when I started, I took an accounting class and was like ‘ok, I can do this.’ It was really just a matter of ‘this is something I can do and I’m really good at it’ and I as I learned more about it, it was a realization that this [accounting] is something that everyone needs and everyone can use. People are always wondering how to budget, how to save money, buy a house, all of those questions involve cash so accounting was it!
“Risk is what brings rewards!”
The IMC: More so, what made you want to practice accounting for musicians and artists?
AK: I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. I had to push and not take no for an answer and kind of go for it. Risk is what brings reward, so when you step out on faith, you will be rewarded for your efforts and that’s what I believe! So really, it was a matter of aligning up my life so that I could make the adjustment to do it on my own and that involved selling my house, moving to Atlanta, and those are big adjustments. But it was a matter of saying ‘this is what I want to do with my life’ and taking charge of it and putting my full effort in it. I had to cut my lifestyle down to move to Atlanta. I sacrificed and sacrifice is important for success.
The IMC: In what ways, if any, does your business differ from others in regards to your clientele?
AK: I’m very selective about who I take on. I want to keep my stress levels low and my service levels high. I want to like working with you and I want you to like working with me, so if you’re difficult to work with, it’s just not going to be a good fit. I’m very specific about how I work with especially in the industry I work in – taking on music clients and music creative, whether that be DJ’s, artists, record labels, however you distinguish yourself – if you’re creating music or involved in that process, then that’s who I serve.
The IMC: Being the CEO/founder of your own company, what is a typical day like for you?
AK: A typical day probably involves writing, because I’m writing once a week in order to give music creators the best content that they’re looking for. I’m also a big reader. As far as clients, I will typically have a Facetime or Skype interview with my clients, because we go over things like tax returns on my screen – I do everything virtual.I’m also coming up with a new idea to better serve my clients and business. No day is the same but generally speaking I’m working on writing, reading and meeting with people and coming up with new ideas and approaches.
The IMC: Why is it important for musicians especially indie artists and up and comers to have an accountant on their team?
AK: The first thing I’d have to say is contact an accountant and ask. Don’t assume just because you’re an indie artist, you can’t afford an accountant, call one and ask and see about their services and see if they can help you out. Another thing I’d say if I were a professional musician, I wouldn’t want my money jacked up! So I think it’s good to try things on your own, but I think one of the biggest fears that musicians have is ending up like Lauryn Hill or Wesley Snipes and I think that doing it on your own will be much more expensive if something goes wrong. So I suggest getting a professional or someone who knows what they’re doing and do it right.
The IMC: What 3 tips do you have to offer to an indie artist about keeping their money right?
AK: First thing is to budget. Focus and don’t get distracted by new items and new services. Budget what you plan on spending and stick to it and track yourself. Second thing would be to invest in your long term growth and not your short term growth. Third thing would be to not mix business money and personal money. That way you don’t end up with issues with the IRS and get a team who can help you. No one’s an expert at everything and you’ll stress yourself out, so get a team who can help you out.
“If you’re reasons of becoming an entertainment accountant are because you want to be in the artists next music video, then this may not be what you want to do because you’re very behind the scenes!”
The IMC: If I have aspirations of being an entertainment accountant, what should I do to become one?
AK: I think it’s important to know you’re why! Why do you want to become one? If you’re reasons are because you hope the artist is going to put you in their next music video, then this might not be what you want to do because you’re very behind the scenes. you’re not going to end up on the thank you list on the CD cover. If you really want to be one, learn the things that are specific to music, comedy, TV, film. You’re going to have to go deeper than the service and really dig. There’s not generally a class for it. So you’re going to have to learn. Reach out for internships and get the experience.
The IMC: Where do you see your company in 3 years? 5 years?
AK: Honestly, I want to be the go to accounting firm for independent record labels, musicians, artists and small recording studios.
The IMC: Going back to how you created Growth Group from scratch. What tips or life lessons would you offer to someone who wants to open their own business?
AK: Make as many connections as possible. Just meet people in general and be social. There’s a time and place for advertising and sponsorship but be personal. The other thing is to expect to grow organically and slowly. Yes there’s your Facebook’s over the world, but most people are n’t going to be an overnight success. It’s one of those things where you cant expect to be found overnight. Really foster the relationships with your fans and followers.