Christine Lee is professionally left-brained. A ruthless encounter with a headhunter took a love of his music and made it an invaluable part of any artist’s team by combining it with his training as an accountant. From balancing budgets to completing your taxes, a business manager makes sure your money is working for you. At this Co.Lab, he discusses the numerous ways in which you can manage your career as a business and make sure you are protecting your assets.
Spotify for Artists: How did a former accountant come to work in music?
Christine Lee: Many months ago, I also acted in bands and thought it would be the direction of my career. I went to school for accounting but it seemed a bit tedious and tedious. In my early 20s, I met a headhunter who brought me this way. I didn’t know until I was educated about what business management is, there’s such a deep, prominent field of work here.
Recording and traveling artists, writers, actors, producers – anyone in the world of entertainment needs a business director. You look at the people in that group and you realize that many of them are very creative and very intelligent but not necessarily big in terms of organizing numbers and documents. I jump in and take care of the things that can overwhelm them, give them peace of mind so that they know what is good.
What does it look like on a practical level?
We can work out a budget for an upcoming tour or adjust a tour so we can show the artist how they did in terms of revenue and expenses. We’re filing tax returns, we’re insuring for artists’ projects – for filming, for tours, for equipment, for bus and van rentals. On top of that, we usually pay all their bills and keep all their books. It’s a lot of work every day to keep their business going because each of our clients is basically a business. They’re a brand, they’re a company, and their company can have different ways we maintain all those paths and what’s going on with them. It’s almost like we’re their CFO.
What is the difference between you and someone’s manager?
There is a little crossover in the advisory space. A manager stays on the ground most of the time. Whether it’s contacting publishers or record labels or dealing with touring, branding, publicity – they work more or less with the basics of the contract. When it comes time to figure out the financial and tax implications of this deal, I come and we take a deeper dive, we work together to ensure the maximum benefits for our artists.
How does your work fit into a larger team?
Some people really value us and our opinions at different levels of their careers, and some people really use us exclusively for business and financial services. It is an individually created experience that has been learned over time. I am much more involved with some clients and their management team than others. An artist I’ve been working with for years and years is now starting to value my creative input because we got to know each other.
How do you navigate sensibilities when working with an artist’s money?
I am a signatory to my client’s bank account and I can circulate their money at will. So they have to believe that we are doing everything above the board and we are very transparent with them. It became a process of becoming known and a constant dialogue. It does me a disservice to control everything and keep the information at the gate because I don’t really like to decide how that money is used or diverted, but I like to guide and educate people to make the right decisions. It also gives them a sense of security that things are not being mismanaged.
What do you recommend an artist to do without a business manager?
Keep a very detailed and organized record because I see that not often, we have to travel on time and do things together. It’s very time consuming and frustrating for everyone if something comes up and we say, “Oh, I don’t know what actually happened there. I don’t know what it was for. ”You need a paper path. It can also cause tax problems because if you don’t report things properly it can really come back and bite you. Being organized in the beginning and keeping a good record will prepare you for later success.
-Spotify for artists