There is an enduring disconnect between devoting one’s life to music and being proficient in QuickBooks. Hillary Byrum helps indie-label owners bridge that gap, and her advice applies to independent artists as well. Bookcreeping, her Brooklyn-based company, manages the accounts of labels including Captured Tracks, Sacred Bones Records and Cascine, keeping track of every late-night bar tab and far-flung royalty payment. We asked her to give us a crash course in DIY bookkeeping.
Start keeping track of all your expenses as soon as possible. People will put it off and just think that they’ll remember everything, but you can’t trust yourself to do that. It makes everything so much easier and will save you so much time in the long run if you just sit down once a week to sort everything out.
Develop A System
I make a binder containing every expense for every release my clients have ever had, almost like a scrapbook. Each expense is organized by the catalog number of the release it’s for, and I’ll do the same thing in QuickBooks. When sales come in, they get tagged by catalog number as well. Having a system in place will help keep things from falling through the cracks.
I started working with one label and I couldn’t make sense of their books at all because they had only put in some things and left out others. When you’re missing expenses and the numbers don’t add up, it’s the worst. You don’t want to have to call an artist and be like, “Did we pay you for this thing?” Everyone has their own way of doing things, but be consistent.
Keep A Budget Calendar
One thing people don’t realize is that when you sign with a distributor, there are terms that say you won’t be paid for a couple of months on the sales you’ve made. So you have to be really careful about what you spend because you’re not going to see money back immediately.
Get Help With Taxes
I have a CPA that I work with and recommend to my labels. In my experience, it’s a real relief to have someone who’s an expert in tax law sit down and tell you that everything is OK. They can answer questions like “Should this person get a W9?” and whether or not you can write something off. I really do think that they pay for themselves.