Biz Buzz-April 2011: It’s Tax Time Along Music Row 2.0

After a brutal winter, spring is at last coming to Music City. Sadly, along with the warm weather comes mid-April and Tax Time.

I’m no accountant and no CPA, but I do know that there are some ways artists, songwriters, and musicians can itemize deductions for their music and their business that they may not have thought of before.

First of all before we begin, ALWAYS save your receipts…for EVERYTHING. They’ll help you organize your finances throughout the year, and come Tax Time the receipts will be a huge help.

Okay, you’ve probably already thought of deducting your hotel and meal expense when you’re on tour along with the deduction for mileage getting to and from the gig. Fair enough. And if you’re lucky enough to fly to the gig, you know about deducting your air travel.

But there are so many other things. Bobby Bare used to talk about how he wasn’t paid for the 1-hour shows he played, but “for the 99 hours it took to GET to the show.”

That is absolutely right. For instance, when you buy guitar strings, an effects rack, a new guitar or new amp, do you deduct it? If not, why not? It’s a cost of doing business, a tool you need to do your job. The IRS and the government encourage you to invest in your business. It helps everybody and builds the economy. So they allow you to deduct legitimate business expenses.

Odds are you also buy a lot of albums each year or pay for downloads of tracks or albums. Aren’t you listening to your competition each time you do that? Aren’t you planning your own business and music strategy with every concert ticket you buy to see how your competitors and colleagues are developing the state of the art?

You get the point.

Another type of forward thinking is clearly happening along Music Row where many of the old-guard label heads who had been there for decades have moved on. Jim Ed Norman ran Warner Bros. Nashville for years and years, and Joe Galante was country’s most powerful executive as head of what used to be Sony BMG and more recently is called Sony Music Nashville.

Both have exited those posts. John Esposito is the new boss at WMG/Nashville, while longtime EMI Music Publishing leader Gary Overton has taken Galante’s place at Sony.

Most of Galante’s top lieutenants are gone as well. Butch Waugh left even before Galante, and veteran radio promotion head Tom Baldrica and most recently A&R maven Renee Bell have departed. 

On a global basis, Sony Music also went outside its own company walls to find a new leader. Doug Morris, who built Universal Music Group into the world’s biggest, is coming on board at Sony later this spring. 

The point is that these new folks have new ideas, and new strategies. The biggest change has likely been at WMG/Nashville, where Esposito has shown himself to be an artist-friendly label boss who in a lot of ways himself has an artist-type creative personality. Blake Shelton, for instance, has responded brilliantly to Esposito’s friendship and guidance, with new approaches like SIX PAK mini-albums and other innovations as we detailed in the December/January cover story on Blake in the Nashville Music Guide. 

The label heads who have stayed, notably Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, UMG’s Luke Lewis, and Capitol Nashville’s Mike Dungan, have found huge success with genre-bending strategy. Taylor Swift has become a Big Machine and Pop culture superstar; Jamey Johnson neither looks nor sounds like most of today’s male country stars; and Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker have become monster hits for Capitol on tour and at radio – both with pop and country fans.

Another vital component of new strategy is Social Networking, which is a cornerstone of TCM Records, the exciting new label owned by Nashville Music Guide’s executive editor and owner Randy Matthews.

With vital partnerships with tech experts including New Media Edge, Jessica Northey, and Corey Frizzell, and a powerhouse local staff including Kymberly Matthews, Joe Matthews, Glenda Montgomery, Rhonda Smith, Warren Ells, and Amanda Andrews, TCM is aggressively utilizing Social Media as a means to reach radio and fans. 

If you don’t think that’s an important approach, take a look at one of the new bidders to buy WMG. His name is Sean Parker, the controversial young Web entrepreneur who co-founded a company called Napster, shaking the music business to its very core.

And anybody who saw the Oscar-nominated movie about the beginning of Facebook called The Social Network knows that Sean Parker also is part owner of Facebook, the ultimate Social Media site. So don’t be shocked if soon he’s also part owner of Warner Music Group.

By Phil Sweetland

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.