Music and Money with David Adams

David Adams Logo

Most of the time when people think or rock stars or rap gods they think about the fancy cars and clothes and boats, worth hundreds of thousands, that get taken out once a year. But all these expensive items of luxury come with taxes, bookkeeping and (in the case of MC Hammer) bankruptcy. Independent financial planner David Adams, and his firm in Nashville, is something like the unseen hero to musicians who have made it big and need some financial security. He makes sure songwriters and artists spend more time thinking about investing and less time buying exotic animals.

Creative Control: What got you into the financial game and how did it lead to working with artists and songwriters?

David Adams: I’m a CPA and a certified financial planner and I left the tax world about 14 years ago and decided I wanted to help families and individuals do financial planning, it was more of my passion.  I started just growing my business, working with a little bit of everybody. A couple of my first big clients were big songwriters here in town. They became close friends and I helped them through some big transitions, selling catalogues, putting money away for different things. I really enjoyed working with them, I really enjoyed the creativity of the artists, they’re very coachable, I just really appreciated their passion and determination for what they do. My side of the business was something they weren’t really into or particularly enjoyed, so to be able to help them and to get that creative outlet, which I have a side of myself that really enjoys a creative outlet. So just being around them and spreading word of mouth around Nashville and getting more writers and musicians really helped. I’d say over the last five or six years I’ve been kind of branding more toward that. Our office is more laid back and that appeals to musicians. Our website, some of the content we put out, is aimed at musicians. That’s the biggest part of the business that we’re trying to grow is helping other people.

CC: Did the music scene in Nashville draw you here from Memphis?

Adams: Well, growing up in Memphis, home of rock and roll, [I enjoyed] music growing up and was looking for a way to get out of Memphis but still be close to my family and Nashville seemed like an up-and-coming city and I knew there was a music scene here. Country music has changed a lot since I’ve moved here, the lines country and pop have become a lot more blurred so country music is a lot more popular, it’s a lot more mainstream. So that was a consideration coming here, my parents played music when I was growing up and I thought it was a good economy and a good place to live. There was also a music scene which I enjoyed and little did I know it would be as big as it is.

CC: Earlier you said that you have your own creative outlets, is that one thing that took you from one music city to The Music City?

Adams: My dad grew here, he’s in a band, he’s a drummer, plays guitar and played in the church orchestra growing up. My mom plays piano. I never did, however the last year I’ve been picking up drums and piano lessons so it’s something I enjoy now. As far as creativity goes, I enjoy writing, I’m starting a blog, I’m thinking of writing a book and I enjoy renovating houses around town and now music is one of my creative outlets as well.  

CC: That’s interesting that you renovate houses. I feel like a lot of people who have a music mentality don’t really do that often- creative but also on opposite ends of the creative spectrum.

Adams: Right, sort of left brain/right brain mentality, same thing with numbers. I feel like that was kind of my talent was always math and numbers, but then there’s part of me that really enjoys the creative side. This job’s been a nice balance because I get to do the numbers and use my gift, but I also get to connect with people and help them through big transitions and then working with musicians I get to be around creative people which inspires me.

CC: Who would you say are your biggest clients who started small and ended up making it big?

Adams: One example is that I’ve had two big songwriters, one has multiple Grammys, they both probably have 10 number 1s, so they’re big writers in town. I was helping them as they were writing their first number 1s and then they went and they sold catalogues which is a big deal as a songwriter, it’s kind of like the first chapter of your life’s work. You sell over your book to a publishing company where there’s a big chunk of money that comes in. So that’s where they really needed me to say, “Let’s set this up and invest it so that if we never write another number 1, we can take care of our family. Be conservative and have a plan and then we can go back and keep writing, but this may be the only time that we get to do this.” So I’ll help ’em build a house, maybe pay off a house, fund their kids’ college account, have a cash savings, save for retirement all those things to be done with that big chunk of money, so that’s something that’s a very big deal for a writer if they sell their book of songs.

CC: Would you say your clientele is more songwriters or artists?

Adams: Both. I have some notable artists here in town, a lot of songwriters, definitely some artists and a lot of songwriters are both songwriters and artists. So you’ll have somebody’s name who’s big and up-and-coming who’s been a songwriter for five years, but now they’ve written a number 1 and they’re performers, now they’ll try to make it as an artist. A lot of songwriters will try to do both, but the main goal is to write songs and try to get a number 1.

CC: What would you say to a newer client who’s about to make it big or just made it? What are some of the “dos and don’ts”?  

Adams: The first thing they should do is save up, always six months to a year worth of expenses because the music business is very volatile and very unpredictable. And you may never know when you’re going to write a number 1, you don’t know if you’ll have dependable income. So to save up a chunk of money in savings before you do any type of investing and then after that I’d like to see them save up some money to where they can put a down payment on a house, but not too much – at least 20-25% down which takes a while to save that, if they can. Try to pay off credit cards, to try to keep from going further in debt. I think a good financial planner would tell somebody, even if they [have] got $100,000, to do all these basic things first versus “Let’s just invest it so we can get compensated.” I think that needs to come after all these other things come first. I’ll try to help clients, let’s pay off the car, that credit card debt and save some sleeping at night money and saving up money for a down payment on a house. Then once you’ve done all that, now let’s talk about starting a retirement account and maybe saving for other type of investing.

CC: Is there a theme with up-and-comers? Like do a bunch of them really want to buy a Lambo or something with their first check?

Adams: Yeah, and I work with some athletes too and I see that that’s a trend. They work so long with very little income and then they get that first check and just spend it all on something like a car. I think there’s a balance between rewarding yourself for working hard and maybe getting a nice car, but trying to make sure they’re still saving some money and not spending it to put themselves back in the same situation and then they have no more money until they write another number 1. So it’s helping them, let’s save some, but let’s enjoy some, but not blow it out of the water.

CC: Has any client come to you and asked if they could buy an elephant or a house that they don’t need?

Adams: It’s usually something like a plane. That’s something you definitely want to lease. Nothing crazy like an elephant, but a lot of times it’s buying multiple houses in different cities that they probably won’t use. I usually advise they just buy a nice house and then travel if they want to go to different locations. That’s a thing that a lot of people do, they’ll just buy so much real estate and then they’ll have to pay property taxes and somebody to cut the yard and they don’t ever use it and it just sits there empty.

CC: Has anybody’s stubbornness lead to them walking out?

Adams: No, sometimes I feel like I have to be the “No Guy.” If I was just a “Yes Guy” and said “Yeah!” just to make buddies with everybody then I wouldn’t be doing a service. Sometimes people push me and they want to buy a $200,000 antique car and ask me and I have to be the bearer of bad news and I tell them, “If you’re going to pay me to be the Yes Guy then there’s ultimately no point. So it’s your money and you can do what you want with it but I’m uncomfortable with it and I think it’s a bad step.” I’ve had some clients do that, [but] I haven’t had anybody leave yet. I’ve had some pushback, but usually they end up listening and we meet in the middle. Or if I’m meeting with both spouses, one of them is more sensible than the other. So one of them may say, “See! What’d I tell you?” [Laughs] So sometimes I feel like I’m Dr. Phil or a marriage counselor because I can come between people and there’s usually different views on money. One person is more conservative and one is like, “Hey you can’t take it with you, let’s spend it.” So I get that a lot.

CC: Earlier you said that the lines between country music and pop music are becoming blurred, would you say that you have more country artists or pop artists or a mix?

Adams: Certainly more country and I’ve got some pop and a little rock too. It’s starting now to become a little bit of both because a lot of people are starting to move here.

CC: What’s the most frustrating part of this job?

Adams: I’d say the most frustrating part is you spend a lot time setting people up with a plan and getting them to be disciplined, and then the one part of this job that we can’t control is the stock market. So we can do all this stuff and then the market has a bad year, you get nervous or start questioning the plan, you really have to hold their hands and it’s really hard when it’s a volatile time. When people are making money it’s much much easier. That’s the most frustrating part because even with the best planning you can’t control if the overall economy is having a bad year like in 2008.

CC: With that in mind what are some of the more rewarding aspects?

Adams: When a client is going through a major change, whether it’s musicians selling a catalogue or coming off the road from touring or writing their first number 1 or somebody getting a divorce, or having a baby or losing their parents, they come in here with some sort of transition and they’re really anxious and need help and they walk out of here with a plan and go, “Phew, I feel so much better, thank you.” That’s the part where I take away that burden and that stress and they leave here feeling a lot better.

CC: Does the stress you take away ever get transferred to you?

Adams: In that situation, if they feel better, it’s rewarding enough to me. I do carry some of the stress for them sometimes because I’m the one who’s maintaining and implementing the plan and they walk out of here and say, “We’re good.” But I still have to watch things for them. But if they’re good clients and they’re appreciative and they get it then a lot of them kind of understand the longer term picture.

CC: In addition to working with musicians, you said you also work with some athletes, is there anyone you wouldn’t work with? Or is there anyone who you would like to work with in movies or TV or other musicians?  

Adams: I love to help anybody who’s in the creative field, TV or movie producers or actors would be something I would enjoy. I haven’t seen a ton of them in Nashville, but there’s the show “Nashville” and some other kinds of TV shows around here, so that would be in the same realm of clients that we would like to work with.

CC: What kind of music are you into?

Adams: You know when I moved to Nashville I wasn’t even into country music, but now it’s really grown on me. Especially as it’s become more mainstream and more pop. You know this sounds generic, but I like a little bit of everything. I love country, I love classic rock, I love 90s rock and everything from Coldplay to Lady Antebellum to Pearl Jam to Guns n’ Roses to U2, really I’m just a music guy. There’s not like a certain sound or band that really describes me.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply