Digital disruption in music and the arts: how this accountant helps clients

Kylie Thompson FCPA loves what she does and so do her musician clients.

Look around a music gig and the last person you expect to see is the singer's accountant. But that's often where you'll find Perth-based FCPA and music specialist Kylie Thompson rocking out.

Look around a music gig and the last person you expect to see is the singer’s accountant. But that’s often where you’ll find Perth-based FCPA and music specialist Kylie Thompson rocking out.

For the past 20 years, Thompson has specialised in working with people in music and the arts. With about half of her client base now in the creative industry, she has established the niche Sorrento Strategic Music and Sorrento Strategic Creative divisions within the Sorrento Strategic Accounting practice. Sorrento Strategic Music sponsors music awards and offers free initial consultations to members of major music industry bodies, including West Australian Music and APRA AMCOS.

“As an accountant, it’s very important that you actually know what your client’s business is all about,” Thompson says. “It’s pretty easy to sit in an office and just have people come and see you, but I think that’s not really giving you a full understanding of how the industry works. If you’re going to be an expert in the area, you need to know all facets of that industry.”

Thompson didn’t initially plan to be an accountant: she’d set her sights on a career in radiography. However, after finishing school, she picked up a banking job and with a natural ability in mathematics, soon decided to follow her parents’ advice and undertake a commerce degree.

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“It was probably staring me in the face that my strength was dealing with people, and maths,” she says.

Thompson initially launched her own business to balance family with career. “You could still be successful and involved in the industry, without having to be at the highest level,” she says, adding her FCPA Australia qualifications allowed her to “make a pretty good living out of it”.

The business now has a staff of five and Thompson has balanced its growth to keep her premises at her home, which is just how she likes it.

“One of the challenges is managing growth,” she says. “Over the years, I’ve gone through stages of taking on new clients or not taking them on [and] I am pretty disciplined in managing that.”

Thompson’s client base has doubled over the last two years, partly as her children are now older and she has more time to commit to the business, but also because cloud-based solutions are freeing her from some of the nitty gritty.

She is constantly looking to the future, considering what services her clients will want as both the accounting and music industries change. Thompson is an accredited SMSF specialist adviser and also holds a diploma of financial planning, enabling her to offer an expanded range of services.

She recommends her clients move with the times too. “I encourage the musicians to do as much as they can themselves as they’re going along,” she says.

"I wouldn't change [what I do] for the world."

With music stores now nearly a thing of the past, you might expect Thompson to be finding it hard to source enough clients to grow her business. However, it’s quite the opposite. She says the huge digital disruption that has flipped the music industry on its head in the last two decades has led to a new breed of muso.

“There’s definitely still money to be made,” Thompson insists. “The young, 20-something musicians are operating in a completely different industry to the one that existed 20 years ago. In the old days, a lot of musicians would just be doing it on weekends, but it’s now a seven-day job for younger musicians. They’re doing it very seriously, they are getting online, and they’re getting it out there globally.

“I have a young girl [Stella Donnelly] who won Best Single at the 2017 Western Australian Music Awards. She’s got people in Portugal and Brazil following her and playing her music.”

One of Thompson’s lifelines has been support group Accountants in Suburbia, which meets monthly at a local lawyer’s office. The group has – incredibly – been going for 35 years and still retains some of its founding members.

“I certainly wouldn’t change [what I do] for the world,” she says. “I love the flexibility of having my own practice and my own hours. I love music and I love the whole thing of seeing people create things from nothing. I love what I do.” 

One piece of advice 

“Love what you’re doing.”

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June 2018
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