What Does an Accountant (Arts and Entertainment) Do?

It might seem strange to make a distinction between general-purpose financial advisers and accountants who work in arts and entertainment. Certainly, most clients share the same broad goals: to outsource difficult financial tasks and make, save, and invest more money than before. However, creative professionals and enterprises aren't like most clients; they face certain financial concerns that are unique to their profession. Using specialized financial knowledge accumulated from working in or around these industries for years, arts and entertainment accountants are vital assets to the artists, arts-related businesses, and nonprofit organizations that employ them.

The best arts and entertainment accountants are creative-minded as well as personable and articulate, and communicate well with their artistic clients.

Like general-purpose accountants, arts and entertainment accountants assist with tax planning and preparation, recordkeeping and bookkeeping, contract review, bill paying, and budgeting. But it's in giving targeted, boots-on-the-ground advice that they really shine. Years of industry-specific experience enables these professionals to make detailed recommendations that wouldn't occur to the uninitiated, such as the best credit card for a musician, the ideal virtual assistant for helping a music-related business stay on budget, and whether to repair or replace an aging instrument. Some accountants even specialize in tour accounting: the art of financially planning and managing a touring production, whether it's a band, play, musical, exhibition, or something else entirely. 

Accountant (Arts and Entertainment) at a Glance

Career Path

A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is generally considered to be the minimum required to work as a professional accountant, but due to the particularities of working in the field of arts and entertainment, these accountants tend to be further on in their careers and are more likely to possess a master's degree or MBA.

Before settling on this field, many arts and entertainment accountants work in other capacities in their arts-related industry—often the same roles later held by their clients. This experience supplies them with professional connections—a source of potential clients—and powerful insight into the financial concerns of their clients. Eventually, arts and entertainment accountants might collect a roster of high-profile artists or powerful arts-related businesses as clients, or choose to become in-house business managers for performance organizations like orchestras or theater companies.

Finding Work

Accountants may be self-employed, work for an accounting firm, or be employed by a music company or film or television studio. There are no specialized training programs for arts and entertainment accountants—those who aspire to work with creative professionals or companies should look for internships and other opportunities, network with industry professionals, and focus on building a solid résumé.

Professional Skills
  • Tax planning and preparation
  • Record keeping and bookkeeping
  • Contract review
  • Bill paying
  • Budgeting
  • Time management
  • Communication
Interpersonal Skills

The best arts and entertainment accountants are creative-minded as well as personable and articulate, and communicate well with their artistic clients. They are also cool-headed under stress, and able to work gracefully and confidently with all sorts of personalities (and egos). Exceptional organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to manage time are vital.

Work Life

Accountants generally work during standard business hours, although odd hours and travel may be involved if a client lives and works in a different time zone, or if meetings must be planned around a difficult performance schedule. Networking and maintaining a reputation in the industry is vital for drawing in new clients. Fortunately for arts and entertainment accountants, the best networking might come from attending a concert, play, or movie release. It's this—and the opportunity to forge long-term professional relationships with artists and arts-related organizations—that draws most to this field.