What Does an Arts and Entertainment Accountant Do?

It might seem strange to make a distinction between general-purpose financial advisers and those who work in arts and entertainment. After all, most clients share the same broad goals when they hire an accountant: to outsource difficult financial tasks and make, save, or invest more money than before. However, creative professionals and enterprises aren't like most clients; their particular financial concerns tend to be unique to their profession. Arts and entertainment accountants learn how to navigate these unique goals and concerns from years of working in or around these industries. The best among them 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. However, it's in giving targeted, boots-on-the-ground advice that they really shine. Years of industry-specific experience helps these professionals to make detailed recommendations that wouldn't occur to the uninitiated, such as the ideal credit card or bank account for a touring musician, the best virtual assistant for helping a music-related business stay on budget, or an affordable local instrument repair tech who can help a client decide 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. 

Arts and Entertainment Accountant 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 additional demands of working in the arts, these accountants tend to be further in their careers and are 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 similar roles to those held by their eventual artist clients. This experience supplies them with professional connections—a source of potential clients—and powerful insight into the financial concerns of their artist clients.

Eventually, arts and entertainment accountants might collect a roster of high-profile artists or powerful arts-related businesses as clients, choose to become the in-house business manager for a performance organization like an orchestra or theater company, or take on a more involved role in the careers of a few clients as a personal business manager.

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 few 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, personable, articulate, cool-headed, and communicate well with their artistic clients. 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, along with the opportunity to work closely with artists and arts-related organizations, that draws most to this field.