Author Archives: mrskeys

Money Matters: An Interview With Financial Planner and Broadway Percussionist Dave Roth

I first conducted this interview back in 2019, before the pandemic attacked our industry.  I almost didn’t repost this in the wake of all that has gone on.  In the end, I think one takeaway from this catastrophe has been that we need to consider our finances more than ever.  

Personally, when all of my gigs dried up I realized that I had to work a lot harder to figure out how I was going to continue to earn money.  So many of us have had to learn to adapt, by learning how to offer services online, to do virtual performances (and monetize them!), to better develop our side hustles, to consider weaknesses in our skill sets and to bring in to focus what is truly in our best interests as artists and as adults living in the world.

I hope this article provides some food for thought as we all continue to figure out how to move forward in the new world order.

As a freelance musician with an over twenty-year career, I am often asked for advice from younger musicians who are coming up.  My number one piece of career advice?  GET YOUR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER.  Why?  Because being a musician, an artist or any other freelance worker requires capital in order to maintain and grow it.  Being a musician also requires tenacity and longevity, which means young musicians have to take a long range approach to their careers.

To create a truly helpful experience, I enlisted the expertise of Dave Roth.  Dave is an Enrolled Agent, which is a federally authorized tax practitioner recognized by the U.S Department of the  Treasury.  He is also a professional percussionist who has been playing Broadway shows for many years.  Dave is my family’s accountant and financial advisor and he has been a tremendous resource for both my family’s finances and the complexities of my business needs.

The goal of this post is to give musicians a chance to reflect on their financial lives so they can make better choices for the future.

Q:  Financial planning can be quite terrifying for artists. What is the first thing you recommend someone doing when they decide to get their finances in order?

Dave:  First and foremost get out of debt.  If this is an issue for you then you should adopt an effective budget plan to assist in this.  I recommend the 80/20 method.  And then start putting money into investments.  No amount is too small.  The sooner you start the sooner that your wealth will start to grow.  Remember that all this is about exponential growth.  Every year that passes without putting money into investments can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in growth by the time one reaches retirement.

Q:  How much should someone be saving every month? What categories do you recommend people save in?

Dave:   That is dependent on their cost of living and their income levels.  One of the most useful tools to help with this is a financial tracking program like Quicken, iBank, Mint.com, etc.  Use of this style of tracking will assist in identifying areas of spending that can be curtailed.  9 times out of 10 it is cash withdrawals from the ATM machine.

Q:   What are some of the mistakes you see your clients making in their financial lives?

Dave:  Not “feeding the animal”.  What I mean by that is continuing to put money into an IRA to invest on a regular annual basis.

Q:   What about retirement savings. Is that something that artists should even think about?

Dave:  ABSOLUTELY!  In many ways artists need to think about it more than the average Joe because they may not work for an employer that provides a retirement program like a 401K.

Q:   What do you recommend for people who live in high cost of living areas (like NYC or LA)?

Dave:  Don’t live beyond your means.  As a NYC artist I have always been realistic about the lifestyle that I can afford.  Don’t rent or by an apartment that will drain most of your earning and savings potential.

Q: What do you wish you had done better, started/figured out sooner?

Dave: I wish I would have started putting money into my IRA much, much sooner.  I also wish I would have educated myself on how to handle my own investments at an earlier age.

Dave’s Top 5 Pieces of Advice for Artists

  1. Learn to communicate effectively
  2. Remember that your art will not put food on your table if you don’t treat it as a business.
  3. Treat your fellow artists with the same respect as you expect would be paid to you.
  4. Learn all the intricacies of taxes as it relates to a sole proprietor business or hire a professional to navigate this for you.
  5. Practice!  I’m not just talking about your art form but all aspects of life, love, health and financial wealth.

Covid-19 Pandemic advice from Dave:  “Very few other industries have been affected by the worldwide pandemic more than the performing arts.  So many have had to be creative and in some cases reinvent themselves.  This too shall pass but in the meantime it is important to stay informed and look for all the resources of financial aid like unemployment assistance, the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and check with local arts agencies that might be providing help through private donations and possible federal programs that they have tapped into.  “

Dave Roth is a professional percussionist in NYC.  He is an active musician in the Broadway scene having played on nearly 40 shows and has also accompanied Sting, Sir Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight, Ricky Martin, Joni Mitchell, Natalie Cole and Aloe Blacc to just name a few.  Dave also became an Enrolled Agent licensed to practice before the IRS granted by the United States Treasury Department and has an active tax and financial planning practice with well over 200 clients.

Check out Dave’s performance website.

Check out Dave’s accounting website.

Improvise Your Way to 2 Handed Independence

Do your left and right hand have a hard time playing together?  Maybe you try to play a bass line in the left hand while your right hand plays chords and they just. won’t. work. together.  In this video, I show you an easy and fun way to explore coordination between the hands.  The exercise is fully customizable for your interested and needs.  PLUS it contains super bonus material on how to strengthen your left hand and I share my favorite classical books to help develop your two hand independence.

Make sure to “Like” this video and SUBSCRIBE to my channel!  It helps me to keep making awesome resources like this for you.

Random Songs I Like #8 – Midnight Sky

Another song in my #RandomSongsILike series, this is such an addictive song to listen to.  Miley was heavily inspired by the Stevie Nicks song “Edge of Seventeen”, which is another awesomely addictive song.  I wanted to try some piano fireworks on this one to match the crazy intensity of the song and all the vocal belting.  Let me know if you dig it!

PS – Can you take a quick minute and subscribe to my Youtube channel?  It helps get more eyeballs on my work!

All Keyed up Podcast interview

My friend and former NYSMF alum Ben Kapilow had me as a guest on his new podcast All Keyed Up.  The podcast is all about piano teachers and Ben has curated an amazing group of guests to chat all about creativity in the piano studio.  On our episode, we talked about my methods of Improvisation and my online course Piano Improvisation for Everyone! plus some tips on how to teach jazz to classical pianists.  LISTEN HERE!

Pandemic Practice Tips: A guest blog post

My friend and fellow singer/voice guru Valerie Day invited me to contribute to a recent blog post she published all about practicing in the midst of a pandemic (topical, eh?).  I chimed in with a few tips that have really helped my students make more progress during this weird time.

BRENDA EARLE STOKES, creator of Piano Skills for Singers
1. Treat daily music practice as self-care. Spending time every day singing and making music is a great way to invite structure and creativity into every day and will help to feed your mind, body and soul. Make your practice space comfortable and cozy. Make sure that it has nice lighting, get a decent chair or stool, and fill your space with candles and inspirational quotes. While you’re at it, make sure you give yourself some private and distraction free time. Continue reading here..

How to Practice Singing During a Pandemic: 5 Singer/Teachers Share Their Top Three Tips

I was super excited when singer, voice teacher and podcaster Valerie Day asked me to contribute to her most recent blog post.  In it, you’ll hear my top three tips that I share with all my students.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Random Songs I Like #6 – Steel Rail Blues

Anyone who grew up in Canada was inevitably steeped in the music of Gordon Lightfoot.  His music was a staple of my CBC listening as a child and even though I might have rolled my eyes at it as a teen, it is something that I have grown to love as an adult.  In my version, I try to reproduce his lauded finger-picking guitar style on the piano.  Enjoy!

 

Article published in Classical Singer Magazine’s blog!

I was super excited to be published in Classical Singer Magazine‘s blog this week!  They reached out to me to see if I would share how my work for Piano Skills for Singers would translate to the classical world.  YES – faking is for EVERYONE!!

In my experience as a professional pianist, vocalist and educator, I have found that one of the weakest links in the vocalist community is a lack of functional keyboard skills.  This deficiency creates a huge handicap for singers and educators, keeping them from positions as section leaders, music directors and teachers.  In the post-pandemic world, singers are going to need as many tools as possible in their toolkit to carve out a livelihood. Continue reading here

Random Songs I Like #5 – Best of You

This week’s #RandomSongsILike is my version of the Foo Fighters “Best of You”.  I have loved this song for years and it was high time I sat down and worked out an arrangement.  I use a hemiola pattern throughout and made sure to knock out Taylor Hawkin’s kickin’ hits at the end of the guitar solo.  Fun!!