Maria del Pilar Lopez is a business manager and Director at Citrin Copperman. Her wealth of knowledge and experience in the music and finance industry has provided creatives with peace of mind and financial security for over 15 years. In our latest Financial Literacy Month blog, we get Maria’s advice for creatives navigating their finances. Read more below!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a business manager.
I am a Director at Citrin Cooperman’s Entertainment, Music, and Sports Industry practice in New York City. I have over 15 years of accounting experience, specializing in business management, tax planning, and touring for the arts and entertainment industries.
I started my career at a mid-size CPA firm, with a large entertainment practice offering a full range of advisory and business management services for musicians, songwriters, directors, producers, and art collectors.
Working as a business manager and accountant for boutique and mid-size CPAs firms gave me the exposure, expertise, and knowledge to understand show business. Additionally, choosing a niche was instrumental for me to find my career path, which integrates my accounting degree with my love for the arts and music.
Having the opportunity to collaborate closely with entertainers, attorneys, and agents helped me to develop extensive knowledge about business management needs, tour budgeting, and tax strategies tailored to the entertainment industry. In addition, having an accounting and finance background provided me with skills and proficiency to advise and guide my clients on their most important financial decisions.
I feel very fortunate to help my entertainment clients navigate the tax and financial complexities of the industry, so they can focus on growing their artistic careers and brands.
What does it mean to be a business manager?
Business managers play a key role in the development and financial success of their clients. They are responsible for designing a comprehensive financial plan that helps clients maximize earnings and profitability, while also preserving their wealth.
Business managers act as trusted advisors and day-to-day chief financial officers who are instrumental in helping clients achieve their financial goals. They help develop investment strategies, and guide clients on how to properly plan for retirement. They are an essential team member in the group of professionals advising the artist, which includes entertainment attorneys, talent managers, agents, bankers, public relations managers, and others.
The entertainment industry has multiple complexities that are unique to the industry; therefore, business managers are required to have extensive expertise in accounting, wealth management, and tax planning. Working with artists from around the world in the music and film industries demands skilled professionals with deep expertise in tax treaties, withholding strategies, business structuring, and asset management.
As business managers, we are involved in tracking and overseeing all income streams comprised of intellectual property, licensing, royalties, merchandise, endorsements, and worldwide touring, among others. Furthermore, we help clients with budgeting, managing cash flows, tax compliance, cryptocurrencies, paying bills, royalty administration, advising in home purchasing or refinancing, charitable giving, reviewing insurance policies, and negotiating with publishing companies and record labels.
Finally, we need to translate all the meaningful financial data into valuable information that empowers our clients to make informed decisions to preserve wealth and achieve long-term financial independence.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to a creative in the music industry?
I like to emphasize the importance of creating a monthly budget, managing cash flow, filing tax returns in a timely manner, and saving for retirement. Income streams for entertainers can change overnight; therefore, it is crucial to do extensive tax planning, avoid unnecessary spending, and invest wisely.
Another good piece of advice I give my clients is to educate themselves as much as they can on financial terms and ask questions when something is not clear. Lack of understanding of basic financial concepts results in dramatically bad financial decisions.
Lastly, it is essential to surround themselves with a team of qualified, trusted professionals that can offer the advice and guidance to make sound financial decisions.
What is a common mistake you see artists in the industry make? What could they do to prevent that?
The most common mistake I see in the entertainment industry is the assumption that professional advice is too expensive and unnecessary, which leads to terrible financial decisions. Untrusted and incompetent advisors can cause successful entertainers to lose their entire wealth and compromise their financial independence.
Overspending, lack of financial structure, mixing business with personal expenses, and failure to save for retirement are other common mistakes in the entertainment industry. Having a team of trusted professionals can help entertainers to manage their cash flows, protect their wealth, and mitigate risks associated with bad financial decisions.
For more information on Maria and Citrin Copperman, visit their website here.