Tax & Accounting Blog

More than just an accountant: Stephen Pell on accounting for rockstars

Accountancy Practices, Accounting, Business Strategy & Development July 26, 2018

Ever told someone you’re an accountant and been disappointed by their reaction? Having worked closely with accountants for over 30 years, we know that your job title doesn’t truly reflect the vast spectrum of roles you play every day. So, to dispel the stereotypes and champion accountants, we’re bringing their stories to the fore – about what makes them more than just an accountant.

Stephen Pell founded Pell Artists in 2015, an accountancy practice exclusively for musicians and those in the music industry, both up-and-coming artists and those already well known. Stephen’s role is to help musicians, not only with their finances, but with decisions to build their brand and generate global success.

A natural entrepreneur, Stephen says starting his own practice was inevitable and, as a business owner himself, he uses his personal insight to add value and connect with clients on business issues. “There’s a lot of value to be added by going through the same experiences as your clients.” he says.

Musicians contact him for a trusted advisor who can provide a link to others in the sector: “[My clients] come to me for career advice because, as an accountant, we’re in a position where we transcend so many different parts of the industry, and we have an understanding and connection to each of them. A lot of the time, clients come to me for referrals, or for introductions to other parts of the industry as well.”

Stephen also recognises his clients’ need for motivation: “The music industry is notoriously tough. It can really grind people down, and people that are not involved in the music industry often don’t quite understand the pressures,” he says, “So quite often, clients open up to me on whether they’ve made the right decision, should they get rid of this manager, or should they sign to this record label. It’s much more than just the numbers.”

When asked how much of his day is spent on his clients’ finances, Stephen says that only 5% to 10% of what the practice does relates to tax and accounting work. He comments, “The music industry is a much bigger beast. There’s so much going on; it’s as much about managing relationships, managing the team, coordinating, advising strategically…there’s a lot more than accounts.”

In terms of what his role requires, Stephen believes the most important quality of an accountant is to be a good listener. “Alongside that,” he continues, “I would say that being a good accountant transcends doing a tax return…getting out the next set of books. It’s about the commercial thinking, the bigger picture thinking, and actually the accounts and the tax returns are just part of that.”

Stephen’s advice for anyone starting their firm is to get your processes and technologies in place from the start, and run with it. Speaking from experience, he spent quite a bit of time in the early days choosing the right partner, getting the right fit and working out how the technology all fits together. “For me,” he says, “At the end of the line, processes are probably the most important thing to get right at the start. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

And when asked for his thoughts on the future, Stephen goes on to explain how he sees the profession changing: “The role of the accountant is certainly going to change, but for the better…I think technology is going to make life much more enjoyable and rewarding for an accountant, and I feel that it’s only going to bring benefits to the advisor – and to the client.”

Watch Stephen’s full interview below:

Enjoyed this interview? Read Freddie Faure’s story on cross-border accountancy [5 minute read].At Thomson Reuters, we recognise you are more than an accountant, and in the same way, we are more than software. What makes you more than an accountant? Comment below.