Musicians all over the country are humming "We're in the Money," thanks to an Internet banking program by Bill.com that pays them the moment they finish a performance.
Pianist Mac Frampton, of Atlanta, understands the importance of prompt payments to performers because he's played at least 4,000 concerts since launching his career in 1972. "Artists have a lot of overhead," Frampton said. "We have to pay our side men - the men and women who accompany us on drums, bass and other instruments - and pay for the plane tickets that take us to the venues and the hotels we stay in while performing."
A few years ago, Frampton took on a second position, as a part owner and treasurer of Alkahest Artists & Attractions, the Chattanooga, Tennessee company that had booked his gigs for decades. Although he's always loved working with finances, Frampton realized that his dual positions were not always in harmony. "It was hard to pay our other artists and booking agents while I was on the road myself," he said.
Frampton set up an escrow account, to hold deposits for concerts that are often booked a year or more in advance, and an operating account, to pay Alkahest musicians and agents through QuickBooks.
The day of each concert, he transferred escrow monies into the operating account and ordered his bank to mail e-checks to the performers. "But we have several artists with more than one home," he said, "and one group that travels by bus and spends most of the year on the road. I'd make sure checks went out the day of the concert, but sometimes they went to the wrong address."
Early this year, Frampton discovered Bill.com's integration with QuickBooks that works via the Internet, putting all transactions online. "This means I can pay everyone by direct deposit," Frampton said. "Our artists are elated and I can go on the road myself and not have to worry about their payments."
For Frampton, that road is often the high seas. About twenty percent of his work is on cruise ships that take passengers through the Panama Canal, around the Mediterranean or along the coast of South America. Because Bill.com operates in the cloud, Frampton can use the ships' Internet connections for his laptop "and do payroll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," he said.
Another Bill.com feature allows Frampton to add attachments to each account. Every time a new contract comes in to Alkahest, he turns it into a PDF file and uploads it into his laptop. "That way, I can bill the university, community arts council or other group that arranged the performance according to the contract terms," he said. The Bill.com/QuickBooks integration also helps him compute the commissions that Alkahest owes independent agents who bring bookings to the entertainment firm and send payments directly into their accounts.
Alkahest, founded in 1896, is the nation's oldest lecture, concert and theatrical booking management company. Early clients included Winston Churchill, Will Rogers and Enrico Caruso. Today the firm represents about 40 artists that typically perform a single concert per venue, for everyone from college students to retirees. Frampton, who is classically trained, performs a repertoire from his own arrangements that include James Bond and Disney medleys, classic favorites and movie themes, with a trio or a six-piece musical group, all of whom he can now pay by check as soon as they take their final bows.
"In the old days," Frampton said, "I'd sometimes have to tell my side men not to cash their checks for a few days, to make sure I had money to cover them. With Bill.com, any time they cash their checks, the money's there."
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