Translating business jargon so artists can focus on making art

With tax time looming, it’s more important than ever to find an accountant who understands how the arts sector works and can make sense of your finances to help your business succeed.

For many artists and arts workers, the language of business compliance can sometimes seem impenetrable, which is why it’s so important to find someone who can help you cut through the jargon and make sense of your accounts simply and clearly.

‘We’ve got a long history of being able to communicate the financial stuff to creative people,’ said Tom Harris, the Managing Director of White Sky, a specialist accounting firm that has worked exclusively with music and creative businesses for 18 years.  

‘We sometimes talk about our role as being translators; of understanding the business side of the industry in order to be able to make it understandable to artists and creative thinkers,’ he explained.

Such translations are particularly necessary around tax time, Harris continued. ‘Doing a tax return is a necessary evil; it’s something every business has to do, and we’re happy to take care of that.’

‘But our focus is on the day-to-day financial decisions. Things like budgeting, cash flow management, cost analysis, event and tour planning, paying royalties, even quarterly advisory board meetings. …We use cutting edge technology to take care of the financial side of things so our clients can focus on running their business.’

While such tasks can be overwhelming for small to medium size businesses, they’re also critically important for business owners to get their head around. Thankfully, with around 30 accountants working in offices in both Sydney and Melbourne, the team at White Sky are well positioned to lend an expert hand.

While White Sky started out by assisting arts organisations with compliance issues, over time the company has evolved to assist in all aspects of managing an arts business.

‘It’s not like we’re a “one size fits all” company; it’s really done in collaboration with the people running the businesses. We sit down with them and work out what it is that is unique about their business and what it is that makes them profitable, makes them successful and makes them grow. They’re the things that we help manage and monitor and measure – we work with our clients to ensure their business is excelling in those areas.’


Unlike other accountancy firms who may struggle to grasp the priorities of artists and arts workers, White Sky’s intimate knowledge of the sector ensures their expert support year-round.

‘For most businesses, the main goal is to maximise profits, whereas in the arts the goals are also to create great art, to make it more accessible or reach a wider audience. Those are the key metrics – the profits are not the sole driving motivator for businesses in the arts sector. And that’s something that we understand I think better than most,’ Harris said.

Having artists working for the company further enriches White Sky’s considered approach to working with music and arts organisations. ‘That makes us better positioned to understand how creative people think, what it is that drives them and what it is that they want to achieve with their business.’

That familiarity was essential when COVID-19 began to impact on the sector, Harris said.

‘We noticed that we were really needed by our clients and that’s where we really enjoyed being able to step up and help businesses through that tough time – because we understood very quickly and very easily exactly what they were going through and how that differed from every other business in the world.’

Learn more about White Sky’s services.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts