The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Chris King is the Founder and Partner of King Business Financial Management (KBFM), a business management firm in Nashville. With over 10 years as a business and financial manager, King founded the firm in 2019 and has grown it to be the home to over 40 clients spanning genres across the music industry.
King was born in raised in Memphis, Tennessee, which informed his love for all different genres of music from a young age. During his college years at the University of Tennessee at Martin, he quickly realized that he had an affinity for numbers, but more importantly, he had a passion for interacting with people. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and shortly after graduating, King moved to Nashville.
His dedication and motivation helped him quickly rise through the ranks at the business management firm FBMM, where he worked for six years. After leaving FBMM, King became a Partner at Blue Sky Group Business Management where he spent four years as the head of their entertainment business management division before departing in 2019 to launch KBFM.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. I went to the University of Tennessee at Martin for college.
Were you into music growing up?
Definitely. My mom was an R&B fan and my dad was into Earth, Wind & Fire. I really got introduced to country music by riding in the car with my sister my freshman year. Jason Adlean‘s first album was really the first album that introduced me to country music.
What did you study in college?
I studied accounting. I didn’t know anything about the music industry and I certainly didn’t know that you could be an accountant within the music industry. I had taken an accounting class in high school and that’s what made me fall in love with it.
I didn’t want to do taxes all day, so I was trying to find some sort of accounting work that didn’t mean being a CPA and dealing with tax returns on a consistent basis.
How did you figure out how to make that happen?
I just moved to Nashville. I was engaged at the ripe age of 20. I met my wife at UT Martin and she is is originally from Nashville. She moved back so I moved here and [started looking for a job]. I got married on a Saturday and on that Monday, I went in for an interview at FBMM.
I was simply searching for a job in some type of money management. A lot of the stuff I had studied in college was about helping small businesses with their accounting needs, so I was trying to find something where I could help somebody, whether that was with a business or personal finances. I lucked out getting a job at FBMM, where I was able to be in the best of both worlds, dealing with personal stuff and with business things.
What was your first impression of the music business?
It was crazy. At the interview, they asked me if I knew what a royalty was. I have no idea. The first day I walked in, they said, “You’re going to work on [a big band’s] touring and their personal stuff.” For a year and a half, I got to see all of that.
It got me a ton of experience that I just couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I got to work on a few baby bands as well during that time. After that, I got to work on [one of the world’s biggest pop stars] for a year and a half.
How long were you at FBMM?
I was there for seven years. The last four years I was there, I got to work all over the place. That’s where I really fell in love with what I was doing even more. I got to work on a rock band from Athens, Alabama and a rapper from Pittsburgh. Forming personal relationships with them was what made me want to go out on my own.
Stephanie Mundy Self was my boss on some clients, so I was learning from her for a year and a half. She is such a hard worker—she eats, sleeps and breathes what she does. She really made me understand kind of that type of work ethic. Duane Clark was great—he always had an open door policy. I worked with Jen Conger for the last four years I was there. They were always open to talk with people and help people learn.
What was the next step for you?
I partnered with Harlan Hallett for a new company called Blue Sky Group. I was there for about four years. John Strohm connected us when I left FBMM. For somebody that had as big a clients and experiences as John did, to take a chance on a 28 year old kid starting his own thing, was so cool.
My years at Blue Sky were great. I learned a ton. Harlan’s background was more on the royalty side, so being there, I really got to learn a ton about catalog sales. Whenever I started at Blue Sky, it was me, Harlan and one other. We built it up and when I left, we had maybe seven or eight people in the office.
I left in February of 2019. Two employees came with me that I hired right out of college, Lucy Hughes Mckelvey and Erin Barry. We started building our team. I started looking around for other people, somebody I could bring in that could bring in to grow our network. I met Mallory Mason Pascal through Mandy Morrison over at City National Bank. We met in November of 2019 and started talking a lot. I basically felt like I was trying to court someone to date them. [Laughs] I was just trying to tell her why she should trust me. Then COVID hit and we cut the brakes for a while.
By the end of November of 2020, I was able to persuade her to come over. She was number five in the office including me, and now we’re up to 16 people on a day-to-day basis. We’ve also really grown our client roster. During COVID, I think a lot of artists realized they may be a company with a huge name, but not necessarily getting the service they thought they were and the one-on-one attention. We’ve got clients from The Basement to Bridgestone, so even though we’re smaller, we have all the knowledge and we can also give you more of that one-on-one feel.
That’s awesome. What are your goals for KBFM?
Just to keep growing. As long as we can offer the same service that we are now, I would love to get as big as we can possibly get knowing that we’re giving the same service out to everybody.
What would you tell young accountants wanting to do what you do?
Always be willing to learn. Try to research it yourself. With my kids and with my employees, I always encourage them to research [the answers they are looking for] and figure out the why behind it.
I would also say money is not everything. No one got in the music industry for money, at least not on the business side of things. It’s going to come with time. Find something that you’re passionate about and do it—the money will come if it’s supposed to come. If not, you’re still going to live a happy life to where it doesn’t matter.
What is something people may not know about you?
I’m a big Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson fan. Lucy likes to ask people what concert they would want to go to, dead of alive. Mine is definitely Michael Jackson.
I got to take my eight-year-old to the Justin Bieber concert here in Nashville last year. That was a pretty special moment. I basically forced him into becoming a huge Justin Bieber fan like me, so he was standing up singing the whole time. That was a really cool experience.
What is a moment that you’ve had that your little kid self would be impressed with?
I got to go to Madison Square Garden two years ago to see [my client] Marcus King play a show at Madison Square Garden. There’s a lot of moments like that. When I was in college, my mom passed away from cancer. There are so many moments like that where I wish I could call her and tell her about.
I grew up in Memphis and got an accounting degree—I just hoped to work at some accounting firm. Now I’m working with Grammy winners and CMA winners. I have to pinch myself a lot. I hope the butterflies never go away.
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