Career Hunting & Collecting

Interview with Michael Waters about his ‘unusual’ job change from being in a rock band to an accountant.

Author: Michelle Rice.

Date: June 1999.

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Playing in a rock band might seem a long way from accounting, but Michael Waters has brought them together. By Michelle Rice.

Imagine performing in front of screaming fans in one of Australia’s most successful rock bands, and afterwards preparing budgets and reconciliation’s before going off to party the rest of the night away. It might sound like a recipe for chronic culture shock, but former trombone and keyboard player for Hunters & Collectors, Michael Waters, did this for nearly 17 years.

Michael joined the famous rock band after completing a commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. During his music career, his ability in accounting emerged and, when not playing, he managed the group’s finances.

“We all chipped in and looked after the books, but as the band became more and more successful I took over managing our finances. Finally, on our last album, I got a credit for ‘trombone, keyboards and finance’.” There are numerous tales of Michael going to parties with the night’s takings shoved down his pants and wearing a CPA T-shirt while on stage playing. But after years of touring the world, he put his trombone aside and turned his attention solely to accounting.

“Accounting was an obvious choice. I was also genetically predisposed to it: my father and uncle both became accountants,” he told Australian CPA. “Once I decided to move into the profession, it was obvious that I needed a CPA qualification and to be a member of a professional body.”

Michael’s move into the profession has not meant a complete sacrifice of his musical interests. For the past year, he has worked for a medium-sized accounting firm, Roseby Rosner & Young, in Melbourne. The company has a long history and strong reputation in advising and representing musicians, actors and management. His work is a unique blend of his skills in music and accounting.

While superannuation has captured Michael’s attention, he performs a broad range of accounting and tax activities for his clients, who range from the largest of international acts to the smallest of local pub bands.

Michael formally approached the company before the band’s final tour in March last year. After the three-month tour and several months of reconnaissance, his initiative paid off when the company offered him a full-time position.

“Working regular hours in an office and in a suit has been an enormous shock which I’m still getting used to,” he says.

On top of making the transition from music to accounting, Michael is also currently completing his final segment in the CPA Program, on Insolvency and Reconstruction.

“I picked the subject because I thought it would be challenging. It is. I resisted the temptation to pick something more straightforward like computers.” On the surface, the combination of professions seems incongruous. Talk to Michael for a few minutes and it is evident that it has given him a valuable edge in a fiercely competitive profession.

“My music career has been a major advantage in my work. I understand the pressures and constraints of a musical career. I’m new to the business of accounting and still finding my feet. I’m on a steep learning curve. I’m interested in superannuation because of its long-term nature. It’s about planning for the future and investing money.”

This new direction fits in well with other parts of Michael’s life. His wife and two daughters now see more of him and no longer need to persevere with his long absences. Michael talks of eventually owning a piano. “My mother was a pianist, so like accounting it is in my genes. The piano also sounds a lot better than a solo trombone.”