My name is Curtiss King. I am a veteran music producer/rapper and the author of The Prosperous Hip Hop Producer. Through my YouTube channel, CurtissKingTV, I have had the opportunity to inspire, mentor, and educate over 4.2 million rappers and music producers around the world. My production credits include Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, E-40, and MURS, as well as corporate giants like MTV, VH1, and Vans. My last two albums, Jubilee Year and Summer Salt, both reached No. 4 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. But more importantly, I am a husband, father, and go-giver.
I was in my bedroom alone, impatiently walking from one side of the room to the other, trying my best to avoid eye contact with my laptop screen. "What did I just do?" I thought.
"How could I mess this up so badly?"
"How did I lose $500?"
In 2013, my good friend OSYM spent hours upon hours teaching me the ins and outs of selling beats online. He also gave me $500. He told me step by step how to invest the money using a website called Beat Brokerz. He helped me select which beats I should promote and made suggestions for the best times to promote them. He told me that, as long as I didn't drop the ball, this was as close to a sure bet as I could make.
Unfortunately, I dropped the ball—big time.
Beat Brokerz gives music producers the option to purchase tokens to promote their beats for sale. If a producer buys a lot of tokens, it will give them high visibility on the homepage of their website. That visibility isn't cheap, though, and at the time I was flat broke.
It isn't an exaggeration to say I was terrified of being in charge of this $500 investment. However, for some reason, OSYM didn’t seem to be bothered by the process. This was the most money anyone had ever invested in me or my career, and I wanted desperately to be an excellent return on that investment. I was also scared out of my mind.
Perhaps my fear was the reason I invested that $500 in the wrong beat. I remember the moment I hit the 'Pay Now' button on PayPal. My stomach turned. My jaw dropped to the floor.
Within 24 hours, I called my friend and apologized profusely for making such a boneheaded mistake with his money. I didn't know what kind of reaction I was expecting from him, but the moment he realized how much I was panicking, he began to chuckle. “It’s cool man!” he said. "It’s just money. It will come back. You’re good.”
It's just money?
While growing up, money was viewed very differently in my household, which made these phrases quite foreign to me. As a child, my grandmother constantly reminded me to never waste my money because it "didn’t grow on trees." My mother always reminded me of the Bible scripture 1 Timothy 6:10, which reads: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." For my father, who was self-employed, the responsibility of bringing home money every month was one of the biggest sources of daily stress—if not the biggest. Needless to say, I had a rather conflicted relationship with money. Money seemed like a dream to have and a nightmare to keep.
It wasn’t until my $500 accident that I was inspired to read a book by Robert Kiyosaki that promised to change my relationship with money. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a semi-autobiographical book about how Kiyosaki learned about the subject of financial literacy. He gives two varying perspectives from the eyes of his biological father and his best friend’s dad, both of which helped him understand money and the world around him. Kiyosaki learned two polar-opposite ways of living. While his father struggled from paycheck to paycheck to pay the bills, his friend’s dad, an entrepreneur, was financially abundant.
Reading the book completely changed my perspective on money. Money is just green paper, without emotion or power. We as human beings give these green pieces of paper their power. We asses our self-worth, our confidence, and our happiness based on green pieces of paper. How crazy is that?
Although a very rudimentary discovery, there was something about a simplified visual of this object I had obsessed over and which controlled my decision-making that made me feel free. The feeling was dually liberating and terrifying because I didn’t fully understand what it all meant. However, for the next couple of weeks, as my first online beat sales started to trickle in, I ran with it. This became my new mantra, and the more I believed in it, the more power I felt like I had over money.
All my life, I had a poor man’s mindset. The way I talked about money and the way I emotionally spent money were the primary reasons I was financially poor. I spent so much time focusing on the things I didn’t have instead of being grateful to God for the things I already had, all of which set me up to be poor forever.
The moment I had that realization, I made some dramatic changes in my life. I started treating a $20 beat sale like it was $20,000. I convinced myself that whatever I would do with the smaller amount, philosophically, I would do with the larger amount. I began to get into the habit of saving at least 10% of all my beat sales. I began tithing a percentage of my sales at my local church. I began to reinvest my money into my music producer education by purchasing online courses from producers, such as Game from Busy Works Beats. I started to invest my money in more assets than liabilities. I did my absolute best to tighten up every financial department of my life. Almost instantly, more money began to flow through.
Soon thereafter, I not only paid back OSYM his initial $500 investment with interest, but I also grew my online business to six figures. At the risk of sounding super "telemarket-y," none of this would have been possible until I changed my line of thinking.
Over the years, I've had moments when I've fallen off the proverbial wagon and momentarily resorted back to my mindset of scarcity. I have sold a ridiculous number of beats and splurged on shoes, cell phones, and gadgets I know I did not need to purchase. However, what always brings me back to reality is the feeling that no matter how many of these items I purchase, none of them will ever make me truly happy.
In my second year of selling beats online, I read The Go-Giver by John David Mann and Bob Burg. The book single-handedly led me to the work that I do today on YouTube. “Money is the echo of the value that we give to people,” I remember reading. Extremely motivated by this quote and the burning desire to share my story with the world, I began vlogging about the industry and my experiences as an online music producer. I knew I had value and that value would likely resonate with an audience that was eager to consume it. The following year was the most fruitful financial year of my life; I don’t think that was a coincidence. By sharing my knowledge, I opened up a new financial channel.
So what are the three major takeaways I want all music producers to get from reading this article?
First, money is just green pieces of paper, undeserving of your fear and power.
Second, never be afraid to bet it all on yourself.
Third, the secret to living is giving.
Establishing a strong grasp and understanding of these concepts, along with the recommended reading mentioned in this article, will undoubtedly rewire your mind if you too struggle with financial literacy. I wish my favorite music producers taught me these lessons. Knowledge is power—pass it on.