Beating the music business odds at SXSW
Your Financial Adviser Is Duff McKagan
Thursday, March 17, 2pm, ACC 12AB
"I was really hoping that we hadn't been ripped off."
Duff McKagan recalls his first attempt at deciphering the financial statements from his time with the 100-million-record-selling Guns n' Roses. Having almost partied himself to death – he was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis in 1994 – McKagan got sober and got bored, then got curious.
"I was desperate for stuff to fill my day because I was desperate not to drink. I was doing anything to stop the shakes for the first few months."
Physical activity (he's an avid mountain biker and climber) could only occupy him so much. Eventually he wandered down to his basement and opened up the file cabinet containing six years of G'N'R's monthly statements.
"I thought it would fill time. So I started going through the financials. I couldn't make heads or tails of them. Really, I tried. I sat there and was patient."
So McKagan did something very un-rock & roll: He signed up for a college course. Okay, it was community college. But in taking one class, then another, and, after rounding out some prerequisites – "Little did I know, they have requirements to get into school. I just thought: 'I'm 33. I want to go to your school. I can write a check.'" – he ultimately found himself enrolled at Seattle University and taking classes at the Albers School of Business. Now McKagan, also of Velvet Revolver and Jane's Addiction, writes a monthly money column for Playboy called "Duffonomics" in addition to fronting his own band, Loaded.
If there's anything surprising about McKagan-as-financier, it's how ridiculously risk averse he is. He's not selling open put options or dumping piles of cash into C-rated debt or even pimping some arcane trading strategy in an attempt to hoodwink fools into thinking themselves smarter than the market. His approach is phenomenally boring.
"I heard the horror stories of guys that sold millions of records, but by the time they were 60, they were broke," says the bassist. "I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night and think about that shit. My portfolio is boring, but I like boring. If I'm getting above 9 percent on my money, I freak out. It's just too risky for me."