Albert Carter, a teacher and entrepreneur, moved to the UAE in 2016 but has been involved in the music business for more than 20 years.
He is the chief executive and culture shifter of AudioSwim.io, an investment platform for music non-fungible tokens that went live on April 1. Founded to build a community of musicians, fans, entrepreneurs and investors through collaboration, the platform enables people to invest in music tracks or other digital projects created by local and international artists. UAE-based AudioSwim also runs a digital music distribution platform and audio management service.
Before AudioSwim, the Philadelphia native founded Hip-Hop University, a non-profit organisation working with musicians and artists to uplift underserved communities through educational outreach.
Mr Carter, 37, is single and lives in Al Ain, in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Where did you grow up and how did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I grew up in Germantown, a poverty-stricken neighbourhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the US. I moved around a lot, especially in my teenage years, where I went to four different high schools, but that helped me develop a hustler’s spirit.
The area where I lived was called Haines Street, and my friends and I called each other the Haines Street Hustlers because we did what we needed to do to make money, whether fixing things around people’s houses, cutting grass, shovelling snow, pumping gas or cutting hair. Growing up with limited resources taught me to look for money and apply my skill set to make it.
At what age did you start working?
I started working at about 11 or 12 with my father, cutting grass. I would make about $50 or $60 a week at that age. To me, that was big money because before that I would get an allowance of about $5 per week. So that was a big increase. But imagine going to school at 12 years with $50 to $60!
What was the earliest lesson you learnt about money?
I was often told that money doesn’t grow on trees and that it takes time to get, so to make sure that you save or use it wisely. I experienced that for myself cutting grass.
You’re also a maths teacher. Does that go hand in hand with music?
I teach English now. I’ve been involved in music for the past 20 years. I started out rapping in my neighbourhood and later started a record label with my cousin, who was based in Atlanta at the time.
After that, I found a producer I worked with who I attempted to manage. I have since worked with artists in other places in the US and here in the UAE.
What capital did you need to start AudioSwim? How did you raise it?
I poured everything I have into the business. I’m more than $63,000 deep into the business at this point. I raised the money through a private investor, bootstrapping and a loan from one of my fraternity brothers.
I’m putting in thousands of dollars monthly into the business. I reinvest my salary and any income I get right back into the business. When you have a dream, it’s important that you have your skin in the game.
Do you own a home?
I currently do not own my own home. The only property I have is the one that my mother lives in; it’s in both of our names.
Who has been your biggest financial inspiration?
The biggest financial inspirations have been Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle. I truly admire people who come from similar environments as I do. If you listen to their interviews or their music, they give you sort of a blueprint on how to navigate life.
What’s been your biggest investment, aside from the business?
My biggest investment – more than $90,000 – has been in education, including university and law school. It is constantly giving me returns and has allowed me to move to four cities in the US and come to the UAE.
What has been your weakest financial moment?
My weakest financial moments are with sneakers. I grew up not being able to really buy nice sneakers or afford them. So now, it’s one of those things.
What was your greatest financial challenge?
My greatest financial challenge has been starting AudioSwim with no mentors, no experience and bootstrapping.
I overcame it by networking, sharing and protecting my vision, and working out deals with people who shared that vision with me.
What’s the biggest money lesson you’ve learned?
It is to make sure to save money and invest in the right things.
What do you invest in?
I invest in music. I own some parts of Beyonce, Migos and Trey Songz catalogues. I also invest in cryptocurrency, mainly in stable coins, which I think are the future.
I also invest in NFTs and in the stock market as a way to diversify my investments.
What trading apps do you use?
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your finances?
The coronavirus hit me with live events. I had a few live events planned that were cancelled due to the pandemic.
I also used the time to my advantage. I wrote a book called Life SUCK$, which is an acronym for Screw-Ups Create Killer Success, and was able to create AudioSwim. Since then, I’ve been focused more on investing and building AudioSwim.
Have you managed to become a millionaire yet?
I have not managed to become a millionaire yet, but give me about two to three more years.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I’m a combination of both. I spend money when I need to, but I also save for what I believe in.
I like to see the account build up, but usually I’m saving for something I want to invest in.
Where and how do you save?
I have an interest-bearing savings account. I like to save about 10 per cent to 12 per cent of my salary.
What is your most cherished purchase?
I try my best not to attach myself to material things.
What has been your proudest financial moment?
It has been believing in my brand and making sure I own 100 per cent of my business.
What financial decision would you change if you could live your life again?
I think I would apply for more grants for school. I think not knowing what I wanted to do coming out of high school kind of held me back.
How much do you have in your wallet right now?
I have about Dh2,000 cash. Pretty much all the time.
What car do you drive?
I drive a 2009 Jaguar XF. I brought it six years ago, when I first arrived in this country. I also have an older-model BMW X5 that I use from time to time.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to do my research before jumping into something. Know the ins and outs of whatever you are getting into.