Music business

I Paid My NYU Tuition With A Music Business I Started In High School

  • Sam Guyton paid for his tuition with money from a music business he started in high school.
  • Today, he is the 23-year-old owner of Vali Entertainment, a corporate entertainment company.
  • He shared how he started a successful business in high school and a new one during the pandemic.

Sam Guyton has music and entrepreneurship in its blood. It was only a matter of time before Guyton, the child of a musician father and a real estate agent mother, caught the eye.

In high school, Guyton and a few friends started a band called Generation Z. The band performed at events around Guyton’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and provided sound and lighting equipment to venues. to earn extra money at each event.

Guyton, now 23, graduated from New York University’s music business program in May 2021. He used savings from his performance and equipment work to pay for his tuition, which amounted to $53,310 in 2019, according to NYU.

Guyton has since purchased Vali Entertainment, a New York-based corporate entertainment company that provides live bands, bands and DJs for weddings, festivals and private parties around the world. He said he couldn’t share details of the deal since the company is still transitioning to its name.

He also renovates and rents multi-family homes and forms an eponymous brand, Guyton Entertainment.

Guyton spoke with Insider about his experience as a young entrepreneur and how he found success in the cutthroat music industry. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Guyton started a music business when he was in high school.

Guyton started a music business when he was in high school.

Sam Guyton


Using one business to power the next

I grew up in a musical family. My father is a full time artist. I was going to shows five nights a week, just hanging out backstage. For much of my childhood, I thought, “I can’t make music. That’s what my dad does.

In high school, I danced, sang and learned to play the guitar. I started a band called Generation Z, and we first played pep rallies at school, but soon moved to local venues around Milwaukee. By the time I was in senior year, we were building a business out of this group we started in high school – every kid’s dream.

For about two years, I saved all my income and finally bought my own sound system, which includes the sound equipment and the light show. With this investment, I was not only paid to be a singer, but also to produce. I focused on making the most of every opportunity at hand.

Guyton playing with his father.

Guyton playing with his father.

Sam Guyton


Working hard opens up new opportunities

I moved to New York blindly – I had never seen the city until I moved into my dorm. I quickly realized that my education was not really made for making music but for the business behind it.

During my business studies, I always wanted to perform. I became a bar mitzvah dancer, went to jam sessions on MacDougal Street, and eventually auditioned and landed a full-time role at Vali Entertainment.

As COVID-19 has put continued stressors on the business, I could tell this could be a transition period for the business. So I made it clear to the previous owner that I would be ready to take over one day. After weeks of negotiations, I bought the company. I will officially take over in early 2022.

Guyton (center) with band members.

Guyton (center) with band members.

Sam Guyton


Merge worlds to create something new

In the midst of COVID-19, I moved to Milwaukee and started reading books on money and investing, which led me to investing in real estate. I own and rent a seven-family home near Milwaukee and am remodeling a second. The money I earn as an owner allows me to continue working on the music.

While in Milwaukee, I started a second band with friends back home. The new group, After Dark, and Generation Z now operate under my new company, Guyton Entertainment, which I modeled after Vali. Now that I run both Guyton and Vali, it’s my mission to merge the two.

Gen Z performance.

Gen Z performance.

Sam Guyton


It’s really exciting to start something new and to use all my acquired experiences and skills to facilitate growth. I have learned in recent years that to satisfy my passions I must work for myself, I must create for myself. But it’s funny — as an entrepreneur, I have so many ideas that I sometimes have to hold back.

My biggest advice for anyone looking to start something new is to go all out neutral. You have to let others speak. You must listen. You must collaborate. It all comes down to steps, and each step you take in the process will bring you closer to doing what you love.