Family finance lessons: Viral hitmaker Tay Zonday

'Don't cry over spilled milk,' a family lesson we all learn. Adam Bahner pictured.

The most important lessons we learn about money don’t come from textbooks or CNBC. They come from our family.

Every week, we invite a prominent person to tell us about the money tips that they inherited. This week, Adam Bahner, better known by his stage name Tay Zonday, tells us what he learned from his family. 

In 2007, Bahner was 24 years old and pursued a Ph.D in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Music was a hobby, but he figured he was destined to become an academic. "My parents were both school teachers, and then my mom was a school principal for 20 years," says Bahner. "So I’d say that ethos of finding predictability in finances is something that I definitely inherited as an adult."

But his true ambitions were less academic than musical. He dragged his piano through the snow to perform his own songs at open mics, until he discovered a little website called YouTube. Under the moniker Tay Zonday, Bahner uploaded "Chocolate Rain," and it took the Internet by storm. Bahner eventually dropped out of his Ph.D program.


"Chocolate Rain" has been seen over 94 million times, and it's launched Bahner on an unconventional career as a self-proclaimed "internet brand," one anchored by conventional family values. 

"My parents’ career choice as public servants now seems no more stable than pursuing a job in entertainment," says Bahner. "I guess that’s what work is now. It’s not just, you know, getting a job, getting a 9-to-5, it’s taking a holistic view and saying 'How  can I monetize my life?'"


What did your parents teach you about managing money? Comment below, through the Public Insight Network, on our Facebook page or tweet us @LiveMoney.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a multimedia journalist in New York City. He has reported for NPR and WNYC, where he has focused on business and the New York tech scene.


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