Friday, July 12, 2013

The Business Side of the Music Business Get Thee to an Attorney

The winds of change are racing through the label-driven recording industry. Although new avenues of distribution have emerged through social media marketing, I can’t think of a single singer who would turn down a offer from an established record label. I doubt that the record labels are going to fold up their tents and slip out of town kicking and screaming anytime soon. So it's still important to study the traditional paradigm.

You, as an aspiring singer need to find one person in a position of power who really, really, really believes in your talent. It must be someone who has powerful contacts and is respected by the music business community. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a manager. A lot of record deals are handled by entertainment attorneys, as well as producers, managers and agents. You need to find that one person who believes in you and is totally committed to furthering your career. Since you will absolutely need to have an attorney on board eventually to protect your interests let's start there.

If you are just starting your career, you may say, well what do I need a lawyer for? I don’t have any clout; I don’t have any hit records; I don’t have a hit song; why do I need a lawyer? In fact, it’s probably the time in your career that you will need a lawyer most. A good music business attorney can be a one-stop shopping center for information. They aren't managers, but they know the business. They aren't producers, but they know what it takes to get things produced.

How do you choose your lawyer? Make certain they have expertise in the music industry and have had successful relationships with the major labels. I highly recommend interviewing several before making a decision. If you do, as a courtesy, tell them you are meeting with others also. It helps if they understand you and love your music. Now you have a fan who can get your team's ball rolling and keep you out of trouble by protecting you from yourself.

A good music business lawyer is going to be aware of the kinds of rights you have and what you have to bargain with, as well as what the relative value of those rights are. By relative value I don’t mean simply money. A good music business attorney will protect your career, your time, your talent, as well as your freedom of choice. The reality is, you are going to have to give up some of those things every time you sign a contract that requires you to bargain away part of your time, talent and, ultimately, your future.

You will need their counsel if you are asked to sign a long term production contact or long term management contract where time is an important element on both sides of the ledger. The good lawyer is not always just out to get you the biggest bang for the buck. They will try to put you in a position where you can maximize your talent, maximize your time, and maximize your future opportunities.

And don't discount the power a respected music attorney can wield when it comes to getting the attention of the record executives. Label executives will return an attorney's phone call a lot sooner than yours or mine!

Another thing to consider is to start looking for an attorney before you need one. Many nationally-televised talent shows allow their contestants only a few days to reach an agreement to compete on their shows. Given such a small window you do not want to spend precious time searching for and trying to obtain a productive meeting with a good attorney. 

Nashville vocal coach Renee Grant-Williams reveals the trade secrets that have already helped hundreds of aspiring singers become celebrities: Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Dixie Chicks, Miley Cyrus, Huey Lewis, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Christina Aguilera...

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