Do's and Do nots, industry lawyers

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by DiegoMcgee, Nov 2, 2001.

  1. DiegoMcgee


    Oct 20, 2001
    Providence RI
    Has anyone had experience dealing
    with industry lawyers?
    Is it unusual for an industry lawyer
    to solicit a band?
    What exactly does an industry
    lawyer do?
    I'm meeting with one next week and
    to be totally honest, I'm pretty naive
    when it comes to this stuff.:confused:
    My band has already been burned by
    a publicist ($$), so I am very skeptical.
    (wouldn't it be great if all ya had to
    do was just play bass and not have to
    worry about all this business crap)

    jim obrien
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Yes (1st question).

    I would be suspicious of an entertainment lawyer who contacted me, unless my band's star was rising very fast. Often, all these guys want is your money for them to draw up contracts, (one for live performance, one for recording contract, one for music publishing). These guys often get $400++ per hour. Some don't even specialize in entertainment law. Always go with a specialist because entertainment law is narrow. Otherwise, it can be like getting a urologist to do your dental work.

    IME, your band's needs generate contact with an "entertainment, arts, and media" lawyer. If you're always getting paid what was promised, and paying only for things you have agreed to cover, (e.g. soundman, lighting, etc), you may not need a lawyer. But if you are often signing club contracts or dealing with booking agents, a smart contract drawn up by a lawyer can pay for itself many times over.

    If you're looking at signing with a label, a lawyer is indispensible. Recording labels are sharks and some of them can make a profit off the band themselves if the contract isn't protecting the band's interests sufficiently.

    What do they do? Essentially, they make sure your best interests are protected. They know how to negotiate effectively. For instance,

    - if the royalties from your CD don't allow the company to recoup the advance they "gave" to you and the recording costs, do you pay?
    - does the company have the right to NOT release your CD and/or NOT support its promo???
    - how do your "mechanical and compulsory royalties" and your "performance royalities" work???? formula for them???
    - do you have the right to NOT release any recordings that you aren't happy with (the company usually has copyrights to the masters)
    - if the band breaks up, are you still contractually bound??? (the use of "joint and several" in the contract language)
    - if company royalties from sales exceed your advance, does your royalty rate change or even exist any longer???
    - is there a clause to drop you "without cause" (look out for "modifications and provisions" in contract)
    - are the co. exec's trips to Bali considered "promo" which is charged against your advance???

    To show you how sneaky this can be, a recording company spent rather lavishly on entertaining a former band I was in, hoping we would sign with them. When all the dinners and parties were over and it was time to look at their contract, our lawyer found that the company had the right to deduct "pre-signing expenses" (dinners and parties), from our advance.

    Those are just a few of the pitfalls a lawyer can save you from.

    As for your meeting, the first thing I'd ask is if the lawyer specializes in entertainment law. If not, don't bother to hear them out. I'd point blank ask them, "What can you do for me/us?" If their answer sounds good, always ask for references. Always check out their references.

    It would be great to only have to worry about the music and your fans. But it is a really good idea to get involved in what your lawyer does for you. Once you've developed trust, perhaps you can back off the business end.

    Still, you'll want those contract riders for which kinds of wine/beer, M&M's, and food have to be in your dressing room :D
  3. DiegoMcgee


    Oct 20, 2001
    Providence RI
    Thanks for the insight guys,
    Ed, do you use netscape?
    For some reason my website
    isn't compatable with a version
    (4.7) of netscape.
    jim obrien
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I haven't worked with lawyersw in the music industry, but I have worked with many, many of them in construction defect litigation, both as an expert and as a defendant. While many of them are talented, diligent advocates for their clients, I would strongly caution you on one thing.

    Without exception, any attorney's top priority is to generate revenue for his firm. This is his path to partner. If you retain an attorney, he must represent you with zeal, acting in your best interest from a legal standpoint. But settled cases generate no revenue for his firm. It is in his best interest to keep the case going so he can continue to send more bills.

    I know you're not looking at a litigation case here, but just remember: your attorney's success in his firm is directly related to his billings.

    It reminds me of an old joke. An attorney had the rare occasion to go to heaven after dying. As he checked in at the pearly gates, St. Peter was checking a clipboard with a puzzled look. He said, "Hmmmmm ... According to my records, you died at the age of 147 years!" The attorney grabbed the clipboard away, saying, "Lemme see that! Hmmm. Uh huh. OH! I see. That's just my billable time!"

    That's all.
  5. Ditto.

    I'm not sure what your reasons are for meeting with this lawyer, but you can be certain of his reasons.

    Unless you have very specific business and will accomplish a goal as a result of this meeting, do as Ed said and pospone it.
  6. Beefbass

    Beefbass Guest

    Feb 4, 2001
    Get a book called "Everything you need to know about the music business." It was written by Donald Passman, an entertainment lawyer.
    Those examples given by Rickbass, many (if not all) are covered in this book.
    Good luck to ya, hope this helps.
  7. DiegoMcgee


    Oct 20, 2001
    Providence RI