By Lisa Popeil
Lisa: What do emerging artists need to know about the role of entertainment attorneys?
Chuck: Entertainment attorneys may specialize in film/TV, books, content distribution or music. An artist should find an entertainment attorney who specializes in the music industry and preferably whose clientele consists substantially of musical performing artists.
Some lawyers work for a percentage (5-10%); others, on an hourly basis. Those who work on a percentage basis tend to represent only established artists, unless there’s a lot of buzz or label interest expressed for a particular new artist.
Lisa: How does a music attorney differ from other types of lawyers?
Chuck: In the music business, the attorney plays a more active role than in other fields, often advising, guiding, and even occasionally shopping deals to labels and publishing companies.
Lisa: At what point is a music attorney an important ally?
Chuck: A music attorney can be an important ally at just about every stage of an artist’s career. At the beginning, an attorney can advise an artist on various deals. Some attorneys may help artists find a personal manager, can help evaluate offers, negotiate terms of major agreements and prepare and finalize the documentation.
As the artist’s career grows, the attorney can work with the artist’s team: his or her personal manager, accountant or business manager, the agent, and a publisher (if a publisher is part of the team), in guiding and shaping its course.
In the second half of one’s career, a music attorney often deals with managing the artist’s catalog of recordings, ensuring that record companies and music publishers are paying royalties correctly, and even help with estate management.
Lisa: Can you briefly explain how the music business has changed since the 1980’s?
Chuck: In the 1980’s there were 6 major record labels and a number of independent labels. Now there are only 3 majors left, meaning there are fewer major labels for artists to seek out and fewer companies competing to sign them.
Also, CD sales have declined dramatically since 2000 and nowadays, artists often have no choice but to sign what’s called a “360 deal”.
Lisa: Would you explain what a “360 deal” is?
Chuck: In these deals, the record company receives income generated from multiple aspects of an artist’s career in addition to recording revenues, such as songwriting, income for producing other artists, merchandising, touring, even acting. This usually results in less money to the artist than if the artist made separate deals for each.
Lisa: Why should an artist desire a major label deal?
Chuck: In order to become a major artist, most need the “deep pockets” of a major label to provide the promotional clout necessary to launch and support a long career.
Lisa: With the decline in CD sales, how do artists make money?
Chuck: The one area still generating significant revenue to successful artists is concert tours. These earnings often match or exceed the net income they receive from record sales. There has been an increase in alternate revenue streams such as digital public performance royalties such as SoundExchange, and digital distributors such as iTunes and Spotify. There are also greater marketing opportunities as more advertisers and producers of films and TV shows seek to include music in their ads and shows.
Lisa: What are some of the benefits of going the indie route?
Chuck: Indie artists keep a much greater portion of the monies they earn and some artists may end up netting more than they would under a deal with a major label. For instance, an artist will often earn four to five times as much per sale by selling their music directly as they would receive from royalties earned from sales under a major label deal.
Lisa: Is it important for singers, songwriters, and band members to have an in-depth knowledge of contracts including record, distribution, production, agent contracts?
Chuck: Though they need not know all the details of these contracts, a knowledge of the basic terms of these agreements is important. It keeps artists from being surprised later by their obligations or limitations – for instance, the amount of their recording fund, or the deadlines within which they must fulfill their obligations, or restrictions on their ability to do guest spots with other artists or perform in movies or TV shows. Ultimately, the career is the artist’s, and the more information the artist has, the better decisions
the artist can make.
Lisa: Do you have any advice for young artists on the best way to create a career for themselves?
Chuck: 1) Know who you are, what you want to say with your art, and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Put yourself in a community of people who will support you and be honest with you. While you need not necessarily move to one of the centers of the business like New York, Los Angeles or Nashville – and technology certainly makes it easier than ever to build a career anywhere in the country – it will be easier to make connections that can jump start your career from those centers.
2) Keep current on new technologies that can aid in breaking your career; the earlier you start using the next Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, the more likely that you will be the one whose career breaks from that technology. Start young; the sooner you launch your career, the fewer people in your age group will have “made it” yet. At the same time, there is much to be said for persistence; there are many acts who broke through at a later age and went on to have longer and more rewarding careers than colleagues who had their breakthrough at a younger age but simply didn’t have the chops or the strength to last.
3) Build and nurture a fan base; technology makes communicating with fans easier than ever.
4) Stay current and try to be ahead of the curve.
Phalen “Chuck” Hurewitz Esq, of Isaacman, Kaufman & Painter, LLC has practiced entertainment law for over 30 years and is one of LA’s most respected entertainment attorneys. www.ikplaw.com (310) 881-6800 Hurewitz@ikplaw.com