Why Hire a Music Attorney?
Aspiring musicians and musical groups may question the importance of having a music law attorney. This is a valid concern, because the attorney seldom has the limelight in movies or television shows featuring characters who are working musicians. You may see personal managers or talent agents as having a more integral role in the life of a musician. In reality, it is your attorney who helps you negotiate and structure the contractual relationships between a musician and his or her personal representatives (e.g agents and managers), publishing companies, and record companies. It is important to have a music law attorney because that attorney can use his or her best judgment, knowledge of the law, experience, and knowledge of the music industry to help you succeed. Additionally, music law attorneys can help you protect what you have created through Trademark and Copyright. Often musicians or musical groups may be overwhelmed with having to deal with legal issues and prefer to seek help while focusing on writing music, recording, and touring.
Musical Groups: Who is the Client?
Another common question is how an attorney deals with musical groups as opposed to solo musicians. Musical groups face unique problems. For example, there are multiple people with multiple opinions who do not always agree as to how to proceed with contract negotiations and other decisions. A music law attorney's client is the group as a whole. The attorney cannot and should not take a side when members of the group disagree. They are not to act as arbitrators. Similarly, conversations between individual members of a musical group and the attorney cannot be kept confidential. The attorney-client privilege is between the attorney and the musical group as a whole.
An attorney can help musical groups plan how decisions are to be made within the group. Two ways to solve this problem and progress forward with decisions is by 1) forming an entity and 2) writing an agreement between the owners (i.e. operating agreement, partnership agreement, shareholder agreement). You can speak to your music law attorney to see what type of entity is best for you. Entities for bands may generally include LLCs or Partnerships. The agreement between the owners can govern what band decisions need to be made by a majority or unanimous vote. Unanimous votes are the most contentious and should be limited. Typically, a unanimous vote is required for adding a new member to the band, removing a member from the band, or making changes to the operating agreement. General business and creative decisions can be made by an appointed manager (e.g. the band leader, composer, or lead singer, depending on the makeup of the band), or by a majority or unanimous vote. It is the drafting of an agreement between the owners and many more similar services that a music law attorney can provide to musicians or musical groups.