Musically Inclined? Get a Lawyer.

While the music industry may be exciting and fulfilling, for fledgling entrepreneurs there are pitfalls you need a lawyer to handle.

Making music may be fun, getting recognized isn’t always easy, but when that happens, it’s definitely time to bring a lawyer onboard to make sure you are protected as your career takes shape. It doesn’t matter if you’re a band or solo, the fact is if you are the new kid on the block, you are fresh fodder to be taken advantage of in the entertainment business.

If you’re thinking right about now that it couldn’t possibly be “that” complicated to have a contract written, signed and be on your way, then it’s time to do your homework about what really happens in this business. It’s not unusual to see music contracts that are 30 pages or more, and most of them are so complicated only an entertainment lawyer is able to make heads or tails of them. Unfortunately, most of them are also couched in terms that are so circuitous that many artists take one look at the legal document and beg to see the places where they have to sign.

Obviously signing something without reading it isn’t a good idea, especially in the music industry, as there are a lot of contracts that musicians have to sign. One mistake by signing a contract you didn’t really pay much attention to could mean being stuck with a lousy record company, a bad distribution deal, or a shady manager, agent or promoter. If that happens, your career could be over before it even got started. Like the old saying, “Buyer beware,” make sure you know precisely what is in any contract you sign.

It’s not just dealing with contracts for agents and recording companies it’s also managing issues like copyrighting your music, ensuring you have a trademark for your band name, and having a logo designed. This can be done for an individual as well, and it’s called branding, or brand name recognition. Think Shania Twain or Mariah Carey.

This still isn’t the limit to the issues you will face when it comes to what is contained in the various agreements you need to sign; they may also include licensing contracts, festival and concert contracts, promotion deals and publishing contracts. Each contract you sign has even more convoluted clauses and provisions within it as well. Being a musician isn’t for sissies or total novices when it comes to legal issues. Always consult with experienced legal counsel when it comes to getting a contract that protects your rights.
Your entertainment lawyer will have highly specialized knowledge of things like advertising law, employment law, immigration, negotiation, ring tones, mechanical licenses, peer-to-peer file swapping, synchronization rights, digital rights and a superb knowledge of how music is created from start to finish – the mixing to the mastering. They will also have a good working understanding of the roles of a producer, promoter and manager.

The best advice to give someone just starting out in the music industry is to seek legal representation for everything because it is essential. No one wants to get saddled with a lousy one-sided contract.

Deborah Barron is a Sacramento business lawyer, Sacramento employment lawyer, and Sacramento winery lawyer in California. To learn more, visit

Tagged with: , ,