Ask An Entertainment Attorney: 6 Common Questions
Even if you’re great at music, plunging into the business side of the music business can be an incredibly intimidating prospect. To get you started on the right legal foot, we share six common queries entertainment attorneys are often asked by those in the industry.
Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog
As a musician, it can be incredibly intimidating diving into the business side of the industry. As you navigate through this complex terrain, we’re here to guide you through this important part of the business. To help you out, here are some questions you should ask an entertainment attorney before you dive in.
6 Common Questions To Ask An Entertainment Attorney
“What does an entertainment attorney do?”
There’s no such thing as a stupid question! Even this one.
Entertainment attorneys are tasked with protecting the rights and intellectual properties of clients by handling deal negotiations on behalf of their clients. They advise artists on things like copyright considerations, business structures, and all kinds of contracts or agreements you may encounter in this industry. Whether it’s management, recording, publishing, producer, co-writing, band partnership or shareholder contracts, an entertainment attorney is the one to call.
“Do I need to trademark my band/artist name?”
There are many advantages to registering a trademark or trade name.
If you own your music, why shouldn’t you own your name as well? To prevent others from using your name for any reason, including merchandise, you should register it as a trademark. Once your name is trademarked, you can file suit against others who are using the name without your permission. Better safe than sorry!
“Sometimes I co-write songs with other artists. Should we sign an agreement before co-writing sessions?”
Yes! — Co-writing agreements establish clarity on things like songwriting splits, ownership of copyright, administration of songs, and more. There’s nothing worse than putting your all into a collaborative project and not getting the credit you deserve when all is said and done. Having an agreement for these items before you start collaborating will save you from any misunderstandings down the road.
“I was just offered a management contract. What should I look out for?”
Every contract is different. There’s no one thing to look out for. Because of this, having an entertainment attorney on hand to look into contracts before you sign them will prevent you from signing anything that may hurt you in the future.
“I’m in a band. Should we sign a band agreement?”
Definitely! — If you’re in a band, this is a very important aspect to consider. Nobody knows what the future holds, so it’s a smart move to be prepared for everything. A band agreement clarifies things like what to do if band members quit, how to deal with the band name if the group breaks up, ownership of masters/compositions, incomes and how expenses are paid, decision making, etc.
“Should I sign a record deal?”
When it comes to major record deals, there are a lot of things to consider. That’s why it’s important to always get a second, or even third, set of eyes on anything that requires a signature and involves your finances. Act too quickly and you might sign away a lot of future royalties without realizing it.
Ask yourself, “What am I giving up by taking this deal?”
You might have to give up creative rights, ownership of your music, flexibility in your career, the ability to decide how to promote your music going forward or how you want to manage your image. Are those things you’re willing to forgo? If not, signing that big record deal might not be the right move for you.
Keep in mind…
You should never sign anything without running it past a professional first. This is your career we’re talking about! Anything from manager-artist agreements, royalty split sheets, publishing deals, brand sponsorships, etc. are important parts of how you make a living.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the complex legalities of this industry, but you don’t have to do it alone. An entertainment attorney’s entire job is to help artists like you navigate this side of the industry.
You got this!