Legal Beat: What's With The Suits?

Robert S. Lewis

Before delving much further into the world of music, it may be worthwhile to discuss the cast of characters you are likely to encounter on your way to fame and fortune.

There is no question that some, if not all these people will be absolutely necessary, if not downright indispensable, to your future success in the music business. This installment will identify and discuss the role of these individuals.

Attorney: Legal representative for the band or artist, responsible for overseeing all phases of the band or artist’s legal matters, including but not limited to drafting band agreement, reviewing performance agreements, recording agreements, promotional agreements, and all other manner of legal services required by the band. This individual should be experienced in the music industry, but above all, the attorney must be of the highest ethical standards and unquestioned honesty. Do not underestimate the value of an experienced attorney with substantial connections in the music industry, although a young, smart, aggressive attorney who knows how to look under rocks is also a major asset. Always discuss fees, as well as the scope and terms of the attorney’s representation.

Manager: This is an unusual animal who can be of invaluable assistance in pointing your musical venture in the right direction. The manager typically works for a percentage of the band’s earnings. However, the percentage may differ depending on the type of earnings, i.e., live performances as opposed to recordings, merchandising, etc. The manager should also have the ability to organize your band’s operation and to make sure your music is sent to and heard by the right people. Most importantly, the manager should be well acquainted with the music business in general, and should be able to determine your target audience, the venues at which you or your band should perform, the concept for live performances and albums, etc. The manager should also have knowledge of the booking agents, promoters, and others who you will encounter in your travels. A good manager should offer sound advice along with practical knowledge to steer you in the right direction. After all, you don’t want your death metal band to show up at a tea party for the local Chamber Of Commerce.

Booking Agent: This is an invaluable contact, as it is this individual or company that will book your band into the venues you absolutely need to play. These folks also take a cut if you employ them directly. In some instances, however, the venue employs and compensates its own booking agent. Solid and reliable performances will insure your band will always get the primo bookings.

Promoter: This company or individual acts as a middleman in promoting a live concert, and typically takes a percentage of the gate receipts. Why do you need a promoter? Do you want to stand outside the local supermarket selling tickets to your gigs? If the answer is no, then you need a promoter who will handle that chore, and many others. Most small bands and venues do not involve promoters, but once the operation gains some momentum, and beer joints are no longer suitable, a promoter will likely become involved.

These are the primary people involved in the music industry with whom you must interact if you really want to have a first-class operation. Remember, a good band is the same as a well-run business, and must retain highly competent support personnel to ensure rockin’ business. Until next time, happy gigging.

Robert S. Lewis, Esq., is an attorney with offices in Nyack, New York, specializing in bankruptcy, litigation, real estate, matrimonial, and entertainment matters. He is the past owner of a record label, and plays actively in several bands and open jams.