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Tag Archives: music attorney los angeles

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 1: Term

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Categories: Articles, Management, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Management Agreement Term Length The Music Industry Lawyer Attorney Erin M JacobsonThe artist-manager relationship is one of the most important relationships in an artist’s career. The manager has to “get” the artist and the artist’s artistic vision, but also needs to have the knowledge on how to translate that vision into something that will generate mass appeal and profits. The manager also has to have the business acumen and connections to generate opportunities for the artist so that his or her career can grow. An artist needs to be able to trust the manager, feeling that not only is the manager knowledgeable, connected, and in tune with the artist’s essence, but also that the manager is at all times acting in the artist’s best interests instead of serving the manager’s own needs.

Management agreements have several important aspects that need attention and often, negotiation.

The first of these aspects is the term of the management agreement. I explained what a contract term generally means here, and for purposes of this article the “term” will refer to the length of the relationship. Traditionally, management agreements have a term between three and five years. Managers typically would want four or five years because, as they often argue, it takes a long time to create the momentum needed for an artist to really start seeing success. From a manager’s perspective, this can be true and also gives the manager the opportunity to still be representing that artist when success comes; that way the manager can receive a full commission rate at the artist’s higher income level instead of earning a percentage of the low (or no) revenues artists usually earn at the start of their careers.

On the other side of this, artists usually want to sign with a manager for the shortest amount of time possible, which allows the artist to get out of the deal faster if the manager is not delivering on promises or things just aren’t working out. There is almost nothing worse for an artist than being stuck in a bad deal that hinders the artist’s career by blocking potential opportunities while the artist waits for the deal to end.

These days I have been seeing even shorter terms on management deals, often one or two year initial terms with at least one option period attached. Both parties really need at least a year to get enough momentum going to start seeing some increased success, but it seems the management deal is following the trend of all deals in the music business by shortening terms to try to reduce risk.

What people tend to forget when thinking about the length of an artist-manager relationship is that terms can always be renewed. If the contract term length is on the shorter side, the parties can always renew the agreement at the end of the term if they still desire to work together. The parties don’t have to part ways just because a piece of paper set a time limit at some point in the past. On the other hand, if the parties feel it is time to move on, they have the freedom to do that knowing they gave it a fair chance during the time period they originally allotted.

Part 2 of this series will cover management commissions.

Contact Erin now to draft, review, or negotiate your management agreement.

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March Music Legal and Business Roundup

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Categories: Articles, Business, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Music Libraries, Music Publishing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Image via freeimages.com

March had several interesting music legal issues, but first, check out my most recent articles:

 

In other news this month:

 

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Do Artists Need Spotify?

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Categories: Articles, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By: Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

spotify independent artist music attorney music lawyer los angeles erin m jacobson esq

I often am asked for my thoughts on Spotify and whether artists need it.

Adele and Taylor Swift are not on Spotify and sell millions of albums. These artists are already big enough that they will sell albums regardless of whether they are on Spotify. Spotify streams actually compete with these artists’ sales because there are many people who will stream the album instead of buying it and the royalty rates for streaming are much smaller than what an artist of this caliber will earn from a record sale. An artist would have to have the album streamed many more times than purchased to earn the same amount of money in royalties.

For independent artists, Spotify can be a promotional tool — another distribution channel for new fans to discover your music. Again, it’s not about the money earned from streams, as for most indie artists that is even less than what established artists earn. The hope is that once these new fans discover the indie artists, they will sign up on their email lists, go to their shows, buy merchandise, etc. and money can be earned that way.

While indies probably won’t earn money from Spotify, if it helps them gain new fans then it may be worth it. If you can be found without Spotify and streams will actually compete with your album sales, then it might not be worth it.

Have questions on how Spotify relates to your career? Contact Erin to book a consultation now.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

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New Interview on The GenY Success Show

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Categories: Interview, Music, Music Industry Interviews, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M Jacobson music attorney lawyer authority expert networking

I recently did an interview on the The Gen Y Success Show and this has been one of my favorite interviews!  It’s a little different than some of my interviews because it’s not about the music business — this interview is about my path in becoming a music attorney, my love of music (and a few examples of my favorite bands and concerts),  my tips on how to network effectively, and more!

“…[Erin Jacobson] established herself as an authority, not only as a lawyer, but within the music industry itself.”  ~ Jason D. Bay, host of the GenY Success Show

Listen here:  The Gen Y Success Show (Online / iTunes)

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Erin M. Jacobson discusses the Kesha / Dr. Luke case on the Break the Business Podcast

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Categories: Legal Disputes, Music, Music Industry, Music Industry Interviews, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

music business podcast erin jacobson music lawyer attorney entertainment los angeles

I was recently interviewed on the Break the Business podcast about the ongoing legal drama between Kesha and producer Dr.Luke.   Download or listen to the interview on iTunes  or Soundcloud.  The interview is on Episode 28 and my interview starts at 20 minutes into the show.

Have a question about your deal?  Contact Erin to book a consultation.

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What is a Contract Term?

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Categories: Articles, Law, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

A “term” of a contract usually refers to the length of time an agreement covers. For example, two parties may decide to work together for a period of three years, thus the contract would have a “three year term.” Sometimes, the term is broken up into a firm amount of time, with the option to continue working together for longer.   This could look like an initial period of two years, with a one year option. If that option is exercised, then the total term of the contract would be three years. These options are often exercisable at the discretion of one party (like a manager or a record label), making that party obligated to initial period and only obligated to the option periods if they choose to exercise them. The other party (like the artist), however, would be obligated to the entire term (initial period plus options). In other types of agreements (like certain types of music library or publishing agreements) options may automatically renew on a yearly basis, making the contract last as long as the parties are willing to continue working together.

The other way the words “term” or “terms” are used in relation to contracts is to describe certain the actual provisions of the contract. People will say things like “according to the terms of the contract,” which means the provisions of that contract. They may also refer to a specific, singular term, meaning one provision in particular. You will usually know the difference of “the term” versus “a term” or “the terms” based on the context of the conversation.

Both the term length and actual terms are important due to the fact both could bind you to an agreement not ideal for your career. You could be stuck in a deal where the term length extends much longer than it should and prevents you from signing other deals, creating other projects, and stalls your career. In a situation like that, your career in music will effectively be over because without the ongoing momentum, people will forget about you and your music, newer artists will be on the scene, and you will be on a hamster wheel trying to play catch up while the industry moves forward without you.

If the other terms of the agreement aren’t ideal, you could also be broke by paying large amounts of commissions to those you work with without anything left over for you.   You could lose your copyrights and the right to continue profiting off of your work because someone else owns it. You could even lose the right to use your own name professionally, like one artist who told me her story of not being able to register her name as a URL, because she had unknowingly signed those rights away to someone else.

It is of the utmost importance to know what you are signing and have an experienced music attorney review your contract to make sure you do not become another music industry statistic of a promising young talent whose career was crushed by your own failure to hire the right person to protect you.

If you have been offered a deal, contact Erin now to have it reviewed.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

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What’s the Difference Between a Music Library and a Music Publisher?

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Categories: Articles, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Music Libraries, Music Publishing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

music library music publisher music lawyer music attorney erin jacobson erin m jacobsonMusic libraries have exploded in popularity since musicians and composers discovered synchronization (“sync”) placements as an opportunity to make money and gain exposure in the music business. However, songwriters are often confused about the differences between music libraries and music publishers, especially because many libraries are trying to cross over into the publishing space. Here’s what you need to know.

Music Publishers

Music publishers have been around since the late 1700s in America, and they serve as the overall administrators of a songwriter’s compositions. Publishers perform many functions, including:

  • managing a writer’s catalog
  • promoting the compositions in the catalog
  • getting recording artists to record songs by the writer
  • working with a writer’s record label (if the writer is also a recording artist)
  • pairing a writer with co-writers
  • getting sync placements, etc.

Traditional music publishing contracts usually follow one of the following structures:

  • Songwriter agreement: the writer transfers 100 percent of the copyright in his or her catalog of music (including what he or she writes while under contract with that publisher), and the publisher and the writer split the income from the compositions 50/50. (Note: These deals can vary slightly based on the circumstances. For instance, it’s possible that a writer’s back catalog is tied up from a previous publishing deal, and a new publisher will only get new compositions by the writer.)
  • Co-publishing agreement: the writer transfers 50 percent of the copyright in his or her catalog to the publisher. The publisher takes 25 percent of the income from the compositions and the writer receives 75 percent.
  • Administration agreement: the writer retains ownership of all copyrights in his or her catalog, and the publisher simply performs all publishing duties for an administration fee of 10 percent (leaving 90 percent of income for the writer).

Music publishing deals often come with an advance, which justifies the fact that a writer may have to transfer copyright ownership upon signing a new deal. Because publishing deals are exclusive and manage all aspects of the compositions, no retitling of compositions is required.

Music Libraries

The first music library was formed in 1927 in the United Kingdom after movies gained the use of sound technology. The main purpose of that library, and those that followed, was to license music for film (and later TV). Licensing music for film and television is still the main purpose of music libraries today.

These deals can be exclusive or non-exclusive, require a transfer of copyright ownership or not, and may retitle the writer’s compositions (or not). Many libraries realized the value of owning the catalogs of music instead of just acting as a licensing agent and making money on licensing fees. Thus, many libraries decided to do their deals on an exclusive basis and require the writer to transfer to the library a copyright ownership share in the compositions, usually at least 50 percent. Typically, these deals have some sort of threshold where the writer has to earn a certain amount in licensing fees before the obligation to transfer copyright is triggered.

On a more frequent basis, I’m seeing library deals labeled as “co-publishing” deals. These deals provide for a 50 percent copyright ownership transfer, but only a 50/50 income split, which results in less money to the writer than under a traditional co-publishing deal with a music publisher. These deals offer no advance, and require a transfer of copyright ownership triggered by a low threshold of licensing fees. If a writer is close to the threshold but hasn’t met it yet, some companies will even pony up a few hundred bucks to meet the mark, which means the writers are selling out their copyrights for a very small chunk of change.

This scenario may be acceptable for a songwriter who makes his or her living from writing for film and TV and is churning out new songs every day. But in my opinion, these terms are unacceptable for career musicians who are marketing albums, playing gigs, etc. and are seeking placements for extra money and exposure.

The benefit to a library deal over a publishing deal is that a writer can give the library only certain compositions, while leaving others in his or her catalog open to a publishing deal or another opportunity. To be fair, libraries that are incorporating more publishing-like terms in their deals are also doing the work to manage and administer the compositions. However, with many of these companies it remains uncertain whether they have the connections to get other artists to record the writer’s compositions, pair the writer with substantial co-writers, etc. Anyone can act like a music publisher, but the difference lies with whether the longstanding business model and connections that publishers have are present.

For independent or new artists, it’s easier to get a library deal than a publishing deal, but signing with a library and transferring copyrights may complicate or even prevent a writer from signing a publishing deal later.

That’s not to say that a library deal can’t be a great start for a new artist or writer – it can be a great way to earn extra income with songs that otherwise wouldn’t generate any. However, you need to look carefully at your career goals to see which path is really right for your intended career direction. It would be beneficial to consult with an experienced music attorney to discuss which type of deal is the right career choice for you.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.
If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

This article was originally posted on Sonicbids.com.

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How to Choose a Music Attorney Who’s Perfect for You

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Categories: Articles, Business, Law, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Before choosing an attorney, you first want to determine whether you actually need a lawyer. The basic rule of thumb is that if you’re presented with a contract, or alternatively, if you feel your contractual or intellectual property rights have been violated, you need a lawyer. Once you’ve determined which services you would like that lawyer to provide, you’ll want to consider several factors to determine whether a particular lawyer is the right fit for your career, especially if this is your first time working with a lawyer.

Your attorney is your representative, and thus, an extension of you for business purposes. You want to choose someone you enjoy working with, is qualified for the services you need, has a rate you can afford, and who will reflect the right image to achieve your goals. Here are eight of the most important considerations when choosing an attorney.

1. Practice area

Is your lawyer a music lawyer, or is it your brother’s friend’s cousin who’s a real estate/personal injury/construction attorney and is willing to look over the contract for free? While this cousin’s generosity is appreciated, you need to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and hire an attorney experienced with music contracts. The entertainment industry has very specific contract terminology and industry practices that only pertain to the entertainment industry. This field is so nuanced that even music contracts and film contracts differ enough that some artists have different attorneys for their music and film deals. An attorney who does not focus on music and entertainment contracts will not be familiar with these industry-specific terms and will miss crucial points that separate a good deal from a bad one. This could cost you to lose copyright ownership and/or a lot of money in royalties in addition to other undesirable consequences.

2. Your needs as an artist

Different types of lawyers perform different services. Some lawyers are “transactional” lawyers that draft, review, and negotiate contracts, as well as advise you on career decisions. Having a lawyer handle your contracts is important because even though some contracts may seem fairly simple, contract language is actually very complex and can contain consequences unforeseen to the untrained reader (or drafter). Lawyers endure many stressful years of schooling and training to interpret this language and understand how it affects you. In practice, you may need an attorney to review or draft only one contract for you or you may need him or her to be an ongoing member of your team for all career developments and opportunities, as well as to work with your manager or agent if you have one. Many artist lawyers can also help you set up any business entities you decide to form.

Other lawyers are “litigators,” which means they handle lawsuits by either suing others on your behalf and arguing your case or by defending you from someone suing you. This is the type of lawyer you would hire when someone has violated your contractual or intellectual property rights. A lawyer who understands these types of lawsuits can assess whether you have a valid claim, if you have the proper proof needed to win your case, and represent you through a settlement and/or trial. Note that the ability to bring lawsuits is often regulated by a “statute of limitations,” meaning you’ll often only have a certain amount of time to file the suit. This amount of time varies depending on the type of lawsuit and sometimes by state, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer promptly.

Still yet, there are other attorneys who “shop” artists, which means that they submit your music to record labels and sometimes other music companies to try to get you a deal. Note that many attorneys do not shop, so it is wise to check the attorney’s website or ask the attorney for his or her shopping policy before requesting that the attorney shop you. Be careful here: some “shopping” attorneys will send out anyone’s music for a fee. Music companies know who these attorneys are often don’t take them or their submissions seriously because the company executives know these submissions are not based on the attorney’s genuine endorsement of the music.

3. Personality

Aside from skill, personality is the other most important aspect in choosing the right lawyer for you. You want to make sure:

  • You actually like this person
  • He or she communicates with you in a way you understand
  • He or she understands and keeps your career goals in mind
  • You feel that you can trust him or her
  • You feel he or she has your best interests at heart
  • You feel comfortable letting him or her handle your important business matters

4. Reputation

Just like you hopefully maintain a good reputation in the industry, you want your attorney to have one as well. You can do an online search for an attorney you’re considering to see if his or her website is appealing and professional. You can also find out if he or she has any articles published or does speaking engagements to get a feel for his or her expertise.

More importantly, you want to know whether your potential attorney is honest. You can’t always find this out upfront, but you can ask around to your colleagues to see if anyone has worked with that person and what their experience has been. Also, you can search the attorney’s name on the State Bar website for the state in which the attorney is licensed to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against him or her. Further, an online search may also yield some information in the form of articles or news stories if the attorney has been involved in any unsavory activities.

5. Negotiation style

When you envision your attorney, what do you see? There are many different negotiation and business styles and it’s important to consider which style fits your preferred attorney profile and your business image as an artist.

Some styles include:

  • Screamers: These attorneys scream at everyone to get the job done and intimidate people to get their way. Some are effective, and some are just plain annoying, actually hindering the progress of deals due to their unpleasantness.
  • Bulldogs: Similar to the Screamers, Bulldogs are tough, fierce, and stubborn. They may not scream, but they can be just as difficult.
  • Partiers: These are the ones you see partying on the tour bus with the band. Many music attorneys are actually frustrated musicians, so the Partiers fulfill their unmet dreams of fame by living vicariously through their clients. Partiers may still be great attorneys during the day, but it’s a personal preference whether you want your attorney partying alongside you after the show.
  • Friends: Many attorneys become friends with their clients. This may include hanging together outside of work, but it just may extend to asking, “How’s the family?” when on a business call. It can be up to you how much you want to discuss your personal life outside of work, but it can make for a more enjoyable business experience.
  • Paper-pushers: These are the ones who stay in the office pining over comma placement. If you’re not looking to socialize and just want someone to stick to drafting, this might be your pick.
  • Combination: Realistically, most attorneys are a combination of some of the above. Some attorneys might be nice until they have a reason to scream. Some may spend most of the time at the office but accept your invitation to the afterparty at next week’s show.

Again, it really is about how well you work with the person and what you want in your relationship with him or her. However, style is an important point because having an attorney with the wrong style may end up breaking deals instead of making them on your behalf.

6. Similar clients

You might consider an attorney who already has clients in a similar style and genre to your music.This isn’t essential, but it is a good starting point for an artist who does not currently know any attorneys and wants to do some research on who to further pursue. In addition, an attorney with similar clients may also have already established connections and relationships with other artists or companies you’d like to work with, which can work to your advantage.

7. Price

Attorneys have different billing rates that are usually based on their experience and number of years in practice. Some attorneys only bill hourly and/or require retainers (upfront payments of estimated fees), while some will also charge a flat fee or take a percentage of your income or a deal. Ask the attorney for his or her rates and fee structure. Take serious consideration of what the attorney quotes you and whether you can afford it. Attorney services can be expensive, but it’s important that you pay your attorney for his or her work as he or she has invested time and skill in completing tasks on your behalf, even if that task is answering questions over the telephone. Legal advice is not free; your attorney is providing you a service based on many years of training, knowledge, and experience.

8. Location

Attorneys are licensed by state, so you want to be cognizant of whether the attorney is licensed in your home state, as licensing restrictions may prevent an out-of-state attorney from completing tasks on your behalf or may require the involvement of another attorney licensed in your state, which can mean added fees for you.

While a lot of correspondence with your attorney can often be done over telephone and email, you may also want to make sure the attorney’s office is in a convenient location if you have to travel to his or her office.

Now that you’re aware of what to look for in an attorney, you might wonder where to find one. Next time, I will discuss how to find potential attorneys as well as options for musicians who need legal services but are not quite ready to add an attorney to their teams.

This post first appeared on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity. This article does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

Erin M. Jacobson is a practicing music attorney, experienced deal negotiator, and seasoned advisor of intellectual property rights. Her clients range from Grammy and Emmy Award winners to independent artists, record labels, music publishers, and production companies. Ms. Jacobson also owns and oversees all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection offering template contracts, consultations, and other services designed to meet the unique needs of independent musicians.

 

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