Music attorneys generally fall into two categories: litigators or transactional attorneys. Litigators are hired to represent individuals and companies involved in the music business in court, arbitration and mediation. For instance, if you are owed money on a contract or you have a copyright infringement case.
Transactional attorneys prepare and negotiate music industry contracts. Some examples: recording, music publishing and songwriter contracts, management or music producer agreements, and touring and merchandising agreements. Some music lawyers do both litigation and transaction work, but most are one or the other.
A few music attorneys may be willing to “shop” an artist, meaning they will look for a recording or music publishing agreement for you and, if they are successful, they will take a percentage of what you get (generally five percent).
How do you know if you need a music attorney?
If you are sued or someone is threatening to sue you or you need to sue someone to collect money, then you will need a music litigator. And you would need one if you are going to be involved in an arbitration or mediation. You would retain a transactional music lawyer to give you legal advice or to prepare and/ or negotiate a music industry contract.
How do you find one?
Most of the music attorneys are in New York and Los Angeles, but you can also find them in places like San Francisco, Nashville, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis and Toronto. One of the best ways to find a music lawyer is by referrals from friends and relatives or from people you trust in the music business. You can also research music attorneys online.
Working with a music attorney…
Once you find a music lawyer you should try and give him all the information and documents he or she needs. This means giving
your lawyer the good as well as the bad news about your matter. And you should decide how you will communicate. Nowadays, most of the communication is by email, text and telephone. You can agree that you will be copied on all communications sent and received by the attorney on your case.
When you have retained an attorney you may generally fire him or her whenever you want. You can terminate your music attorney for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason. But you will be liable for the attor- ney fees up to the date of discharge. If you decide on termination you should do it in writing and make arrangements to pick up your file.