When Do I Need an Entertainment Lawyer?

When starting out

There’s a humorous saying in the music business that you shouldn’t sign anything except an autograph without a lawyer. As much as you’d hope that every single deal wouldn’t require the services of an attorney, until you learn more about the business contracts you may be entering, it can be helpful to get some guidance even in the smallest of deals. Nothing can so hurt an artist’s career and intellectual property rights even in the smallest of deals. pa

Before most artists ever are presented with a recording agreement, they may still be presented with agreements including producer agreements, recording studio rental or engineer agreements, side artist agreements, live performing agreements or a partnership agreement with the band or group.

Being a part of a band can be a fantastic and even life-changing event. But because you are creating and owning intellectual property, with others and selling both products and services based on that intellectual property that has a value, it’s important to understand your and other’s rights. Hiring an experienced entertainment attorney to explain your rights and the other group member’s rights to that intellectual property and products can greatly help reduce problems with your collaborators in the future. The lawyer might even help the members of the band or group enter into a partnership agreement that addresses ownership of the trademark to a logo or group name, rights to merchandise created from the trademark, copyright ownership to the songs written or the recordings of those songs.

When Signing A Record Deal

Hopefully at some point, a record label will want to talk to you about a record deal. At this stage it’s important to have an entertainment attorney to help you navigate the process. If you have established a relationship with an attorney that you trust early on in your development, then this can help you move through the record deal process quicker and more smoothly. While, it’s true there are stories about artists “getting taken advantage of”. Really, most artist’s that don’t use an attorney just never really understood the complicated legal document they were signing or took the time to research the label they were entering into a deal with-which can be just as important as the deal itself. Some of the terms a lawyer negotiates will take a label’s standing in the industry into consideration. For example, an experienced attorney would try to negotiate a shorter contract term with a lesser known and experienced label.

Having the attorney involved from the very beginning, even when just discussing the number of recordings, recording advances, royalty rates or publishing rights is vital to your protection under the entertainment law.  If you’ve innocently agreed with the label to certain terms you tie the hands of your attorney to take the entire terms of the agreement into consideration if the main terms have already been agreed to by you. Don’t go to an attorney and tell them you’ve negotiated the deal, now see what you can get me. You’ll find that there won’t be many lawyers who want to help you after that point.

What Do They Cost?

Generally, music and entertainment lawyers change an hourly fee or a set percentage of the actual deal. It can range from $200 an hour and up and the price can vary greatly depending if you only need them for a one-time deal or long-term. If there is an advance to be paid for signing the agreement some state laws provide that it’s acceptable for the attorney to be compensated based on a percentage of the advance. Some lawyers might try to get an extra advance to cover their fees. However, a lawyer may ask you to pay a retainer up front and then try to get the label to pay for the fees you have actually expended. Before sitting down with anyone, make sure to find out their pricing structure as well as is there a retainer or any other additional costs.

Entertainment lawyers are your advocate. And while they may not be able to get you everything you want, you will understand the agreement and what your and the label’s responsibilities are. You will also have been able to have made an informed decision with the help of a legal expert before you sign what could be the most important agreements in your life.