Do you have legal questions regarding your music that you would like to ask a lawyer?
Luckily for you, we recently conducted an interview with a music lawyer, to provide you answers to common questions submitted by our community. Without further adieu, please see the questions and corresponding answers below from music lawyer, @bdobbins.esq
Why do you need a music lawyer?
Contract drafting, negotiation, and management;
Copyright and Trademark prosecution;
Business/Entity formation and guidance; and
Litigation and mediation of any disputes related thereto.
When should you hire a music lawyer?
Before collaborating on any project; and
Before signing any agreement.
What are the top 5 mistakes you see artists make regarding intellectual property and business?
Collaborating on a project without a signed written contract;
Failing to register a work with the United States Copyright Office;
Using the work of others without proper licensing/permission;
Failing to understand the two sides of the music industry, the artistry and the business. Failing to appreciate the business side of things and where one falls on the organizational chart, results in an intentional process of reducing an artist to a mere contractor for essentially a commissioned work (song, album, EP, etc.) that others (record labels etc.) will use/monetize for profit. If one wants to be more than a glorified “employee” and become a part of the monetization i.e. retain a piece of the pie for themselves, it is imperative they learn the business and or seek out the resources they need to gain valuable negotiation power.
Failing to appreciate that the business comes first, especially where one wants to maximize their profits and avoid legal disputes in the future.
What is a music Copyright?
A music copyright designates legal ownership of a musical work. This ownership includes the exclusive right to distribute and reproduce the work, as well as licensing rights that enable the copyright holder to earn royalties. There are two types of music copyright: Master and Composition.
The composition copyright covers the ownership of the underlying arrangement of notes, melodies, and chords in a specific order.
The master copyright covers a specific recording that contains a particular expression or version of the underlying composition, created by performing artists and financial investors - such as a record label.
Does a band need an agreement?
The short answer is, YES. A band is generally a joint venture or partnership (a group of people coming together for the purpose of creating a product for profit). If the band intends to make money off its work/the music it creates, then it needs an agreement that governs the rights of each member. This is essentially a partnership agreement that governs property ownership, distribution of profits and losses, and the rules for termination (in the event the band wishes to break up or end its partnership). This is the best practice for preserving goodwill and avoiding costly disputes in the future.
What should you consider before collaborating on a work of art?
The purpose of the work?
Examples (Ex.): creating a song, EP, album etc.
How will the work be monetized?
Ex. What royalty streams, if any will be sought
Who will be the primary collaborators of the work/the owners?
Ex. How many writers will there be, who is performing the work, who is financing the recording, etc.
What will be outsourced?
Ex. Beat creation, mixing and mastering, vocalist, studio musicians, marketing and distribution, etc.
How will property, profits, and losses be split amongst the collaborators and how will outsourced individuals/third parties be paid?
Is there anything an entertainment lawyer does not do?
I do not procure/obtain work or employment for my clients. In some states the same is prohibited without a separate independent agency license.
*This information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice, and it should not be considered as such. If you need legal advice for a specific problem or situation, please reach out to a qualified entertainment lawyer for legal counsel. I can be contacted at the following: