Music Attorney

  • Music Attorney

A music attorney combines a law degree with deep knowledge of music and the recording industry into a single exciting career. These specialized attorneys handle a variety of different legal issues surrounding the music industry, from the legality of contracts to copyright and trademark issues. While first and foremost a lawyer, a music attorney often has a music background and understands the finer points of the music industry.  


Duties

At some point in the career of a successful musician, an attorney will be required. A music attorney is well-versed in the laws and precedents applicable to the music industry. In contract negotiations, a music attorney drafts agreements and facilitates the negotiating process; he or she also handles other transactions concerning musicians, record labels, event promoters, and other parties that wish to employ recording artists. Copyright protection and intellectual property law are some of the most common areas of specialization for music attorneys; these lawyers are traditionally responsible for defining the terms of usage for an act’s music, likeness, and other trademarks. Music attorneys can be hired for a one-time contract negotiation or case concerning any other aspect of the music industry, or they can be on retainer to artists, labels, or other parties.

Skills & Education

Music is a specialized category within entertainment law, which is itself a specialized category of law. As such, music attorneys must attain a four-year university degree followed by law school; they must also receive board certification by passing the bar exam to practice law in their respective state. The successful music attorney will also have an intimate knowledge of the music industry—many music attorneys have a background in music before practicing law—and a solid network of relationships within the music industry. While music attorneys negotiate on behalf of creative talents, as lawyers, they are all business and see to it that they protect the interests of the artists, labels, and other music-related parties they represent.

What to Expect

Though it can be a lucrative career for the right individual, becoming a music attorney requires years of education, dedication, and relationship-building. As music is at the center of your practice, knowledge of the legal concerns of the music industry is crucial, including copyright, trademark, intellectual property, and contract law. You’ll deal with artists, but also with number-crunchers at record labels, music publishing companies, and distribution companies, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that even the flakiest band gets a fair shake when they ink a label deal. If you have an analytical mind (and want to make serious bank) but you have a rock & roll streak and love working with creative people, hanging out your shingle as a music attorney is a great way to combine disparate interests.

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