An entertainment attorney's primary job is to advise and counsel clients (i.e., you) about legal aspects of the entertainment industry. Common responsibilities of your attorney will be to draft and negotiate contracts for you with third parties, such as record and publishing companies, managers, booking agents and producers. Your attorney also will prepare your copyright or trademark registrations, and advise you on issues as diverse as goal setting, things to consider when choosing a manager or record company, and your career direction.
We all have heard horror stories about artists signing bad deals. I’ve seen the aftermath, and it’s not pretty. The single most important job of your entertainment attorney is to help you to avoid these kinds of disasters. The attorney will advise you and protect your interests before you sign any agreements with other industry professionals, or, ultimately record companies. He or she will make sure you understand the contract, and that the contract is up to industry standards. In other words, your attorney’s main objective is to do everything he or she can to make sure you enter into a fair agreement with a reputable record label, producer, manager, etc.
So before you sign any contract in the entertainment industry, always get the advice of an entertainment attorney. Simply having an attorney does not guarantee you’ll get the best contract (as in any other profession, some attorneys are better than others). However, it greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll understand the contract you are signing, and that you won’t get burned.
One thing all entertainment attorneys do not do—despite the popular myth—is seek out and secure record deals for artists—a process known as “shopping” an artist to record labels. It is true that some entertainment attorneys perform this service, but very few succeed in getting their clients signed to a deal. The ones who do succeed almost always are working with artists who already have spent years developing themselves and have had some success. A reputable, experienced entertainment attorney will explain this to you.
Many artists and/or their parents want to be told that if they spend a ton of money on a demo tape and hire an expensive lawyer, they’ll get a deal from a major label. You can try this too, but I strongly recommend that you don’t. You probably end up with a great-sounding demo, no record deal and a lot less money.
If you find an attorney who says he or she will shop your material to labels, be cautious. Before writing a big check, or even entering into an agreement with the attorney to send your material around, ask a lot of questions regarding his or her experience in the entertainment industry, who he or she has represented, and how many successes he or she has had getting record contracts for artists. The fact is you can’t buy your way in to the music industry. You get there through development and hard work. That’s what this book is all about.
Unfortunately, record companies perpetuate the myth, telling artists that entertainment attorneys can shop their materials. They tell artists this only because their label does not accept material directly from artists and instead wants materials submitted by someone with whom the label has a relationship. This process is best left to successful managers or producers who have a relationship with the label(s) you wish to contact and experience shopping artists.