An Ode to Entertainment Attorneys

I was recently asked how I felt about Entertainment Attorneys.  So here’s my answer.

Disclaimer*  I am not an attorney.  I cannot advise you on the legality of certain situations. The views in this blog are mine alone and not any company, band, or artist I am associated with.

Let’s get down to it!

First, let me start off by saying they are a necessity.  As much as people claim to hate attorneys, if you have any desire to get in the music industry or the film industry, you need to get someone who will be on your side, at the very least to read through contracts.  If you sign a bad deal, get scammed out of money, or lose your intellectual property because of your inability to seek out proper counsel prior to putting pen to paper, then that’s on you. Don’t place your blame elsewhere.  Own it, grow from it, move on, and get an attorney.  If any of these things have happened to you and you had to get an attorney to help you get out of it, then you know the cost is tremendously more than it would have been to simply have them advise you beforehand.

Do your research on attorneys before choosing one.  Check out their client list and/or past clients.  Look at their years of service and don’t be afraid to ask for references.  I have known some fantastic attorneys, and I have known some that think they’re fantastic.  *I am not here to recommend any.  A good attorney will be honest with you, no matter how much you probably don’t want to hear the truth. Remember that you came to them, and in most cases are paying for their service, so take that feedback and do something with it.  A good attorney can help guide you in the right direction, but remember that you may not be their only client or their most productive…yet.  Be patient, especially if they are not charging you for things you know that you would normally be charged for.

Here’s some advice that I have told a few artists I have worked with.  Your attorney works for you, not the other way around.  Don’t let them drag their feet, string you along, or put you off.  Stand firm!  It’s your money, career, and time.  If they get upset, then maybe this professional relationship is not working, and that’s okay.  There is always someone better to help you.  However, you have to be upfront and honest with them.  They’re not mind readers.  Tell them how you feel about a particular situation or what you want/need out of this relationship, and don’t play a sugar coated bullshit game. They can’t help you with incomplete information or if they believe that everything is fine. Ask for meetings, whether phone based or face-to-face.  Most importantly, they ARE NOT your manager, unless they are.  Don’t try to make them do things managers do.  There are some great current/former entertainment attorneys that are also managers. Larry Rudolph is one that immediately comes to mind, but Larry made the choice to do both and then move solely to management. Don’t just make the assumption that your attorney is your manager, unless and until there is a contract in place.

Here’s a quick experience I’ve had.

I was working with an emerging artist a few years ago.  He wanted to do R&B/Pop music, but had no budget and was working 2 jobs to pay for everything.  He had people in his life come and go, mostly when things got hot of course.  He was good though.  He had talent, the look, and could dance along with sing.  That particular genre is very hard to break into, especially as a white male.  It’s tough to follow up be Timberlake or Bieber, it’s not a race thing, it’s the truth.  He had been told this by many people, but he had determination and a work ethic that would take him far.  I was solely responsible of his social media. I enjoyed it and was good at it, as long as he continued to feed me material to socialize about.  *Social Media will be a whole other blog.  

Long story short, he signed a bad contract.  He signed a bad management contract without seeking counsel first. He let his excitement and belief that this one instance was his come up get in the way of smart investment in himself and his craft.  As part of the contract, my services would no longer be needed.  I would no longer be maintaining his social media and had to hand over all logins and passwords.  This was just one of the articles in the contract that he did not read before signing.

Now here’s where I did not go quietly into the night.  I take pride in my work, and I do my work well.  There was no way I was going to let someone else that didn’t deserve it take credit for my work.  At the end of the day, this was just a job, and I could have walked away with no problem had I believed this was a good deal for him, but I didn’t.  I’ve seen enough contracts to know what should and shouldn’t be in there.  After reading through the garbage he signed, I suggested he hire an attorney to dispatch with this contract.  He did, and eventually built a professional relationship and convinced the attorney to manage him.

Here’s the kicker.  It cost the artist almost 10x the amount to get out of the contract as it would have to have hired the same attorney for a one off contract consultation before signing.  It went to court and eventually was thrown out due to reasons out of my realm of expertise.  There was a lot of shady things in that contract.

MORAL:  Be smart.  If your believe in yourself, take care to guard your livelihood and career against the scum and bottom feeders of the entertainment world.

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