Do You Need A Music Lawyer? What They Do And How To Hire One

January 9, 2017 By Liam Duncan

What Is A Musician’s Lawyer?

Generally there are two types of musician’s lawyers . There are litigators (or courtroom lawyers) and transactional lawyers (non-courtroom business-y lawyers).

Just like in other professions, litigators are used when (or hopefully if) you are being sued or if you are suing someone  else. These lawyers  typically specialize  in contract  disputes  and  copyright  infringement,  as these are the cases that make  it  to  the courtroom.

Hopefully you won’t need to use a litigation lawyer, and if you’re looking to avoid a situation where you might need one, you’ll want to hire a great transactional lawyer.

Transactional lawyers try to set up arrangements so as to avoid disputes down the line. A well-crafted agreement between two parties will help avoid the courtroom and protect your interests if you’re being sued.

In the past, music lawyers used to do a lot of the work of a good manager: Shopping around to labels, networking, etc. This is not really the case anymore. It’s a lot harder to find lawyers that offer these services simply because  there’s not a lot of money in it. 

So when should you hire a lawyer? These are just a few examples when to look for a qualified professional, and my advice as a musician certainly does not replace the  advice or services offered by a trained attorney.

1. Before Signing An Agreement Between Band Members

It’s never a bad idea to sign an agreement between band members regarding a few key issues. Principally, who owns the copyright on the songs, how royalties are distributed, and who owns the band name are the matters at stake.

You should also cover what happens if somebody wants to leave the group and other details such as personal vehicle use, etc.

Obviously, for something like this in the early stages of your group’s career, it may not be necessary to spend money on a lawyer. However, if things are getting serious, it’s not a bad idea to make it official.

2. Before Signing An Agreement With A Manager

Never, ever, ever sign a management deal without having a lawyer go over it and explain it. The language is very dense and difficult to understand and most importantly, the  clauses within them will affect your career for literally years.

Management deals have sunset clauses that give your manager assurance that they will be paid for their work for years to come. If you get into a bad deal it can literally make or break your career.

3. Before Signing A Licensing Deal

If someone wants to license your song to use in an ad, movie, or other production, hire a lawyer. This way you can be sure they’re not using your song in something you don’t want to be associated with. It also ensures you’ll be compensated fairly.

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