With the uncertainty and sheer chaos 2020 seemed to bring, the question of whether you need to hire a music lawyer to help with your project is probably not at the top of your list.
As an artist however you may have used the lockdowns to write and record a load of new material, which you are now looking to release. Whether you are shopping around for record deals with independent labels, or distributing your tracks yourself to get them onto Spotify and other streaming platforms, it is important to get these things right.
If you are a new artist, or this is the first time you have been able to commit the time (and funds) to producing and releasing your music, you may not have the team of people you need to safely and efficiently release your music in the best possible way.
It is crucial therefore to ensure that you have a good understanding of your rights as a musician, whether you are a songwriter, musician, vocalist, producer, or all of the above.
What does a music lawyer do for you?
Having a good music lawyer who understands your project and who is approachable is invaluable, as it will allow you to have a preliminary conversation about your rights and how to protect them (which most lawyers will not charge you for).
It is also important to know who to call upon once you have a contract which you have been offered – make sure you never sign anything before you get legal advice as it could cause serious damage to your career before you properly get going.
If you do have a contract or agreement which has been put forward, it is usually worth asking the other side (especially if it is a label or publisher) if they will pay your legal fees – this is often a way of figuring out if they are serious about signing you.
Your lawyer will usually advise you on the contents of the contract and explain what the consequences would be of signing this deal, explaining along the way whether this is an industry standard clause, or if there is something unusual you should be worried about.
A good lawyer will make sure you have all the information you need to make the decision that is right for you and your career at a given time, whilst ensuring that you keep your options as open as possible when looking to the future.
After that, your lawyer will also assist with the contract negotiations on your behalf, making changes to the proposed deal and negotiating terms with the other side until an agreement can be reached.
Finally, a good music lawyer will also advise and assist with any disputes you may encounter during your career, such as contractual and rights disputes, to ensure that you protect and enforce your rights.
How do I choose a music lawyer?
The music industry has a very unique set of rules and customs, and so it is important that you do choose a lawyer who has expertise in this particular area of law.
However, as with every aspect of your career, the key is ensuring that you work with people who are right for you and your project.
As music in increasingly overlapping with other creative industries such as gaming, social media, sports, etc. you may also want a lawyer who can guide you through any licensing deals which may arise, influencer agreements, trade marks to protect your brand, and other opportunities.
Most traditional, ‘old school’ music lawyers may be able to guide you through the ins and outs of a record deal with a major label, but if you are relying on Instagram, TikTok or even Fortnite to release your music, you may need a lawyer who has more experience in these emerging platforms.
That’s why, in 2021 perhaps more than ever, it is important that you give some thought to adding a music lawyer to your team.
If you want to arrange a free consultation with one of our specialist lawyers, please contact us at [email protected] or give us a call on 020 7288 6003.
Written by Joshua Schuermann, Associate