What exactly is music law? To be totally honest there is no such thing as music law. The title is a very sexy heading for a grouping together of many areas of law which a musician may well need advice about during his or her career in the music business. Not being sexist but to save time can I say “he” in future and this can be taken to be read as “he” or “she”? My defence to this if you want me to refer to “he” or “she” every time is the Interpretation Act which states that a reference to “he” will also be interpreted to include “she”. Hopefully you will forgive me for this and not label me sexist.
You may well ask yourself if I am going to get involved in the music business should I get legal advice at the outset? I have to answer that with probably yes. Well I would say that wouldn’t I as it is in my interest to say that. The truth is that a lawyer is there to help you not only when you are in trouble but also to avoid you getting into trouble at a later date. The music business is a minefield and is full of sharks and some bite more than others. Many years ago to say there were gangsters involved in the music business would not be an understatement. Tales are legendary and true about people being threatened with guns, held out of windows, signing contracts and selling millions of records and the artist getting nothing and I mean nothing and everyone else living the high life off his creativity and showmanship. Indeed there have been books written on these legendary businessmen in the music industry and some of these stories are really entertaining, entertaining to you and me but not to the musician who has been threatened or who has found out he has sold millions of records and has received literally no money and will continue to get pretty much 100% of nothing unless he goes to law. Ok, now I have I got your attention? Now let me be honest and say that the music business is so much cleaner than it was in the 1960s and 70s and that there are now far fewer sharks out there but they do still exist as they do in all walks of life.
Music business contracts are very specialist documents and a lawyer should be involved in advising you about them. Indeed due to The Stone Roses case it was decided by the court that not only should an artist be advised by their own solicitor who they have chosen of their own free will but that the solicitor should have knowledge about the complexity of music business agreements. Now any music company or manager will insist on an artist having their own legal representation and will insist that there is a clause in the agreement that the artist has taken independent legal advice on the agreement from a solicitor with knowledge of music business agreements.
In this series of short blogs I will take you very briefly through some of the main areas of the music business and will touch upon a few areas of interest to show you some of the things that you might need to think about. I will deal with the following in future blogs: what does a band need to think about when they are setting up, what is a manager, how does a band make money in the music business, a recording agreement, a publishing agreement, sponsorship, merchandising, endorsement, touring. I must stress that these blogs are tasters only and in absolutely no way do they cover anywhere near what you need to know for each and every topic to be discussed and are hopefully will show you that you do need to take legal advice from a music lawyer to try to protect your money and your career.