UNDER THE LABEL

business & 
legal affairs

WHO

Lawyers

Attorneys

WHAT

Record deals, contracts, digital services, copyright, protection of intellectual property 

Record Label
Degree Required
Administrative

THE BASICS

The Business and Legal Affairs department is in charge of all legal matters of the recording company, a specific label, and/or the artists it represents. All of the people working in this department are lawyers (in the US, they must have a JD and often the admission to the bar of their state).  

 

Usually, lawyers draft and negotiate contracts, approve the contractors such as photographers or video directors on projects, advise on copyright infringement, and represent the artist during a recording session.

Artists and their managers meet the lawyers early on when they negotiate the first contract; the recording dealThey are the people an artist’s team turns to when they want to know what is authorized and what is not. 

Sometimes they are perceived as the annoying people who say NO to everything. 

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THE HIERARCHY

The business and legal affairs department is defined by a specific hierarchy typical/similar to law firms. Moreover, most lawyers are found at the record company level (ex: Sony) rather than the label level (ex: Columbia, RCA). 

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT  

It's one of the very few positions that doesn't require a law degree. It can be a good experience before going to law school. It consists of assisting the VP or SVP in scheduling their meetings and other daily tasks.

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ASSOCIATE COUNSEL or LEGAL ANALYST

Both of these positions are the same but are called differently depending on the label you work at. This is the entry-level position you can apply for straight out of law school.

JOBS

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A LAWYER

Legal Analyst @Warner Music Group US

THE TASKS OF THE BUSINESS & LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Whom they work with and what they do 

SYNC

- Draft the sync agreements (Film TV, advertisement, video games)

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A&R

- Negotiate the record deals

- Approve splits

- Monitor recording costs & approve payments

- Advise sample copyright infringements

MARKETING

- Review Press Releases (Press/PR department)

- Artwork agreements 

- Approve videos/photos

- Hire photographers, etc.

PUBLISHING

- Take care of exclusive and sub-publishing agreements and licensing 

- Secure necessary copyrights 

- Confirm royalty agreements 

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ARTIST'S TEAM

- Advise publicity and trademarks

- Deal with contract understanding & breach of contracts

- Draft NDAs

OTHER

- Deal with some touring aspects: venues, festivals, etc.

- Small event organization; negotiate and book rooms and hotels, etc.

SKILLS

TIME SPENT

CHECKLIST

Is a degree required?

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Business & Legal is one of the few areas of the music industry where a degree is necessary. You need a Law Degree and the ability to practice law in your country/state of residence.

HOW TO GET STARTED IN THE US

Step 1 

Bachelor --> To apply to law schools, you will need: 

  1. A bachelor majoring in anything that you like and are very good at

  2. Leadership experience is also highly valued on your application to show that you are active on campus and can balance classes and external engagement. 

 

Step 2

J.D. (Juris Doctor) from an accredited law school

  • Tips from lawyers in the industry: MAKE CONNECTIONS IN LAW SCHOOL and network; succeeding in the music industry is mostly about who you know.

  • Specialization or Area of Focus that are recommended are: Music Publishing, Copyright, IP

 

Step 3

Admission to the bar of the state you want to work in

To apply to any major label or recording company a minimum of 2 years of industry experience in business affairs, licensing, or entertainment law firm is often required.

Info: 

Lawyers move a lot and can start in A&R or any other department of a label. It is also known that lawyers often move away from law into Business or Management and become CEOs of labels.

GLOSSARY

NDA

A non-disclosure agreement is a legally binding contract that establishes a confidential relationship with the people involved. The party or parties signing the agreement, agree that sensitive information they may obtain will not be made available to any others.  

Copyright infringement

As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. 

Record Deal (or Recording Contract) 

A recording contract is a legal agreement between a record label and a recording artist, where the artist makes a record for the label to sell and promote. 

IPR

Intellectual property rights protect the "creations of the mind". This means anything considered valuable intellectual property, that is artistic, cultural, or scientific, and was created by a human. The four types of IP are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and registered designs. They give the creator an exclusive right over the use of their creation for a certain period of time.

Written by Louisa & Fran
Published June 17th 2021
Copyright © 2021 Coda Collectiv.