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by Ben McLane, Esq.

Aspiring artists have probably already discovered - while trying unsuccessfully to submit material to record companies and publishers - that many companies' policy is that submissions are only accepted from an attorney or manager. Hence, outside of some creative approach to having material heard by the industry, an attorney or manager will at some point become a necessary member of the artist's inner circle. This article will discuss what are often considered to be the most powerful players in the industry today: attorneys.

With the recording industry becoming more corporate, the importance of industry attorneys has also increased dramatically. Today, many deals come about as a direct result of the artist's attorney's connections, reputation and experience. Essentially, labels and publishers are so deluged with new material that they simply do not have the time to review it all. By limiting who they accept submissions from (i.e., attorneys), they can generally be more certain that the product has some artistic merit because they are assuming (sometimes illogically) that the attorney has already weeded out the wheat from the chaff. Therefore, because of the harsh reality that labels and publishers now seem to favor receiving demos from attorneys, the artist should attempt to find an interested attorney to help the cause. Not only can the attorney help find a deal for the artist, but the attorney also has the ability to understand and negotiate complex and sophisticated contracts which can have massive financial and professional ramifications for the artist.

To find an interested attorney, the artist should locate a list of music attorneys, call them, and ask if they will are willing to listen to new material for possible representation. Most attorneys will probably suggest that the artist send in a demo. If the attorney hears potential, and wants to represent the artist to labels and publishers (i.e., submit the demo), the lawyer will expect to be compensated. There are several different ways to structure a lawyer's fees.

The most common fee structure is the hourly fee. Here, the attorney will charge the artist a set rate ($100-$400) per hour for time spent working for the artist. Another common arrangement is the flat fee. This means that the artist will pay a set amount which will not change regardless of the time the attorney works. Probably the most beneficial plan for the struggling artist (and the least common), is for the attorney to get paid a percentage of the income on the agreement the attorney negotiates. Under this last instance, the typical arrangement would be for the attorney to receive 5-10% of the advance money that the artist realizes upon signing a deal. Keep in mind that the above scenarios are not exclusive and that there are many different fee arrangements which can be entered into with an attorney.

A well-connected and knowledgeable attorney can only be an asset to an artist. Moreover, most attorneys earn their reputations based on the artists that they represent. In other words, they need the artist as much as the artist needs them. Therefore, if an artist is serious about success, and an attorney can increase the artist's opportunity to become a hit, the artist should begin searching for the right attorney.

Copyright 1998, Ben McLane

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