UNDER THE LABEL

business and legal

WHO

Lawyers & Attorneys

WHAT

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

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 deal. They 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.

JOBS

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.

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.

STREAMING/SALES

They make sure the record has been distributed to DSPs around the world; Spotify, Apple Music but also Gaana and Jioaavn (India), KuGou and QQ (China), etc.

*sometimes the part of the international sales is centralized for all labels under one group* For example, Sony's Global Digital Business & US Sales record division deals with international sales for all Sony Labels (RCA, Arista, Columbia, etc.)​

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Being a good communicator and knowing how to explain legal concepts to non-lawyers are important skills.

A typical day for a legal analyst starts with answering emails and working on all pending tasks from the night before. Then, we have a department recap call, which is a call with all the lawyers to discuss all the important things we have to do and what we should prioritize. Most of my work daily is drafting contracts. I sometimes get involved with booking hotels for special events but it's rare.

Legal Analyst @Warner Music Group US

THE TASKS

Who they work with and what they do 

SYNC

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

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

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.

SYNC

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

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.

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

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.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR

- Distribute artists singles & albums to DSPs on time for the release
- Negotiate business partnerships with DSPs -- Examples:  
        ° Reduced royalties rate per stream for artists of a specific label in exchange for free ad credits
        ° ‘Artist Social Boost’: DSPs are granted advertising access to an artist's Facebook or Instagram to run
           ads offering their followers 3 months free premium. In exchange, the label gets a portion of the profit from the fans signing up through the artist's link
- Partner with DSPs for marketing initiatives such as:
        ° Billboard in Time Square
        ° Playlist takeovers
        ° Example: Olivia Rodrigo's Car Wash with Spotify in LA.

PUBLISHING

- Licence songs before release
- Make sure the metadata is complete (every detail about the song is filled out - producers, singer, date, title, etc.)

SALES

- Curate playlists on streaming platforms to promote their artists
- Establish the number of copies of an album that needs to be produced
- Make sure the production and delivery runs smoothly (with Production Dep)

QUICK RUNDOWN OF SONG LICENSING

A music supervisor reaches out to the label with interest in a song. They provide 3 elements for a possible contract and give a scene description and information on the use of the song.

With those elements in mind, the Sync Department defines the licensing fees for the use of that song. The amount usually depends mostly on the artist, scene description and length, and part of the song used.

The label asks for the artist's approval; both on the budget and the use of the song (which project it will be featured on).

Important to know: For a song to be used, it needs the approval of both the master recording (label) and the publisher. This means all songwriters have to approve the use of the song too! And if an artist is also a songwriter they need to approve it twice, once through the label and once through the publisher.

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.

Once negotiated, the deal has to be sent to the publishers for approval.

This step is necessary legally to ensure that the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause is respected.

If a music supervisor confirms the use of a song then the license is created.

On their side, they will have to pay a fee for the use of the composition (copyright to the publisher) and a fee for the master (to the label).

SKILLS

“For NY and LA, there is always a member of our team at shows to organize business encounters, escort our partners backstage. It’s kind of a concierge service”
- Tour and Special Events @Interscope  

TIME SPENT

​"When there is no covid I travel a lot so I am divided between being with the artist on tours and promotion - with visits to my offices for strategy and planning meetings around the world and in London with my team on a day-to-day basis when we are not traveling. My boss travels much more than I do so we are used to working remotely and maintaining constant communication."

CHECKLIST

Is a degree required?

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.  

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.

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.

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 Lou & Fran.
Designed by Lou.
Published June 17th 2021
Copyright © 2021 Gen Admission.