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Now That You Have a Record Deal, How About a Lawyer?

10Lawyer_0Entertainment lawyers are an inevitable part of the music business. Even if you've been mostly self-sufficient up to this point, landing a major record deal means lots of contracts, lots of meetings and lots of money exchanging hands, none of which you want to navigate without legal representation.

But don't freak out: retaining the services of a music attorney isn't nearly as difficult and expensive as you probably assume. In fact, a lot of the larger record companies will often provide legal representation for you and pay the fees either out of your advance or charge them against future royalties. But if your label has no ties with an entertainment lawyer, or you feel that it's necessary to find your own legal representation, read on. The following article will tell you everything you need to know.

Finding an Entertainment Law Specialist

Though it's true that a lawyer is a lawyer, musicians in search of legal representation need more than the everyday attorney. An entertainment lawyer's merit is based not only on how well he or she knows the law but also how inside the industry his or her firm is. Many of your legal needs will require that your entertainment lawyer be well connected, that he or she know some of the most influential people in the industry. So while it might be difficult for you to break with your longtime family attorney, it's absolutely necessary -- unless, that is, he or she moonlights as a club promoter.

So how does one go about finding these specialists in entertainment law? The easiest, and most obvious, way is to slip through the yellow pages and start making calls. That tactic is problematic, however, because not all entertainment lawyers are created equal; in fact, some just shouldn't be lawyers at all. You'll probably spend more time screening sketchy music attorneys than you will actually writing music. Not exactly the most efficient use of your time.

Your best bet for finding a great legal specialist is to ask around. Talk to your musician friends (or anyone else you might know in the industry) and see whose names pop up most frequently. And while you're at it, ask about any entertainment lawyers you should absolutely avoid; this will go a long way in helping you to pare down your list.

Researching the Prospects

Before you schedule a meeting with any music attorney, it's important that you conduct a bit of research. If you're sticking strictly to your list of referrals, it isn't very likely that you run into anything immediately negative. But the myriad of entertainment lawyer horror stories that float about the industry coupled with the small chance that you might fall prey to one makes the research completely worth your time. Besides, even if you know the music attorney's record to be spotless, it's not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the sorts of artists they typically represent.

The first step in your research is simple: check to see if the entertainment lawyer as a website. Most entertainment law firms maintain webpages that list their clients, availabilities and any major milestones. Glance through the client list and see if your band fits there. Is it mostly rock music? Rock and pop? Do they specialize in genres or worth with the entire spectrum?

If no client list is available, or you're still itching for more information, call the entertainment law firm and ask for a list of references. Music attorneys very frequently keep a list of client references on hand and will be more than happy to put you in contact with a few people they've represented. Just be sure that the entertainment lawyer had recent contact with the client; the music industry shifts at the drop of a hat, after all, and you absolutely need the most up-to-date information.

Digging into an entertainment lawyer's professional history is another way to obtain vital information. It's also the way to find out anything negative; obviously the entertainment law firm's own website won't post any complaints or disparaging comments. Get in touch with your local branch of the Better Business Bureau and ask if any complaints have been filed against the music attorney's office. If you do find a complaint, take great care to confirm the validity of that claim. More often than not, claims filed with the Better Business Bureau are valid, but you'll want to make absolutely sure. Call anyone you know in the industry and ask what they know about the firm; you may never get the perfect answer -- meaning that you may want to stay away from this particular entertainment lawyer -- but you'll certainly get a general idea of how based in trust the complaint is.

And one last word to the wise: never trust complaints against an entertainment lawyer posted on a random website, unless several people are complaining of the same problems. Though these sorts of things might put up a red flag for your research, an entertainment lawyer's merit can never be judged purely on rumor.

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