I have often wondered how one can become a transactional entertainment lawyer without a mentor? The reason is there are no books that I know of that teach all that one needs to know about the negotiation of all the different kinds of contracts in the music and entertainment industries. I learned the traditional way. I got a job at a successful entertainment law firm. I was fortunate. This is the route that many but not all of my entertainment lawyer friends took. Some, on the other hand, networked and befriended experienced entertainment lawyers. And others read all they could about the business, went to entertainment law CLEs and subscribed to entertainment law form services–hopefully ones with good current commentary.
To the best of my knowledge most entertainment law courses in law schools are focused on reading and understanding the cases. A good idea for both transactional lawyers and litigators. Recently a law professor asked for a review copy of my book “Entertainment Law Mentor: Negotiating Exclusive Songwriting Agreements” because she was searching for a text for the negotiation class she was about to teach for the first time. Of course I sent her a review copy of the book but I also explained that my book was probably too narrow for an entire negotiation course text book, even though it would contain some information applicable to all types of contracts. My book might be a book to be used as a part of a class or supplementary reading. (I am currently writing book two in the series.)
When I graduated from law school I was hired as the Director of the Commercial Music and Recording Program at Georgia State University. I expanded the curriculum and included courses about recording and other music agreements. Since I had never practiced law most of my knowledge was based on being a law clerk for an entertainment lawyer while in school and whatever I could find to read. At that time the so-called “bible” of the music business was “This Business of Music” by attorneys Sidney Shemel and William Krasilovsky. I taught my undergraduate students all about recording agreements based on that book. After three years at GSU I went to work for one of the hottest entertainment law firms in the U.S.and there I found my mentors.
As far as the nuances of deal making and negotiation skills my mentor was the senior partner. And my mentor as far as the nitty gritty paragraph-by-paragraph, sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word negotiation of a contract was the senior associate. The big eye opener for me was that a lot of what I had been teaching was out of date–not wrong–just not current. That’s the trouble with books in the music industry. It is a very fluid industry and contract deal points change. The text book for my class was not at all current when it came to information such as appropriate royalty percentages, the way deals are structured, advances and so forth. I was teaching undergraduates who to the best of my knowledge did not have their sights set on law school and would have no reason to learn the real details of contract negotiation – at least not until law school or law practice.
The kinds of details that I speak of were no where to be read or learned other than from a mentor. A mentor that was currently engaged in the practice of entertainment law at a cutting edge level. In my series of books I am trying to give as much of that information as I can. However, my books are not designed primarily to give the major deal points (royalty percentages, etc.) as much as the myriad of other issues that are not as susceptible to change and can rarely be learned outside of mentoring. My advice to the lawyer venturing into entertainment law is to read everything you can about the subject, attend seminars, network with established entertainment lawyers and if at all possible find a mentor or consultant who can guide you in this exciting venture.
I know that other entertainment lawyers read my blog. I would love to hear your opinions on this subject.