Music Law

Music law applies to the activities of songwriters, composers, musicians and producers, as well as companies that work in publishing, live production, record labels, artist management, and more.  

A number of legal issues often occur during the execution of entertainment deals and other business transactions. These issues include recording contracts, copyright issues, joint ventures/co-authorship, royalties, and music licensing.

Music law is broad in scope, but issues we often handle for our clients include:

Copyright

Copyright law is integral to anyone in the music industry.  It is what allows artists to earn income from their creative works, and control how, when and whether those works are used. 

For music artists, the key concerns are determining who owns the copyright in newly created songs and understanding what rights and benefits are given to copyright owners. Music copyright law can be very complicated because of the dual rights that may be in a particular work.  The composition has a copyright, and if that composition is recorded, the sound recording will have its own copyright.

Copyright infringement is the unauthorized or prohibited use of protected material. Songwriters and composers are common victims of copyright infringement, but copyright law allows you to seek monetary damages and associated expenses from anyone who has infringed against you. Proving copyright infringement involves showing direct evidence of the duplication of protected material. Indirect evidence may also be admissible, such as showing that someone had access to protected material before producing a work that is identical or similar.

“Sampling” is when a portion of a prior music recording is incorporated into a new recording. When a piece is sampled without permission, copyright infringement of both the sound recording (usually owned by the record company) and the song itself (usually owned by the songwriter or the songwriter’s publishing company) occurs – double trouble!  Having a knowledgeable music attorney on your team can help you avoid a wide-range of copyright headaches.

Band Partnership Agreements

In addition to making music, a band is a business enterprise. As such, band members are well-advised (while everyone is getting along) to clarify responsibilities of members in the band, discuss how band expenses will be paid and how revenues will be managed, and simplify decision-making.  These decisions should then be put in writing, which will reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

Business Entities

If you make money by making music, you are in business. There may be several options to you for how to structure this business considering your practical needs and goals. Are you a solo artist or do you perform with a band?  Does your music-making require a lot of travel and equipment, or do you stay local. Your options for how to structure your business each will have advantages and disadvantages to be weighed with the advice of your lawyer or your accountant, or both.

Band Names

Your band name identifies you to the world and may become a valuable intellectual property asset that deserves careful consideration.  Should you trademark your band name? Who gets to keep using the band name if members leave or the band breaks up? Do you need to license your band name to others as your grow your music business?

Publishing & Performing Rights Organizations

Music publishing can be a major source of income for songwriters and composers. A songwriter may decide to sign with an established publishing company or may want to form his or her own music publishing company. Songwriters should also understand how the two major performance rights societies, ASCAP and BMI, work.

Hiring Professionals

Are you looking to work with other professionals to help you make your music, release a record, promote your brand, or protect your business interests?  Whether you are ready to team up with a producer, artist manager, or record label, you may need legal assistance to negotiate and document a deal that protects your creative works and your financial interest.

Independent Labels

Do you want to start your own record label? How will the financial arrangements behind your roster of artists and album releases be handled?  How are you going to administer all the royalty and revenue streams? Who is going to own the copyrights in the music and albums that you are involved in.  There are a lot of different legal issues that can be involved with running a successful music label.

To schedule a consultation with a member of our team regarding your music law matter, please call the us at (303) 763-1600 or submit our online contact form.