Getting Started in Entertainment Law

Below are suggestions from Texas attorneys working in the music industry on how best to get started studying and practicing entertainment law. Each attorney answered the following questions (please click each question listed below to view responses):


There are currently nine Law Schools in Texas, with five offering classes focusing on entertainment law. We recommend contacting each university for additional details on entertainment law courses and programs being offered in the future.

Baylor Law School
Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center
1114 South University Parks Drive
One Bear Place, No. 97288
Waco, TX 76798-0006
(254) 710-1911
Ricky_Sowell@NOSPAMbaylor.edu
Entertainment Law Courses: none offered



South Texas College of Law
1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002-7006
(713) 659-8040
studentaffairs@NOSPAMstcl.edu
Entertainment Law Courses: none offered

Sports and Entertainment Law Society
1303 San Jacinto MB, No. 22
Houston, TX 77002-7006
(713) 646-1735


St. Mary's University School of Law
One Camino Santa Maria
San Antonio, TX 78228-8503
(210) 436-3011
Entertainment Law Courses: LW8659, taught by Russell E. Rains (512) 479-0794
LW8659 is a survey course which focuses on the legal issues and practices common to all areas of the entertainment industry. Practice issues are emphasized, as well as new developments in relevant intellectual property law, and significant business law issues.

Sports, Entertainment, and Arts Law Students Association (SEALS)
L. Wayne Scott, Sponsor
(210) 431-2271
wscott@NOSPAMstmarytx.edu


Texas Southern University
Thurgood Marshall School of Law
3100 Cleburne Street
Houston, TX 77004-4501
(713) 313-4455
Entertainment Law Courses: LAW 791, taught by Ricky Anderson (713) 621-5522; RickyA5@NOSPAMsbcglobal.net
LAW 791 will examine the various legal issues that arise in entertainment contract law and will give students the opportunity to engage in interviewing, negotiations and drafting exercises.


SMU Dedman School of Law
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275-0116
(214) 768-2620
cszaj@NOSPAMmail.smu.edu
Entertainment Law Courses: 107F, taught by Evan M. Fogelman, (214) 361-9956; lawyerfogelman@NOSPAMaol.com
107F deals with the role of attorneys and agents, personal and intellectual property rights, motion picture production and distribution, television rights and procedures, literary publishing, and music publishing and sound recordings. Particular emphasis is placed on technological developments and contract negotiation.


Texas Tech University School of Law
1802 Hartford Avenue
Lubbock, TX 79409
(806) 742-3990
pam.forcum@NOSPAMttu.edu
Entertainment Law Courses: none offered


Texas Wesleyan University School of Law
1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102-6509
(817) 212-4000
law@NOSPAMtxwes.edu

Entertainment Law Courses: 7268, (817) 336-2400;
7268 covers basic legal concepts that govern transactions in the entertainment industry, including the constitutional protections of entertainment speech, the rights of individuals who restrict it, copyright fundamentals, contract issues peculiar to the field, and prevailing standards and practices of "the Business."

Sports & Entertainment Law Society
Catherine Hough, Sponsor
chough102@NOSPAMmail.txwes.edu


The University of Houston Law Center
100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204
(713) 743-2100

Entertainment Law Courses: Entertainment Law blends concepts and skills derived from intellectual property, contracts, and torts, with emphasis on recent Internet-based developments in the relevant entertainment industries.


The University of Texas School of Law
727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705-3224
(512) 471-5151
studentaffairs@NOSPAMmail.law.utexas.edu

Entertainment Law Courses: 397S, taught by Laura Lee Prather, (512) 236-2260; l.prather@NOSPAMsdma.com
397S is a seminar course and will focus primarily on a sampling of basic contracts in the music, television and motion picture industry and the unique litigation that can arise out of these contracts and in these industries.


Suggestions on getting started in Entertainment law:

What do you wish you'd done (or done more of) in law school to prepare better for working with music-related clients?

Wish I had taken an intellectual property law course (they didn't offer in most law schools back in the day). It is important to learn not only copyright law but its relationship with the other disciplines we classify as intellectual property. In particular, you must understanding the trademark law essentials and the principles of branding. The music business model of tomorrow will depend more on trademark law than copyright law.

Jeff Storie, Fort Worth

I wish that I had attended more concerts and that I had been involved in some of the entertainment law sections of the Texas Bar and the ABA before my third year of law school. I also wish I had tried to get my hands on more contracts while I was in school, just to see what types of agreements developing bands in Austin are offered. I wish I had taken more negotiation and mediation classes. Finally, I wish I'd set up more informational interviews with music industry people while I was a student. They're less enthusiastic about meeting with you when you have the bar card and can also take on clients.

Amy Mitchell, Austin

My first career was music. I started playing in bar bands when I was 15 years old, and played in band through college and after college. After a stint in a Broadway musical, I began engineering and producing records. I stayed in the music business until I started law school at about age 37. I even took a break from law school to do a few more albums. In effect, my "first career" was my preparation for working with music-related clients.

So, my advice would be this: Hang out as much as possible with musicians and with music business people. Try to get some kind of internship (the business side) and attend as many music-related functions as possible (attend all of the Austin Music Foundation "Boot Camps"). The interests of the artists and the business people are not always aligned. It is important to develop a feel for the needs and temperament of the people on both sides of the equation.

Bobby Thomas, Austin

Have a better understanding of intellectual property rights.

Bradley J. Stein, Austin

I would have taken entertainment law courses, and lots of them, if they had been available. And, to work in and around the businesses (music, film) to understand the business of entertainment before counseling on the law of entertainment.

Catherine Tabor, Austin

In undergraduate classes, I wish I had taken more accounting and psychology and music theory classes. In law school, I wish I had taken more tax and business law classes.

Cindi Lazzari, Austin

I did it all. I took patents, trademarks and copyrights courses.

David Garcia, Jr.
 

Take an accounting course, perhaps audit an accounting course in the undergraduate school. My experience has been that it helps a client a great deal if you can assist in breaking down royalty statements from labels and music publishers. The rule seems to a great number of discrepancies in royalty statements from music publishers and record labels. Some accounting also helps in working mathematical models to see how specific paragraphs function in recording and publishing contracts. If the law school offers a negotiating course, I recommend taking it as an elective.

Patrick J. Glynn, Dallas

I wish that I had attended more "strictly" entertainment industry educational seminars and conferences. I went to every "legal" entertainment industry seminar and conference that I could find, but I did not attend the "industry" seminars or conference while I was in law school.

Dedra Davis

I wish I had spent more time out listening to live shows and getting known in the local music community.

Robert Carter, Austin

Clerked at a firm that handles Intellectual Property (IP) issues.

Mary Jane Hancock, Houston

I wish my law school had offered more copyright and entertainment law courses.

Mike Tolleson, Austin

I believe that I did everything I could have done while attending law school at Texas Tech (let me say it really does not matter where you go to law school, there are opportunities to get in to the business, if you look). The most important thing that I did besides course work was that I sought out practical experiences. I attended shows, developed relationships, promoted shows, road managed, and as you like to say Babied Bands. I developed many relationships with bands as they were getting their start, thus our careers have grown together. That will eat up your time in addition to attending law school. One thing I probably could have done was to develop more relationships in the Texas Entertainment Legal Arena. I developed relationships in Nashville and at ABA conferences but did not start meeting folks in Texas until I was already practicing.

John T. Wright, Austin

I wish I would have taken the time and effort to understand the financial structure of the music industry better. It is far different than most law students imagine.

Kent Rowald, Houston

I really wished I had some experience working in the retail or e-tail environment. It helps to know what sales mechanisms move the property -- you're a lot better legal advisor when you know this.

Evan Fogelman, Dallas

I wish I had gotten more involved with the local music scene industry nights, etc.

Trena Denley

I really wish I had taken a class in negotiations. Often you spend more time negotiating with your own client versus the other side of the transaction.

Tamera Bennett, Lewisville

Law students need to understand that, unless you intend to be a litigator, there is very little available in law school to prepare you to be a music attorney. If the law school offers an entertainment law seminar, try to take that. If the law school offers an intellectual property course, take that. Also, courses in business structuring are helpful.

anonymous, Austin

In law school, I should have spent less time studying for exams, and more time meeting artists and performers.

M. Duane Miller, Belton

I wish that the law school would have provided more courses on copyright law and trade mark matters. As a professional, I find the State Bar CLEs the best way to get current information on these subjects.

David A. Small, Dallas


What are the common mistakes you notice that law students and recent graduates make?

They focus too much on representing talent. They are often enamored with the idea of hanging out with the band. They get all caught up in the "romantic" part of the practice. They fail to understand that talent is really only a small part of the puzzle. There are lots of other clients out there that might not be glamorous as the latest singing sensation but they can pay the fees.

Jeff Storie, Fort Worth

They stay in a city that doesn't have many bands or a happening music scene. They are not willing to sacrifice a high salary to do with they love. Be willing to work in tangentially-related legal fields rather than just entertainment. It will likely take a fair amount of time and money to set up a full-time entertainment practice.

Amy Mitchell, Austin

Not having enough "real world" experience. See above for how to remedy this "mistake." Also, read a lot. "This Business of Music," "Legal Aspects of the Music Business," "All You Need to Know About the Music Business," etc. Buy a badge and attend the SXSW forums and the CLE programs. Learn as much as you can outside of law school.

Bobby Thomas, Austin

Not having a general understanding of basic business and contract law principles.

Bradley J. Stein, Austin

Not understanding how legal services fit into the budget of a business. Law students are taught law in a vacuum believing that our practice experience will be like Field of Dreams -- if we have a law degree, the clients will come, and stay.

Catherine Tabor, Austin.

They try to handle entertainment-related work without any knowledge or experience in the field. Normal business principles do not apply. They need to call in an expert or person experienced in handling these matters to advise them or carry a large malpractice policy.

Cindi Lazzari, Austin

Believe that one can adequately represent artists in negotiations with major labels without experience. Believe that one can make a living exclusively from music clients from the start. Believe that one can find the next star and hitch one's wagon thereto in a few months. Believe that by giving free advice to up and coming artists they will hire you when the big time comes. Believe that one can shop new artists when the industry is not pre-disposed to it, when one does not know what the industry is looking for, and one does not know what industry standards apply to great songwriting, production and artist marketability.

David Garcia, Jr.

They are only kind to the persons that they feel can help them further their careers. You should be kind to everyone that crosses your path. What is worst, some that do not do their research, are only kind to persons that "look" like they can be of assistance.

Dedra Davis

Writing needs to be more clear and concise; don't copy legalese from form books, although it is tempting.

Robert Carter, Austin

Underestimating the financial benefit of working with undiscovered indie artists. Not being prepared to hustle.

Mary Jane Hancock, Houston

Depend too much on their "academic credentials" and lack practical entertainment experience. It is hard to draft a Booking Contract and Rider if you have never dealt with promoters. You need to understand the politics of promoting a small band and the politics of promoting a large band. You cannot get too wrapped up in the "coolness" of being an entertainment attorney and representing well known acts. As an entertainment attorney you provide a valuable service to entertainers, never depend on a client/entertainer to launch your career as an entertainment attorney.

John T. Wright, Austin

With respect to the music industry, I see far too many attorneys that think they will be able to make a career out of registering the copyrights in music when that is something that they should be teaching their clients to do for themselves. They simply don't realize that the market doesn't justify their hourly rates to do the registrations when they can teach their client to do it themselves. They also don't recognize that the client will remember that you took care of them when they could not afford much and when they do have a copyright infringement problem - times when you can justify your hourly rates to do the copyright work. I also see far too many that dabble in copyright law just enough to be dangerous. This is an area that is fraught with inconsistencies in the law and its application. Perhaps the biggest mistake I see attorneys make is failing to understand that there is a package of copyrights which may be individually licensed (or infringed) - it is not a one-copy-pays-for-all-of-them deal!

Kent Rowald, Houston

Spending too much time on cases that are obsolete and not learning enough about the transactional agreements driving the music industry.

Evan Fogelman, Dallas

Not wanting to pay their dues - not understanding the concept of seniority. There is a serious sense of entitlement that blows my mind.

Trena Denley

Most recent graduates will not walk into their dream job. They become frustrated when they are going to med-mal depositions instead of drafting a recording contract. Learn from every opportunity, and see how that opportunity can make you a better attorney.

Tamera Bennett, Lewisville

They often underestimate the number of attorneys who want to practice in the entertainment area. The competition is fierce. They also are often naive about the fact that law firms of any size (outside of NYC, LA and Nashville) seldom have a real entertainment transaction practice.

Anonymous

Many law students and recent graduates put too much emphasis on becoming associates for other attorneys. In short, they spend too much time trying to secure opportunities to work for others. Rather, they should be creating opportunities to work for themselves.

M. Duane Miller, Belton

Underestimating the difficulty and time required to develop an entertainment law practice.

Mike Tolleson, Austin

The most common mistake that inexperienced attorneys make in music matters is approaching negotiations from an adversarial viewpoint. The best way to "win" at contract negotiation is to walk away with a deal that makes everybody happy to keep working together.

David A. Small, Dallas
 


What are essential readings (books, journals, magazines) for law students?

Anything on branding. "Get Hot or Go Home" (a story on the career of Trisha Yearwood and Ken Kragen's orchestration of it.) "San Antonio Rose" by Dr. Charles Townsend.

Jeff Storie, Fort Worth

Passman's book, This Business of Music, basically anything off the TMO reading list; Mark Halloran's legal guide is also really good.

Amy Mitchell, Austin

Answer: See above. Also, surf the net for music business related articles and discussions.

Bobby Thomas, Austin

ABA Entertainment Law Forum and others based on area of specialty.

Bradley J. Stein, Austin

Navigating the Music Industry, Secrets of Negotiating a Record Contract, and Kohn on Music Licensing

Patrick J. Glynn, Dallas

All of the industry journals for the areas you want to work in. If you want to work in film, go to film school, to movies. Make the subject matter of your law practice your passion. And the ABA and Texas (and/or other states where you practice, or want to practice) Bar Journals.

Catherine Tabor, Austin.

Passman's book.

Cindi Lazzari, Austin

Magazines: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, (Radio y Musica, Antenna both in Spanish) Radio and Records.
Books: Entertainment Industry Contracts (Lexis)
Practicing Law Institute, American Bar, Texas Bar entertainment law sections web sites for seminars and books. UCLA and NY law schools have great entertainment law reviews.

David Garcia, Jr.

In the music industry, no one should be without Donald Passman's book. My theory is if EVERYONE has the book, I need the book as well. Otherwise, in terms of music industry books, "The Musician's Business & Legal Guide," is good, and if they are interested in publishing, "Music, Money, and Success," is good. I make it a practice to purchase every music business book that I see.

Dedra Davis

Donald Passman's book and Billboard magazine.

Robert Carter, Austin

Any and all local newspapers that keep a finger on the pulse of your local pop-culture scene. The trend in the biz is towards development of local entertainment. Keep costs low, and returns high.

Mary Jane Hancock, Houston

As a student you can join the ABA and Texas Bar Sections at discount rates (maybe even for free?) Both of these organizations produce journals which you should start receiving and reading while in Law School. As a start, I would recommend the following books: (1) Donald Passman's, "All You Need to Know About the Music Business" and (2) Jeffrey and Todd Brabec's "Music Money and Success." Finally, spend time visiting entertainment industry websites to learn about the various organizations and research emerging technologies. Some websites to consider (Many of these websites provide educational information and FAQ's sections which are valuable resources):

MUSIC

OTHER ENTERTAINMENT

GOVERNMENT

John T. Wright, Austin

 

If you will be working in the music industry, force yourself to sit down and read the copyright statute cover to cover.

Kent Rowald, Houston

Kohn on Music Licensing, Billboard, ASCAP.com, Soundexchange.com.

Evan Fogelman, Dallas

I read a wide variety of magazines

Rolling Stone, Spin, Variety just to keep up with the goings on of the industry. I also recommend All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman.

Trena Denley

Start with BILLBOARD magazine for a good overview of the music business. From there you can find more specific books and magazines in your areas of interest. Also, read the journal published by the State Bar of Texas Entertainment & Sports Law section.

Tamera Bennett, Lewisville

I used to go to the law library (probably all available online now) and try to read the latest version of every law school journal that had "entertainment" in its title. There were a surprisingly high number of them. I found that extremely helpful and must say I discovered it on my own. No instructor every suggested that.

Anonymous

While there are hundreds of great works and resources, I consider the following books essential:

All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald S. Passman.
Anyone with any interest in the music business should read this book.

Legal Aspects of the Music Industry: An Insider's View by Richard Schulenberg.
Read this book before you even glance at an Artist Recording Contract.

M. Duane Miller, Belton

Anything related to copyright law, film and music industry, Entertainment Law Reporter, All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Don Passman, other titles from the Texas Music Office Reading List.

Mike Tolleson, Austin

I would suggest Billboard Magazine and the Hollywood Reporter.

David A. Small, Dallas
 


What general advice do you have for law students and recent graduates?

Think about the fees first. My education in the entertainment field cost me a lot more (in uncollected fees) than I spent on tuition at an expensive law school. Choose your clients carefully. There is no shortage of people in this state (the world's deepest talent pool) that need your help, only a shortage in those that can afford it or are willing to pay for it. Don't give it away.

Jeff Storie, Fort Worth

Be patient and learn as much as possible about the industry. Most people don't realize how important it is to understand the entertainment business, and they approach this area of the law as they would any other law job. In order to best represent your musician clients, you have to know what they're up against...what kind of people they deal with, who is interested in getting what and why. That said, entertainment law is really an umbrella term because it involves a mix of many other general practice areas (labor, contracts, business, etc.)...just with cooler clients. Again, I recommend taking any legal jobs that seem remotely related to entertainment because it might very well come in handy down the line.

Amy Mitchell, Austin

Be open-minded. The music business is in a state of flux, as it has been from the very beginning. It is, and always has been, constantly changing. Learn how to think outside the box. Don't get stuck in the old ways of doing things.

Bobby Thomas, Austin

If you are in an entertainment related position and not practicing law on a daily basis, make sure to attend CLEs to keep you updated on the law.

Bradley J. Stein, Austin

Approach delivering your services with the goal to create a long term relationship with your clients, consider your clients' needs from their perspective, not yours, and seek to exceed their expectations.

Catherine Tabor, Austin

Work for someone with experience in entertainment law or hire someone like that to work with you and teach you the ins and outs. Do not assume you can negotiate a contract without prior experience. You will either miss something or waste much time and money negotiating nonnegotiable points.

Cindi Lazzari, Austin

Attend all the entertainment law seminars you can, like the ones sponsored by UT Law, PLI, American Bar, Beverly Hills Bar, Tennessee Bar Assoc. Learn all you can about the industries that use music, from advertising, film, TV, video games, and every wireless platform. Gratitude and loyalty are not part of the industry. Artistic integrity will sometimes be traded for mucho dinero. If you want to do nothing but entertainment law, go to Los Angeles, where music, film, television, cable, video games and wireless are everyday and big enough industries to hire young grads and train them -- that does not happen in Texas. If you want to do litigation, get a Federal license, since most of it involves copyrights, trademarks and interstate disputes among entities from different states. If you want to rep clients in Latin music, read, write and speak Spanish fluently. Do not, repeat do not, travel to any other state or country to represent a client there, unless you have a license to practice law in that jurisdiction. In some states (and possibly México) that's a criminal offense. Do not give legal advice to any client via email, and warn clients not to pose factual situations via email asking for advice or even an appointment. They must make an office appointment. Do not give legal advice to clients over a cell phone, and when they call ask if they're using a cell phone, then use a land line. CYA. Memorialize your files about advice given to clients, keep them informed in writing, and disengage freely to avoid conflicts of interest. Attend non-legal industry seminars like music, film, etc.

David Garcia, Jr.

Educate yourself on the entertainment industry itself, as well as the law. Nurture and build relationships with everyone in the industry. They all have value, regardless of their current job description.

Dedra Davis

"Cross-train (i.e., study up on related fields), just like athletes do in the off-season. You can boost your business, client relations, and legal savvy, by learning about the trials and tribulations of other copyright-based businesses, like software, print publishing, art, etc.

And try to do a 15-minute information interview, by writing ahead, with leading lawyers in your desired field, when you travel to cities with big music industry activities. (Such hustle, during a Calif. seminar trip, was a key to my 25-year software/tech. law career.)"

Henry W. Jones III, Austin

Volunteer to write for or speak to local arts organizations; cultivate a part time practice in a paying area of law to support your aspirations in entertainment law.

Robert Carter, Austin

Trust your instincts when working with clients. If you believe the client is not a serious artist, don't work with them. Don't pander toward the lowest common denominator.

Mary Jane Hancock, Houston

(1) Get practical experience and develop relationships early.(The Entertainment Business is relationship driven!)
(2) Stay on top of emerging technologies and international issues (the entertainment market is global, understanding how other legal systems work and how emerging technologies can be used in those systems to exploit the works of your clients will be beneficial to your career)
(3) Attend events and/or CLE events put on by the Texas Bar or the ABA regarding Entertainment Law. (Great opportunity to start developing relationships)
(4) Take Intellectual Property Courses and Courses that deal with Corporate Structure and/or Corporate Law. Also do not forget to take advance courses in contracts and contract construction.
(5) Spend a semester or summer studying at a school which has an entertainment law program, specifically try to study overseas and learn about intellectual property/copyright issues in a global context.

- John T. Wright, Austin

Remember that very few attorneys make much money doing exclusively copyright law. You must be able to do more than that unless you have a truly exceptional clientele. Moreover, you must understand that far more frequently that we would like to admit, the best advice we can give to a client vis-à-vis his business interests are to minimize the damages rather than to fight on principle. If you don't learn anything else, in the long term you are far better off having 100 clients giving you $1000 worth of business each year than 1 client giving you $100,000 worth of business each year. If your big client has a problem, you will suffer with them. If three or four of your small clients have a problem, you won't get hurt too badly. Nevertheless, you must remember that all clients, regardless of size, have to get your full attention and best advice, which may vary depending on their circumstances and business needs.

Kent Rowald, Houston

Prepare to be an entrepreneur if you want to practice entertainment law. Neither the talent nor the production will just drop in your lap.

Evan Fogelman, Dallas

Be willing to volunteer

that is a great way to show that you're a hard worker with a great attitude!

Trena Denley

Do not give up on your dreams. You worked so hard to go to law school. Remember, most overnight successes take 10 years.

Tamera Bennett, Lewisville

If you really want to learn entertainment transaction work, you are probably going to have to first leave Austin. The best way to learn is to work with attorneys or a business that is involved at the highest level of the music business. Unfortunately, those firms and business either do not exist in Austin or are so small that they cannot accommodate new attorneys who want to learn the business. It is totally different from most other areas of practice in that respect.

Anonymous

The following advice is imperative: (1) have a thorough working knowledge of the industry (through reading, internships, etc.); (2) meet artists (start with family, friends, small-venue shows, etc.); (3) understand, and respect the artists' work (even if the style of their art contrasts with your personal tastes); (4) understand the artists' goals (not all artists are seeking the big recording deal and/or Rock Stardom); (5) help the artists plan, and achieve their goals.

If you find that numbers 3-4 are impossible, just follow the advice of one label owner that I have had the honor (or maybe the horror) to work for:

"If you know absolutely nothing about the music industry, and/or you have no hope of ever learning, just start your own recording label, and sign-up an artist that sells millions of CDs. That's the real key to making-it big in the music business."

M. Duane Miller, Belton

If you can achieve a top 10% rank in class, use this status to get into a law firm based in L.A. or N.Y. with a significant entertainment law practice or go for a position in the business affairs office of a maj

or entertainment company. If you have a lower standing, go for the best offer you get and spend a few years becoming a good lawyer while developing knowledge related to the entertainment industries. Along the way adopt a few musicians or bands and help each other learn the business.

Mike Tolleson, Austin

I encourage attorneys to become extremely familiar with the current artists in every area of music in which their clients perform. Without knowledge, it is difficult to obtain credibility.

David A. Small, Dallas

"Cross-train (i.e., study up on related fields), just like athletes do in the off-season. You can boost your business, client relations, and legal savvy, by learning about the trials and tribulations of other copyright-based businesses, like software, print publishing, art, etc. And try to do a 15-minute information interview, by writing ahead, with leading lawyers in your desired field, when you travel to cities with big music industry activities. (Such hustle, during a Calif. seminar trip, was a key to my 25-year software/tech. law career.)"

Henry W. (Hank) Jones, III