When does a singer need a music lawyer?
As you, as a musician become more successful you may find yourself thinking ‘when do I need a music lawyer?’ There are many times during your career you may need a music lawyer to help you with your music career. In essence, if an agreement is offered to you get it checked out before signing. Below are some stages when you’ll need to seek legal advice! Make sure the music lawyer is a music industry specialist and ideally comes recommended.
Before signing your agreement
Firstly if you’ve started writing songs, if this is a collaboration with other writers this is when you may need a music lawyer. A music lawyer will be able to help you decide who owns the copyright, who gets what percentage of royalties and who owns the stage name.
Having said that with songwriting PRS and MCPS give guidelines based around splitting the song ownership this may cut as 50% melody and 50% written lyrics. If of course one or more has written and contributed to the melody and lyrics you will have to pro rota the percentages. It would perhaps be a lot cheaper to agree on these guidelines and percentages without the need for a music lawyer, as it will save money but where agreement cannot be made the music lawyer will be able to advise and draft agreements. Just be aware technically you will need a different music lawyer for each party i.e. everyone who contributed to the song otherwise this could be a conflict of interests and of course this will double or treble the music lawyer fees.
Before signing with a publisher
You’ve started writing songs and when presented with a publishing agreement. This is the time to contact a music lawyer. You’ll be looking for a publisher to help you find the best deal for your songs. A music lawyer will help sift through the deal and see whether it’s appropriate to the songs you are writing.
Before signing with a manager
You won’t need a manager until you’ve established yourself well in the music industry, but when that happens it’s likely you’ll be approached by a few management companies all at once. As soon as you get an offer, get a music lawyer! There have been times when not having a music lawyer read over the contract has left an act poor even after they’ve left the manager. Be cautious and don’t rush into things just because you’re excited about the opportunity.
Before signing a record deal
You’ve been approached by a record label; the label wants you to sign a deal and has offered their music lawyer to work with the label and your act on the deal. Don’t agree to this; get your own music lawyer! The chances are that music lawyer wants what’s best for them rather than what’s best for you. Your music lawyer will have your best interest in mind.