In the music business, connections rule the day.
Entertainment lawyers are some of the most connected professionals in the industry. An established entertainment lawyer can streamline your demo direct to the decision-makers… but too often, musicians overly rely on the role of lawyer in “shopping” the music deal. A lawyer’s connections alone will usually never get you a record deal (of course, there are exceptions). First and foremost, the music industry is a business – if you cannot prove that you will be a return on a business’s investment, it is very unlikely that a lawyer can get you a deal. The lawyer does, however, play an integral role in a musician’s career – and this does include introducing the musician to record label executives when the musician has some leverage.
I get at least one e-mail or demo submission every week (usually more) from a band or musician asking me to shop them to a major label. There are plenty of lawyers that will agree to shop an artist for a fee – in this case, shopping merely means submitting the artist’s demo along with a letter from the attorney on official letterhead. We do not do this. Our law firm does not shop.
Artists need to understand that connections or talent alone will never equate to a record deal. Record labels want to see independent record sales, real MySpace numbers (or other online music sites), a touring schedule, merchandise sales, and general media buzz (whether it be from local sources or via online social networking). The role of the lawyer (along with the manager) is to assist you in developing these components into a viable and sustainable business – we are here to form a business entity for you, protect your intellectual property, negotiate license deals, create a solid infrastructure for you from which to take your career to the next level, and yes, get you in front of label executives.
But consider this: if a lawyer has the option to “shop” an existing client that has developed a relationship with the lawyer OR shop an artist that only wants to be shopped, the answer seems obvious. Maintaining and protecting one’s reputation is crucial in this industry, and that means being extremely selective about when it makes sense to leverage contacts for a client. So the next time you think about sending a lawyer your creative materials to be “shopped”, think instead about sending your statistics and sales numbers.
Music is about creativity; the music business is about spreadsheets and returns.
One thing all entertainment attorneys do not do—despite the popular myth—is seek out and secure record deals for artists—a process known as “shopping” an artist to record labels. It is true that some entertainment attorneys perform this service, but very few succeed in getting their clients signed to a deal.