Is it a common practice amoung entertainment/IP atttorneys to take on songwriters that may lack intitial funds but shows promise

Asked about 2 years ago - Atlanta, GA

I am a songwriter/recording artist that recently relocated to Atlanta to pursue a career in music. Estabished melody-writers have highly praised and seem eager to record my lyrics for me, some for free, some for a songwriters percentage. Common sense says that I obviously am in immediate need of an attorney, at the risk of losing alot of royalty income. As I am starting from scratch, I have no money to pay up front. I would ask what is the criteria that an attorney would use to determine when deciding whether to take on a client like myself?

Attorney answers (8)

  1. Pamela Koslyn

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . Entertainment/music lawyers generally only take clients on a "contingent" bases, that is, based on a percentage of a client's income, when the client has a reliable track record of income to commission income from.

    Since you have no money and no immediate promise of any, I don't like your chances. Neither giving away your lyrics for free (why would you ever do that?), or getting your entitled share of songwriter's income, if any, means you're making any money, so neither can any contingency share lawyer.

    But all you need right now are some co-publishing agreements, to ensure you get your share of any songs you co-write, and maybe some help getting these songs copyrighted. If you can't afford a couple hours of a lawyer's time for this, try Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, if there's a branch in ATL, or try your local law schools to see if there are any students who can give you a hand.

    Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to... more
  2. John Eric Seay

    Contributor Level 3

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    Answered . Georgia Lawyers for the Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, is your best bet. They can potentially refer you out to an attorney willing to help you on a pro bono (free) basis. Visit www.glarts.org. Some attorneys, myself included, do provide free consultations in some situations, but it sounds like you may need more than just general advice. I'd recommend calling GLA or saving money to hire an attorney to draft and/or review any contracts you may have in front of you before you sign them!

  3. Daniel Nathan Ballard

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . BEFORE you speak to an entertainment attorney you need to do your own homework on the business of music. The following links are to books that will help you and the website includes links to other useful books: http://j.mp/bJasBO and http://j.mp/c9ZXur . Also, visit http://www.indieguide.com [which provides much inside information and a free indie band survival book] and http://j.mp/9OZKW5 [site to buy the 2010 version of the Indie Bible].
    If you want to make music that's a wonderful and satisfying hobby. But if you want to make money making music then you've crossed the line into doing business and, by definition, that means you need to know what you're doing. No one can -- or will -- spoon feed you that information. There's no getting around to doing your own homework. Good luck.

    The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and... more
  4. Akinwunmi Dada Doherty

    Contributor Level 3

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    Answered . I would be skeptical of hiring an attorney who is willing to take on work in the IP area for a contingent fee. Most IP lawyers are in the business of making money, and the mere fact that most songs are not hit songs, there is very little guarantee that the attorney will get a return on the work he or she performed.

    Just like many patent clients who want a patent drafted for them in exchange for a percentage in the patent, you are looking for an attorney who will do free work for you in exchange for a percentage in your song. A song that will more than likely not be a hit song (don't take it personal; it is just the realities of the music business). In the same vein, just like most patents never make money, most songs, including beats, never make money.

  5. Stuart Martin Wilson

    Contributor Level 3

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    Answered . You should be looking for a talent representative/agent with an established entertainment agency to handle issues such as royalty income rather than hiring an attorney. Attorneys not affiliated with an entertainment agencies will only take you on as a client if you are established. Most attorneys are not agents and are not adequately trained to spot potential talent. However, if you hire a talent agent or are signed by one, and many agents in the business are lawyers, then your career needs will be handled from there. Talent agents can handle your contracts, endorsements, royalty agreements, licensing, etc. Good luck with your career and I hope this helps.

  6. Bruce E. Burdick

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . No that is not a common practice, because most attorneys are in business to make money, not spend money.Also, most attorneys are not trained in knowing which entertainers will succeed. Further, success in entertainment involves a lot of luck and attorneys, with some notable exceptions, are not risk tAkers. Continent fee attorneys look for slam dunk cases with big potential damages, not super-risky underfunded beginning entertainers.

    A better approach is to look for an agent to promote you. Entertainment agents sometimes are risk takerss they st more experienced at judging and controlling prospects for success.

    Of course,.there is always the American Idol our America's Got Talent or X-Factor shows.

    Good luck!

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is... more
  7. Maurice N Ross

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . First, I admire your hard work and talent. Second, I represent many clients in music and entertainment, and I love to work with new, promising songwriters, singers, and actors. But I also have to earn a living, and I cannot take on representations of clients without compensastion. However promising you may be, I need to pay my rent, salaries and electric bill. Further, in a meeting yesterday with a record label that I represent, I learned that there are over 1500 new tracks issued every day by reputable record labels, songwriters, producers, and singers. Think about that. Your chances of having a true hit record if you are an unknown but talented songwriter are tiny. My advice to you is to work hard, get your songs recorded, and if they start to generate revenues, you will have no problem getting a lawyer.

  8. Steven Todd Lowe

    Contributor Level 4

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Most attorneys, in Los Angeles anyway, do not represent songwriters on a "spec" or contingency basis. That is unless and until they actually have a proposed deal in the entertainment industry, from which they will be deriving an advance or there is an extremely high probability of a stream of income being paid to the songwriter.

    This only usually happens when the songwriter is given a publishing contract, when plans have been made for the song to be released, or when an artist has sold several records and has a deal himself/herself.

    Given the proliferation of unsigned songwriter/recording artists, most attorneys will not take the gamble that a songwriter, even a highly talented one, will be successful given the risk factors inherent in the entertainment industry.

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