How to know when to “lawyer-up” in the music industry

The music industry really is the Wild, Wild West and when you’re first getting your career started, it can seem overwhemling. There are horror stories of bad record deals, band break ups and more — but when should you really consult an attorney? We’ve compiled a list of times that are worth consulting a lawyer over, and while this isn’t 100% exhaustive, it’s a good start.

Consider getting a lawyer — or a stable of different kinds of lawyers — weho can be there to make sure you don’t get yourself in trouble.

Here is a short list of the things that you really should consult a lawyer for:

  1. Anything in writing that puts you on the hook to someone else or puts someone else on the hook to you. It doesn’t matter if this is a formal or informal contract. If it obligates you or someone else to pay money or perform servies, it should be written or reviewed by an attorney, and this includes any agreements pertaining to revenue or copyrights.
  2. Anything relating to ownership of a copyright in a song or in anything else that someone else creates for you.
  3. Copyright registration.
  4. Licenses and permissions to use other people’s content. You can’t just pull an image off the internet and use it without permission. You’ll need a permission agreement that specifically covers what it is you want to do and make sure it comes from the person or company that owns/controls the rights.
  5. Choosing and registering a band/artist name and trademarking it. This is important because you can get sued for using someone elses name. A trademark attorney can help you figure out if they name you want is available and can guide you through the process to submit for a feeral trademark registration in the U.S. Trademark Office.
  6. Raising money. If you ever raise money that will have to be paid back eventually, you should take to a securities lawyer or a music lawyer who is experienced in this kind of deal and knos the federal and state securities laws.
  7. Forming a company. There’s lots of technicalities here, and it’s best to make sure you set it up correctly the first time. 😉
  8. Collecting information on your site, including e-mail information and personal information for your newsletter. If you collect any of this information on your website, you want to make sure you have a privacy policy somewhere publicly accessible.
  9. Sending e-blasts. You may not have known it, but e-mails that promote your upcoming gigs or sell merch are ac tually subject to federal law and have to meet certain legal requirements.
  10. Running sweepstakes, contests, or other promotions. Similarly to e-mail marketing, these kinds of promotion efforts have to comply with very specific rules and requirements that vary from state to state. Typically, each social media platform also has their own rules abotu running promotions. You should talk to an attorney to ensure you are not accidentally running a “lottery”, which is illegal in all fifty states.

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