There really is no such thing as “music law” in the legal sense.
Instead, if you want to practice music law, what you’re really saying is that you want to work with clients who are in the music industry.
Basically, you’ll want to handle any issue your music industry client might come up against as, say, a musician, production company, talent agency, or licensor/licensee. This may include such varied areas of law as copyright, contracts, antitrust, immigration, bankruptcy, labor, tax, privacy, First Amendment, and so on.
Here’s what one leading music law firm has to say about the matters they work on:
- -Negotiating and drafting license agreements for the use of music in a variety of contexts, from websites to film to television to advertising to live theater
- -Counseling regarding public performance issues and relationships with performing rights organizations, including with respect to websites, apps and emerging media platforms and distribution methods
- -Representing clients in resolving and litigating music-related disputes
- -Analyzing chain of title and “fair use” matters
- -Representing clients in connection with the sale of music catalogs and in large-scale music library license agreements
- -Negotiating and drafting concert tour sponsorship deals
- -Advising on copyright registration and termination of transfers
- -Representing estates and trusts owning significant music catalogs
- -Negotiating and drafting endorsement agreements and other agreements relating to the use of musical talent in advertising and marketing campaigns
- -Litigation over statutory copyright rates for music use
If you’d like to see what other firm in the business have to say, spend some time browsing the Chambers & Partners website. Chambers is to law firm rankings what U.S. News is to law school rankings.
If you’re at a large law firm, even one with a large “entertainment law” group, there probably won’t be enough music industry work for you to just be a “music law” attorney. But you can probably get some of this kind of work, if you try. Instead of going the big firm rout, you could try going to a boutique law firm that specializes in entertainment law. You’ll get a lot of music law work, relatively speaking, but you should be damn sure that music law is your jam. While the clients may lead interesting lives, their lawyers might get stuck on fairly routine (read: boring) matters. Personally, I would go to a bigger firm’s office in, say, Los Angeles, and just try some music law related work. If you don’t like it, you can almost surely do other kind of work.
Because music law is a very niche practice area, you might benefit from looking up some music law attorneys to try an emulate their career paths (Chambers is your friend here too.)
Don’t go to law school thinking you’re going to be a music law attorney. But if you’re interested in music law, do try to take a relevant seminar class. You should also contact alums from your law school and set up coffee or lunch dates with them to chat about their music law practices. This will be easier to do if you’re at school in NYC or LA. But, I’m sure alums all over the country will chat with you over the phone. Your career services office will have a list of alumni that are willing to talk to law students. You definitely don’t want to mention your interest in music law to another attorney for the first time at a job interview.
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