Let me say up front that although hiring your brother-in-law who does real estate law is better than not having an lawyer, a music attorney has specific expertise that pertains to the music business. He or she can easily spot when a deal is unfair or not exactly in your favor, so the extra hassle in seeking one out is worth it.
Here are the 5 instances where you really need an attorney from the music business:
1. Before you sign your band agreement. There are a lot of things that you need to hash out, including who owns the name, how any money is distributed, who owns the gear and recordings, how does a member get fired, and the grim stuff like what happens if a member dies or becomes incapacitated.
2. Before you sign with a publisher. A lot of smaller publishers like to have a lot of songwriters signed so their catalog looks bigger, but a music attorney can usually see through that and make sure that your getting what you deserve. Keep in mind that publishing agreements can be very complicated, so they really do require a pro.
3. Before signing with a manager. Managers love to say, "Let's do this without an attorney to save some money," but that's never a good idea. A bad manager deal can keep you paying him for years after you stop working together.
4. Before signing a record deal. It goes without saying that record deals are complicated and getting more so every year. While having an attorney may not get you a better deal if you're a baby band, you may get a few concessions that will be really helpful down the line that will more than make up the cost of your own attorney. Plus, even if you're getting screwed on some point, its at least good to know up front that it's happening.
5. Before signing a licensing deal for one of your songs. The reason why you want an attorney to look the agreement over is that if you're not careful, the song might be used in many more ways that you thought, all without paying you any additional money.
As you can see, it's very much worth while to have a music industry pro watch your back. As the old saying goes, "A pro is expensive, but an amateur costs a fortune."
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