Debbie White photographed on July 29, 2019 at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles.
Debbie White photographed on July 29, 2019 at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles.
Diana King

Revealed: Billboard's 2019 Top Music Lawyers Led by BTS Counsel Debbie White of Loeb & Loeb

These 113 attorneys at key companies and law firms are on the front lines of the music industry’s legal battles and deals -- led by the counselor who watches out for K-pop superstars BTS.

DEBBIE WHITE
Partner/vice chair, music industry; Loeb & Loeb
New York University School of Law

As an adviser to an impressive roster of international talents, Debbie White has been traveling nonstop this summer for work. To Shanghai to speak on a panel about music licensing and meet with the music executives of Chinese conglomerate Tencent. To Seoul for her client BTS’ fifth annual Muster fan-appreciation festival. To Los Angeles for two days of meetings, then on to New York to catch client Regina Spektor’s final performance on Broadway.

“Sometimes I ask people, ‘What day is it? What time is it?’ because I don’t even know where I am,” she says.

White is the U.S. legal adviser for both BTS, the K-pop septet whose success has been both a commercial and cultural milestone, and the boy band’s label and management company, Big Hit Entertainment.

In recognition of an extraordinary year fostering the success of BTS and Big Hit as well as a clientele that includes Chinese technology and entertainment giant Tencent; Citi; Bank of America; Uber; Ty Stiklorius’ management company, Friends at Work; British legends Duran Duran and The Who; and artists Melanie Martinez, James TW, Emily Ann Roberts, Tomorrow x Together and Spektor, among others -- White has been named Billboard’s Lawyer of the Year for 2019.

BTS’ most recent album, Map of the Soul: Persona, topped the Billboard 200 in April, the group’s third release to do so. In the United States alone, the band’s catalog has accumulated 5.4 billion on-demand streams and 3.1 million song downloads, according to Nielsen Music. BTS spent most of the summer on its Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour, which launched in May and has grossed $99.3 million with a series of U.S. stadium doubleheaders, according to Billboard Boxscore.

The tour required White to keep her bags packed. She oversees all business aspects of the group’s lucrative deals on a daily basis -- while constantly guarding against bootleg BTS merchandise reaching its fan army.

Serving as the band’s outside counsel, she negotiates all North American deals, as well as the global distribution deal for its 2017 concert film Burn the Stage and follow-up movie Bring the Soul, which has grossed over $4.5 million stateside since its domestic release on Aug. 7, according to IMDb Pro. (Big Hit announced Aug. 11 that the act will take a break after the tour “to present themselves anew as musicians and creators.”)

For The Who -- which now includes original members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, plus supporting musicians -- White handles all North American deals, including the band’s Moving On! Tour with Live Nation. For Martinez, she has offered guidance as the Queens native readies a new album and self-directed film, both titled K-12, for a Sept. 6 release. For Stiklorius, she handles all business affairs for Friends at Work.

“I literally don’t sleep,” says White, who is in frequent contact with her clients. “They will text me and it will be two o’clock in the morning, and I just respond, ‘Hi.’ ”

At a young age, White knew she wanted a career in entertainment but thought it would be in the spotlight. Routinely cast as the lead in plays at summer camp, she learned a hard lesson during a Wizard of Oz tryout when a classmate scored the role of Dorothy and she was cast as Glinda the Good Witch.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to figure out something because I don’t think I’m going to be the star,’ ” says White.

She chose to advise stars instead. White attended New York University School of Law, graduating not only magna cum laude but as a member of the Order of the Coif, a society that recognizes law students who achieve distinction.

White began her career at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as a corporate lawyer. Her break came when she got a call from a headhunter to meet with renowned music attorney Allen Grubman. After a six-month interview process -- and after agreeing to a pay cut -- she was offered a position. A decade later, having learned the trade with that firm, making partner and honing her skills with such clients as Whitney Houston, Duran Duran and John Mellencamp, she decided to focus on building her own client roster and joined Loeb & Loeb.

“I had my Jerry Maguire moment when I was leaving Grubman and said, ‘Is anyone coming with me?’ ” says White, who was pleasantly surprised when client Duran Duran agreed to follow her. She says it took four long years before she started to bring in other big clients, but then her hard work and determination paid off.

Whether she’s advising stadium-packing superstars or rising singer-songwriters, White is watching broader industry trends and battles. She calls the Copyright Royalty Board decision to increase the rate of payments by streaming services “long overdue and a step in the right direction for songwriters and artists who write their music.

“If the CRB decision stands,” she adds, “Spotify and other services will be scrambling to find new ways to keep their music business profitable. I think we might see increased subscription rates to consumers as a result.”

White credits her success to her New York attitude and straight-shooting business acumen. Her tell-it-like-it-is approach is refreshing -- honest, forthright and transparent. She has no qualms about explaining to a new artist that getting a record deal is not a quick meal ticket to success, but that the best route is to focus on growing an audience and building momentum gradually.

“I’m not sugarcoating them, beating around the bush, and I’m also not a paper-pusher,” she says. “I think you really have to rely on yourself and look at yourself in the mirror and make sure you are doing the right things so you can sleep at night.”

Then again, she adds, “I don’t sleep at night because I’m concerned about what’s going on in Korea and China.”    -- CLAUDIA ROSENBAUM

JEFFREY HARLESTON 
General counsel/executive vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

As the world’s largest music company continues to expand into China, Africa and India, Harleston’s business/legal affairs team has established “beachheads” in regions primed for music-business growth, says the 57-year-old executive. “Not only [signing] acts -- that’s a part of it, for sure,” he says. “I’m talking about having professionals on the ground who can help develop the business model.” That means identifying sources of hits; “securing repertoire,” as he puts it; and boosting the acceptance of streaming services.

Pressing Issue: "In the last 12 months, we’ve had a watershed moment legislatively for the content industry, specifically the music industry. In the U.S., we had the Music Modernization Act; in the European Union, we had the Copyright Directive. The most significant issue facing the industry in the next 12 months is the implementation of those pieces of legislation."

PAUL ROBINSON
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Fordham University School of Law

In his global role for WMG, Robinson, 61, lobbied stateside and abroad for copyright reform during the past year. He represented Warner in successfully calling for passage of the European Union’s Copyright Directive and joined industry colleagues in urging Congress last September to enact the Music Modernization Act. Both measures aim to improve royalty rates and help artists and labels fight copyright violations. “It never felt like a sure thing,” says Robinson of the MMA. “It was a unanimous vote, which is almost unbelievable, given the divisive politics we have in the U.S.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “A workshop concert performance for a theatrical production called The Wrong Man, written by Warner Chappell songwriter Ross Golan. It’s opening in October.”

JULIE SWIDLER
Executive vp business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Swidler, 61, and her department oversaw more than 100 deals for SME during the past year. She took personal satisfaction in Sony’s mid-2018 relaunch of Arista Records, where she previously had run business affairs under Clive Davis. An attorney with three-plus decades of music-business experience, Swidler serves on The Recording Academy’s task force on diversity and female inclusion. She also played a key role in upgrading Sony’s artist royalty portal, which, later this year, will offer new features allowing acts to view their earnings and get paid faster. “It affects tens of thousands of artists,” says the New York City native. “I said to our finance people, ‘That is a game-changer.’ ”

Free Legal Advice: “Educate yourself as much as possible about the business and how labels work and how you get paid. The better-educated the artist is, the better relationship we have. I really like it if an artist is well-informed and understands how it all works.”

STU BONDELL
Executive vp business and legal affairs, international; Sony Music Entertainment
George Washington University School of Law

 

 

 

WADE LEAK
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer; Sony Music Entertainment
Columbia Law School

 

 

SUSAN MEISEL
Senior vp/corporate deputy general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Georgetown Law

 

 

 

JEFF WALKER
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, global digital business; Sony Music Entertainment
Harvard Law School

 

 

 

To see the future of the music business, take a look at the desk of a Sony Music attorney. “My role has focused on helping our business and digital teams to bring their future-focused commercial visions to reality -- and enhance Sony Music’s value proposition to artists,” says Meisel, 60. She adds that, during the past 12 to 18 months, she and her team have handled “the greatest breadth and volume” of strategic investments she has ever seen at Sony Music. Walker, 56, stays on the cutting edge as different digital platforms expand. “In the last year, I’ve worked with on-demand providers, social media platforms and even virtual-reality companies,” he says, noting that he has completed over 400 agreements with different digital service providers. Bondell, 63, supports some 50 international digital music services. “As legitimate streaming services take hold in developing markets, it has been very rewarding to help local companies expand,” he says. Leak, 56, seeks to halt the unauthorized use of Sony Music’s copyrighted recordings. “Any time there is a shift in the way people consume music, piracy happens,” he says. “We are trying to send a message to the marketplace that it will not be tolerated.” He has filed cases against internet service providers, including Cox Cable (which previously settled with BMG), involving 11,000 tracks or compositions.

SAHELI DATTA
Head of global compliance/senior vp employment counsel, Universal Music Group
Columbia Law School

 

 

 

STEVE GAWLEY
Executive vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Harvard Law School

 

 

 

NICOLA LEVY
Global head of business affairs, digital; Universal Music Group
Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

 

 

 

ALASDAIR MCMULLAN
Senior vp/global head of litigation, Universal Music Group
Columbia Law School

 

 

 

MICHAEL SELTZER
Senior vp business and legal affairs/head of commercial transactions team, Universal Music Group
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 

 

In the Center, as UMG’s corporate legal department is known, Seltzer, 52, supervises a team of 15 lawyers who do everything from artist deals to film, TV and brand pacts. He personally handled contracts for a development deal with Lionsgate TV. “We hit the ground running with five projects, and two of them are already sold to NBC and Netflix,” he says. Gawley, 55, guides business affairs for three independently run UMG labels -- Republic, Def Jam and Island, with the latter two under new leadership by Paul Rosenberg and Darcus Beese, respectively. “New leadership comes in with a creative vision, and implementing that in an up market is even more challenging because deals are tougher and they’re closing quicker,” says Gawley. Levy, 46, demonstrated the importance of an international and digital perspective as she closed over 20 global deals in the past 18 months (and more at the local market level), including new categories like stem audio downloads, fitness and gaming apps, and services that use artificial intelligence. “We also developed a simplified licensing program for music startups that will allow them to get off the ground with a license in hand,” she says. McMullan, who “spent decades” litigating cases involving royalties for pre-1972 recordings, took a 2018 victory lap when those royalties were addressed as part of the Music Modernization Act. “Digital services will now pay legacy artists and songwriters their fair share in what is the most sweeping copyright reform in 40 years,” he says. Datta and her team of five keep busy negotiating employee contracts and onboarding new leadership. “We’re bringing in a really diverse group of people in the U.S. and internationally,” says Datta, whose turf spans 60 territories. She’s responsible for UMG’s compliance with new European Union data privacy laws. “In an online world,” she says, “data privacy underpins everything.”

Pressing Issue: “The safe harbor laws currently in place are not fit for a world where hundreds of hours of content are uploaded to internet sites every minute. Recent reforms in the EU go some way to modernizing copyright law. But we need to be vigilant in ensuring that implementation of those regulations reflect the original intent.” - Levy

KATE LOGAN
General counsel, international; Warner Music Group
Nottingham Law School

 

 

 

MARYROSE MANESS
Deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Seton Hall University School of Law

 

 

 

TRENT TAPPE
Deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Columbia Law School

 

 

 

In her first full year as WMG’s new general counsel for international, responsible for the company’s legal and business affairs outside the United States, Logan, 46, played a key role in lobbying  for passage of the European Union’s Copyright Directive. “There’s a 24-month clock ticking now for national legislation to implement the directive,” says Logan, who sits on IFPI’s board and legal committee. “Hopefully it paves the way to a fairer music licensing environment.” Tappe, 52, is focused on WMG’s capital structure and favorable terms for debt refinancing, which has allowed the company to save millions of dollars. “The business is viewed very favorably,” he says. “We’ve done three large bond deals.” Maness led the development of anti-harassment classes, training 2,000 people in a 12-month period. “We made them very specific to the music industry,” she says. “The sessions led to some really rich conversations.”

Free Legal Advice: “Trust your instincts, and network like crazy.” - Maness

MICHAEL ROWLES
Executive vp/general counsel, Live Nation
University of Illinois College of Law

In response to the 2018 passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act, which regulates commercial use of personal data (like similar EU legislation), Rowles’ focus during the past year has been securing the privacy of Live Nation’s 100 million-plus customers. Alongside chief privacy officer Hannah Mason, he has beefed up the promoter’s data privacy team to eight full-time staff. “In today’s world, data privacy and cyber security are so important,” says Rowles, 53. “It is a big priority for any company, but with a company like Live Nation or Ticketmaster that has so much data at its disposal, it’s huge.”

SHAWN TRELL
COO/general counsel, AEG Presents
Georgetown University Law Center

In April, Trell, 52, helped close the deal for AEG Presents to acquire 50% of Australia’s Frontier Touring, following a multiyear negotiation. Led by co-founder Michael Gudinski, Frontier ranked as the world’s third-largest promoter for 2018, according to Billboard Boxscore. “Not unlike a lot of longtime independent promoters, [Frontier was] reticent to take that next step and align with one of the bigger players in the industry,” says Trell. “But as I always remind people, we’re also an independent promoter. We’re just the largest one.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “The Elton John farewell shows at Staples Center. He is a very rare breed, if not one-of-a-kind entertainer, songwriter, performer, singer, musician. I am glad we’re associated with that tour.”

DANIELLE AGUIRRE
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association
University of Pennsylvania Law School

After gaining the support of tech firms and streaming services as a lead negotiator for the Music Modernization Act, Aguirre, 41, went back into battle against those very same companies when they appealed the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to increase royalty rates for songwriters and publishers. “We’ve gone from working alongside streaming services for the Music Modernization Act to fighting them,” she says. “It’s disappointing.” As the NMPA guided the creation of the Music Licensing Collective under the terms of the MMA, Aguirre also has overseen a $150 million suit against Peloton for unlicensed use of videos by numerous superstar artists and writers.

PETER BRODSKY
Executive vp business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Brooklyn Law School

Brodsky, 56, led the team responsible for closing the $2.2 billion deal through which Sony Corp. acquired the 60% share in EMI Music Publishing that it didn’t already own from a consortium led by the Mubadala Investment Company. He made several appearances in front of the European Commission, where the purchase “was approved unconditionally,” he says, “the best result you can get.”

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “With respect to our contracts with digital services, especially ones that have platforms that allow for user-uploaded content, I would like to see takedown/stay-down provisions. Once we take something down, it actually stays down. I’d also like to see the services take more responsibility for the content that’s uploaded onto their sites.”

DAVID KOKAKIS
Chief counsel, Universal Music Publishing Group
Seton Hall Law School

 

 

 

MICHAEL PETERSEN
Senior vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

Kokakis serves as chief counsel of UMPG but also works closely with Universal Music Group labels to maximize digital revenue for publishing and recorded music. Deals he has worked on helped UMPG pass the $1 billion revenue mark for the first time last year. Yet, he says his biggest accomplishment is building “the best legal affairs team. They are passionate, dedicated, tough and thoughtful.” As a member of that team, Petersen, 57, has been involved in some of UMPG’s biggest signings of the last 18 months, negotiating the agreements that brought Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Maroon 5, Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake, Paul Simon and the estate of Glenn Frey, among others, to the publisher’s roster.

Recent Memorable Concert: “A string quartet in a small church in Paris. It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had with a live concert.” - Kokakis

SCOTT MCDOWELL
Executive vp/head of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Chicago-Kent College of Law

With Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall tapped to lead Warner Chappell in the past year, “I’m most proud of my team for managing that transition with aplomb,” says McDowell. He notes the publishing company has “something like 60,000 to 70,000 clients, and my team has developed relationships throughout that client base and the marketplace.” McDowell and his colleagues work to maintain the strength of those relationships “so senior management can transition and get established.”

Free Legal Advice: “Warner Chappell always has tried to be writer-friendly. We don’t usually have knock-down, drag-out battles over particular deal points. For the most part, we get what we want and give what the other side wants in order to get the deal closed.”

CLARA KIM
Executive vp/general counsel, business and legal affairs; ASCAP
New York University School of Law

Kim was instrumental in negotiating the passage of the Music Modernization Act last year. “I’m gratified I was able to play a leadership role,” she says. At ASCAP, Kim oversees deals and enforcement of contracts that generated more than $1 billion in royalties in 2018. Her team has negotiated music licensing agreements with all the major streaming services and major media companies. And she’s driving ASCAP’s discussions with the Department of Justice over reform of the consent decree that has inserted the government into music licensing since 1941.

Deal Point She would Like To See: “Every composer and songwriter [should retain] the right to collect their writers’ share of public performance royalties from the performing rights organization of their choice. For many decades, this has been the industry norm. However, in the past several years, streaming companies and broadcasters have been demanding ‘buyouts’ that deprive composers and songwriters of the royalties on which they have always relied.”

STUART ROSEN
Senior vp/general counsel, BMI
University of Pennsylvania Law School

In 2017, BMI won its suit to retain the fractional licensing of songs; the deadline for the Department of Justice to appeal passed nearly 18 months ago. “That closed the book on what we felt was a really big accomplishment,” says Rosen, 60. He continues to focus on the DOJ’s anticipated review of the consent decree that has given the government oversight of BMI since 1941. Rosen played a key role in BMI’s advocacy of the Music Modernization Act and is also overseeing BMI’s actions on behalf of its songwriters against the North American Concert Promoters Association and the Radio Music License Committee.

Pressing Issue: “Striking the right balance with wanting to encourage the growth of these new [digital] businesses, because they’re our customers. If they do well, we do well. But you’ve got to figure out a way, from day one, to deliver value to the songwriters, composers and publishers whose music is really the engine behind their websites.”

PATRICK DONNELLY
Executive vp/general counsel and secretary, SiriusXM
Cornell Law School

“It’s time that we grow the pie instead of fighting over how big the [slices are],” says Donnelly, 57, of the Music Modernization Act, which became law in October after last-minute negotiations between SiriusXM and the rest of the music industry. “Lawsuits that caused friction are going to disappear” as a result of the act, he says. Donnelly also was integral in leading the negotiations for SiriusXM’s $3.5 billion acquisition of Pandora -- and expects similar moves by his company in the future. “We’re always looking at financing or acquisitions. There’s always going to be something going on.”

HORACIO GUTIERREZ
General counsel/vp business and legal affairs, Spotify
Harvard Law School, University of Miami School of Law

 

 

SOFIA SHEPPARD
Associate general counsel/head of global licensing and business development, Spotify
University of Washington School of Law, Uppsala University (Sweden) School of Law

 

 

In the run-up to Spotify’s 2018 public listing, which gave the music streaming giant a $30 billion market capitalization, Gutierrez, 54, spent months negotiating with the Securities and Exchange Commission, educating employees and shareholders, as well as working on agreements with content providers -- both the multinational music companies and independents. Sheppard, 44, helped Spotify launch in the Middle East, North Africa and India. In the lattermost market, Spotify’s user base has grown to 2 million.

Pressing Issue: “The lack of transparency on the economics of the music industry and how the opacity negatively affects creators or artists. There’s a lot of misinformation about Spotify’s contribution to the music industry and the streaming industry in general, and the significance of the streaming contribution is not well understood. It is now the largest contributor to global music-industry revenue today.” - Gutierrez

ELIZABETH MILES
Director, iTunes and Apple Music legal; Apple
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

 

 

 

ROBERT WINDOM
Chief counsel for content and services, Apple
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

 

 

 

Miles and Windom have supported Apple Music’s expansion to new platforms -- and helped drive subscriptions -- by negotiating deals with mobile phone carriers, automakers and connected devices. A partnership with Volkswagen was followed by one with Fiat Chrysler. A deal with Verizon led to Apple Music signing with 10 more carriers worldwide. And, adds Windom, “we signed with Amazon to be on Alexa-enabled Echo devices” in November.

Free Legal Advice: “Check out the many paths to finding your voice and your fans before you presume that any one label, publisher, manager or agent holds the keys." - Miles

COLIN RUSHING
Senior vp/general counsel, SoundExchange
University of Virginia School of Law

Rushing, 46, helped SoundExchange pay out a record $953 million in 2018, resulting in part from a $150 million settlement with SiriusXM over royalties on pre-1972 recordings. “It made a big impact,” he says of the settlement. “It pushed us to the record-setting year we had.” The deal was signed in June 2018; in November, SoundExchange made its largest distribution to artists and labels to date.

Pressing Issue: “First, we still don’t have a terrestrial [radio] performance right for sound recordings, and we are still fighting for it. Second, the Music Modernization Act still needs to be implemented. That will be defining across all sectors of the industry.”

KENT WALKER
Senior vp global affairs, Google
Stanford Law School

Even the best attorneys can’t win every argument. The European Union in April gave final approval to its Copyright Directive despite Walker’s efforts to oppose it and Google’s view that the reform legislation, as he puts it, contained “vague, untested requirements.” The directive now awaits action by the EU member states. Walker, 58, oversees Google’s legal team, which is involved in making music deals in 50 countries. Google-owned YouTube, which now hosts videos by some 2 million artists and reaches 1 billion monthly users -- and is a target of the EU’s action -- believes that “more innovation and collaboration ... are the best way to achieve a sustainable future for the news and creative sectors,” says Walker.

KENNETH ABDO
Partner, Fox Rothschild
William Mitchell College of Law

 

 

 

TIM MANDELBAUM
Partner, Fox Rothschild
University of Denver Sturm College of Law

 

 

 

MICHAEL REINERT
Partner, Fox Rothschild
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 

 

 

“My mission in life is to work with legacy acts,” says Abdo, 63, who spent much of the past year renegotiating Kool & The Gang’s catalog deal with Universal Music Group, in addition to brokering deals for clients Toto, Three Dog Night and Roberta Flack. Mandelbaum, 62, helped orchestrate the reunion of the Wu-Tang Clan in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its seminal debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), with a 13-stop tour and a Showtime docuseries. The group’s members have “lots of issues,” says Mandelbaum, “but they have the amazing ability to separate business and be onstage, all peace, love and kumbaya.” Reinert, 62, also is carving a niche in musical heritage, working on historic projects (including the new Motown 60th-anniversary film). “I love working with older artists who come to the realization of what they want to do with catalog, income streams [and] likeness rights,” says Reinert. “It’s a big thing.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “Jazz Fest in New Orleans. I used to represent The Subdudes when they were Little Queenie & The Percolators, so to see these guys there, 43 years after our first Jazz Fest, was really emotional.” - Reinert

LISA ALTER
Founding partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
New York University School of Law

 

 

 

JACQUELINE CHARLESWORTH
Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
Yale Law School

 

 

 

Working on deals involving copyright and licensing advice, Alter says “the volume, complexity and diversity of the transactions we’ve been involved with in the past year has been extraordinary. In the past 18 months, we’ve been involved in a variety of transactions connected to music -- some investments and some acquisitions -- that exceed three-quarters of a billion dollars” in value. She has worked on the partnership between Primary Wave and the estates of Whitney Houston and Bob Marley, as well as the publishers’ stake in Paul Anka’s catalog and likeness. Charlesworth worked behind the scenes to draft the Music Modernization Act, an experience she describes as a “huge honor.” The former general counsel at the U.S. Copyright Office, Charlesworth this year left her previous firm, Covington & Burling, to join Alter Kendrick & Baron and focus on her true love: copyright law. Says Charlesworth: “It’s a very exciting development to have joined Lisa Alter and her colleagues to practice law at a music- and copyright-oriented law firm, which is a great development for me in my career.”

PETER ANDERSON
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

Anderson, 65, has litigated some of the biggest copyright infringement claims of the past few years, including the Led Zeppelin-Randy Wolfe case, which he won. (An appeals court agreed to a second trial, but that ruling itself is under review.) For Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams, who faced a $25 million copyright infringement claim involving their song “Spark the Fire,” Anderson won a summary judgment in their favor.

Pressing Issue: “Copyright infringement cases are one of the most important, challenging and disappointing legal issues facing the industry right now.”

GILLIAN BAR
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
George Washington University School of Law

 

 

 

ROSEMARY CARROLL
Founding partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Stanford Law School

 

 

 

ROB COHEN
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
University of Michigan Law School

 

 

 

ELLIOT GROFFMAN
Founding partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Santa Clara University School of Law

 

 

 

RENEE KARALIAN
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Loyola Law School

 

 

 

“We changed the name of our firm this year,” notes Carroll, 63. “It had been Carroll Guido & Groffman for 20 years, and for us, in our little world, that’s a big deal. In terms of our name partners, we have an equal number of women and men. That’s something I’m very excited about.” Carroll is a board member of She Is the Music, which works toward greater inclusivity and gender equality in the music business. As the trustee of Lou Reed’s estate, she has renegotiated a publishing deal with Sony/ATV. For new client Mustard, Karalian, 43, worked with Sony/ATV on an administration deal and with Kobalt on the sale of the DJ-producer’s catalog. She guided Kid Cudi on a partnership with Adidas and a collaboration with Netflix for an animated series. Bar, 46, has represented The National for eight albums but is equally excited by the music of such new clients as Omar Apollo, MorMor and Cavetown. “One of my favorite parts of the job is sitting down with artists and having them talk about their vision and how they want to work with people -- then serving as a matchmaker,” she says. Cohen, 58, who has represented the Jonas Brothers since their initial record deal, says, “It has been rewarding to see them back together and really enjoying the success this time around.” His other clients include Demi Lovato, Olivia Culpo, the Primavera Sound festival and Paradigm. Groffman, 65, attended the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony in June with longtime client Dave Matthews, who inducted Cat Stevens. But the undeniable highlight of Groffman’s year, he says, was watching Brandi Carlile, “whom I’ve worked with through all the ups and downs, getting the acknowledgement of her peers [in February] with three Grammys and six nominations.”

ANDREW BART
Partner/co-chair, content, media and entertainment practice; Jenner & Block
Columbia Law School

Bart, 64, has counted among his clients the three major music groups, the RIAA, BMG and Roc Nation, but also works pro bono for the Brooklyn venues Roulette and National Sawdust. Bart represented the record companies that settled a copyright infringement case against MP3tunes for $39 million in early 2018. “That was one of the biggest cases I’ve ever worked on in my career,” he says.

Recent Memorable Concert: “The Big Ears music festival in Knoxville [Tenn.]. It samples everything from world music to Americana, jazz, classical and avant-garde. An amazing experience.”

JEFFERY BECKER
Chair, entertainment and media law practice; Swanson Martin & Bell
DePaul University College of Law

Becker’s Chicago ties were key to his drawing clients Chance the Rapper and Valee, who’s “young and homegrown [and] moving up the ranks of Def Jam,” says Becker. For Chance, ahead of the rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day festival in 2016, Becker secured temporary restraining orders that “allowed us to pull all of the counterfeit merchandise off of the streets -- around the festival, around the tour sites across the country. We were able to [do] that twice for him.” Becker also represents Pink Slip and Anthony Pavel -- ”these two kids that live in California in their early 20s that have been going to writing camps in Korea.”

JILL BERLINER
Partner, Rimon Law
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Berliner, 62, focuses on transactions for legacy acts like Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck and Ann Wilson of Heart. She also represents Nirvana, both generally and in connection with the band’s copyright claims against Marc Jacobs. “Enforcing my clients’ rights and pursuing infringers is part of what I need to do. Infringements happen all the time,” she says. “Being able to advocate for art is a pretty beautiful job.”

CHARLES J. "JEFF" BIEDERMAN
Partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Vanderbilt Law School

 

 

 

 

JORDAN BROMLEY
Partner/leader of entertainment transactions and finance group, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Brooklyn Law School

 

 

 

ERIC CUSTER
Partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
University of Texas School of Law

 

 

 

 

GARY L. GILBERT
Partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

ROBERT JACOBS
Partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Southwestern University Law School

 

 

 

L. LEE PHILLIPS
Senior partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Cornell Law School

 

 

 

MONIKA TASHMAN
Partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 

 

 

At the firm with the deepest roster on Billboard’s top music lawyers list, early this year Bromley, 40, was named the youngest head of the entertainment transactions and finance group in the firm’s recent history, while Jacobs, 54, became head of the entertainment litigation group. At such industry gatherings as MIDEM, Tashman, 46, has been an outspoken advocate of gender equality in the #MeToo era and of better economic leverage for artists. Phillips, the firm’s senior partner, closed “a major, major financing deal” on behalf of client Paul Anka “for his iconic music publishing catalog. It took us months, but we got it done with Primary Wave,” he says. Gilbert, 72, has a client list that includes the Dixie Chicks, Death Cab for Cutie, Jackson Browne, the B.B. King estate, George Benson, Michael McDonald and Peter Frampton, and cut what he calls an “innovative and different” deal for Daniel Lanois to compose the score for top-selling video game Red Dead Redemption 2. Biederman, 54, guided client Kobalt’s 2017 acquisition of SONGS and 2018 partnership with Glassnote. “They were among the biggest transactions [for the music industry] in their respective years,” he says. Custer, 51, is a leader in filing Section 203 notices for artists seeking to reclaim ownership of their sound recordings and notes that he has done so for over 100 albums from such acts as Journey, the Eagles, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Custer also has worked on publishing terminations on behalf of such writers as Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson and Stephen Stills. And he is the general counsel for several heritage artists and estates. “The funny line that I once heard somebody mention about music lawyers is we’re kind of like the country doctor,” he says, “where we know a lot about a little and a little about a lot.”

JASON BOYARSKI
Partner, Boyarski Fritz
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

As lead entertainment attorney for the Prince estate, Boyarski, 44, negotiated a distribution agreement with Sony Music for the late icon’s entire 35-album catalog and the highly anticipated Originals album with Warner Records. “We’re focusing on that next level of dealmaking,” says the former music publishing executive who also inked a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves to create Prince-inspired City Edition basketball uniforms. “To use the music as a brand to touch the film, TV and apparel world is very exciting.”

Free Legal Advice: “Successful recording artists essentially become the CEO of their own businesses, so young artists should approach their careers that way, which leads to longevity.”

JOHN BRANCA
Partner/head of music department, Ziffren Brittenham
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

DAVID BYRNES
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

DAVID LANDE
Capital partner, Ziffren Brittenham
University of Pennsylvania Law School

 

 

 

Branca, after bringing in over $1 billion for the Michael Jackson estate from the sale of its Sony/ATV and EMI publishing assets, is taking on Broadway, with a musical inspired by the life of the singer slated for 2020. He also guided the Jackson estate when HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary revived old child molestation accusations against Jackson. For the estate of another icon, Elvis Presley, Branca negotiated the NBC tribute special that aired Feb. 17, 2018. He also worked on Carlos Santana’s recent residency in Las Vegas. For one major artist (whom he declines to name), Byrnes negotiated a multipicture deal with Netflix; for another, he cut apparel and branding deals. Lande helmed the agreements for three of the biggest tours of the past year: those of Justin Timberlake, Shakira and Beyoncé (her part of On the Run II with Jay-Z). Lande also negotiated Beyoncé’s partnership with Adidas; it establishes the superstar as an owner and partner, not just an endorser, allowing her to co-create footwear and apparel. “I want my clients to own everything that they do,” he says.

VERNON J. BROWN
Founder/owner, V. Brown & Company
Pace University School of Law

As attorney for Cash Money Records, Brown, 58, negotiated an end to the label’s legal dispute with Lil Wayne last year -- but more significantly, he also settled a lawsuit in May between Cash Money and Aspire Music Group, which had claimed it was owed royalties on Drake albums after signing him early in his career. “I felt like that was something that could go on for the rest of my life,” he says of the suit, which lasted for nearly a decade. “Knowing all the parties are able to move on and everyone got what they felt they deserved just feels good.”

New Deal Point: “Deals are now based on the number of songs being delivered and not the number of albums being delivered. It gives more flexibility to the artist, and it gives more flexibility to the label.”

JUSTIN BRUNTJEN
Owner, Decerto Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law

As one of the attorneys handling the estate of Prince (which has been valued at up to $300 million), Bruntjen, 34, helped establish the rightful heirs out of the dozens of people who came forward claiming they were entitled to a share. “When someone dies without a will, especially when that person is a celebrity, it really creates a lot of chaos,” says Bruntjen. “Helping to bring order to that chaos is something I’m very proud of.”

Recent Memorable Concert:J. Cole. Lyrically, he’s a throwback to 2Pac and Biggie. I’m a fan of [artists highlighting] social issues in their work.”

CANDACE CARLO
Partner, Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo
University of California, Davis, School of Law

Carlo is involved in every deal struck by film composer Hans Zimmer and his three companies -- 14th Street Music, RCI Global and Bleeding Fingers -- including the most recent scores for Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King, starring Beyoncé and Donald Glover; Dark Phoenix; Widows; and the forthcoming Wonder Woman 2. “Things shouldn’t be analyzed in terms of how much money you make,” says Carlo, who is also guiding the Hans Zimmer Live tour as it heads to Europe this year. “It has to be analyzed in terms of creative satisfaction.”

JAY COOPER
Founder, Los Angeles entertainment practice; Greenberg Traurig
DePaul University College of Law

 

 

 

JOEL A. KATZ
Founding chairman, global entertainment and media practice; founding member of the Atlanta office; Greenberg Traurig
University of Tennessee College of Law

 

 

JESS ROSEN
Co-chair, Atlanta entertainment and media practice; Greenberg Traurig

 

 

 

 

BOBBY ROSENBLOUM
Vice chairman, global entertainment and media practice; Greenberg Traurig
Harvard Law School

 

 

 

PAUL SCHINDLER
Senior chair, New York entertainment and media practice; Greenberg Traurig
Brooklyn Law School

 

 

 

The rise earlier this year of Jon Platt to chairman/CEO of Sony/ATV followed a contract negotiation by Atlanta-based Katz, 75, whose clients include multiple C-suite executives as well as such artists as Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett. With Katz, Rosenbloum, 50, negotiated the recent 10-year extension of the Latin Grammy Awards partnership with Univision worth a reported $250 million. Rosenbloum’s team of 10 also oversees “the largest global digital music practice in the world,” he says, with over 100 clients in the sector. Rosen negotiated Lady Antebellum’s move to Big Machine Records and cheered longtime client Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy victories. Cooper has made deals for superstars and blockbuster projects in just about every corner of the entertainment industry, recently working for Katy Perry and Sheryl Crow, and negotiating on behalf of composer John Williams for the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX. Schindler hashes out the details for one-of-a-kind events, such as Billy Joel’s July performance at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the first concert ever staged at the ballpark.

DEREK CROWNOVER
Equity partner/international entertainment, media and sports practice group leader; Dickinson Wright
University of Tennessee College of Law

 

 

 

NOAH MCPIKE
Of counsel, Dickinson Wright
University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law

 

 

 

“Today, there are at least 20 different routes to success in the music business -- before, there were three,” says veteran Nashville attorney Crownover, 52, who with McPike, 37, counts Jason Aldean, Luke Combs and Kane Brown among Dickinson Wright’s many clients. From the firm’s Music Row office, “we’ve also led three of the largest catalog sales in the history of Nashville music publishing in the last 18 months, totaling almost $70 million in value,” adds Crownover (though he declines to identify the clients involved). Of Combs’ and Brown’s success, McPike says, “They’ve been on a page that’s almost unheard of for younger country artists these days.”

Recent Memorable Concert: Van Morrison. Hands down one of the best performers I’ve seen.” - McPike

DOUG DAVIS
Founder/principal, The Davis Firm
Fordham University School Of Law

Davis, 47, negotiated executive contracts for Ryan Press as president of U.S. A&R for Warner Chappell and for DJ Mormile as executive vp West Coast for Def Jam and also brokered Dionne Warwick’s Las Vegas residency. Last fall, Davis executive-produced American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom, a Grammy-winning jazz album that featured 53 musicians who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “Finding a way to use clients and their resources to further causes was so rewarding,” he says.

ILENE FARKAS
Partner, Pryor Cashman
Fordham University School of Law

 

 

 

JAMES SAMMATARO
Partner, Pryor Cashman
Duke University School of Law

 

 

 

DONALD ZAKARIN
Partner, Pryor Cashman
New York University School of Law

 

 

 

“We have been at the forefront of the protection of writers and publishers,” says Zakarin, 69, whose firm represented publishers and songwriters in the successful Copyright Royalty Board action to raise mechanical royalty rates for interactive streaming. The firm also helped assemble the industry consensus group that has formed the Mechanical Licensing Collective under the Music Modernization Act. For clients Ed Sheeran and Roc Nation, Farkas, 51, mounted a defense against copyright infringement suits involving the singles “Thinking Out Loud” and “All the Way Up,” respectively. Sammataro, 46, reports he “netted impressive results for Enrique Iglesias in a royalty dispute [and] success in copyright infringement actions for Sony Music Entertainment, Spotify, The Orchard, Shazam, Amazon, Deezer and Spanish Broadcasting System.”

SID FOHRMAN
Partner, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Pepperdine University School of Law

Since joining Sheppard Mullin last year to lead its music industry team, Fohrman, 47, has closed deals that have generated more than $100 million in revenue, with clients including Spirit Music Group, Lakeshore Entertainment and Warner Music Group. “I’m incredibly proud of the team of lawyers we’ve assembled and the value we’ve been able to provide our clients in helping them navigate the music space,” he says.

LESLIE FRANK
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of California, Davis, School of Law

 

 

 

HENRY GRADSTEIN
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

 

 

 

HOWARD KING
Managing partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

PETER PATERNO
Partner, King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano
UCLA School of Law

 

 

 

LAURIE SORIANO
Partner, King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano
UC Davis School of Law

 

 

 

Before the Music Modernization Act ensured that songwriters would get paid by streaming services (and ensured that songwriters would no longer sue streaming services), Gradstein, 63, filed a class action against Spotify. In May 2018, “we settled it for roughly $100 million,” he says. “That money will be paid out to songwriters and not-large publishing companies.” The window for claims opened in May. King brought an end to the multiyear legal dispute between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records; helped secure “a fairly life-changing amount of money” for Wayne, he says; and cleared the way for the release of the artist’s fourth No. 1 album, Tha Carter V, in October 2018. Says Soriano: “It has been a busy year for my clients,” with Travis Scott, twenty one pilots and rapper NF releasing new albums, and Karen O collaborating with Danger Mouse on Lux Prima. Soriano also works with Jane Petty to protect her ownership rights to songs and recordings created (through 1996) by her late ex-husband, Tom Petty. Frank has brought legal guidance to hitmaking collaborations: Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey’s “The Middle”; Skrillex and Poo Bear’s “Would You Ever”; and BTS’ “Waste It on Me” featuring Steve Aoki. She also advises Metallica and negotiated Skrillex’s Las Vegas residency. Paterno, 67, helped Pharrell Williams and his team launch the Something in the Water festival and reps Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi. Paterno offers perspective on high-priced music publishing catalog deals in the streaming age: “If you’ve got 100 million [streaming service] subscribers today and you buy a catalog at some crazy 20-multiple [of its valuation], and in three years there are 300 million [streaming] subscribers, all of a sudden [a high price] doesn’t look so crazy anymore.”

JOHN FRANKENHEIMER
Chair, music industry practice; Loeb & Loeb
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

Frankenheimer’s client Diana Ross this year is celebrating the 60th year of her career, “and there is a tremendous amount of activity around that,” he says, including Ross’ ongoing Songbook Tour. Frankenheimer advised Superfly Events in the sale of its share of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival to Live Nation and represented WG&S in its merger with Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman “to create one of the pre-eminent business management firms. When you are putting two great organizations together, one plus one equals three.”

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “The only thing that should be recoupable [against artist royalties] is the advance; all the other costs should be borne by the label. The artist also should always see some money from the very first unit, and that percentage should rise based on success.”

SASHA FRID
Partner, Miller Barondess
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

 

 

 

LOUIS "SKIP" MILLER
Partner, Miller Barondess
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

Miller, 72, is representing Inglewood, Calif., in its efforts to keep Madison Square Garden from blocking construction of the city’s new arena -- which will rival The Forum, run by MSG. The dispute “involves billions of dollars, the future of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers [who will play at the new arena] and a significant part of the city’s future,” he says. Frid guided Mötley Crüe through the rollout of the band’s Netflix biopic, The Dirt. He also successfully defended Nile Rodgers against former manager Peter Herman claiming he was owed unpaid commissions. “Get it in writing,” he advises. “I can’t tell you how many times things get misinterpreted or promises are not kept.”

LEAH GODESKY
Partner, O’Melveny & Myers
Columbia Law School

Godesky, 36, scored a big win for Kesha in her legal battle with Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald) in May when a New York appeals court affirmed that Sony Music has to tell the singer who it interviewed as part of its internal investigation into her sexual misconduct claims against the producer. “It helps ensure that Kesha has access to the information that she needs to defend herself,” she says.

ERIC GREENSPAN
Founder/partner/head of the music department, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
American University Washington College of Law

 

 

AARON ROSENBERG
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Harvard Law School

 

 

 

Rosenberg’s client Ariana Grande broke a streaming record during the last year: Her Thank U, Next album posted 307 million first-week on-demand audio streams. For Rosenberg, 42, the statistic speaks to an urgent industry issue: “The equitable division of proceeds from the explosion of the streaming economy.” Greenspan’s client, Christina Aguilera, after her first major tour in a decade, launched her Las Vegas residency in June. Greenspan also negotiated tours last year for Bon Jovi, Dead & Company, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses. “Forget all the stuff about nobody caring about rock music anymore,” he says. ”This [touring success] is the real stuff.”

GARY GREENSTEIN
Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
George Washington University Law School

Greenstein advised digital companies in negotiations leading to industrywide acceptance and passage last year of the Music Modernization Act. He also represents parties before the Copyright Royalty Board and typically works behind the scenes for Silicon Valley technology companies including Google, advising them on music-related issues, and digital music providers including Pandora, Spotify and Tencent.

Pressing Issue: “The continuing fracturing of performance rights organizations from the three traditional PROs to new ones like Global Music Rights and Pro Music Rights.”

ALLEN GRUBMAN
Founder/senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Brooklyn Law School

 

 

 

DAVID JACOBS
Partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
New York Law School

 

 

 

KENNY MEISELAS
Senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

 

 

 

Grubman started 44 years ago with “a table, a chair and a phone,” he recalls, and has grown his firm beyond the music industry to focus on every aspect of media and entertainment. “We represent Spotify; streaming is critically important in the new age and [the] publishing business,” says Grubman, 76. “In terms of talent, we’re in the process of restructuring Barbra Streisand’s recording arrangements and also doing some very, very creative stuff with U2. We’ve been involved with Bruce Springsteen and his [Broadway] show, and now Elton John and his movie.” Meiselas brokered Lady Gaga’s deal for her Las Vegas residency, after her breakout turn in A Star Is Born. Beyond his superstar clients like The Weeknd and Sean Combs, Meiselas is proud of his rising talent. “Bebe Rexha and Ella Mai were Grammy-nominated, and Ella won. Nav had a No. 1 record -- a year ago, not too many people even knew who he was. Swae Lee has this big hit record now with Post Malone.” Jacobs, 37, is the firm’s younger gun. “Right now, I’m writing a very fun story with my client Lil Nas X,” he says. “It’s quite a wild ride. We were at No. 1 [on the Billboard Hot 100] the week my son was born.”

Free Legal Advice: “There are people doing amazing things on their own. And then there are some holding themselves back because of it. A record label can add value to someone’s life. Just because you can do it on your own doesn’t always mean you should.” - Jacobs

PIERRE HACHAR
Founder/owner, The Hachar Law Firm
St. Thomas School of Law

The attorney for Latin artists including Alex Sensation, Elvis Crespo and Gente de Zona, Hachar, 39, successfully got 16-year-old client Malu Trevejo released from her contract with Universal Music Latin. The case “sparked conversations and hopefully reform on the policies record labels have adopted in connection to considering minors’ services in our industry,” he says.

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “Fair and transparent definitions of payment terms so that changes in technology, trends and royalty laws are adequately compensated for with [the] changing times -- and can be adjusted without having to renegotiate.”

JOHN INGRAM
Attorney, Stone Genow Smelkinson Binder & Christopher
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Ingram renewed publishing deals with Sony/ATV for R&B artists Bryson Tiller and Daniel Caesar, guided a sponsorship agreement between Tommy Genesis and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line and negotiated all aspects of the 2018 Dune Tour staged by Chinese-American EDM artist Zhu.

Free Legal Advice: “In today’s landscape, you don’t have to do a deal right away. Whether a record deal, publishing deal [or] management deal, let it build and don’t be in a rush to sign anything until it’s the right time and the right company.”

LAWRENCE ISER
Managing partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
University of California, Hastings College of the Law

 

 

HOWARD WEITZMAN
Partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

 

 

 

Weitzman represented the estate of Michael Jackson in its suit against HBO over the documentary Finding Neverland and against Disney for copyright infringement in the ABC documentary The Last Days of Michael Jackson. He seeks to protect Jackson’s legacy against what he calls “unwarranted attacks and unauthorized use of intellectual property.” Iser, 63, who has clients ranging from Jackson Browne to the Latin indie label DEL Records, represented Apple Music last summer in the settlement of a copyright infringement claim against the streaming service, Ariana Grande and other songwriters over Grande’s “One Last Time,” a No. 13 hit on the Hot 100 in 2015. Iser says his biggest victories are the ones he can’t speak about. “I quietly fended off a false and extortionate claim against a music executive,” he says. The claim was resolved without payment to the accuser, “and you never heard about it.”

Free Legal Advice: “Don’t confuse social media popularity with sales.” - Iser

RUSTY JONES
Attorney, Law Offices of Russell A. Jones Jr.
University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

“My job is to do the work and stay quiet,” says Jones, who prefers to thrust his superstar client roster (Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith) into the limelight. “I maintain a low profile.” After 40 years in the business, the veteran Nashville attorney continues to break ground. Jones, 68, negotiated the deal that made Brooks the first artist to perform at Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana in the facility’s 88-year history. Garth: Live at Notre Dame! was a ratings winner for CBS and reached 14 million viewers.

Free Legal Advice: “Having no deal is better than a bad deal.”

JASON KARLOV
Partner/chairman, entertainment, media and sports practice group; Barnes & Thornburg
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Karlov, 50, handles all of Bob Dylan’s legal matters, including his tours and his Heaven’s Door whiskey. He also represents Michael Bolton, John Fogerty and Rufus Wainwright, among others. Longtime client T Bone Burnett inked a three-album deal with Verve, scored HBO’s True Detective and produced Sara BareillesAmidst the Chaos, which hit No. 6 on the Billboard 200. “In artist deals, which tend to be very personal, you have to listen and hear your client about what they want, then translate that into the most lucrative deal -- but maintain your integrity so that the other side does not hold grudges.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “Tedeschi Trucks Band. Superb artists. Wish that I represented them. Lawyers are fans, too.”

DINA LAPOLT
Founder/president, LaPolt Law
John F. Kennedy University College of Law

LaPolt, 53, who runs the only female-owned entertainment law firm of its stature, is a legal scholar, copyright expert and crisis strategist. When U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement officials took U.K.-born, Atlanta-based 21 Savage into custody in February, LaPolt moved to “assemble a team very quickly,” she says. “I was scared, he was scared. There is no justice for a man with gold teeth in rural Georgia.” Through her efforts, the artist was released in nine days. While representing clients like Mick Fleetwood, deadmau5 and Steven Tyler, LaPolt continues her mission as the advocate for “underdogs,” lobbying tirelessly in Washington, D.C., where her pro bono work last year, as the legal counsel to Songwriters of North America (SONA), helped pass the Music Modernization Act.

Free Legal Advice: “Join SONA.”

CHRISTINE LEPERA
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
New York Law School

Representing producer Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald), Lepera last year defeated Kesha’s attempt to invalidate her recording contract with Gottwald’s Kemosabe Records on appeal, after her claims were dismissed in 2017. “It’s always good to win twice,” says Lepera, whose clients also have included Jay-Z, Drake, Timbaland and MAC Presents founder Marcie Allen. Gottwald won a ruling in August 2018 that unsealed communications between Kesha’s legal and public relations teams.

Recent Memorable Concert: “The Who at Madison Square Garden. Roger Daltrey yelled at everyone in the first row because they were smoking pot and ruining his voice. It was hysterical.”

ANGELA MARTINEZ
Founder/owner, Law Offices of Angela N. Martínez
Florida State University College of Law

Martínez, 42, worked with longtime client Ozuna to negotiate a worldwide publishing administration deal with Kobalt, the distribution of his chart-topping albums Aura and Odisea through The Orchard, a touring agreement with Elite Media & Marketing and an endorsement deal with Adidas for Latin America. She also represents Alexis y Fido, Mike Bahía, Greeicy, Ricardo Montaner and Mau y Ricky.

Pressing Issue: “Fair and transparent accounting statements,” says Martínez, “so that artists are aware of their current financial standings with [their] record label, music publishing [and] neighboring rights collection agencies.”

MIKE MILOM
Partner, Milom Horsnell Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan
Vanderbilt University School of Law

Milom estimates he negotiated deals in the past year that will generate “several hundred million dollars” for his impressive roster of country superstars, including Luke Bryan, Alabama, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr. and Kelsea Ballerini (who recently stepped up to arena headliner). “Big public deals receive well-deserved attention,” he says, “but representing our clients expertly in the negotiation of the multitude of seemingly routine and mundane deals is what sustains our clients’ careers.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “The Doyle and Debbie Show. It’s a Spinal Tap-like satire of country music, an over-the-hill duo and the industry. Brilliant and hilarious.”

ZIA MODABBER
Managing partner, Katten Muchin Rosenman
Loyola Law School

The client list for Modabber, 57, speaks for itself: Stevie Wonder, Trent Reznor, Live Nation, The Recording Academy, Sony Music and the estate of Michael Jackson, among others. But he declines to discuss his deals or accomplishments. “Clients insist I don’t talk about them,” he says. “You’ll find very little of me talking publicly in my 30-year career.”

Free Legal Advice: “Be a brilliant artist, but never hand over the business of your career and check out. You need to stay engaged with your team and professional advisers.”

DONALD PASSMAN
Partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
Harvard Law School

Negotiating Taylor Swift’s new worldwide deal with Universal Music Group -- with UMG’s Republic Records as her U.S. partner -- was a top achievement for Passman, but don’t expect him to discuss that November pact or his work for his other A-list clients, including Adele, P!nk, Camila Cabello, Stevie Wonder, Heart and Paul Simon. Somehow, he’s also finding time to update his must-have industry primer, All You Need to Know About the Music Business, which will reflect the growth of the digital sector.

Pressing Issue: “The move to streaming has been the most profound change in the history of the music business. Since the days of wax cylinders and piano rolls, music was monetized by selling something [physical], and that’s no longer true. It’s a radical shift in the economic model and in terms of the way that music is marketed and positioned.”

MICHAEL POSTER
Partner, head of corporate and securities group; Michelman & Robinson
New York University School of Law

Poster, 47, a self-described “recovering guitarist,” works to ensure “there’s a music eye on the corporate side” of the complex financial transactions he oversees, he says. “I’ve represented lenders in over $250 million in credit facilities to the music publishing industry in the last year alone.” For clients Concord Music Group, Spirit Music Group, City National Bank and others, he aims “to be a true collaborator. That’s what makes a good transactional lawyer -- you need to understand how clients run their business and strategize together.”

BERKELEY REINHOLD
President, Business and Law Office of Berkeley Reinhold
Whittier Law School

As the longtime general counsel for Lollapalooza, Reinhold negotiated the expansion of the festival into Stockholm, its sixth territory, and also served as lead counsel brokering deals for the festival debuts of Pharrell Williams’ Something in the Water in Virginia Beach, Va., in April and Allen Sanford’s Beachlife Festival in Redondo Beach, Calif., in May. Reinhold spent two days in a Miami hotel room closing Marc Anthony’s $160 million touring deal with CMN, the dominant Latin promotion company led by Henry Cárdenas. “Anthony’s company said we’re not leaving until all terms agreed,” she recalls. “We unlocked the door and had a deal.”

Deal Point She Would Like To See: “This contract must be reviewed, distributed and signed electronically. Save paper.”

PAUL ROTHENBERG
Partner/co-founder, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder
Columbia Law School

In March, Rothenberg’s longtime client Logic published the novel Supermarket (the first rapper to top the New York Times Paperback Trade Fiction bestsellers list), as well as releasing a soundtrack to the novel and the album Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. (Confessions reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.) “There was so much going on,” says Rothenberg, 50, who oversaw new publishing and merchandising deals for Logic. His clients also include Charlie Puth, A$AP Ferg, Trey Songz and D’Angelo, while his firm has expanded to eight lawyers in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “The death of the 360 provision [giving labels claim to multiple artist-revenue streams]. The rationale for it is much weaker today because [labels are] making a lot more money.”

ROSE SCHWARTZ
Partner, Franklin Weinrib Rudell & Vassallo
New York University School of Law

 

 

 

KENNETH WEINRIB
Partner, Franklin Weinrib Rudell & Vassallo
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

 

 

 

As counsel for New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Schwartz negotiated the deals behind the ongoing success of The Met: Live in HD, the high-definition video satellite feed to movie theaters in over 70 countries. The program has sold 26 million tickets worldwide since it was launched in 2006. Schwartz also has been an adjunct professor at New York University Law, her alma mater, for 34 years. Weinrib, with a practice that encompasses music, theater, film and TV, has closed deals in the past 12 months for Idina Menzel, Harry Connick Jr., Joshua Henry and Macaulay Culkin.

Recent memorable Concert: Henry Threadgill at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He’s a [National Endowment for the Arts] Jazz Master and the winner of the Pulitzer in composition -- and quite wonderful.” - Weinrib

STEPHEN E. SESSA
Co-chair of the entertainment and media group, Reed Smith
Whittier Law School

 

 

 

ED SHAPIRO
Partner, Reed Smith
Brooklyn Law School

 

 

 

Shapiro, 52, helped negotiate Rihanna’s groundbreaking partnership with luxury goods company LVMH, including her Savage X Fenty Lingerie line and Fenty Beauty. He also counts Normani, Anitta, Kaskade, Mariah Carey, SZA, Lord Huron, Romeo Santos and Kesha among his clients. When big music publishing song-catalog deals happen, Sessa, 51, is often involved. One example: He shopped the Stargate catalog of writer-producers Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen, which Shamrock Capital bought in a deal believed to be worth $65 million. His other corporate clients include Concord Music, Round Hill, Roc Nation and the three major music publishers, while creative clients include Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, Kesha, James Fauntleroy, Linda Perry, Blackpink/YG Entertainment, Glen Ballard, Neal Schon and songwriting duo Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

SIMRAN SINGH
Founder/managing partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
University of Miami School of Law

Singh, 40, who began his career as an intern at Universal Music Group (and later became an in-house counsel at UMG in Miami), now works closely with established and up-and-coming Latin urban acts, including Daddy Yankee, Anuel AA, Natti Natasha and Chris Jeday, as well as mainstream artists like Missy Elliott and Tyga. “I am most proud [of] representing the movement of Latino music culture,” he says, “and negotiating unprecedented deals for my Latin clients in both the music and motion picture industries.”

Free Legal Advice: “Do not be dependent on other people to make you a star. Do it yourself, and build a strong team around you. My most successful clients did it that way.”

RACHEL STILWELL
Founder, Stilwell Law
Loyola Law School

A former radio promotion executive, Stilwell, 52, has come full circle in her work on behalf of the coalitions musicFIRST and Future of Music, fighting against further radio ownership deregulation. Shrinking playlists resulting from broadcast chain consolidation is not in the public interest, says Stilwell, whose clients also include The Latin Recording Academy, the RIAA, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the American Federation of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA. “It’s the [Federal Communication Commission’s] responsibility to promote viewpoint diversity, including viewpoints by musicians,” she says. “We’re here to make sure that happens.”

Recent Memorable Concert: “The Grammy Salute to Music Legends. Lalah and Kenya Hathaway knocked it out of the park in their musical tribute to their father, Donny Hathaway. Seeing Parliament-Funkadelic was amazing.”

JONATHAN SPERLING
Partner, Covington & Burling
Harvard Law School

“We now represent every major record label and every major music publisher,” says Sperling, 48, who recently marked 20 years as a trial lawyer. On behalf of over 50 labels and publishers, Sperling in March led the copyright infringement suit against Charter Communications, an internet service provider, and defended Sony Music in a class-action suit led by Ricky Nelson’s estate challenging how the label calculates royalties for its artists.

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “Who gets to monetize the data from an artist’s website or a streaming service’s data with respect to user preferences and activity around music that copyright holders own? Data rights are not thought about enough. The music industry overall is a bit behind on that.”

RON SWEENEY
Partner, Sweeney Johnson & Sweeney
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Lil Wayne’s longtime attorney, Sweeney, 65, negotiated the rapper’s career-changing settlement with Cash Money Records last year, which also secured him ownership of his own music moving forward, as well as his stake in his Young Money imprint, to which Drake and Nicki Minaj are signed. “The whole lawsuit wasn’t just Lil Wayne and Tha Carter V. It was really about the Young Money assets,” says Sweeney. “The settlement is going to be written in the history books because of the magnitude of the whole thing.”

Free Legal Advice: “Learn how to count. Yes, you want to be a star, but this is a business. So you should learn how to count, and make sure you’ve got people around you that know how to count. That’s going to make the difference.”

ALEX WEINGARTEN
Partner, Venable
Georgetown University Law Center

Weingarten, 45, represented Tom Petty’s daughters Adria Petty and Annakim Violette in a dispute with Petty’s widow, Dana York Petty, over management of the late rocker’s estate. He worked with Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang in vain efforts to “keep the legendary festival alive,” he says, after its financial backer, the live-event division of advertising giant Denstu Aegis, announced in April it was canceling the 50th-anniversary event.

Deal Point He Would Like To See: “A clear definition of the fiduciary relationship between the artist and ‘manager’ in a 360 deal. The lines have blurred between manager and label, and now labels are taking more and more money from artists for wearing different hats.”

LESLIE ZIGEL
Chairman, entertainment, media and technology group; Greenspoon Marder
University of Miami School of Law

Zigel, 56, represented longtime client Pitbull in his investment and branding partnership with new boxing fitness chain GRIT BXING and in a voice-over deal for the animated film UglyDolls. He negotiated the reunion tour for Wisin & Yandel and a role in Empire for R&B star Mario. And Zigel found time to play more than 20 gigs with Spiral Light, his Grateful Dead tribute band.

Free Legal Advice: “Perform live as much and as often as possible, and tour whenever you can. Connecting with fans live accomplishes two things: It engages your fan base to be invested in your career, and it improves your performance chops, which are necessary for a long-term career.”

ADAM ZIA
Partner, The Zia Firm
Fordham University School of Law

Zia, 40, this year marked the fifth anniversary of his firm and last year celebrated client Starrah’s ASCAP songwriter of the year honor, as the co-writer of two Hot 100 No. 1 hits, Camila Cabello’s “Havana” and Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You.” “I’ve worked with Starrah since the start of her career,” says Zia, who also represents French Montana, Rich the Kid and Tierra Whack. “Watching Starrah evolve into a songwriting superstar is why I got into this business.”

Free Legal Advice: “Find a team you can trust unconditionally -- from your manager to [your] lawyer to [your] business manager to your friends. It’s a tough business, but if you have people behind you that you trust and value their opinion, it can relieve some of the stress of the business side of it.”

Note: Profile subjects whose ages are not included declined to provide them.


Top Music Law Schools

BENJAMIN N. CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW
Yeshiva University
New York
Enrollment: 1,051
The best thing about my law school was: “Cardozo recognized the value of an entertainment law program early on.” - Michael Reinert, Fox Rothschild

BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL
Brooklyn
Enrollment: 949
The best thing about my law school was: “The way they had professors teaching the courses was all geared specifically for the bar exam.” - Paul Schindler, Greenberg Traurig

COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL
Columbia University
New York
Enrollment: 1,268
The best thing about my law school was:  “The alumni network. I am the vp of the alumni association and co-chairing my reunion.” Wade Leak, Sony Music Entertainment

FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL
Fordham University
New York
Enrollment: 1,269
The best thing about my law school was: “I was expecting law school to be brutal, and it was not easy. But it was a very nurturing and supportive place.” - Ilene Farkas, Pryor Cashman

GEORGETOWN LAW
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.
Enrollment: 2,694
The best thing about my law school was: “I had the unique opportunity to go to a top-level law school and coach underclass lacrosse -- a personal passion.” - Shawn Trell, AEG Presents

HARVARD LAW SCHOOL
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 1,990
The best thing about my law school was: “Being incredibly intellectually challenged and learning how to think in a very critical, logical and strategic way.” - Donald Passman, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman

LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL
Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles
Enrollment: 1,058
The best thing about my law school was: “Only having to take torts once. I passed torts the first time I tried.” - Zia Modabber, Katten Muchin Rosenman

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW
New York
Enrollment: 1,380
The best thing about my law school was: “The location in Greenwich Village, which is a cultural mecca for music and art that is sought out by people from all over the country.” - Clara Kim, ASCAP

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, SCHOOL OF LAW
Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 976
The best thing about my law school was: “A lot of my classmates have gone on to greater success. And the faculty is on fire right now.” - Jeffrey Harleston, Universal Music Group

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, SCHOOL OF LAW
Los Angeles
Enrollment: 1,197
The best thing about my law school was: “Having interesting professors and making friends then who are still my friends.” - Louis “Skip” Miller, Miller Barondess

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW
Miami
Enrollment: 1,019
The best thing about my law school was: “Besides the beach, sun and palm trees, the school helped me find an internship at Universal Music Latin, which shaped my career to date.” - Simran Singh, Singh Singh & Trauben

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA LAW SCHOOL
Philadelphia
Enrollment: 871
The best thing about mylaw school was: “Penn has a unique culture. People were really collaborative. I learned people succeed when they work together and pull each other up.” - Danielle Aguirre, National Music Publishers’ Association

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOULD SCHOOL OF LAW
Los Angeles
Enrollment: 614
The best thing about my law school was: “The entertainment concentration, which includes the business and cinematic arts schools.” - Robert Windom, Apple

UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE COLLEGE OF LAW
Knoxville, Tenn.
Enrollment: 360
The best thing about my law school was: “I helped to recruit Joel Katz to give some of his mounds of money for the new law library, which is now named after him.” - Derek Crownover, Dickinson Wright

YALE LAW SCHOOL
Yale University
New Haven, Conn.
Enrollment: 666
The best thing about my law school was: “The best thing was actually going back and teaching at Yale Law. It’s just full of extremely thoughtful, interesting people.” - Jacqueline Charlesworth, Alter Kendrick & Baron

Contributors: Rich Appel, Steve Baltin, Jeff Benjamin, Dean Budnick, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Danica Daniel, Camille Dodero, Thom Duffy, Adrienne Gaffney, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Cherie Hu, Hannah Karp, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Carl Lamarre, Robert Levine, Geoff Mayfield, Matt Medved, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Paula Parisi, Chris Payne, Bryan Reesman, Craig Rosen, Claudia Rosenbaum, Dan Rys, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Colin Stutz, Andrew Unterberger, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams

Methodology: Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers for 2019 were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors at selected major music companies, live music promoters, digital and streaming companies, and law firms. In addition to nominations, editors weigh impact on consumer behavior as measured by such metrics as chart, sales and streaming performance from Nielsen Music; social media impressions; career trajectory; and overall impact on the music industry, using data available as of May 13. Top Music Law Schools are chosen from among those with the most alumni included on the Top Music Lawyers list.

This article was originally published in the Aug. 24 issue of Billboard.


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