How We Work Now: Alter, Kendrick & Baron Founding Partner Lisa Alter

Lisa Alter
Daniel Welch Media

Lisa Alter

In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.

This installment is with Lisa Alter, founding partner at law firm Alter, Kendrick & Baron, whose clients include Steve Miller, Reservoir Media Management and Primary Wave Music Publishing, among others.

Lisa Alter: We shut our office down the evening of March 13. I had carloads of things going to my apartment with all the binders of all the deals in the back. When you do a deal, there's so much paper that even people who are used to doing everything off the computer still have to print documents. Everyone moved out that Friday. I thought it was going to be for maybe two weeks. At least we cleaned out the refrigerator and the kitchen, which was smart.

I would say when we went out, we had about a half a dozen deals, including some really significant ones that we were in the middle of, and since then several of those have closed. Right now, I have spread across my home office on the floor, color-coded, I would say between 10 to 12 deals that we're working on.

From the publishing side, we have been blessed and really fortunate, because nothing has stopped. I know for my colleagues who are handling the touring side it is a whole different story. But on the publishing side, the deals are still happening.

People are still aggressively going after acquisitions on the buy side. Maybe more people are interested in selling, unfortunately, because of the touring downturn. Music copyrights, whether it’s masters or songs, are income streams and they are still really hot commodities.

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Older music has been increasing in value. I think the demographic of streaming is starting to shift a little bit away from exclusively being focused on younger people and newer music.

People are stuck at home and wanting to stream music and these people are not just in their 20s and 30s. Now it's migrating up in generations and also migrating back in generations to streaming more classic rock, '90s and '80s music. I think all of that is coming together to secure the value of established music products. Music is still a really good investment. And, perhaps, one of the sounder investments that you can make right now.

Our office has been really lucky in that we were able to efficiently and quickly shift to working offsite. We had two things that happened over the past decade that have made me very cognizant of the fact that we need to be able to work from anywhere. One was Hurricane Sandy. The other was that the summer before last there was a huge steam-pipe explosion right in front of our office building on 20th St. and Fifth Avenue. It sprayed asbestos everywhere and we were shut down for three weeks.

Thank God nobody was hurt. We've lost some things -- papers, computers. So since then we had to establish that each partner would always have remote setups in their homes with internet, phones. So from that point on, everybody in the office got set up to work remotely. Everybody -- not just the lawyers, but all our staff has had the capacity to work remotely since then.

So it was sort of seamless for us and that was a godsend. We might’ve needed some supplies, but basically everybody didn't have to wait for things to be delivered to be able to start work. From that Monday, or that weekend, right after we shut down, we haven't skipped a beat. And my team has been absolutely amazing.

Everybody's working more than ever. The work is there and the deals need to get done, and there hasn't been that much else to do, so we're all sort of working seven days a week. We haven't had to lay anybody off. We haven't had to furlough anybody. We haven't had to cut any salaries. We've been really, really lucky.

We have a daily Zoom meeting in the morning -- even if it's only 15 minutes, because that's all we have time for -- where we tick through all the major projects that we're working on and then we can break off into sub-groups. That way everybody in the firm knows what everybody's working on. I even want the person who answers the phone to know, or have an idea of what we're working on so that when calls come in, it helps to prioritize. Or at least to slip a note and say, you know, get back to this person right away.

I think face-to-face is important. I don't see that going away. On the other hand, I want everyone to be safe. So we'll do this until I feel comfortable.

What people have been balancing has been extraordinary -- kids home from college, from preschool, homeschooling, first babies. My daughter had to have her June wedding rescheduled. All the invitations were out. But they're very sanguine about it. They'll get married next year and hopefully they'll be able to do the wedding they wanted. Either way, they're still going to get married.

This pandemic is equalizing everyone with all this stuff happening in the background. There is a little bit of balancing. I'll be talking to someone on the phone and they'll say, "Sorry about the noise, but I'm walking my dog." It's humanizing the business in a way.

My apartment is in in Tribeca, so I try every night to take the dog and walk along the water down that Battery Park strip along the West Side Highway. It's beautiful. Being able to do that and look out onto the water has been the thing that has really kept me sane in all this. Because it is heartbreaking what's happening to artists and songwriters, from successful touring artists to the wedding bands and to those people who were playing small clubs, events and at bars. It is all very, very deeply concerning.

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