2020 Top Music Laywers

Revealed: Billboard's 2020 Top Music Lawyers

In a time of unprecedented economic and social upheaval, attorneys throughout the music industry have kept business on course, helped clients cope with the pandemic — and vigorously joined the call for racial justice.

Timothy Epstein was in the Florida Keys. Dina LaPolt was in West Hollywood, and Berkeley Reinhold was in Los Angeles. Casey Higgins was in Washington, D.C., and Jay Cohen was in New York. All of the attorneys remember exactly where they were when they, and their associates, responded to the call in March to help artists and companies navigate the economic crisis created by the coronavirus.

Two months later, attorneys Vincent P. Phillips and his legal associate Aurielle Brooks were in Atlanta, and Ron Sweeney was at his home in Malibu, Calif., all guiding clients through the pandemic, when they learned of the death of George Floyd on May 25. His suffocation beneath the knee of a Minneapolis police officer — captured on cellphone video — ignited weeks of protests and a long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism.

“It brought up terrible memories,” says Sweeney, “of myself, as a 12-year-old [living in South Central L.A.], on my way to church — a white cop forcing me to the ground and putting a shotgun to my head and telling me, ‘You n—s better stay in your place or else.’ I thought about my 2-year-old grandson and how I would not be able to protect him from racist cops no matter how much money I had. For me as a Black man, it was nothing new, just another day in America. We just happen to have cellphones now. I’m 66 years old and still when I see a police car I keep it in my sight until it disappears.”

Phillips has talked to clients, “especially my African American male clients, about how they feel about what is happening — and has been happening for so long — and I talk to them about being responsible if they do choose to lend their voice,” he says. “I do not push, but I do support. I let them know that when I was their age during the 1992 Rodney King protests, I was a participant. Change is slow, but we have to push for change and growth.”

Pushing for change, first through the economic turmoil of the pandemic and subsequently through the protests for racial justice, has consumed many in the legal profession in recent months. Instead of highlighting the work of one Lawyer of the Year for this annual feature, Billboard is focusing on how eight of the attorneys from our Top Music Lawyers 2020 list have stepped forward at this unprecedented time.

Epstein, a partner at Duggan Bertsch, got an early hint of the impact of the coronavirus as the attorney for independent promoters of events including festivals such as Pitchfork Music, Riot, Life Is Beautiful and Baja Beach and the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam. In early February, international clients began to reach out, concerned about potential postponements and cancellations.

Yet it wasn’t until March 5, when Epstein flew to Key West, Fla., for what he thought would be a relaxing weekend with his wife when anxiety over the virus escalated stateside. He fielded nonstop phone calls and spent the entire time counseling his nervous clients. Epstein reviewed “the various implications of postponements, cancellations and refunds, and how those worked out. While a number of my clients have significant financial wherewithal,” he says, “there are a number that do not, and when that ticketing money comes in, it’s used to finance various events on the festival side. So obviously, some of that money has already been spent.”

Epstein had hard conversations about postponing all fall events. He advised clients that even if the situation suddenly changed at a certain point, they didn’t have enough financial strength to sell tickets. Besides risk-management assessment, he has been helping them navigate insurance claims, analyze contract terms and obligations in relation to force majeure (which waives liability for events beyond a party’s control) and develop strategies for the short, medium and long term.

On March 16, LaPolt, founder-owner of LaPolt Law and counsel to Songwriters of North America, received an urgent call from Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Herbison had been privy to a draft of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to address the economic fallout of COVID-19. As it stood, he told LaPolt and SONA executive director Michelle Lewis, the language in the legislation wouldn’t cover the music community.

LaPolt had been sheltering at home with her wife, Wendy Goodman, and adjusting to the demands of home-schooling their twin 7-year-old boys. She immediately went to work — remotely.

“It was very clear that [the law] was not going to cover not only people in music, but it wouldn’t cover anybody in TV or film or writers, where everybody’s an independent contractor and self-employed,” says LaPolt.

She was among those who helped launch an aggressive lobbying campaign that included everyone in the industry — labels, publishers, performing rights organizations, the Recording Academy, the RIAA — to create a broad music coalition to pressure legislators. (Jordan Bromley of the Music Artists Coalition is also credited with shaping the legislation to help independent contractors.) On March 27, when the bill passed the Senate with an amendment that expanded pandemic unemployment assistance to self-employed workers, independent contractors and sole proprietors, LaPolt said the feeling was “incredible.”

LaPolt then helped create the website Music Covid Relief to streamline the process for freelancers and other self-employed musicians to apply for federal aid. She also helped establish an assistance fund through SONA that on March 15 began handing out $1,000 emergency grants to songwriters facing economic hardship.

Along with independent contractors and promoters, indie venues quickly recognized they would be severely affected by canceled and postponed events.

Higgins, a senior policy adviser at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, took a call in early March from Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee. The theater needed help navigating the intricacies of the newly launched Paycheck Protection Program. It became immediately clear during the call that without a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., independent venues were at risk of missing out on desperately needed federal assistance. After a virtual town hall meeting on March 12, these venue operators created an association to make their case for help.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
The Anthem in Washington, D.C., is one of scores of independent venues that have united to lobby for pandemic assistance.

On April 22, the newly formed National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) tapped Higgins to be their voice in Washington, backed up by Akin Gump partners Ed Pagano and Brian Pomper (and at least seven others at the firm). Higgins oversaw an intensive lobbying campaign that sent hundreds of thousands of letters to congressional leaders introducing the new association and asking for their support for additional relief.

Higgins says she’s focused on influencing the next phase of relief legislation, allowing flexible use of loan proceeds and loan forgiveness with no minimums attached for how much funding is allocated to uses like rent and mortgage payments, as well as a ticket revenue tax credit that would give independent venues credit for refunded ticket revenue.

“It’s going to be a long road for these venues, and they need a longer program,” says Higgins, who adds that NIVA has been a passion project for her firm. “They were the first to close, and they will likely be the last to open.”

Reinhold had already been doing work for Global Citizen when on April 7 she received a call from Brian Mencher, general counsel for the international anti-poverty organization, asking if she would help with a new project. The group was planning One World: Together at Home, a global TV broadcast/online concert to raise money for front-line health care workers and the World Health Organization. With 10 days to go before the event, Global Citizen asked Reinhold to take the lead on securing all of the artist agreements.

“I was honored to have them call me to be a part of it,” says Reinhold, who is president of her own firm — the Law Office of Berkeley Reinhold in Beverly Hills, Calif. — specializing in music, concerts and entertainment. “I had seven days to clear and negotiate all of the rights from 72 artists.”

She worked 18 hours a day, spurred on by the collaboration with all working for a great cause — artists, talent and business managers, lawyers, publicists and more. Besides the six-hour digital program, Reinhold had to negotiate rights for the two-hour TV network presentation, an international radio feed, a highlights program and video-on-demand. In all, she had 130 licenses to clear.

“The adrenaline rush kept you going,” says Reinhold. One World: Together at Home ultimately set two milestones in the book of Guinness World Records — one for the most musical acts to perform at a remote festival and one for the most money raised for a charity by a remote music festival: $127.9 million. (Reinhold reprised her work for the Global Goal: United for Our Future concert from Global Citizen on June 27.)

Two weeks after the Global Citizen concert aired in April, Cohen was helping launch the COVID-19 Music Legal Aid initiative to provide free and expedited legal services to the music community affected by the pandemic.

Cohen, a partner at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, used his role as the chairman of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York to create a legal network of professionals, in collaboration with California Lawyers for the Arts and Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville, to assist musicians with any urgent legal issues due to the pandemic.

By April 30, Cohen had created a database of volunteer attorneys in New York, Nashville and California and launched the legal aid program for musicians. He saw to it that a team of attorneys could provide free legal services to assist in navigating the myriad legal issues from contract disputes due to cancellations, nonpayment and unemployment assistance, as well as how to apply for federal and state assistance funds for small businesses.

“We really are now the port of first call for people looking for help,” he says. “The most satisfying thing about doing pro bono work is that people who think they won’t have access to good lawyers and can’t afford them get access to good lawyers. They tend to be extraordinarily wonderful clients to work with.”

The pandemic demanded the full attention of the nation and the music industry — until the death of George Floyd.

Sweeney’s fierce reaction as a Black man in America was shared by many. In four decades as a music attorney, his clients have included James Brown and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis; in 2018, he negotiated the settlement of Lil Wayne’s lawsuit with Cash Money Records.

As protests shook cities and small towns alike, Sweeney called on major labels to move beyond donations to the Black Lives Matter movement. “I initiated talks with the chairman of each of the music companies to hold them accountable for the meaningful and sustainable changes required to end the systemic racism that exists in our industry,” he says.

Along with Clarence Avant, Quincy Jones and Irving Azoff, Sweeney is a member of the advisory board of Black Music Action Coalition, an organization of over 30 preeminent industry figures seeking to advance racial justice. Attorneys Binta Brown and Damien Granderson are, respectively, an executive committee member and a founding member of the coalition. The group, says Sweeney, is “a beautiful group of wonderful young and energetic individuals who are on a mission to effect change in our industry. And they are going to make it happen.”

Based in the Black music capital of Atlanta, Brooks and Phillips represent a significant number of hip-hop artists, including YoungBoy Never Broke Again, who had two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 within a seven-month period this year and an unprecedented three No. 2 albums on that chart in the same time frame. “As artists literally pump out music, we on the legal side have to keep up with a huge number of agreements” for producers, guest artists, writers and more, says Phillips. Among Brooks’ numerous clients are Kevin Gates, Lil Baby and international producers for whom she has negotiated collaborations with artists like Timbaland, DaBaby, Chris Brown and Jason Derulo.

Business as usual, even during the pandemic, stopped May 25.

Brooks watched the video of the killing of George Floyd with her cousin and younger brother. “My cousin walked away because she couldn’t bear to see another Black man being murdered by the police,” she recalls. “I cried because death by cop could easily be my brother, my father or even me. We, as a people, have got to do better. Since then, here in Atlanta, we have suffered another tragic killing of a Black man [Rayshard Brooks] by the police. All I could think was, ‘Enough is enough!’ ”

The pandemic and the racial unrest occurring at the same time “is a perfect storm,” says Phillips. “The pandemic marked a major moment of reflection and change. This collided with what I call the ‘police brutality pandemic.’ The systemic racism that exists in the police forces are a microcosm of the systemic racism that exists in the United States and around the world, from the government to the corporate offices to the courtrooms and beyond.

“The moment of reflection, of frustration and the realization of the blatant systemic racism collided for many Americans,” he continues. “Coupled with the abundant available time to protest, this moment is now. We are living through history.”


Jeffrey Harleston
General counsel/evp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Adam Barker
Director of business affairs, Universal Music
U.K. University of Leicester School of Law and Inns of Court School of Law

Saheli Datta
Head of global compliance/svp employment counsel, Universal Music Group
Columbia Law School
Steve Gawley
EVP business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Harvard Law School

Nicola Levy
Global head of business affairs, digital, Universal Music Group
University of Cambridge

Alasdair McMullan
SVP business and legal affairs/global head of litigation, Universal Music Group
Columbia Law School
Michael Seltzer
SVP business and legal affairs/head of commercial transactions team, Universal Music Group
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Magda Vives
SVP legal and business affairs, Universal Music Group
Fordham University School of Law

In late March, Universal Music Group’s parent company, Vivendi, finalized the agreement under which a consortium of investors, led by Chinese online giant Tencent, bought 10% of UMG for $3.3 billion. The deal was “certainly the most significant thing that I did in the last year,” says Harleston, who leads UMG’s global legal team. “We’re very excited to have Tencent as a shareholder and partner, particularly as our business is expanding in Asia and what they can bring with their expertise in the Chinese market and some of the related territories. It’s a big deal for us, and we’re excited about what it means for the future.” As March gave way to late May and the nation rose up against systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and others, Harleston was ready to lead UMG on another front: He and Motown Records president/Capitol Music Group executive vp Ethiopia Habtemariam became cochairs of UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change, formed by UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge. UMG, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group each have launched multimillion-dollar initiatives to fight racism and support social justice, with pledges to curb bias endured by black artists, executives and staffers. At UMG, says Harleston, “the focus is on long-term sustained change. That’s what we want to bring about. Internally, we’ve been focusing on dialogue: with our employees [and] our artists, supporting our artists and everything they’re doing. That’s a lot of what we’ve done both in the name of COVID-19 and now in the name of social justice. We know that in the community of music, we need to be a leader and really step up.”

Paul Robinson
EVP/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Fordham University School of Law

Trent Tappe
SVP/deputy general counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group
Columbia Law School
Maryrose Maness
SVP/deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Seton Hall University School of Law
Brad Cohen
SVP/head of litigation, Warner Music Group
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

While Warner Music Group began trading on Nasdaq on June 3 following its initial public offering, “the whole IPO journey really kicked off last October,” says Robinson, 62, with the filing of a confidential version of the company’s Form S-1 registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “Getting from there to the first public version of the S-1 filed with the SEC on Feb. 6 was a massive amount of work — a true collaboration among a small group in corporate finance, corporate legal and corporate communications,” he says. Tappe, 53, a securities attorney by training, played a pivotal role. As the coronavirus upended work practices, Robinson says that WMG developed safety practices for eventually returning to its offices and resuming in-person music and video production, with Maness acting as point person for that planning. Meanwhile, during the past year, Cohen, 40, has led WMG’s litigation, including Warner Chappell’s now-settled suit against Spotify in India and the multicompany copyright infringement cases against Cox Communications and other internet service providers.

Julie Swidler
EVP business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of
Stu Bondell
EVP business and legal affairs, international, Sony Music Entertainment
The George Washington University Law School

Wade Leak
EVP/general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer, Sony Music Entertainment
Columbia Law School
Susan Meisel
SVP/corporate deputy general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Georgetown University Law Center
Jeff Walker
EVP/head of business and legal affairs, global digital business, Sony Music Entertainment
Harvard Law School

Swidler has modernized Sony’s artist contracts to promote transparency and has managed the evolution of its royalty reporting systems to pay artists faster. As a member of the Recording Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, she has been an advocate for women throughout the music industry. Bondell has finalized over 20 key contract renewals with artists and management companies in Latin music markets, continental Europe, the United Kingdom and Asia. Leak was promoted to executive vp in the past year and led Sony’s part in the music-piracy litigation against Cox Communications that brought a $1 billion jury verdict against the internet service provider in December. In the past year, Meisel and her team have overseen Sony’s investments worldwide in multiple sectors including the company’s move into podcasting. With streaming continuing to drive global music business growth, Walker leads the team that negotiates hundreds of deals with digital service providers every year, helping to boost the presence of Sony Music artists around the globe.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “If a company won’t be transparent about how they’re going to pay you, don’t go with that company.” - Swidler

Horacio Gutierrez
Head of global affairs/chief legal officer, Spotify
Harvard Law School, University of Miami Law
Kevan Choset
Associate general counsel/head of litigation and legal risk, Spotify
Harvard Law School
Sofia Sheppard
Associate general counsel/global head of licensing and business development, Spotify
University of Washington School of Law, Uppsala University Faculty of Law

In late March, Spotify closed a global licensing deal with Warner Music Group. “I was amazed at how the teams at both Spotify and Warner worked tirelessly just as everyone was dealing with adjusting to new ways of working,” says Gutierrez. In the year before the pandemic, he and his legal team helped Spotify achieve new milestones, including launching the streaming service in India. That expansion “also resulted in a couple of large lawsuits that we were able to resolve with constructive go-forward deals, thanks to a combination of smart lawyering and collaboration with our partners,” he says. “We want Spotify to be ubiquitous, and we entered a number of new business development partnerships over the last year so that our users can listen to their favorite music or podcasts on their favorite gaming consoles, in the car or virtually anywhere else they choose to listen. Spotify is now available on over 300 devices across 80 hardware brands.”

Antonious Porch
General counsel, SoundCloud
Columbia Law School

Porch represented SoundCloud in discussions that led to a $75 million investment from SiriusXM. He also oversaw SoundCloud’s acquisition of rights management/ distribution company Repost Network, bringing new digital tools to the platform’s community of 25 million creators. During the pandemic, he joined his colleagues and Pharrell Williams’ creative collective I Am OTHER to put together a charity album that will benefit Sweet Relief in the United States and Help Musicians in the United Kingdom.

What He Misses Most: “An in-person meeting where you can read the room, body language, vibe and connection.”

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Global Citizen
Williams (pictured) and his creative collective I Am OTHER put together a charity album with SoundCloud, a project organized by Porch and his colleagues.

Tres Williams
EVP business affairs, iHeartMedia
Brooklyn Law School

As iHeartMedia’s events shift online, “the focus on distribution through social media networks has presented new and unique [performing rights] licensing issues that we’ve been working creatively to navigate,” says Williams, 43. He also sits on the executive committee of the Radio Music License Committee, where he was lead negotiator for its recent rate case settlement with BMI (see below). Williams helps negotiate all podcast deals for iHeartMedia, which is the No. 1 commercial podcast publisher, according to Podtrac (second only to noncommercial NPR).

Robert Windom
Chief counsel, content and services, Apple
University of Southern California Gould School of Law
Elizabeth Miles
Director, iTunes and Apple Music legal, Apple
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Windom, 43, and his team worked with groups across Apple to create a $50 million advance royalty fund to help independent labels weather the COVID-19 crisis. The initiative provided a one-time advance payment on future royalties for labels and distributors that earn over $10,000 in quarterly revenue from Apple Music and have a direct distribution deal with the streaming service. Earlier, Apple Music struck renewed deals with labels and worked with music publishers to bring time-synced lyrics to the service. Those quickly became “one of the product features loved best by customers and songwriters alike,” says Windom.

What He Misses Most: “My great co-workers and friends. FaceTime can’t always replace face time.” - Windom

Stephen Worth
Head of legal, Amazon Music
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Cyrus Afshar
Senior corporate counsel, Amazon Music
Northwestern University School of Law

Nicolas Gauss
Senior corporate counsel, Amazon Music
Humboldt University of Berlin, Faculty of Law

In early March, Amazon Music joined with other streaming companies — Facebook, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL and YouTube — to support the COVID-19 Relief Fund created by MusiCares and the Recording Academy. Before the end of the month, total industry donations had reached $4 million. The company’s legal team also supported numerous livestreaming charity events like Twitch’s Stream Aid 2020, benefiting the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization; OurIdentity: Project Blue Marble, which raised money for United Way Worldwide; and Amazon Music Spain’s #AmazonEnCasaFest, which benefited the Spanish Red Cross. The year before the pandemic brought an “incredible expansion for Amazon Music,” says Worth, with the launch of Amazon Music HD and the streaming platform’s free, ad-supported service.

Taking Action in the Moment: “I’ve enjoyed providing pro bono representation to songwriters, artists and authors through Amazon’s work with Washington Lawyers for the Arts.” - Worth

Michael Rowles
EVP/general counsel, Live Nation Entertainment
University of Illinois College of Law

During the past year, Rowles, 54, has helped Live Nation — the world’s largest concert promoter, which now operates in over 40 countries — with “navigating new governmental frameworks and mitigating key risks,” he says. When looking ahead beyond the pandemic, Rowles must ensure the live-entertainment giant can legally and safely reopen music venues when permitted by government agencies. “We know that there is a ton of pent-up demand among fans and artists are eager to get back out on the road, so it’s our job as a company to inspire that trust — without compromising any of the incomparable magic of the live concert experience,” he says.

Shawn Trell
EVP/COO/general counsel, AEG Presents
Georgetown University Law Center

When the pandemic shut down the live music industry, Trell’s focus shifted to maintaining income for as many AEG employees as possible while the company brought in zero revenue. The concert promotion giant did not lay off a single employee for over three months before cuts were made. “I am proud of how our company responded to the dramatic, nearly immediate loss of business when it pertained to our employee base,” says Trell. “When we ultimately had to make some changes starting July 1, I believe those changes were implemented fairly, respectfully and meaningfully."

Danielle Aguirre
EVP/general counsel, National Music Publishers' Association
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

The NMPA has pursued the interests of its members during “the new normal,” says Aguirre, who leads the association’s legal strategy. She points to the settlement earlier in the year of litigation between independent music publishers and fitness company Peloton over music licensing. Then, in early March, she says, “we appeared in the U.S. Court of Appeals [for the Washington, D.C., circuit] to argue against the efforts by the digital services to appeal a rate increase for songwriters and music publishers.” And she has led NMPA’s involvement in the launch of the new Mechanical Licensing Collective that officially begins work on Jan. 1, 2021.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Understanding copyright — and why it is important in ensuring you are paid for your creativity — will make you an active participant in your career and success.”

Peter Brodsky
General counsel, evp business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Brooklyn Law School
Nicole Giacco
SVP business and legal affairs, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Brooklyn Law School

Brodsky, as a board member of the Mechanical Licensing Collective, is helping prepare for the launch of the MLC in 2021. “My No. 1 priority is to continue working with industry stakeholders to ensure fair pay for our songwriters,” he says. Giacco negotiated Sony/ATV’s contracts in the U.S. Latin market, including a worldwide administration deal with Maluma and a publishing agreement with Nicky Jam. As the coronavirus brought a surge in livestreams, says Brodsky, Sony/ATV was prepared to support all digital platforms. “We have to be flexible,” he says of the pandemic’s impact on legal work for music publishers. “The world has profoundly changed, and in many cases, the old way of doing things will not work.”

David Kokakis
Chief counsel, business affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group/digital rights management, Universal Music Group
Seton Hall University School of Law
Michael Petersen
SVP business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

Before the pandemic hit, UMPG’s legal team helped strike new administration deals covering the catalogs of HBO, MGM, Telepictures, Viacom and Vice Media. They also negotiated and finalized extensions of existing administration agreements with Jack White and Steven Van Zandt, while signing new administration deals with 10K Projects and Will Jennings. Even while its offices were closed, “we had many songwriters and other rights holders that were depending on us to finalize paperwork so that they could get paid,” says Peterson, 58. “We were very successful at accomplishing this.”

How Songwriters Work Now: "If our writers can no longer gather in a single place to create a new song together, can they still continue to create new music? From what I am seeing, the answer is a resounding yes.” - Petersen

Scott McDowell
EVP/head of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Chicago-Kent College of Law

McDowell praises the work of Warner Chappell’s outside counsel Peter Anderson and Helene Freeman (see below) in affirming in March that Led Zeppelin’s classic “Stairway to Heaven” did not infringe the copyright of another work. “They are superstars and secured a great result for our writers and for the industry,” he says. In January, Warner Chappell entered a global administration deal with the Grateful Dead’s publishing company, Ice Nine, covering the band’s entire body of work of nearly 200 original songs, including the works of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Last year, McDowell struck a subpublishing deal with Round Hill Music for works including hits like “All of Me” and “What a Wonderful World” for selected international markets.

What He Misses Most: “The Stumptown coffee in the [office] commissary.”

Christos Badavas
SVP/general counsel, SESAC Holdings
William & Mary Law School

Badavas, 51, coordinated SESAC’s efforts to support passage of the CARES Act “and other legislation for songwriters and composers whose livelihoods have obviously been stripped away by the coronavirus pandemic,” he says. With music moving from live venues to streaming services, “we need to keep licensing [all of the] businesses that we can in order to make distributions to songwriters and composers and publishers,” he says.

Taking Action in the Moment: “I started investigating [how] companies systemically address [racial justice] issues. For years, we’ve all had the standard anti-discrimination policies, but it seems like we need to start looking at more proactive ways to address these concerns, particularly since we’re in the music industry that is based on Black culture.”

Clara Kim
EVP/general counsel, ASCAP
New York University School of Law

During the past year, Kim and her team closed several multiyear licensing deals with music users, including major broadcast and cable networks and streaming services, that “provide long-term stability for ASCAP members,” she says. She has been involved in the ongoing review by the U.S. Department of Justice of the consent decrees that govern how ASCAP and BMI operate, urging the DOJ to modernize those decrees. Along with other rights organizations and songwriter groups, says Kim, ASCAP lobbied for federal help from the CARES Act and updated unemployment benefit guidelines. “It was gratifying to be able to influence that process,” she says.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Read your contracts, and know your rights. That’s one thing that never changes, no matter how successful you become.”

Stuart Rosen
SVP/general counsel, BMI
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

In January, BMI announced it had settled a dispute with the Radio Music License Committee over the radio royalties that the RMLC paid to the performing rights organization. Rosen, 61, oversaw the litigation for the past two years. The new agreement, which has received final approval by a federal judge, “recognized and compensated BMI [repertoire] for its dominant market share,” he says. As the COVID-19 shutdown began, Rosen’s focus shifted to addressing “every need of our songwriters, composers and music publishers, and to address the concerns of our licensees, despite the legal and operational obstacles created by the pandemic. I am incredibly proud of the legal team’s work in meeting this challenge.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Take a basic business class or read a book on contracts, transactions or copyright. Force yourself.”

Colin Rushing
Chief legal officer, SoundExchange
University of Virginia School of Law

Amid the coronavirus shutdown, says Rushing, “our [digital royalty] distributions went out the door as scheduled” while he and his team prepared for a Copyright Royalty Board trial that began in July to set master recording rates for Pandora, iHeartMedia and other programmed-music webcasters for 2021 to 2025. He has been working with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is adopting regulations for the new Mechanical Licensing Collective. And Rushing briefed Senate Judiciary Committee staff on the need for a performance right for musicians whose work is played on terrestrial radio. “All platforms should pay for the music they use,” he says, “at fair market rates.”

Kenneth J. Abdo
Partner, Fox Rothschild
Mitchell Hamline School 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

Fox Rothschild’s attorneys specialize in working with legacy artists and their estates, taking inventory of their music-related intellectual property assets (recordings, publishing and name/likeness rights) and then “assessing ways to improve revenue from these sources,” says Abdo, 63. That includes estate planning to protect the artist’s legacy “to enhance future cultural and financial value,” he says. For songwriter-pianist Jim Brickman, Abdo negotiated the sale of his catalog to Primary Wave. “But he’s young enough [58] that they simultaneously offered him a going-forward publishing and going-forward recording agreement,” says Abdo.

Taking Action in the Moment: “[Lawyers] will do something, within their practice and outside of their practice, to confirm their vocation as advocates for justice. They should do that. They need to do that.” - Abdo

Jenny Afia
Head of entertainment and legal, Schillings International
The University of Law (London)

During the pandemic, “the media’s need to paint high-profile figures as heroes or villains — with nothing in between — has gotten even more out of control,” says the London-based Afia, 41. “My work entails protecting privacy and defending reputations, so we’ve been particularly busy.” Her firm has responded to attempts by the British press to “intrude into people’s personal finances” to argue that “wealthy individuals shouldn’t be using government schemes to cover employment costs.” She also has seen an increase in harassment by paparazzi while the media is “so starved of photos of celebrities,” she says.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Have a clear plan for your privacy. The more information you put into the public domain, the harder it is to argue that the press should respect your boundaries.”

Lisa Alter
Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
New York University School of Law
Katie Baron
Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
Fordham University School of Law
Jacqueline Charlesworth
Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron
Yale Law School

Alter Kendrick & Baron represented Reservoir Media in its acquisition of the Shapiro Bernstein publishing catalog for a price that sources put at $50 million-plus, while also representing Primary Wave in its acquisition of a majority stake in Ray Charles’ pre-1964 publishing catalog. “The depth of our transactional work continues to expand as the boom in the buying and selling of music assets has continued at — or even beyond — the pace of pre-pandemic activities,” says Alter. The firm also represented Mojo Music & Media in its acquisition of Horipro Entertainment Group, in addition to representing clients such as George Clinton, Steve Miller, Ray Davies and the estates of McCoy Tyner, Ira Gershwin, Billy Strayhorn, Isaac Hayes, Jule Styne, Noel Coward and Leonard Bernstein. Charlesworth, through her position on the board of Songwriters of North America, has helped the group deal with the pandemic’s economic fallout by explaining the CARES Act to the organization and others in the music community and also helped SONA establish its Songwriter Assistance Fund that provides $1,000 grants to songwriters.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Document in writing your arrangements with collaborators, music publishers, administrators, managers and record labels, and retain fully executed copies of those agreements in your files.” - Alter

Tony Evans/Getty Images
Alter Kendrick & Baron represented Primary Wave in its purchase of a majority stake of the pre-1964 publishing catalog of Charles (pictured).

Peter Anderson
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

A litigator for artists such as Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani and Led Zeppelin (see co-counsel Helene Freeman, below), Anderson notes that “litigation continues [during the pandemic] but is incredibly difficult. I’ve had four remote depositions just over the last week. I’ve had three hearings by telephone [conference], so you don’t see the judge. Some judges have relaxed their schedules. Others insist that we march on, so we’re marching on. You just weather it.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Get solid professional representation. I see it all the time on both sides: Someone’s uncle or mother or somebody [else] is their manager, and [the artist ends up] in a couple of years of litigation because of bad advice or bad contracts.”

Craig Averill
Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill
New York Law School
J. Reid Hunter
Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill
Wake Forest University School of Law
Jeffrey Worob
Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill
Emory University School of Law

While the firm has been negotiating on behalf of artists with canceled tours, “we also represent several top booking agents and have been advising those individuals regarding their existing employment agreements, proposed salary reductions or employment terminations,” says Averill. He and his colleagues have also been involved in “the complicated due diligence and related negotiations and legal work” that comes with securing artists’ assets. In some cases, those deals will allow major artists to ride out the suspension of touring. “But,” says Averill, “they also reflect a refreshing longer-term optimism regarding the music business” on the part of investors.

Andrew Bart
Partner/co-chair of the content, media and entertainment practice, Jenner & Block
Columbia Law School

Bart is a valued litigator for the RIAA, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, among others. He’s representing an array of music and entertainment companies — including Disney, Warner Chappell, Amazon, Apple, Fox and NBCUniversal — in a claim alleging that the theme to ’90s cartoon X-Men: The Animated Series infringes upon the theme of a Hungarian TV show. During the pandemic, his firm has “devoted a lot of bandwidth to assisting music venues” in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, he says, guiding them with “licensing, employment and insurance issues.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Understand what you are giving up for the money or services you are receiving from managers, agents and recording and publishing companies.”

Richard Baskind
Partner/head of music, Simons Muirhead & Burton
University of Bristol Law School

Baskind and his colleagues advised Primary Talent — the booking agency that is home to over 900 acts including Daft Punk, Lana del Rey, The 1975 and The Cure — on the sale of its business to ICM Partners. The deal “didn’t close until the end of March,” says Baskind. “Everyone was aware of what was happening up to that point. I think what is really interesting is that both ICM and Primary together seem to be taking a much more positive and aggressive approach in terms of maintaining the business core than some of the other agencies who are laying off people left, right and center.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “I push super hard [to make] sure there is capable and driven management onboard with the artist. Without that, everything you are doing as a young artist will be impossible.”

Jeffrey Becker
Partner/chair, entertainment and media law practice, Swanson Martin & Bell
DePaul University College of Law

Becker, 40, helped client Curtis Roach turn his song “Bored in the House” into an anthem of the COVID-19 lockdown, including a collaboration on a remix with Tyga that was released through Columbia Records. TikTok users have uploaded over 4.9 million videos using the track. Becker also represents the estate of house music pioneer Frankie Knuckles and has been working to secure Knuckles’ creative legacy.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Think about the long game and make decisions that will benefit your career beyond tomorrow.”

Jill Berliner
Partner, Rimon Law
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Berliner is representing Soundgarden in its dispute with Chris Cornell’s widow, Vicky Cornell, over the singer’s final recordings. Arguing that they worked jointly on the tracks with the late lead singer and describing the songs as the “final Soundgarden album,” the band members say Cornell has no right to withhold the material. Meanwhile, Berliner continues to pursue copyright infringement claims on behalf of the estate of Kurt Cobain and others against Marc Jacobs International for the fashion designer’s use of the smiley-face logo that Nirvana used on its merchandise.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Make your art, work hard, and don’t worry about commercial success. Find your own voice.”

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures
Berliner is representing Soundgarden in a dispute with the widow of frontman Chris Cornell (pictured) over his final recordings.

Charles “Jeff” Biederman
Partner, Manatt Entertainment; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Vanderbilt University Law School
Jordan Bromley
Partner/leader, Manatt Entertainment's transactions and finance practice; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Brooklyn Law School
Gary Gilbert
Senior partner, Manatt Entertainment; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Robert Jacobs
Partner/leader, Manatt Entertainment's litigation practice; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles
L. Lee Phillips
Senior partner, Manatt Entertainment; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Monika Tashman
Partner, Manatt Entertainment; Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

As the coronavirus shutdown began, Manatt Phelps & Phillips examined the business activities of the firm’s numerous music industry clients, “predicted where there were threats and opportunities, and developed strategy around that,” says Bromley. For touring clients, the attorneys examined force majeure clauses (which limit liability in unforeseen circumstances), sought to cut expenses and explored ways to help the employees of clients survive financially. Predicting that the live music business “will be the last to fully come back online,” says Bromley, “our job is to provide clear-headed advice and strategy with that reality in mind.”

Taking Action in the Moment: In his work with the Music Artists Coalition, Bromley helped assure independent contractors could apply for unemployment insurance and federal relief loans. “And we are now working with a broad music coalition to help affect long-standing social justice reform in the wake of the recent murders and protests.”

Joshua Binder
Partner/co-founder, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder
University of San Francisco School of Law
Paul Rothenberg
Partner/co-founder, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder
Columbia Law School

At a time when touring has come to “a screeching halt,” says Binder, “the quality of an artist’s [nontouring] deals becomes even more pronounced. Clients with smart deals were protected, and those without were scrambling to find new sources of income.” In the year prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Binder shared in the success of his client Marshmello, from his groundbreaking virtual concert on Fortnite to his Las Vegas residency. “The cherry on top was launching our own brand of marshmallows, Stuffed Puffs, which have now become the No. 1-selling brand across 5,000 Walmart stores,” says Binder. “Yet today, he’s still unsigned and owns all of his masters and publishing.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Spend as much time as you can perfecting your craft and everything else will always follow.”

Jason Boyarski
Partner, Boyarski Fritz
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Executives at SiriusXM approached Boyarski, lead counsel for Prince’s estate, and Troy Carter, the estate’s entertainment adviser, as part of their efforts to create a small number of new, limited-time channels for iconic artists. “I was incredibly proud that Prince was considered for the honor, especially being the lone African American among other iconic artists chosen [for the first shows], including The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Eagles and Led Zeppelin. That is quite a group. This is a great example of how a silver lining was created from the pandemic and brought to fans.”

What He Misses Most: “Not being able to celebrate our talented clients. This year, Louis Bell won the ASCAP songwriter of the year [honor] for the second straight year — it would have been truly special to see him onstage accepting that award again.”

John Branca
Partner, 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
Senior partner, Ziffren Brittenham
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

On behalf of Michael Jackson’s estate, Branca directed pandemic relief donations to charities including Broadway Cares, MusiCares, Los Angeles’ World Central Kitchen and a Las Vegas food bank. “We have been heartened to see that the public acknowledged how Michael’s music could both rally them [amid] historical anguish in songs and videos like ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ and unify them with inspiring anthems like ‘Heal the World,’ ‘We Are the World’ and more,” says Branca, whose deal-making also has continued apace. He has represented Haim Saban Music Group in forging a distribution and marketing partnership with Universal Music Group, while he also concluded a record/TV deal for Barry Gibb and completed a deal for a Bee Gees documentary. As executor of Mac Miller’s estate, Byrnes oversaw the posthumous January release of Miller’s Circles album. He also renegotiated the deal between Interscope Records and Justin Lubliner’s Darkroom Records, home to Billie Eilish. He and Lande negotiated deals for Beyoncé with adidas, Sony/ATV and Netflix, the lattermost for Beyoncé’s documentary/concert film Homecoming. Plus, Lande oversaw the agreement for Shakira to perform at Super Bowl LIV in Miami with Jennifer Lopez.

Vernon Brown
CEO, V. Brown & Company
Pace University School of Law

Brown, the longtime attorney for Cash Money Records, reached out to clients and colleagues following the death of George Floyd. “During this period of unrest,” he says, “I have offered my services and participated in many video conference calls providing comments and insights. As an African American attorney who has been in this industry for a while, working closely with artists, executives and labels, I understand the long-standing grievances — the failures to listen and understand the voices you’re hearing now. I believe the music industry must do better to offer a real, true opportunity for African Americans, not just in senior roles but across the board in music and entertainment.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Like entrepreneurs, they must constantly think of ways to monetize and diversify their brand.”

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Spotify
From left: Brown, Cash Money co-CEO Bryan “Birdman” Williams, Republic Records CEO Monte Lipman, Cash Money co-CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams and Republic Records president Avery Lipman at the February premiere of mini-documentary New Cash Order in New York.

Richard Busch
Partner/chair, intellectual property and entertainment litigation, King & Ballow
Loyola Law School

After winning a multimillion-dollar verdict in 2015 for the Marvin Gaye estate against the creators of “Blurred Lines” and defending the verdict last year on appeal, Busch has become a copyright infringement maverick for music’s top stars and companies. This past year, he has represented Eight Mile Style (Eminem) in a case against Spotify, Megan Thee Stallion in an action against her record label 1501 Entertainment and ARTY in a suit against Marshmello and others related to their No. 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit “Happier.”

What He Misses Most: “Flying, believe it or not, and meeting with my clients face to face.”

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

Carlo represents Hans Zimmer and has kept the composer’s projects on track during the pandemic. “I have completed agreements for No Time To Die [James Bond], Top Gun: Maverick, Wonder Woman 2 and Hillbilly Elegy,” she says. She also negotiated composer Henry Jackman’s deal for the Russo brothers’ upcoming drama, Cherry. Carlo handles business and legal affairs for 14th Street Music, which provides songs for various projects by Apple, video games from Electronic Arts, TV shows including HBO’s His Dark Materials and documentaries like Where’s My Roy Cohn?

What She Misses Most: “Live performance, including orchestral recording for film and television. That intangible, intimate interplay among artists that produces a magical performance is lost.”

Rosemary Carroll
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Stanford Law School
Elliot Groffman
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Santa Clara University School of Law
Gillian Bar
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
George Washington University Law School
Robert Cohen
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
University of Michigan Law School
Renee Karalian
Partner, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Loyola Law School

“As a lawyer immersed in the live-music world,” says Groffman, 66, “the impact of the pandemic was swift and brutal — and we were thrown into the chaos it precipitated.” The immediate challenges of rescheduled shows, insurance claims and financially sustaining road crews gave way to positive action as clients joined Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home benefit. Before the touring shutdown, Cohen had negotiated the Happiness Begins outing for the Jonas Brothers. Karalian, 44, struck Playboi Carti’s co-publishing agreement with Sony/ATV and helped Emile Haynie sell his publishing catalog and producer royalties to Hipgnosis. Reflecting on how the killing of George Floyd shifted the nation’s attention from the pandemic to racial justice, Bar, 46, says that “as an attorney, it is my job to help my clients be heard. Now more than ever is a time for artists to use their voices to reach out. Systemic racism must end now.”

David Chidekel
Partner, Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae
Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

Working with clients in music, film, TV and technology, Chidekel offers guidance on their financing, marketing and distribution efforts. Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Chidekel created a new venture for SKUxchange to provide blockchain-supported offer-and-reward services for music distributors and retailers. He helped independent label HZRD Club work with Ingrooves on the upcoming release of label owner Ant Beale’s first video and single. His artist clients have included Cee Lo Green, Tool, Fall Out Boy, Kevin Rudolf, Panic! at the Disco and members of Train, Wu-Tang Clan and Filter.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “In this streaming environment, it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. In other words, get your music, videos and other content out to the public now through social media and other outlets and create some traction in the marketplace before worrying about whether your legal house is fully in order.”

Jay Cohen
Partner, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison; chair, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
University of Chicago Law School

(See lead story above.)

Jay Cooper
Founder, Los Angeles entertainment practice, Greenberg Traurig
DePaul University College of Law
Joel Katz
Founding chairman, global entertainment and media practice/founding shareholder of the Atlanta office, Greenberg Traurig
University of Tennessee College of Law
Jess Rosen
Shareholder/co-chair, Atlanta entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Bobby Rosenbloum
Chairman, global entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Harvard Law School
Paul Schindler
Shareholder/senior chair, New York entertainment and media practice, Greneberg Traurig
Brooklyn Law School

In one of the highest-profile deals of the past year, Katz negotiated the sale of Big Machine Label Group to Ithaca Holdings and The Carlyle Group. In January, Rosenbloum was named chairman of the firm’s global entertainment and media practice in recognition of his more than 26 years of advising businesses on their global digital media strategies, with some 250 clients. Schindler has handled licensing, publishing and record deals for clients including Jennifer Lopez, Alice Cooper, Maná and Gary Clark Jr., overseeing some $200 million in total transactions over the past year. Cooper negotiated the agreements that led to Sheryl Crow’s collaborative all-star album, Threads, and Yo-Yo Ma’s sequel to his 2011 bluegrass-inspired album, The Great Rodeo Sessions. Rosenbloum notes that the firm worked with clients including TikTok, Facebook, Spotify, and Equinox Media on deals “to help keep content flowing to people in their homes so that they can continue to enjoy their favorite music and interact with their favorite artists” during the pandemic. For Kenny Chesney, Rosen negotiated a stadium tour (now rescheduled for 2021) and a tour sponsorship deal with Marathon Oil, plus he renewed an agreement with SiriusXM for Chesney’s No Shoes Radio channel.

Rick Scuteri/Invision/AP
Rosen negotiated Chesney’s Chillaxification stadium tour, now postponed until 2021.

Derek Crownover
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
University of Tennessee College of Law
John T. Frankenheimer
Partner/chair, Music Industry Practice Group/chairman emeritus, Loeb & Loeb
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Debbie White
Partner/vice chair, Music Industry Practice Group, Loeb & Loeb
New York University School of Law

Loeb & Loeb represented Superfly Events, in partnership with Live Nation Entertainment, in a deal that gave Live Nation a controlling interest in the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. As traditional tours shut down, the firm helped clients through “an unprecedented maze of legal and business issues” related to concert postponements and cancellations, says Frankenheimer. Adds Crownover: “We worked tirelessly to help quite a few business managers and music-related businesses file for government assistance. It has been a very tiring few months in the music/legal world.” White, whom Billboard recognized as 2019’s Lawyer of the Year, says, “On a positive note, new artist deals on the recording side and publishing side have not slowed down, and we are having new talks with record labels and distributors, major and independent, almost every day.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Now more than ever, you need to get creative not just musically but in the promotion of yourself as an artist.” - White

Sarang (Sy) Damle
Partner, Latham & Watkins
University of Virginia School of Law
Andrew Gass
Partner, Latham & Watkins
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
Jonathan West
Partner, Latham & Watkins
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Joe Wetzel
Partner, Latham & Watkins
Fordham University School of Law

Damle, who joined Latham in 2018 from his prior role as general counsel of the U.S. Copyright Office, noticed that the pandemic was affecting the ability of streaming services to comply with aspects of the Copyright Act. He helped draft a provision of the CARES Act that allowed the Copyright Office to adopt emergency regulations suspending those requirements. “Latham attorneys in multiple domestic and international offices advised our pro bono client Global Citizen on licensing and broadcasting issues for the One World: Together at Home concert,” says Wetzel.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Be aware of all of the new opportunities to monetize your music and market yourself. New digital platforms are emerging every day.” - Wetzel

Doug Davis
Founder/owner, The Davis Firm
Fordham University School of Law
Jodie Shihadeh
Partner, The Davis Firm
Fordham University School of Law

Davis negotiated a new deal for DJ Snake with Interscope Records in the wake of his three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Let Me Love You” featuring Justin Bieber. “He’s a massive artist,” says Davis, who also advised LL Cool J on his return to Def Jam. Davis guided executives in negotiations for new roles including Ryan Press as president of U.S. A&R at Warner Chappell Music, Jeanette Perez as chief experience officer at Kobalt and Jorge Mejia as president/CEO of Latin America at Sony/ATV.

Taking Action in the Moment: Shihadeh reports that she’s working on an initiative “to examine the history of recording agreements and racism in the industry — to identify changes we can make to better protect an artist’s income from use of its catalog.”

Lawrence Engel
Partner/head of music group, Lee & Thompson
London Metropolitan University

While leading a music group that represents numerous successful artists, Engel’s own clients include Harry Styles, Little Mix, Craig David, Liam Payne, Jessie J, Louis Tomlinson and artist-producer MNEK. “Nothing is more satisfying than seeing clients who started their careers with us progress to the next level and the next and the next,” says Engel. “It’s about being a part of the team and giving your all.”

How He's Working Now: “I’ve been speaking to my clients as often as possible and have found that my relationships with them have strengthened on a business and personal level. We’ve all needed support during these crazy times.”

Tim Epstein
Partner/chair of litigation group, Duggan Bertsch
University of Illinois College of Law

(See lead story above.)

Simon Esplen
Managing partner, Russells
Middlesex University London School of Law

Esplen and his colleagues are representing Prince’s estate in a plagiarism dispute over the song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” related to a judgment by an Italian court in 1995 that, as updated in 2016, barred distribution of the track in Italy. “The plaintiffs in Italy won the case and they are now trying to enforce that judgment worldwide. So we are acting for the Prince estate in our attempts to stop that judgment.” He’s also acting on behalf of a major label in a dispute over ownership of master recordings made for the internationally syndicated TV show Live From Abbey Road.

Taking Action in the Moment: Esplen’s London-based firm “closed down [on Blackout Tuesday] and we spent that day giving some very deep and serious consideration to the issues in hand. It was quite a profound day, to be honest with you. A lot of soul-searching took place in our firm.”

Ilene Farkas
Partner/co-head of music litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
Fordham University School of Law
James Sammataro
Co-chair, media and entertainment group, Pryor Cashman
Duke University School of Law
Donald Zakarin
Partner/co-head of litigation group, Pryor Cashman
New York University School of Law

Sammataro, 46, an in-demand litigator in Latin music, is representing Luis Fonsi and Universal Music Group in a copyright infringement claim related to the megahit “Despacito,” and he secured a dismissal of an infringement claim against Warner Music and Sony Latin involving the musical works of Tito El Bambino. He co-represents Chris Cornell’s estate and widow Vicky Cornell in a federal suit over the rights to the last audio recordings composed by Cornell, which members of Soundgarden claim are the band’s final album. Farkas and Zakarin are advising Ed Sheeran, Sony/ATV and Atlantic Records in the claim that Sheeran’s song “Thinking Out Loud” infringes on the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Pryor Cashman, led by Zakarin, represented the National Music Publishers’ Association and Nashville Songwriters Association International in their successful bid to have the Copyright Royalty Board boost mechanical royalty rates for the five-year period from 2018 to 2022. (Spotify and Amazon are still appealing the rate hikes.)

What He Misses Most: “Collegiality. Law is not meant to be a solo enterprise. I really miss strategizing and collaboration.” - Sammataro

Sidney Fohrman
Partner, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Pepperdine University School of Law

Fohrman and his colleagues advised Spotify as the streaming service presented the first Spotify Awards in Mexico City in March. “We supported Spotify on all aspects of this broadcast,” he says, “from music rights, licensing and artist engagement to development and joint venture agreements with its international distribution partners.” As the COVID-19 lockdown began, Fohrman says his firm created a task force to assist music clients filing applications for help under the CARES Act and assisted touring clients with the fallout of postponements and cancellations.

Russell Frackman
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Columbia Law School
Christine Lepera
Co-chair, Entertainment/IP Litigation Group; member of the governing board committee, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
New York Law School

Two decades after representing the RIAA in its successful effort to halt peer-topeer file sharing via Napster, Frackman, 74, continues his work to protect music copyrights. Over the past year, he pursued claims against Vimeo for unlicensed use of music on a user-generated content site. In January, Lepera won what she describes as a “seminal copyright infringement” judgment involving the fair use doctrine for clients Drake and Universal Music Group. In February, she won summary judgments in favor of client Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald in his ongoing defamation case against singer Kesha. (Other issues in the case will go to trial.) In March, Lepera notched another victory when a California federal judge overturned a $2.8 million jury verdict and ruled that Gottwald, Katy Perry and other creators of the hit “Dark Horse” did not infringe the copyright of a Christian rapper’s song.

Free Advice to a Young Artist: “You have to love the art more than the business to stay sane.” - Lepera

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Perry (right), represented by Lepera, had a $2.8 million jury verdict for copyright infringement involving her hit “Dark Horse” overturned in March.

Leslie Frank
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of California, Davis, School of Law
Marjorie Garcia
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of San Francisco 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
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Laurie Soriano
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
University of California, Davis, School of Law

Soriano struck the deal for Travis Scott’s in-game Fortnite performance that drew a reported 12.3 million concurrent players. Garcia was promoted to partner at KHPS in June, expanding the firm’s Latin music department and representing Juanes, J Balvin, Los Tigres del Norte and others. In addition to guiding major artist publishing catalog sales, King notes the firm represented all three scheduled headliners at this year’s Coachella festival. “That didn’t turn out as expected,” he notes.

Taking Action in the Moment: “The vast majority of our lawyers and paralegals went well beyond disconnecting on Blackout Tuesday by making personal financial commitments to noteworthy charities and pledging their legal skills to aid victims of racism.” - King

Helene Freeman
Partner, Phillips Nizer
New York University School of Law

Freeman and her co-counsel, Peter Anderson of Davis Wright Tremaine (see above), successfully defended Led Zeppelin against the claim brought by a trustee of the estate of deceased Spirit songwriter Randy Wolfe that “Stairway to Heaven” infringed on the copyright of the Spirit instrumental “Taurus.” In March, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s earlier decision of no copyright infringement. Significantly, the appeals court rejected the “inverse ratio rule,” which declared that the higher the degree of access to a work, the lower the bar for proving substantial similarity. “As a practical matter, the concept of ‘access’ is increasingly diluted in our digitally interconnected world,” the court stated.

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

Frid and Miller earlier this year began representing Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, founding members of Journey, in a suit over the rights to the band’s name. The action also seeks $10 million in damages in a claim of breach of fiduciary duty by former bandmates Steve Smith and Ross Valory. As a litigator, Miller has represented superstars including Rod Stewart, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Lionel Richie, Axl Rose, Donald Fagen and Don Felder. Recently, he has represented Paula Abdul and her company in a dispute over the continuing use of her likeness to promote a popular anti-aging skin care product after Abdul had terminated her contract with the product’s makers.

Matt Greenberg
Of counsel, Ritholz Levy Fields
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Chip Petree
Managing partner, Ritholz Levy Fields
Wake Forest University School of Law

Greenberg led his firm’s moves into Latin music during the past decade, representing artists (Anuel AA, Sech, Wisin & Yandel), producers and writers (Tainy, Ovy on the Drums, The Rude Boyz, Keityn) and companies (GLAD Empire, Gerencia 360, Big Ligas). Petree has established his practice among country artists including Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde. He’s also primary counsel to Spirit Music and has advised the company on several million dollars of acquisitions in the past 18 months, while assisting clients in over $20 million in catalog deals in the past 12 months.

What He Misses Most: “The halal food cart on 19th Street and Park Avenue South in Manhattan. Shoutout to Rafiq.”

Leah Godesky
Partner, O'Melveny & Myers
Columbia Law School
Dan Petrocelli
Partner/trial practice committee chair, O'Melveny & Myers
Southwestern Law School

Godesky has been working with colleagues to prepare Kesha’s defense in the suit brought against the singer by Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald for defamation and breach of contract. The past year included “a fight through the summary judgment stage” of the case, says Godesky. For Global Music Rights, Petrocelli has continued to press an antitrust suit against the Radio Music License Committee, which represents 10,000 radio stations “to enforce the rights of songwriters to fair compensation when their music is played on AM/FM radio. As the pandemic has crippled other income streams, songwriters are even more dependent on performance royalties,” he adds.

What She Misses Most: “Dinners out — one of the best parts of New York City.” - Godesky

Eric Greenspan
Managing partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
American University, Washington College of Law
Jeffrey Light
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Columbia Law School
Craig S. Marshall
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Loyola Law School
Francois Mobasser
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Wake Forest University School of Law
Aaron Rosenberg
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Harvard Law School

The artists, producers and managers who are among Myman Greenspan’s clients all have colleagues “seriously affected by the economic downturn,” says Light. “We’re incredibly proud of our work helping them figure out how to protect their employees, crew members and loyal staff who might not have been able to weather the storm.” In the past year, the firm represented Pulse Music Publishing in its new partnership with Concord and negotiated the deal for Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl LIV performance in February. With major touring artists including Dead & Company, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses and Bon Jovi among its clients, the firm is navigating the landscape caused by the shutdown of conventionally staged concerts.

Free Advice for a Young Artist “Find smart people who are as passionate as you are, listen to their advice, but follow your own artistic vision.” - Light

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
The attorneys of Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light negotiated Lopez’s Super Bowl performance in February.

Gary Greenstein
Member, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
George Washington University Law School

Greenstein, 55, has represented clients before the Copyright Royalty Board, advised tech companies including Google on music-related issues and has included among his clients digital music services like Pandora, Spotify and Tencent. As important, in this moment, he sits on the board of the charitable foundation of his firm and says, “We have launched a substantial matching program for employees making contributions to numerous social justice organizations to ensure that all citizens are respected, honored and free to live a life free of fear and institutionalized and government-sponsored violence.”

Allen Grubman
Senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Brooklyn Law School
Kenny Meiselas
Named partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Hofstra University School of Law
David Jacobs
Partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
New York Law School
Grace Kim
Partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

The firm represented the Robin Hood Foundation in connection with Rise Up New York! The Robin Hood Relief Benefit, an event on May 11 that raised $125 million for New Yorkers affected by COVID-19. It also represents Lady Gaga, who curated Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home virtual concert on April 18 that raised $127.9 million to support front-line health care workers and the World Health Organization. Those projects are consistent with the stature of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, founded in 1975 by Grubman, with clients including A-list executives, media companies and superstars like U2, Elton John and Madonna. Gaga and The Weeknd are among Meiselas’ clients, while Kim, 42, co-represents Lizzo, and Jacobs, 38, guided Lil Nas X during his rapid rise. In May, the firm reported that it is working with law enforcement agencies in response to a ransomware attack on its confidential client files.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Follow your dreams, and be true to your art.” - Meiselas

Pierre Hachar
Founding attorney, The Hachar Law Firm
St. Thomas University School of Law

Hachar, 40, has been focused on helping developing artists and companies to adapt during both the COVID-19 crisis and the protests over racial injustice. “I started to put out information on music law on social media to help artists who don’t have the ability to reach an attorney,” he says. Hachar also negotiated publishing deals for producer Sky Rompiendo (with Sony/ATV) and Bryant Myers (with Kobalt), as well as J Balvin’s deal between co-managers Fabio Acosta and Scooter Braun, which he calls “the true symbol of Latin music crossing over into the mainstream market.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Stay persistent and authentic.”

Casey Higgins
Senior policy adviser, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
Ed Pagano
Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Fordham University School of Law
Brian Pomper
Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Cornell Law School

(See lead story above.)

John Ingram
Head of music, Goodman Genow Schenkman Smelkinson & Christopher
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

When fashion designer/entrepreneur Virgil Abloh and fashion model/TV personality Anwar Hadid made their respective moves into the music business, they turned to Ingram for guidance. Deal-making has continued apace for Ingram during the coronavirus shutdown as he renegotiated Don Toliver’s recording agreement with Artist Partner Group, secured label deals for clients Contradash (with Interscope) and Junior Varsity (with Warner) and managed legal matters for canceled and rescheduled tour dates for all clients, including Jojo Siwa’s 2020 D.R.E.A.M. arena tour.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Don’t be in a rush to sign away your rights.”

Lawrence Iser
Managing partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
University of California, Hastings, College of Law
Howard Weitzman
Partner, Managing partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Weitzman, along with John Branca (see above), has represented the estate of Michael Jackson since the superstar’s death in 2009 in matters including the case against HBO that claimed the documentary Leaving Neverland breached a nondisparagement clause in a 1992 contract. Weitzman’s clients have also included Justin Bieber, Ivan Reitman and Chuck Lorre. Iser represents producer-songwriters Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen and Justin “Yves” Rothman in their action against Lizzo over credit and royalties for her Hot 100 No. 1 hit, “Truth Hurts.” In an action brought by Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Iser obtained a dismissal of breach of contract and copyright infringement claims against Reach Music Publishing related to the influential group’s publishing catalog.

Erin M. Jacobson
Attorney, Erin M. Jacobson
Southwestern Law School

With expertise in intellectual property rights and experience as a skilled negotiator, Jacobson in recent months has been involved in the sale of music catalogs that include hit songs recorded by Elvis Presley, Andy Williams, The Dave Clark Five and Quiet Riot. For one client, she protected ownership rights to a best-selling Christmas tune and several well-known Disney song classics. She has recaptured copyrights for hit songs recorded by Frank Sinatra, Prince, The Ronettes and Johnny Burnette, among others. She recently cut a deal for San Diego-based hip-hop artist Joey Trap with distribution and artist services company Pivtl Projects.

Rusty Jones
Attorney, Law Office of Russell A. Jones Jr.
University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

“We should all be very proud of the many ways that the members of the music business family have stepped up [during the pandemic] to raise money and moral support,” says Jones, whose clients are known to include Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith. His firm has been involved in several such projects. Amid the protests following the death of George Floyd, Jones brought a long view. “I graduated from high school in 1968 [and lived] through Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. It was the most tumultuous period of that century aside from the world wars. But we got through it, and we will get through this. We’ll find a way for everyone to have a voice.”

Jason Karlov
Partner/chair, entertainment, media and sports practice group, Barnes & Thornburg
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Karlov negotiated deals for Bob Dylan’s two world tours in 2019; struck a new administration agreement with Warner Chappell for the song catalog of the Grateful Dead, including the works of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter; and secured film and merchandising opportunities for John Fogerty. Once the pandemic hit, he shifted gears to help individuals, startups and smaller companies stay solvent through CARES Act loans and other programs. Looking ahead to the reopening of the touring business, he says, “The law needs to both protect consumers and allow for the resurgence. How that plays out is integral to our success.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Adopt the lifestyle of a musician and go all-in, otherwise you are competing against other artists that have made that level of commitment.”

Lauren Kilgore
Partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton
Vanderbilt Law School

As the outside counsel for Black River Entertainment, Kilgore spent much of 2019 preparing for the March release of Kelsea Ballerini’s kelsea album on Black River just as the pandemic began. Since then, she has helped artists and companies figure out new business models to weather the COVID-19 crisis. “In the live space, [we’ve worked] to address the sudden lack of revenue, negotiate the termination of performance contracts ... and find new ways for artists and labels to promote new content and reach new fans.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “You are better off paying a little money upfront to have a lawyer review your contract than paying a lot more money on the back end to litigate it.”

Christiane Kinney
Founder/president, Kinney Law
Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law

Kinney, who recently launched her own firm, has been an advocate for major-label and independent artists alike. “What can we do to help artist clients stand out and to offset the loss of touring money during this time?” says Kinney. “Thinking outside the box has been key.” She has addressed issues with California’s gig-worker legislation that passed in April after revisions to avoid harming working musicians. The rise of virtual concerts “requires a revised licensing infrastructure,” she says.

Taking Action in the Moment: Kinney is cofounder/CEO of the Hearts Giving Hope Foundation, which provides music and art programs for at-risk youth.

Mark Krais
Partner, Bray and Krais
The University of Law (London)

With a client list that includes record and publishing companies, tech entrepreneurs, festival owners and stars like Elton John, Mumford & Sons and Ed Sheeran, Krais has gained a reputation for his work with major live events. He represented the Band Aid Charitable Trust in negotiating contracts for Live 8, the series of benefit concerts staged in 2005 to coincide with that summer’s G8 conference in Scotland and to mark the 20th anniversary of the transatlantic Live Aid concerts. (He continues to represent the intellectual property rights of the trust pro bono.) Since 1996, he has represented The Rolling Stones, who in June announced that their legal team would work with BMI to stop President Donald Trump from playing their music at his rallies after he used “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20. BMI, in turn, notified the president’s campaign that the use of Stones songs is unauthorized and would “constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” according to a statement from the band.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
The Rolling Stones, represented by Krais, are taking legal action to block use of their songs at Trump campaign rallies.

Dina LaPolt
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
John F. Kennedy School of Law

(See lead story above.)

Bill Leibowitz
Founder/partner, The William R. Leibowitz Law Group
Columbia Law School

Representing Hipgnosis Songs during the past two years Leibowitz has been involved with “the acquisition of over $1 billion worth of music copyrights and various types of music royalty streams, he says. Since its inception in July 2018, Hipgnosis, led by former music manager Merck Mercuriadis, “has been the game-changing leader and most active purchaser of this class of assets,” says Leibowitz. In some cases, he says, a single transaction with Hipgnosis has resulted in “life-changing wealth” for songwriters, artists, producers or mixers.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Maintain ownership of [your] intellectual property whenever possible; do publishing administration deals and master license deals rather than making ownership grants.”

Simon Long
Partner, Trainer Shepherd Phillips Melin Haynes & Collins Long
City of London and College of Law

Minneapolis may be 4,000 miles from London “but what happened there resonates strongly with people all over the world,” says U.K.-based Long, reflecting on the death of George Floyd. “We need to call out our neighbors and colleagues who turn a blind eye to inequality.” Long’s clients include composer-producer Matthew Ferraro, whose latest work, La Forza Dell’ Amore, sets the prayers of Pope Saint John Paul II to music, with contributions from Buddy Guy, Natasha Atlas, Seu George, Aaron Neville and others. Multiple Zoom calls have kept the project on track for a fall release in this centennial year of John Paul’s birth, says Long.

What He Misses Most: “Coffee with clients — usually at My Place in Soho’s Berwick Street Market.”

Doug Mark
Partner, Mark Music & Media Law
University of San Francisco School of Law

The firms with investment capital that are bullish on the future of the music industry “need to deploy their money regardless of whether people are staying home or not,” says Mark, 61, “so the catalog-buying business has become even busier.” He has been advising clients on those sales. “From the artist-writer’s viewpoint, when we have fear of the future at times like this, a nice check provides some real comfort.” Mark has also been involved in endorsement agreements and renegotiating touring and merchandising deals.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Have a strong element of hustle to accompany your excellent music.”

Angela N. Martinez
Attorney at law, Law Offices of Angela N. Martinez
Florida State University College of Law

Martinez has emerged as an adviser to the new generation of stars rising on Billboard’s Latin Rhythm chart and is the highest-profile female attorney working in the genre. The months of the pandemic have been filled with legal work on livestream concerts by her clients. “That entails social media posts, clearances and exclusivity provisions,” she says.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Know what you know — and what you don’t know. Surround yourself with people who know how to help you fill in the blanks. Payment to a professional adviser is ultimately an investment in yourself.”

James McMillan
Managing partner, James E. McMillan
Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law

With a history of working with legacy clients such as New Edition and Floyd Mayweather and rising talents like Machine Gun Kelly, McMillan says that during the pandemic he has continued negotiating artist signings, label deals and entrepreneurial ventures. But, he adds, “I’m very often counseling clients about child support, real estate, bail bonds and other personal matters. The scope of my work with them extends to many aspects of their lives outside of their business interests.”

What He Misses Most: “The sense of community and energy that comes from in-person contact.”

Ed McPherson
Founding partner, McPherson LLP
University of San Diego Law School

“It is the case that makes me lose sleep at night,” says McPherson of his representation of plaintiffs in a class action against Universal Music Group over the loss of original master tapes in a 2008 studio backlot blaze. “And it is the case we have to win for all of the artists whose life work was stored in a warehouse on a studio lot and ultimately destroyed by a fire.” McPherson last year also filed an amicus brief in Led Zeppelin’s precedent-setting bid to dismiss claims of copyright infringement against the band’s classic “Stairway to Heaven.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Make sure you figure out who owns your band name and document it properly at the earliest possible time.”

Michael Milom
Partner, Milom Horsnell Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan
Vanderbilt Law School

Milom reviewed, pro bono, many agreements for his clients to appear in charitable virtual concerts during the pandemic, including Global Citizen’s One World: Together at Home concert to support the World Health Organization. With a client roster said to include Luke Bryan, Alabama, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr. and Kelsea Ballerini, Milom says much of his legal work has carried on during these uncertain times. “The surprise was that, in spite of the cancellation of all tours, the negotiation of other common agreements — recording, nonconcert sponsorships, social media, recording producer agreements — continued at customary levels,” he says.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Build a team of experienced business and creative advisers you trust and whose advice you are willing to follow. But never forget that you are ultimately responsible for your career.”

Zia F. Modabber
Managing partner, California/media and entertainment practice group chair, Katten
Loyola Law School

Modabber, 58, watches out for Trent Reznor’s legal interests “in the limitless ways his talent gets expressed, everything from agreements for him to create musical scores to protection of his Nine Inch Nails trademarks.” Just before the pandemic closed courtrooms, Modabber argued on behalf of the Michael Jackson estate in the appeal of a $9.4 million jury verdict in a claim for unpaid royalties brought by producer Quincy Jones “and then [received] word that the appeals court agreed with us.”

What He Misses Most: “Entertainment of all sorts — and Tito’s Tacos.”

Martin Ochs
Partner/head of music, Hamlins
University of Leicester

Ochs, 37, has a core expertise in live-music and public-performance royalties. Advising collective management organizations that administer copyrights, like Britain’s PPL and PRS for Music, during the pandemic “has been a challenge,” he says. Balancing the needs of creators with the needs of venues and other music users is the goal, he adds. “This is an equilibrium that is very fine and difficult to achieve.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Think of the law as there to help you, not restrict you. Try to understand the basics of copyright law and engage with how it can benefit you.”

Anthony Oncidi
Partner/head of the labor and employment law group in the Los Angeles office, Proskauer
University of Chicago Law School

Oncidi offered guidance to the RIAA about the impact of California Assembly Bill 5, which was intended to ensure fair treatment for gig-economy workers but would have reclassified independent contractors in the music business as employees, complicating their ability to work. A revised version of the bill passed in April. Oncidi also represents the Recording Academy in its dispute with former president/CEO Deborah Dugan, both in Dugan’s complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ongoing arbitration proceedings of the academy’s counterclaims against her. “There has been no real progress made with those filings,” he says, “because all of those were [made] right before the world shut down.”

What He Misses Most: “A haircut administered by competent personnel.”

Matt Oppenheim
Managing partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
Cornell Law School
Scott Zebrak
Founding partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
American University, Washington College of Law

Oppenheim, Zebrak and their colleagues were trial counsel to the major music groups and their publishing companies in obtaining a $1 billion jury verdict against internet service provider Cox Communications for “massive copyright infringement on its network by its subscribers,” says Oppenheim, 53. “We were gratified that the verdict vindicated artists, songwriters and music companies.” The firm is also involved in similar claims pending against two other ISPs, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks.

Taking Action in the Moment: “The tragedy of George Floyd and the systemic racism it reflects has affected us all. As a boutique firm, we work and collaborate more closely than most. The current national unrest has given our firm an opportunity to discuss these issues on the firmwide video calls we have been having every morning since the pandemic began.” - Oppenheim

Donald Passman
Partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
Harvard Law School

Passman — who declines to discuss specific clients but has been said to represent Taylor Swift, Adele and Stevie Wonder, among others — says tour cancellations have fueled legal work during the pandemic and “deal-making is robust” with record labels and publishing companies. He also recently published the 10th edition of his must-read guide, All You Need To Know About the Music Business. In the streaming age, he says, “the industry has changed more profoundly than at any time in its history.”

Adrian Perry
Partner, Covington & Burling
Georgetown University Law Center
Jonathan Sperling
Partner, Covington & Burling
Harvard Law School

In the past year, Sperling, Perry and their firm advised the major labels and music publishers in copyright infringement litigation against internet service providers Charter Communications and Bright House Networks. “We’re seeking statutory damages for infringement of more than 11,000 works,” says Sperling, 48. During the pandemic, Perry, 39, says they’ve helped clients navigate live-performance cancellations, restructuring tour sponsorships “and helping keep the arrangements intact.”

Taking Action in the Moment: “Our firm has a long-standing commitment to seeking justice through [extensive pro bono] legal work, and many of those matters focus on fighting injustice and inequality in our communities.” - Perry

Vincent P. Phillips
Founding partner, Arrington & Phillips
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School
Aurielle Brooks
Attorney, Arrington & Phillips
Atlanta's John Marshall Law School

(See lead story above.)

Michael Poster
Partner/head of corporate and securities group, Michelman & Robinson
New York University School of Law

Michelman & Robinson’s work advising and representing the buyers and sellers of music assets has barely paused during the coronavirus shutdown — Poster, 48, cites the eight-figure sale of a film-music library to a European-based music assets fund. “The value of music copyrights as an asset class has not been adversely affected by the pandemic overall,” he says, and deals keep getting made, “especially in light of low interest rates.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Retain ownership of as much of your copyrights as possible.”

Rollin Ransom
Partner/co-leader, global commercial litigation and disputes practice, Sidley Austin
University of Michigan Law School

Ransom has represented Warner Music Group in a claim brought by Tower of Power singer Lenny Williams challenging the calculation of royalties attributable to foreign streaming. In February, a California federal district court judge denied class action certification in the suit, “a victory for Warner Music that [was appealed and] is now under review at the Ninth Circuit,” says Ransom. He has also been representing Universal Music Group in a putative class action involving Section 203 of the Copyright Act, under which artists can seek to reclaim ownership of their master recordings. Both cases are ongoing.

Taking Action in the Moment: “I’ve been talking with other music industry lawyers about working with some of the fantastic legal services [such as California Lawyers for the Arts] to assist musicians and other artists affected by the pandemic.”

Keith Bernstein/Redferns
Ransom has represented Warner Music Group in a claim brought by Tower of Power singer Williams (pictured) over royalties attributable to foreign streaming.

Berkeley Reinhold
President, business and law firm of Berkeley Reinhold
Whittier Law School

(See lead story above.)

Angela Rogers
Attorney/owner, Rogers Law Group
University of Baltimore School of Law

Rogers late last year negotiated a contract with Interscope Records for R&B singer Ann Marie in what she calls “one of the largest licensing deals for an R&B artist in decades.” (Terms of the deal were not disclosed.) During the pandemic, she says, “the rate with which I am having to clear records for artists and producers has substantially increased because more people seem to be consuming more music.”

Taking Action in the Moment: “I try to be a resource for those seeking more information regarding police accountability and community empowerment. As a Black woman, remedying social injustice has been a lifelong passion.”

Leron Rogers
Partner/vice chair, entertainment, media and sports practice group, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith
Florida State University College of Law
John Rose
Associate, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith
Emory University School of Law

Rogers and Rose helped Rick Ross prevail last year in a dispute with 50 Cent over Ross’ remix of “In Da Club.” A federal court judge ruled in February that 50 Cent could not make a right of publicity claim over the use of his voice in the remix because he had relinquished his copyright to the song. Rogers, who has negotiated deals in the past year for Ross, Kanye West and A&R executive Abou “Bu” Thiam, is also president of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association. Rose has brought actions against French Montana and Lil Uzi Vert and, with his partners, obtained dismissal of a $1 million breach of contract claim against K. Michelle in November.

Brian Schall
Head of the entertainment department, Wolk Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin
Southwestern Law School
Heidy Vaquerano
Senior counsel, Wolk Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin
Southwestern Law School

Schall, 54, and Vaquerano negotiated the sale of the song catalog of blink-182 founder and former member Tom DeLonge to Hipgnosis. Vaquerano also helped strike an agreement between the U.S. Army and DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science, which conducts research into UFOs. Schall reports securing an eightfigure capital investment for independent festival promoter Danny Wimmer Presents from Ron Burkle’s The Yucaipa Companies.

Free Advice for a Young Artist:FREE ADVICE FOR A YOUNG ARTIST (SCHALL) “Engage with your fans on a daily basis on all your social media platforms. Your fans are your lifeblood. Embrace them, cherish them and respect them.” - Schall

Rose H. 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

Schwartz, 64, advised New York’s Metropolitan Opera on its April 25 free stream of the four-hour At Home Gala, which incorporated some 40 artists singing live from their homes across the globe. Those performances “were so emotional and raw that I found myself in tears on multiple occasions, as did viewers around the world,” she says. Weinrib helped clients obtain releases and waivers “to perform in support of critically important causes and issues” for organizations including the Robin Hood Foundation, he says.

What She Misses Most: “The power of a hug or a handshake. Zoom is a lifesaver in many ways but can never replace eye contact.” - Schwartz

Michael Selverne
Managing partner, Selverne & Company
New York Law School

Among other clients, Selverne represents Round Hill Music and Kobalt Music. (He previously represented SONGS Music Publishing.) Through their deals and those for other clients, he has worked on transactions totaling over $250 million in the last 18 months, he says. During the pandemic, his firm is working with and donating to Manna FoodBank and Homeward Bound, both in Asheville, N.C., to obtain housing and food for those in need. He is also working closely with the Asheville Symphony in developing new models for recording and presenting symphonic music during the lockdown.

Taking Action in the Moment: “I continue to stand by and act with my friends, colleagues and clients in the African American community to end racist practices in America. We need to do better. This is a moral imperative for America to move forward.”

Edward Shapiro
Partner, sports/music and entertainment subsector leader, Reed Smith
Brooklyn Law School
Gregor Pryor
Partner/co-chair, entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
City University of London Nottingham Law School
Stephen Sessa
Partner/co-chair, entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
Whittier Law School

With one of the largest teams of dedicated entertainment and media lawyers of any international law firm, Reed Smith has a roster of clients that includes artists, producers, songwriters, promoters, executives and entrepreneurs as well as many content streaming services, video games companies, social media platforms and broadcasters. The surge in live-performance streaming deals has taken priority during the lockdown, says Shapiro. Of equal importance was helping clients navigate the Paycheck Protection Program and, he says, “the daily federal, state and local rule changes regarding what activities were deemed acceptable under the ever-changing conditions.”

What He Misses Most: “Visiting El Capitan” in Yosemite National Park. - Shapiro

Daniel Shulman
Partner, Eisner LLP
University of California Hastings College of the Law
Owen Sloane
Partner, Eisner LLP
Yale Law School
Andrew Tavel
Partner, Eisner LLP
Harvard Law School

Shulman, 41, negotiated a catalog sale earlier this year on behalf of songwriter-producer Mark Batson to Kobalt Music Group for an undisclosed amount, renegotiated producer Boi-1da’s deal with Sony/ATV Music and struck a new deal for Highbridge the Label (home of A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie) with Atlantic Records. Sloane reports that his 2019 run of multimillion-dollar publishing catalog sales has continued this year despite the pandemic. Tavel, 64, renegotiated G-Eazy’s Sony/ATV publishing agreement and RCA Records deal. To further expand G-Eazy’s brand, he “negotiated deals in the worlds of sneakers, grooming products and cannabis, some of which were only product endorsements. [In others, G-Eazy] acquired an equity stake in the company.”

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Collaborate with the most talented people you can find.” - Sloane

Simran Singh
Managing partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
University of Miami School of Law

In the past year, Singh, 41, negotiated Ozuna’s new multimillion-dollar contract with Sony Music Entertainment that is reported to be one of the largest global deals for a Latin artist in recent memory. “It sets Ozuna up to be a global priority,” says Singh, who also struck multiple deals for Daddy Yankee and the renewal of a Kobalt Music publishing agreement for Karol G, along with negotiating a Netflix series for Selena Quintanilla.

What He Misses Most: “Live concerts, dining out, my office and my gym.”

Larry Stein
Partner/head of media and entertainment, Russ August & Kabat
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Drake, Post Malone and Simon Cowell are among those who have engaged Stein for legal guidance. He is the attorney for Todd Moscowitz in litigation that began late last year against 300 Entertainment, related to Moscowitz’s ownership of stock in the label he co-founded with Lyor Cohen. Stein still represents the co-creators of the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap in their ongoing disputes with Vivendi and Studio Canal but achieved a settlement with Universal Music Group over copyright termination and accounting issues surrounding the film’s sound recordings and soundtrack.

Taking Action in the Moment: Amid the national unrest over racial equality, Stein expresses a straightforward goal: “to be as kind to others as possible.”

Rachel Stilwell
Founder/owner, Stilwell Law
Loyola Law School

Stilwell has been representing the Future of Music Coalition and the musicFIRST Coalition (which counts the Recording Academy, SoundExchange, the American Association of Independent Music [A2IM] and the RIAA as members) in arguments before the Federal Communications Commission to counter efforts of the National Association of Broadcasters to further deregulate chain ownership of local AM/FM radio stations. If the deregulation occurs, the industry “knows it would be the homogenization of music” broadcasting, Stilwell said during an A2IM Indie Week presentation in June.

Ron Sweeney
Founder, Sweeney Johnson & Sweeney; founder, Ron Sweeney & Company
University of Southern California Gould School of Law

(See lead story above.)

Adam Van Straten
Principal, Van Straten Solicitors
The University of Law, Guildford, England

Van Straten works with artists from around the world but took particular pride in the past year advising Sekou Andrews, who was nominated for best spoken word album for Sekou Andrews & The String Theory, and Koffee, who won best reggae album for Rapture, both at the Grammy Awards in January. During the pandemic, he has been advising developers of a new online creative collaboration platform that is yet to be announced.

Free Advice for a Young Artist: “Find a lawyer early — and certainly before you sign anything — who genuinely believes in your music and understands your work and what you want to achieve.”

Alex Weingarten
Partner, Venable LLP
Georgetown University Law Center

Weingarten has been focused on assisting his artists with business interruption insurance claims. “Touring and live performances have come to a complete halt,” he says. Last year, Weingarten represented the adult children of Tom Petty in a dispute with Petty’s widow, Dana York Petty, helping to reach an agreement over management of the late rocker’s estate “that honors his memory and is true to his legacy.”

Taking Action in the Moment: As chair of the community engagement initiative for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Weingarten says the federation is “focused on working with our counterparts in the African American community to combat injustice and inequity.”

Douglas H. Wigdor
Founding partner, Wigdor Law
The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

With its focus on employment law and civil rights, Wigdor’s firm has been reaching out to those in need of legal guidance with free weekly YouTube presentations “about the rights of employees in the pandemic,” he says. During ongoing protests, his firm also gave advice on the rights of employees “if they speak out and their employer disagrees with them.” Wigdor’s most high-profile music client, Deborah Dugan, remains in arbitration with her former employer, the Recording Academy, over her wrongful-termination claims. He is also representing Dugan in her case against the academy brought before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

What He Misses Most: “Group athletic classes. It means a lot even saying ‘Hi’ to someone as you roll up your yoga mat.”

Helen Yu
Principal, Yu Leseberg
Whittier Law School

The clients who turn to Yu and her colleagues include songwriters, producers and artists who have appeared on high-profile releases in the past year, including Kanye West’s Jesus Is King, J. Cole’s Revenge of the Dreamers III and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer.” Her firm has been working with client Ty Dolla $ign on the release of his much-anticipated next album for Atlantic Records.

How Her Clients Are Working Now: “I’m in awe of the creative community’s support of one another through such challenging times. Their resilience is truly inspiring.”

Adam Zia
Owner, The Zia Firm
Fordham University School of Law

Zia has helped his clients make the most productive and creative use of their time during self-isolation. Interscope Records A&R vp Caroline Diaz organized a talent show for unsigned artists on Instagram Live. Tierra Whack participated in an Instagram forum on COVID-19’s impact on the creative process. French Montana took on Tory Lanez in a Verzuz battle for over 300,000 fans, he says.

Taking Action in the Moment: “I have had lengthy discussions with our Black clients and executive colleagues sharing our stories and experiences, offering our legal help and friendship, and brainstorming for measures that we as a music community can take to push the social justice conversation forward.”

Leslie Zigel
Chair, entertainment, media and technology, Greenspoon Marder
University of Miami School of Law

Pitbull’s recognizable “Eeeeyooo” yell is now trademarked thanks to Zigel and his team, who secured the hard-to-obtain sensory trademark. Zigel also negotiated Pitbull’s deals with Boost Mobile and his joint venture with Horizon Media for multicultural ad agency 305. Bonus: The bass-playing lawyer got to record on Carlos Vives’ new album, Cumbiana.

How He's Working Now: “Law firms and accounting firms are all cutting salaries. It’s challenging for everyone.”

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Pitbull has had his signature “Eeeeyooo” yell trademarked by Zigel.

Methodology: Billboard's power list features are selective. Nominations for each list open not less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For a contact for our editorial calendar listing publication dates, please email thom.duffy@billboard.com.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives and/or honorees of companies previously featured on any Billboard power list, as well as those who send a request to thom.duffy@billboard.com. Nominations close and lists are locked not less than 90 days before publication. Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers for 2020 were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In-house counsel were limited to the companies shown. Otherwise, Top Music Lawyers focused on outside counsel. In addition to nominations, editors consider the attorneys’ representation of clients with notable music industry impact. That impact is measured by metrics including, but not limited to, chart, sales and streaming performance as measured by Nielsen Music/MRC Data and social media impressions using data available as of May 20.

Contributors: Rich Appel, Alexei Barrionuevo, Dean Budnick, Anna Chan, Ed Christman, Tatiana Cirisano, Leila Cobo, Thom Duffy, Griselda Flores, Adrienne Gaffney, Gary Graff, Paul Grein, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Katy Kroll, Carl Lamarre, Geoff Mayfield, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Paula Parisi, Glenn Peoples, Claudia Rosenbaum, Dan Rys, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams



Leading Law Schools Of The Top Music Lawyers

Columbia Law School

The most frequently cited alma maters of the 2020 class of honorees.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University (New York)
Enrollment: 925

Brooklyn Law School (Brooklyn)
Enrollment: 968

Columbia Law School, Columbia University (Manhattan)
Enrollment: 1,244

Fordham University School of Law (New York)
Enrollment: 1,093

Harvard Law School, Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
Enrollment: 1,740

Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 857

New York University School of Law (New York)
Enrollment: 1,379

Southwestern Law School (Los Angeles) 
Enrollment: 611

University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 975

University of Southern California Gould School of Law (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 590

Enrollment source: U.S. News & World Report

This article originally appeared in the July 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.