Revealed: Billboard's 2018 Top Music Lawyers Led By Universal's Jeffrey Harleston

Jeffrey Harleston
Scott Witter

“I really cherish my relationships with artists,” says Harleston, photographed in his Santa Monica office.

Through licensing, lobbying and litigating, these 93 attorneys’ moves drive the music industry, led by the top counsel at the largest global music company, who declares: “We’re in a new world.”

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

When Jeffrey Harleston joined MCA Records as associate director of business and legal affairs, fresh from serving as a prosecutor involved in the Iran-Contra investigation of the mid-1980s, he imagined a short-term stint in the music business.

“I thought this would be a nice departure for a year or two. Then I’d probably end up back in [Washington] D.C.,” he says with a chuckle as he sits in his spacious corner office at Universal Music Group’s headquarters in Santa Monica.

In June, Harleston, who consulted Donald Passman’s essential All You Need to Know About the Music Business as a guide to negotiating his first record deal, celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company. For UMG worldwide, he now serves as general counsel/executive vp business and legal affairs, helping to lead the world’s biggest record company (with a total U.S. market share of over 39 percent, according to Nielsen Music) into the digital age. Last December, UMG became the first major music group to globally license its music and publishing catalogs to Facebook, Instagram and Oculus, and during the past year, it has secured new two-year digital deals with Apple, Spotify and YouTube.

The deals are beginning to bear fruit. “There are some tools that Facebook has been developing to accentuate the use of music on their service,” says Harleston. “They’re a little behind where we thought it would be, but we’re very optimistic about [its growth potential] and how we can use it not only as a marketing tool but also as a real revenue marketplace for us.”

UMG’s deal with Spotify, on the other hand, is already providing substantial data, invaluable to the marketing team, on the performance of individual songs. “We’ve benefited greatly from watching how different tracks react and different records develop,” says Harleston. “We’re in a new world.”

Seven years ago, Harleston’s days were spent talking primarily to artist representatives, managers and lawyers. Now, he estimates, half of his day is devoted to UMG’s digital partners. Work starts at 5:40 a.m. Since adding UMG’s worldwide operations to his purview three years ago, Harleston’s first move each morning, “even before I get in the shower,” he says, is to check email that has come in from Europe and Asia, and handle any immediate concerns among the 150 lawyers he oversees. The married father of four drops off his youngest child at school before arriving at the office by 7:45 a.m. “My favorite time is from 7:45 to 9 a.m. because it’s generally my time. I can listen to music, set up my day ... Then, at 9, it’s like the starting gun goes off.”

Each day includes multiple conversations with his boss, UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge. “He has made me better because -- I like to say -- he sees around corners,” says Harleston. “He’s very focused on the future, and he has taught me to be more forward-thinking in my approach to my strategy.”

As the recorded-music industry continues its revival following a long downturn, the Boston native revels in the healthy state of the business. “There’s still a constant stream of artists that are anxious to be signed by us and labels here that are anxious to sign them. There are incredible artist-development stories coming from the major labels every day,” he says, citing newcomers like Interscope’s Juice WRLD and Billie Eilish as well as Island’s Jessie Reyez and Capitol’s Fletcher.

His mission remains the same -- to support UMG’s goal of finding compelling artists -- but with a twist. “We’ve had to keep the core, but to develop competency in a lot of new, different types of business models and opportunities,” says Harleston. “That has been a challenge, but one that I think we’ve risen to.”

Harleston, who was honored by the T.J. Martell Foundation on Oct. 15, remains as hands-on with both living and legacy artists as he can. (He personally handles the James Brown catalog.) His goal is to reach a win-win solution when conflicts arise. “I grew up in this business not being at war with artists. That’s not who I am. That’s not in my DNA. I really cherish my relationships with artists and with some of the entrepreneurs,” he says. “I know it sounds like a ‘Kumbaya’ moment, but as an industry, I would hope that the next generation is less about us versus them, and more of us all together.”

As one of the highest-ranking black executives in the music industry, Harleston is saddened by what he perceives as backward movement in diversity at the top levels. “When I started in ’93,” he says, “I walked into a company that had senior executives that were African-American that had titles like ‘president.’ Ernie Singleton was president of black music at MCA. Louil Silas was president of Silas Records. Andre Harrell was president of Uptown Records. And to see that go away has been very disconcerting and troubling.”

Harleston cites the Rooney Rule -- the NFL’s policy that requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior positions -- as something that could be adopted in the music industry. “At maybe vp and above positions in your final-three interview pool, you have to have at least one African-American candidate and one female candidate, because the situation with women is another area of great underrepresentation,” he says. “There are absolutely qualified people for these positions, so whenever anybody says, ‘I can’t find anybody,’ just ask me. I can get you names very quickly.”


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

Robinson, along with WMG CFO Eric Levin, led a team of over 50 executives companywide to pay out $126 million in royalties from the funds that WMG received from the sale of its Spotify shares after the streaming service went public in April. “We sold all of our shares between April 2 and June 30, and we wanted to be in a position to account to artists on essentially $500 million of equity proceeds on the June 30 royalty statements,” he says. He also emphasizes “the amount of people in our company involved in this -- and doing it accurately -- in such a short period of time. It was a team effort.”

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

Swidler is involved in every deal struck at Sony Music, but her broader stature as an industry leader was highlighted when she was named to The Recording Academy’s 16-member task force on diversity and female inclusion. “It’s about all of us looking at our organizations,” she says. “Gender parity, diversity -- everything you can imagine, we have been looking at it.” Yet the role she’s most proud of takes place on a more personal level. “Whenever anybody says, ‘Julie Swidler was my mentor,’ ” she says, “to me, that means more than anything.”

Senior vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group; Duke University School of Law
Executive vp business and legal affairs, ­Universal Music Group; Harvard Law School
Global head of business affairs, digital; ­Universal Music Group; College of Law ­(London)
Senior vp/head of litigation, Universal Music Group; Columbia Law School
Senior vp business and legal affairs/head of commercial transactions, Universal Music Group; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Gawley (right) joined Rihanna at a book signing for Rihanna: The Last Girl on Earth in New York in 2010.

Levy played a key role in closing UMG’s global, multiyear licensing deal with Facebook last December and, in the same month, struck a renewal of the company’s agreement with YouTube. “There’s excitement about the industry growing again, but we can’t afford to be complacent,” she says. Seltzer, who has centralized UMG’s transactional deal team into a 20-lawyer force, says that people underestimate “how heavily lawyers rely on relationships.” His 25-year friendship with Bob Marley’s family recently resulted in a deal for UMG’s PolyGram Entertainment with 20th Century Fox Films for an animated feature set in Jamaica. When Kanye West, as a producer, released five albums in five weeks this summer on his Def Jam imprint, G.O.O.D. Music, Gawley led an 11th-hour task force to legally clear every sample. “We set up a war room in my office for five Thursday nights and worked through to the morning,” he recalls. McMullan was involved in Lil Wayne’s settlement with Cash Money that cleared the way for the rapper’s long-awaited album Tha Carter V. “We make a concerted effort to be in the music business, not the litigation business,” he says. Baltimore oversaw UMG’s international deal with Chinese producer-singer-actor Kris Wu that has already yielded the Billboard Hot 100 hit “Like That,” which peaked at No. 73 in June. “It was a whole different way of negotiating -- another culture, rhythm, messaging system,” she says, “and it uniquely highlighted the global direction our business is going.”

Executive vp business and legal affairs, ­international; Sony Music Entertainment; George Washington University Law School
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief ­compliance, ethics and privacy officer; Sony Music Entertainment; Columbia Law School
Senior vp/corporate deputy counsel, global business and legal affairs; Sony Music ­Entertainment; Georgetown University Law Center
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, global digital business; Sony Music Entertainment; Harvard Law School

Meisel counseled senior Sony management on the company’s sale of roughly half of its 5.7 percent stake in Spotify, generating some $768 million, after the streaming service went public in April. Bondell oversaw the worldwide distribution of those proceeds. “The computations that had to happen on a global basis for so many artists and labels were really a Herculean task,” he says. As Sony sought to create or renew contracts with all of its digital partners, the company went through “the most complicated, difficult, intense deal cycle we’ve ever had,” says Walker, who also leads takedown efforts to protect Sony content -- and encourages copyright violators to come “to the negotiating table.” Leak, who with attorney Howard Weitzman helped Sony beat a class action suit over allegedly fake vocals on Michael Jackson’s posthumous Michael album, had an extra-legal role of note: He organized Sony staff and artists to wear more than 100 white roses at the 2018 Grammy Awards to support the #MeToo movement.

General counsel, Warner Music International; Nottingham Law School
Senior vp/chief employment and corporate infrastructure counsel, Warner Music Group; Seton Hall University School of Law
Senior vp/chief corporate governance and securities counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group; Columbia Law School

Logan, who is responsible for all of WMG’s legal and business affairs outside the United States, guided the company’s final disinvestment of a portion of Parlophone Music’s assets, a move required under the terms of WMG’s 2013 acquisition of the famed British label. “We ended up selling assets to 46 different buyers, and it was individual catalogs the artist had to approve,” recalls Logan. “It was a real challenge.” Maness assured that WMG is in compliance with new European data-privacy rules, avoiding as much as $23.5 million in European Union fines. “It’s not just employee data,” she says. “It’s our artists, songwriters [and] consumers.” While WMG in its most recent fiscal statements reported its debt load at $2.8 billion, Tappe has struck four deals to lower the interest rate on those funds, which has saved the company “millions of dollars,” he says.

Partner/head of the corporate and securities department, Michelman & Robinson; New York University School of Law

Poster represented Pinnacle Financial Partners in its joint venture with the digital platform Artist Growth. The partnership, announced in June, will make available more than $200 million in financing for touring artists under streamlined terms. Poster also represented the record label Varèse Sarabande when it was sold to Concord Music in February in a deal valued at over $20 million. “I have an unusual practice at the intersection of the music and corporate worlds,” says Poster, whose clients also include City National Bank and Downtown Music Publishing. “There are not a lot of people who do what I do.”

Executive vp/general counsel and secretary, Live Nation Entertainment; University of Illinois College of Law

When the European Union’s general data-protection regulation took effect in May -- making it easier for consumers to control consent for the use of their personal information -- Rowles oversaw Live Nation’s notification to 120 million fans covered by the new rules. The global promoter turned the compliance emails into a marketing strategy, branding them with the slogan, “Privacy. It’s personal.” Says Rowles: “Being a big multinational company, we had a tremendous hill to climb in order to become compliant.” But by May, he says, “the company was very well positioned with respect to the new regulations.”

General counsel/COO, AEG Presents; ­Georgetown University Law Center

AEG Presents reopened Cleveland’s historic Agora Theatre in July after committing $3 million in renovations to the century-old venue. The Agora “had fallen into significant disrepair,” says Trell. “It is now state of the art [and] stunningly beautiful.” The acquisition was one of about a dozen deals that Trell has negotiated in the last year for AEG, which has added some 50 clubs, theaters and other venues to its portfolio during the past five years -- including a 2017 partnership with The Bowery Presents that includes New York’s Bowery Ballroom.

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

Courtesy of NMPA
From left: Aguirre, with Coy Bowles and Zac Brown of Zac Brown Band and the National Music Publishers’ Association’s David Israelite and Charlotte Sellmyer, backstage at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in 2015.

For the NMPA, Aguirre has been on the front lines of drafting and negotiating the Music Modernization Act, the landmark copyright legislation for the digital music age, which on Oct. 11 was signed into law. “We haven’t seen this momentum around a copyright bill in two decades,” says Aguirre. “Streaming is the future of listening and distribution, and songwriters need to be paid fairly for that.”

Partner, Alter Kendrick & Baron; New York ­University School of Law

Alter, who represented Carlin Music in its sale to Round Hill Music and Primary Wave in its purchase of 80 percent of the Bob Marley and Blue Mountain Music catalogs, says that those marquee publishing deals were among a dozen involving her firm in the past year, with an aggregate value that exceeds “half a billion dollars.” A former general counsel for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Alter says it’s “an exciting and fertile time in the music publishing business. It’s a very active market -- in some sense, a seller’s market. Because of that, a treasure trove of music assets continues to become available.”

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

In addition to his ongoing efforts to help Sony Corp. finalize its acquisition of 60 percent of EMI Music Publishing this fall (for an estimated $2.3 billion), Brodsky was part of the team that struck a deal in January for Facebook to license songs from songwriters signed to Sony/ATV, the world’s largest music publisher. “We’re back to being a growth business,” says Brodsky, who has also led Sony/ATV’s efforts to advance the Music Modernization Act and a double-digit increase in royalty rates from the Copyright Royalty Board. “I’ve been at this since the inception of digital,” he says, “and we’re finally headed in the right direction.”

Of counsel, Covington & Burling; Yale Law School

Charlesworth has spent the past several years working on copyright reform -- first as general counsel for the U.S. Copyright Office; then, since early 2017, at Covington & Burling. There, she has worked on behalf of the National Music Publishers’ Association, developing and negotiating the part of the Music Modernization Act that will update mechanical-rights licensing for the digital age. “Our system for mechanical licensing is literally an antique from the piano-roll era,” says Charlesworth, who also teaches music copyright at alma mater Yale Law School. “The MMA creates a fairer and more rational process so digital services can get the licenses they need and songwriters can get paid.”

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

Greenstein represented the in-store music service Mood Media in reaching a rate settlement, approved by the Copyright Royalty Board, in which the company agreed to pay music royalties at 12.5 percent of its revenue in 2018. The rate will escalate annually and reach 13.5 percent in 2022, “avoiding unnecessary expenses from litigation,” he says. Greenstein usually works behind the scenes smoothing out issues between music licensers and his clients, including platforms like Google/YouTube, Pandora, Spotify and Tencent. He has also been instrumental in bringing such new, nontraditional music players as Aaptiv, Caffeine Inc. and Flywheel Sports into the market.

Chief counsel, Universal Music Publishing Group; Seton Hall Law School

Kokakis led UMPG to become the first major publisher to sign a licensing agreement with Facebook, which dovetailed with the news last December that YouTube had reached an agreement to better compensate UMPG songwriters. “We’re on a better track than we have historically been, in part because there’s better communication and collaboration among the industry’s players and interested parties,” says Kokakis, who was promoted to the newly created role of chief counsel in July after nine years with the company.

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

At Warner/Chappell, which boasts a roster of hitmakers ranging from Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, McDowell is most proud of the 100-plus deal extensions he has reached with songwriters over the past year. “It’s rewarding to have conversations with our clients and see we have long-standing value that we can bring to the table,” he says. Warner/Chappell’s strength is evident in Billboard’s second Publishers Quarterly of 2018, where it ranked fourth among pop publishers and first among country publishers.

Principal, Selverne & Co.; New York Law School

Selverne represented SONGS Music Publishing in its sale to Kobalt Capital and Round Hill Music in its purchase of the Carlin Music catalog, transactions collectively valued at some $375 million. The guitar-strumming attorney, who splits his time between Asheville, N.C., and Manhattan, says his firm has completed “nearly $1 billion in cash transactions” over the past five years. After working at the artist-focused firm Selverne Mandelbaum & Mintz from 1995 to 2008, Selverne shifted his focus to transactions. “With talent, it’s labor-intensive to get to the same point. These days, we almost exclusively represent institutions.”

Partner/co-chairman of the entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith; Whittier Law School

“There are a lot of firms that do [mergers and acquisitions], but they don’t understand the music business,” says Sessa, who oversaw one of the biggest music deals in 2017, representing Concord Music’s purchase of Imagem Music Publishing in a transaction valued at $600 million. “We were in full combat mode and had 30 or 40 lawyers working in at least five countries,” says Sessa, who now has a client list that includes every major publisher. “It’s Reed Smith that gets called in, and I’m the quarterback. I make sure the corporate guys and tax guys are on their game.”

Partner, Fox Rothschild; Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Partner, Fox Rothschild; University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Partner, Fox Rothschild; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Sara De Boer
From left: UMG’s Baltimore, Mandelbaum, Kris Wu and Fox Rothschild associate Rachel Rosoff.

Abdo, based in his native Minnesota, works with legacy acts like Toto and Kool & The Gang, and helps veteran artists “deal with the digital realities, with their estates, with renegotiations with their recording companies” and with actions to reclaim their copyrights. For Mandelbaum, the renewed strength of the music business, driven by streaming, has allowed him to return to his passion for finding deals for promising artists like U.K.-based singer-songwriter Arlissa at Def Jam Recordings. “It’s being able to use my contacts and relationships,” he says. Tashman has helped stars diversify: “One of my proud moments is helping [Blondie co-founder] Chris Stein build his photography career,” she says.

Partner, Carroll Guido & Groffman; George Washington University School of Law
Founding partner, Carroll Guido & Groffman; Stanford Law School
Founding partner, Carroll Guido & Groffman; Santa Clara University School of Law

Michael Kovac/WireImage
Groffman (left) received the Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award in Los Angeles in 2017, presented by longtime client Dave Matthews.

Carroll, whose longtime clients include Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and The Strokes, enjoys helping “brilliant artists strategize during this time of great change.” Beyond working on record deals and publishing and management agreements, her efforts extend to “books, audiobooks, art exhibitions, digital streaming platforms and social media companies, all of which is a lot more exciting and a lot more challenging.” This past year, Groffman worked with the founders of the Primavera Sound music festival, which takes place in Spain and Portugal, as they took on new equity partners Paradigm Agency and Yucaipa Companies. “Plus,” he says, “I got to go to Barcelona twice.” Bar is focused on “everyday shaping, advising, strategizing and just being there” for clients. Her recent moves include renegotiating one of Jack Antonoff’s deals with Sony/ATV Music Publishing and extending The National’s publishing pact with BMG.

Partner, Rimon Law; University of Southern California Gould School of Law

“How we monetize streaming so artists get some of the benefit is the constant thorn in every negotiation,” says Berliner, a transactional music lawyer whose clients include Foo Fighters. “I get to work with amazing talent, and my relationships with them go beyond legal at this point.” Berliner notes that most record contracts are still structured around the concept of “delivery” of an album of 10-12 tracks, but “in the current music industry, people are not that interested in albums anymore, and they may not even make any sense” in the streaming age. “There needs to be a new design for how a record contract ‘delivery’ is fulfilled.”

Partner, entertainment and media; Manatt Phelps & Phillips; Vanderbilt Law School
Partner, entertainment and media; Manatt Phelps & Phillips; Brooklyn Law School
Partner, entertainment and media; Manatt Phelps & Phillips; University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Senior partner, entertainment and media; Manatt Phelps & Phillips; Cornell Law School

Senior partner Phillips counts Burt Bacharach, Paul Anka, Randy Jackson, Neil Young and Tracy Chapman among his clients, and recently paved the way for Steve Perry’s return to music via a Concord Music deal for his new album, Traces. Last November, Biederman and firm partner Michael Rexford closed Kobalt Capital’s purchase of SONGS Music Publishing, reportedly for $150 million. “Probably after the Carlin Music sale [to Round Hill Music], it was the biggest sale in publishing of the entire year,” says Biederman. Mining the boom in catalog music sales is “one of our big niches,” says Gilbert. “We did the Smokey Robinson [catalog] deal with Primary Wave, which was [for] $20 million.” Bromley “took a cue from what we did for the Eagles [in 2007 with] the direct-to-Walmart deal,” crafting a worldwide distribution network for clients Major Lazer and Diplo that focuses on streaming services. “You can expect anywhere from $30 to $50 out of every $100 coming to the artist’s pocket with this new model,” he says.

Partner, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder; University of San Francisco School of Law
Partner, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder; Columbia Law School

When Binder and Rothenberg joined colleague Jeremy Mohr to launch their law firm in 2018, Binder brought along clients Top Dawg Entertainment (and its Pulitzer Prize-winning star, Kendrick Lamar), Marshmello, Daddy Yankee, Cam and others. “We wanted a firm owned by experienced but young people who are up to speed with the pace of this industry,” says Binder, citing opportunities in recording and publishing, and also in endorsements, marketing and touring. Among Rothenberg’s clients are Charlie Puth (whom he has represented for over seven years) and Logic, for whom he negotiated a new deal with Live Nation and recut his label deal with Def Jam “to give him credit for mixtapes. And he launched his own record label, Elysium.”

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

As the lead entertainment attorney for the Prince estate, Boyarski put together the deals that opened the late icon’s vault for the first time, including the previously unreleased Piano & a Microphone album from 1983 on Warner Bros. Records and an album of material that will be available on Tidal in 2019. He also brokered a June deal with Sony to make 23 catalog albums, spanning from 1995 to 2010, available on streaming services. A former publishing executive, Boyarski reps a string of writers who helped craft some of the biggest songs of the past two years, from Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” to Camila Cabello’s “Havana” to Post Malone’s “rockstar,” among others. “I have a philosophy that songwriters and producers are at the core of the DNA of the music business,” he says. “When you focus on creative, you get a more amazing product.”

Partner, Ziffren Brittenham; University of ­California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham; University of ­California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Partner, Ziffren Brittenham; University of ­Pennsylvania Law School

Overseeing the Michael Jackson estate with co-executor John McClain, Branca guided the sale of the estate’s nearly 10 percent share in EMI Music Publishing, bringing in $287.5 million on what sources say was a $50,000 initial investment. That comes on the heels of the estate’s sale of its 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing for $750 million in 2016. Branca’s roster of other clients reads like a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebration: Aerosmith, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Carlos Santana and the Bee Gees, to name a few. Some of the key negotiations for Byrne in the past year were talks to void Lil Pump’s original contract with Warner Bros. Records (on grounds he was underage when it was signed), allowing the “Gucci Gang” rapper to re-up with the label in a reported $8 million deal. Lande fielded Beyoncé’s side of deals for her On the Run II Tour with Jay-Z while also leading tour negotiations for Justin Timberlake and Shakira -- outings that have collectively grossed over $365 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Founder/owner, V. Brown & Co.; Pace ­University School of Law

Brown’s signature achievement of the past year is also one of the biggest music business stories of 2018: settling the $51 million lawsuit between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records, which Brown has represented for the past two decades, in a negotiation he called “pretty intense.” The agreement cleared the way for Wayne’s release of Tha Carter V as well as Cash Money’s expansion. The difficulty, says Brown, came in “getting all parties to realize that now was the time to do it. This was one of those things where everyone had something to compromise, but everybody walked away from this feeling it was fair.”

Senior vp business development, business and legal affairs; Bravado/Universal Music Group; New York Law School

In her first full year at UMG’s merchandising arm, Bravado, Calip Victor guided the company’s retail licensing and brand-management partnership with The Rolling Stones, worked closely with the estate of late rapper XXXTentacion on posthumous merch and brokered the signing of hip-hop star (and rising street-fashion icon) Playboi Carti. Says Calip Victor: “We’re not just selling T-shirts; we’re evolving into a brand-management company.”

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

On behalf of film composer Hans Zimmer and her other clients, Carlo has inked “hundreds of millions of dollars” in deals in the film, TV, video game and live performance spaces, she says, including last year’s Dunkirk and Netflix’s The Crown, as well as Disney’s forthcoming live-action version of The Lion King and Fox’s X-Men flick Dark Phoenix. “Ultimately, it comes down to how you monetize your music in the most optimum fashion,” she says. “There is so much change in the marketplace.”

Founder, Los Angeles entertainment practice; Greenberg Traurig; DePaul University College of Law
Founding chairman, global entertainment and media practice; founding member of the Atlanta office; Greenberg Traurig; University of Tennessee College of Law
Vice chairman, global entertainment and media practice; Greenberg Traurig; Harvard Law School
Senior chairman, New York entertainment and media practice; Greenberg Traurig; Brooklyn Law School

Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Katz (right) with George Strait in 2017.

After female senior executives in the music industry charged that The Recording Academy was “woefully out of touch” in how it dealt with gender issues, among other concerns, Katz aided efforts to establish the academy’s task force to address diversity and female inclusion in the music business -- and the academy’s subsequent search for a new president/CEO to succeed Neil Portnow. Rosenbloum and Katz also helped The Latin Record Academy secure a new, 10-year TV contract with Univision, reportedly valued at over $250 million. Schindler oversaw deals with a collective value of some $125 million-$150 million on behalf of veteran clients, including those selling their publishing or master recordings, reaping “capital-gains income instead of ordinary income,” he says. Cooper, whose clients include the estate of Rod Temperton, songwriter of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and other hits, says the continuing use of unauthorized samples remains “a universal problem for the industry. It has taken untold millions out of the pockets of the creators.”

Founder/owner; The Davis Firm; Fordham ­University School of Law

Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Lil Jon, JoJo and Davis in 2014 in California.

In addition to brokering agreements for clients Rani Hancock, who became president of Sire Records, and Ron Perry, who was named chairman/CEO of Sony Music, Davis made some notable additions to his roster this past year. Among them were Mike WiLL Made-It, DJ Snake and songwriter Savan Kotecha. But the opportunity to represent Barry Manilow, an artist Davis has known since childhood through his legendary father, Clive, had special resonance. “That has been incredibly rewarding,” he says.

Partner/chairman, music industry practice; Loeb & Loeb; University of California, Los ­Angeles, School of Law

Deputy chairman, music industry; Loeb & Loeb; New York University School of Law

During his four decades at Loeb & Loeb, as Frankenheimer moved into new areas, “whether that be theater, technology, music or corporate financing,” he says, “the firm has always supported those initiatives and helped me to marshal resources internally. It’s what has kept me here and made things incredibly interesting.” Financing was his focus in the past year, as he helped amass a total $100 million for the ventures of three clients (whom he declines to name). White most recently has represented K-pop sensation BTS. “Their agency, BigHit Entertainment, is the mastermind,” she says. “I’m honored to be able to guide them by balancing the best possible deal by traditional U.S. metrics against making sure BigHit get what they really need.”

Founder/partner/head of the music ­department, Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light; American University ­Washington College of Law
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox ­Rosenberg & Light; Harvard Law School

Greg Doherty/Getty Images
From left: TV producer Danny Rose, actress-singer Katharine McPhee and Rosenberg at the Zimmer Children’s Museum Discovery Award dinner in Los Angeles in 2016.

Greenspan created career-changing deals for the Grateful Dead near the start of its run. Now, over 40 years later, he’s guiding Dead & Company to record-breaking box-office numbers while repping clients Jewel, Christina Aguilera, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bon Jovi. “The nicest compliment [RHCP bassist] Flea ever gave me was, ‘Eric, you let us play music. We don’t have to worry about contracts or people stealing from us or bad deals. You know how we think.’ ” Rosenberg managed legal matters for Jennifer Lopez’s record run at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Ariana Grande’s No. 1 album Sweetener, RuPaul’s new Netflix deal and John Legend’s Emmy-winning role in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar. (He met Legend while in law school and pledged to work with him. ) “It was an important lesson early on in my career: in believing in talent, the importance of relationships and loyalty.”

Senior partner; Grubman Shire & Meiselas; Brooklyn Law School
Partner; Grubman Shire & Meiselas; New York Law School
Senior partner; Grubman Shire & Meiselas; Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University

“If you’re a pure music lawyer, you can’t make a living anymore,” says Grubman, whose firm has expanded beyond its superstar client roster (Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Bette Midler) to corporate clients (Spotify, Facebook) and found deals by developing new partnerships, such as Netflix’s presentation of Springsteen on Broadway in December. “Everything is merging, and the key is content,” says Grubman. “We often play the role of Switzerland, putting everyone together and negotiating their relationships.” Meiselas represents Gaga, who will follow her lead role in the new remake of A Star Is Born with a residency in Las Vegas, after he worked out the deals for both projects. And his clients include The Weeknd, who topped the Billboard 200 in April with My Dear Melancholy, and Bebe Rexha, whose Florida Georgia Line collaboration, “Meant to Be,” has made history on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Jacobs -- whose client list includes such up-and-comers as Cameron Dallas, Sheck Wes, , Jessie Reyez, producer Frank Dukes and transgender electronic artist Sophie -- makes sure the heritage law firm is tapped into what’s new -- and next.

Principal, Law Offices of Russell A. Jones Jr.; University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law

Jones’ client Garth Brooks surpassed the record for the most successful tour in North America, with a reported 6.4 million tickets sold for his run that concluded last December. The veteran Nashville attorney has since cut the deal for Brooks’ latest live triumph: the first concert held at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Oct. 20. Jones, who also represents Toby Keith and Tim McGraw, says that after 40 years in the business, “music law is as exciting as it has ever been.”

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

Karlov worked with longtime client Bob Dylan to bring his bourbon brand, Heaven’s Door, to the market, the artist’s first foray into branding. And as counsel to John Fogerty, he helped broker the first-ever deal for Creedence Clearwater Revival merch. “Never has anyone distributed CCR merchandise and then some jackass lawyer with a tie at a desk goes, ‘I have an idea,’ ” he jokes. During the past year, Karlov has also signed Rufus Wainwright and Michael Bolton as new clients.

President, LaPolt Law; John F. Kennedy ­University College of Law

While running her own firm and representing clients including Britney Spears, deadmau5, Fifth Harmony and Steven Tyler (for whom she shut down the Trump campaign’s use of Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge” in 2016), LaPolt has also been a relentless lobbying force in Washington, D.C., advocating for passage of the Music Modernization Act. As attorney adviser to the Songwriters of North America organization, her activism on behalf of creators has earned her recognition from the National Music Publishers’ Association -- and on the floor of Congress.

Partner, Milom Horsnell Crow Kelley; Vanderbilt University Law School

Longevity and loyalty are measures of success for Milom, who has had Alabama as a client for 37 years, Ricky Skaggs for 36, Rascal Flatts for 16 and Luke Bryan for 14. “Some people measure success in dollars. I measure it by the length of relationships,” says the man who nonetheless estimates that his firm has closed deals worth “maybe north of $100 million” in the past year, including those for newer signings Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini. Milom has flexed his dealmaking muscle across a wide spectrum, from negotiating TV rights for a client’s life story to setting up a label imprint and sponsorship agreements.

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

The attorney who wrote the book on industry deals -- the 10th edition of his All You Need to Know About the Music Business is due in the first half of 2019 -- Passman counts among his clients Taylor Swift, Adele, Camila Cabello, Green Day and P!nk, and had his name added to his firm’s moniker in 2018. For artists, his book explores the implications of streaming, which Passman calls the “most profound change in the history of the music business.”

Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano; ­University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Partner, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano; ­University of California, Davis, School of Law

Anyone who has wondered “what’s going on” with the plans for a biopic on Marvin Gaye can thank Paterno for setting the wheels in motion by helping client Dr. Dre acquire the rights. “People have been trying to make this movie for over 20 years,” says Paterno. “It was Dre’s creativity that convinced Berry Gordy to let him take a shot at it.” Soriano also celebrated when client Travis Scott’s Astroworld debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in August. “I’ve worked with Travis since he was 16 and putting out mixtapes,” says Soriano, who has a penchant for representing forward-thinking stars like Scott and twenty one pilots. “It has been gratifying to help get him to the next level in his career.”

Partner/head of entertainment; Nixon Peabody; Fordham University School of Law

Petty negotiated a one-album license agreement between Childish Gambino and RCA that’s rumored to be a multimillion-dollar deal; the partnership has already yielded the Hot 100 chart-topper “This Is America.” Petty’s first big break, working with the estate of late Bronx rapper Big Pun, laid the foundation for his later dealmaking success. “Big Pun’s widow, Liza Rios, hired me fresh out of law school,” he recalls, “to help with legal matters concerning his music and merchandising rights.”

Music and sports subsector leader, Reed Smith; Brooklyn Law School

Charley Gallay/Getty Images
Shapiro (center) with Hayley Kiyoko and Kaskade at the Reed Smith Grammy Party in Hollywood in 2016.

Shapiro boasts a diverse client roster ranging from pop superstars Rihanna and Mariah Carey to marquee DJs Kaskade and Louis the Child. This past year, Shapiro oversaw the launch of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand and Kaskade’s sold-out, 32,000-capacity Sun Soaked festival in Long Beach, Calif., as well as shepherded the sale of Circle Talent Agency to United Talent Agency.

Partner, Serling Rooks Hunter? McKoy Worob & Averill; Emory University School of Law

After Maroon 5 manager Jordan Feldstein died from a heart attack last December, Worob, as the band’s longtime legal counsel, helped restructure Career Artist Management (now run by frontman Adam Levine alongside Adam Harrison and Irving Azoff) as the firm promoted the band’s then-just-released Red Pill Blues album. “We’re like a family, and we’re like a business,” says Worob, whose 2018 efforts coincided with a lengthy world tour by Maroon 5; the group’s Cardi B collaboration, “Girls Like You,” which topped the Hot 100; and Levine’s ongoing appearances as a judge on NBC’s The Voice.

Founder, The Zia Firm; Fordham University School of Law

Zia’s client French Montana, with whom he has worked for the past nine years, achieved professional, philanthropic and personal peaks in the past year: “Unforgettable” became the artist’s first chart-topper on the Hot Rap Songs tally, while Montana gave $100,000 to the Ugandan Mama Hope charity -- and was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Zia also represents ASCAP songwriter of the year Starrah (Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Camila Cabello’s “Havana”) and rapper-producer Rich the Kid, who signed a multimillion-dollar publishing deal with Pulse Music Group. “One reason I started my own practice was to educate artists on the business,” says Zia. “I pride myself on working with clients to educate them on the deals they sign and where their royalties are coming from, especially now with digital music [creating] so many different revenue streams.”

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

Zigel negotiated Maluma’s music publishing agreement with Sony/ATV and a new deal for Pitbull with The Orchard, the independent distribution company. For client Wisin, who “had a great year,” he renegotiated the reggaetón star’s deals with Sony Latin, Sony/ATV and TV talent show La Voz -- and negotiated for Wisin & Yandel’s return as a duo for Sony Music. A musician in his off-hours, Zigel also found time to take lessons with Dead & Company bassist Oteil Burbridge.

Executive vp/general counsel, SiriusXM; ­Cornell Law School

In September, Donnelly helped reach the compromise between SiriusXM and other music industry interests that led to the successful passage of the Music Modernization Act. (Sources say the deal gives SiriusXM a five-year extension, through 2027, on a previously assessed royalty rate.) He also played a key role in SiriusXM’s recent announcement that the satellite radio service plans to acquire Pandora.

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

Over the past year-and-a-half, Gutierrez led Spotify into long-term deals with the three major-label groups, settled a class action suit against the streaming service that involved mechanical rights and took the lead in dealing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as Spotify went public. “I had a learning curve with music,” says Gutierrez, previously general counsel for Microsoft, referring to his negotiations with rights holders. “A lot gets reported about the acrimony, but there’s also mutual dependence and an understanding that if one of us does well, all of us do well.”

CEO, Digital Music Association; University of North Carolina School of Law

As one of the leading architects of the Music Modernization Act, Harrison can testify to what can be achieved by a united music industry. But he’s quick to acknowledge that there’s plenty more work to be done. And as a former royalty-rate attorney for Pandora and SiriusXM, he also knows just how complicated that work can be. The Music Modernization Act, he says, is “the first real music-copyright reform in a generation -- we brought the mechanical-licensing regime into the digital era. We just need to recognize that we can get more done by working together than by fighting with each other.”

Director of music and video media legal, Apple; University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
Chief counsel, content; Apple; University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Windom, who oversees legal matters for Apple’s content and internet services, worked with Miles in the past year to renegotiate agreements -- with both major and independent labels, music publishers and performing rights organizations -- for Apple Music, which recently crossed the 50-million-user mark (counting subscribers and trial users). His team also provided guidance for new Apple content projects, including an upcoming Ed Sheeran documentary as well as the company’s move into original TV programming. Miles closed Apple Music’s first automotive partnership deals with Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler America, has been involved in Apple’s acquisition of Shazam and cleared the path for Apple Music to be bundled with wireless carrier plans in 11 markets worldwide so far.

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

Rushing, on behalf of SoundExchange, oversaw an industry coalition that successfully litigated for satellite-radio royalty rates, which the Copyright Royalty Board raised from 11 percent to 15.5 percent last December. The ruling affects what SiriusXM will pay through 2027. “Copyright law has distorted the music marketplace,” he says. “Terrestrial and satellite radio and platforms like YouTube operate under different standards. Until the law changes, that distortion depresses the value of music.”

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

For the nation’s oldest performing-rights organization, Kim offers two numbers to measure the achievements to which she has contributed in the past year through her legal advocacy for songwriters. The first: 1 billion. “This is the first year where we’ve distributed over $1 billion in royalties to our members,” she says. The second number is no less bold: 1 trillion. “We’re processing over a trillion performances a year now.” ASCAP, she adds, “has been on the forefront” of managing the flood of data created by the rise of streaming music.

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

Rosen ended 2017 with an early holiday gift when, on Dec. 17, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling in favor of BMI in its suit against the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ sought to mandate a change in how songs are licensed, overturning decades of industry practice and threatening to cause “chaos in the marketplace,” says Rosen. “That was a critical win for us and for the industry as a whole.”

Partner/chairman, content, media and ­entertainment practice; Jenner & Block; ­Columbia Law School

After 12 years of litigation, Bart reached a settlement last December for Capitol/EMI in its suit against MP3Tunes, a case that was “significant in defining the rights of the content providers and internet service providers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” he says. Bart, who counts Universal, Sony and Roc Nation among his clients, also achieved a victory in May for Jay-Z (shared with co-counsel Christine Lepera) when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jay’s favor in a dispute over use of a sample in his track “Big Pimpin’.” “I’ve always been sort of a music geek,” says Bart, who also produces jazz LPs, “but I got into this line of work for the excitement of being in a courtroom.”

Partner, Venable; Georgetown University Law Center
Partner, Venable; Georgetown University Law Center

Renegotiating Gucci Mane’s contract with Atlantic Records after his release from prison, fielding civil matters for MigosQuavo (while attorney Drew Findling defended the rapper in a recent assault case) and helping Cardi B and Offset regain private hacked computer files are recent achievements for Briggs, who also helped Taylor Swift fight defamatory web posts. Weingarten worked to renegotiate Wiz Khalifa’s long-standing deal with manager-producer Benjy Grinberg after citing California’s seven-year limit on personal-services contracts.“ As an artist, he needed to be comfortable to create his art,” says Weingarten, “and it was a relationship that he was interested in modifying for everyone’s future success.”

Head of entertainment and intellectual ­property, King & Ballow; Loyola University Law School

Busch earned another victory for Marvin Gaye’s family in July after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted to deny Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ request for a rehearing of the “Blurred Lines” case. The decision upheld the award to Gaye’s family of $5.4 million and 50 percent of forthcoming royalties. “Not one judge felt that the majority got it wrong. From the beginning, I did not believe that they had a viable appeal both procedurally and substantively,” says Busch, though a Supreme Court plea is still on the table. “I do not know if they will seek Supreme Court review, [and] their time has not yet expired for that.”

Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp; Columbia Law School
Partner, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp; New York Law School

Frackman, a copyright-law virtuoso, has continued to represent Capitol Records and EMI Music Publishing in a case against the video service Vimeo, claiming copyright infringement over user-generated content. Vimeo has countered that it’s immune from liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The case, says Frackman, “has been litigated, I think, since 2009. One of the unfortunate side effects of litigation is that it sometimes takes along time.” Lepera achieved two court victories in May: The dismissal of the copyright claim against client Jay-Z for his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’ ” was affirmed, and a move by Kesha to break her contract with Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe label was rejected. Lepera is also representing Luke in a suit that claims Katy Perry’s hit “Dark Horse” infringed the copyright of a song by Marcus Gray, a Christian hip-hop artist known as Flame.

Attorney-at-law, Miller Barondess; University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
Attorney-at-law, Miller Barondess; University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law

Following the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker in 2017, Miller moved on behalf of Donald Fagen to retain rights to the group’s name. The suit sought to enforce a “buy-sell agreement” signed by the bandmembers in 1972 stating that when a member quits or dies, Steely Dan, as a legal entity, purchases that member’s shares in the group. “The names of these bands are invaluable,” says Miller. For Frid, the past year brought moves for two veteran metal acts. “We got a resolution enabling Five Finger Death Punch to complete the last album on their deal, leave Prospect Park Records, record with a new label [Rise Records] and continue to tour,” he says. Frid also secured the rights to Mötley Crüe’s iconic album artwork for the band, defeating a copyright claim from two photographers.

Of counsel, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano; University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Gradstein has been a leader in music-industry class action lawsuits -- one of which resulted in a $43.4 million settlement in 2017 with Spotify over mechanical royalties, payable to a class of songwriters and publishers. In March, Gradstein joined the boutique firm King Holmes Paterno & Soriano; he’s now concluding ongoing appeals at his former firm, Gradstein & Marzano, in connection with class action litigation against Spotify, SiriusXM and Pandora, as well as the Quincy Jones lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s estate. Next up? “Copyright terminations,” which could allow artists to recapture their rights. “Is a producer legally considered to be an ‘author’ of a recording who can terminate a grant of copyright?” he says.

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

Repping clients as diverse as Jackson Browne, Spotify, Latin independent label DEL Records and Apple Music, Iser says that his biggest victories are those he can’t discuss publicly. “I quietly fended off a false and extortionate claim against a music executive,” he says. The claim was resolved without payment to the accuser, “and you never heard about it.” Weitzman had two big legal wins last December, when judges dismissed a $10 million copyright infringement claim against client Justin Bieber over the 2010 song “Somebody to Love,” and a suit against the Michael Jackson estate by choreographer Wade Robson, who alleged that Jackson molested him as a child. And in August, an appeals court rejected a fan’s effort to bring a class action suit over supposedly fake vocals on Jackson’s posthumous Michael album. The victories for the estate were important, says Weitzman, because “they’re not just issues of law but go directly to Michael’s profile and image.”

National head, entertainment practice; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Duke University School of Law

Sammataro, whose clients have included Spotify, Univision, Sony, The Orchard, Amazon and Spanish Broadcasting System, filed suit in January on behalf of Enrique Iglesias stating that Universal Music Group was “systematically underpaying” the Latin superstar’s streaming royalties. He says a resulting settlement was “sparkling” -- but confidential. “Streaming has led to a financial boon, but the industry needs to make sure that the bull market is sustainable,” says Sammataro. The challenges, he says, include finding revenue streams aside from streaming and touring, helping viral stars create sustainable careers, exploring the potential of virtual reality, creating “a master plan to best utilize metadata and capitalize on cryptocurrency and [finding] greater ways to connect with consumers on their terms.”

Partner, Covington & Burling; Harvard Law School

Sperling is one of the go-to litigators for labels in copyright and royalty disputes. He recently represented Sony Music in Quincy Jones’ suit against the label and Michael Jackson’s estate, and Warner Music in a case against Latin pop star Luis Miguel. But he practiced law for a decade before working on his first music case -- a class action suit involving digital download royalties. “I combine what I’ve learned working in this business for the past dozen years with an outsider’s perspective,” says Sperling. “That’s important, because you have to make things understandable to judges and juries who aren’t in the industry.”

Partner, Pryor Cashman; New York University School of Law

Zakarin, whose clients include the three major music groups, artists Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran, and executives Lyor Cohen and Clive Davis, led the Pryor Cashman team that achieved higher rates for music publishers from on-demand subscription services like Spotify and Apple Music for the next five-year period in a January decision from the Copyright Royalty Board. “This was a huge battle, a huge undertaking, and particularly gratifying ... because it was a great team effort that helps writers and publishers get closer to a fair share of streaming revenue,” he says. “It’s not the end of that fight, but it’s a good solid step in the right direction.”

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

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 20 issue of Billboard.