Revealed: Billboard’s 2022 Top Music Lawyers
The savviest legal counselors in the business are called upon to advise on familiar contracts and a surging tide of catalog sales but also IPOs, NFTs, Web3 and new ventures in the metaverse.
When music meets money, industry attorneys usually serve as matchmakers.
Billboard’s 2022 class of Top Music Lawyers — nominated by their firms and peers and chosen by our editors — are cast in more complex and challenging roles than ever.
In the past year, their behind-the-scenes work grabbed headlines with major publishing and catalog deals, live-performance agreements, a defamation case, a conservatorship battle and one very, very large initial public offering.
Among many other matters, attorneys on this list were involved with Neil Diamond’s sale of his publishing and master recording catalog; Dr. Dre’s performance with a who’s who of hip-hop during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI halftime show; Cardi B’s successful verdict in a defamation claim; Britney Spears’ release from a conservatorship that controlled her life for 13 years; and Universal Music Group’s massive September stock offering on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange.
For this year’s Top Music Lawyers report, Billboard asked attorneys not only about their clients and achievements but also their top concerns for the music business. For those steeped in the law, the issue of racial equity and justice in the music industry, which exploded into awareness with the killing of George Floyd in May 2020, remains no less urgent.
Several attorneys have been involved in efforts to ban the use of rap lyrics in criminal prosecutions, and L. Londell McMillan, whose clients include Prince’s heirs and the Westmore collective of Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too $hort and Ice Cube, says: “There should be more senior Black executives in C-suites and more Black-owned companies doing business with global enterprises.”
Meanwhile, the rapid expansion of digital opportunities have become so important to the role of these music lawyers that some may wish they had supplemented their law degrees with studies in computer science.
But as Ken Doroshow, chief legal officer for the RIAA, says, “In a time of constant innovation and a steady stream of ‘next big things,’ it’s more important than ever that all platforms and services that use and profit from music obtain the necessary licenses and pay rights holders and creators for their work.” Doroshow’s counterparts at the National Music Publishers’ Association are on the front lines of efforts to get digital platforms to properly license their use of music.
Richard Baskind of Simons Muirhead Burton in London adds that amid “significant opportunity within the creative industries… comes the concern around regulating and managing this growth on behalf of all.”
And not just for superstars.
“It’s extremely rewarding that the real value of music industry [intellectual property], the artist and the artist’s brand, is finally being realized,” says John Frankenheimer, chair of music industry at Loeb & Loeb, one of the most respected senior attorneys in the music business. “But there’s a responsibility to make sure that the midlevel, young and emerging artists are sharing in that as well.”
General counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Executive vp/chief compliance officer/employment counsel, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of digital business affairs, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of business and legal affairs/head of litigation, Universal Music Group
Executive vp/head of commercial transactions for business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, Universal Music Group
In addition to day-to-day business, like handling the contracts of the world’s biggest music stars, Universal Music Group’s legal team helped usher the company into a public listing on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange, which in its first 10 minutes added billions of dollars of value to UMG — and boosted the prospects of the entire music business. Harleston, a 25-year-plus UMG veteran, calls the run-up to the September listing “a transformational period,” and adds, “I couldn’t be prouder of the key role my team played.” Next up: emerging, cautiously, from the pandemic. “I’m hopeful that we learn from the past few years,” Harleston says, “and create an atmosphere where fans are excited to reengage in live events.”
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Senior vp/head of litigation, Warner Music Group
Senior vp/head of digital legal affairs, Warner Music Group
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group
In February, Warner Music Group unveiled a first-of-its-kind ESG Report, heralding its environmental, social and governance projects, such as donations to 20 international philanthropic groups to fight COVID-19, a new $100 million Social Justice Fund and what Robinson calls “the launch of our legacy unrecouped-advances program that will benefit thousands of artists and songwriters.” Now, WMG’s attorneys turn their attention to the metaverse. “The concern is being able to transact in crypto and tokens at scale with our music and other intellectual property,” says Robinson.
Executive vp of business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, international, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer, Sony Music Entertainment
Senior vp of corporate/deputy general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, global digital business, Sony Music Entertainment
Among its other achievements, Sony’s legal team celebrated two major deals in 2021: a partnership with the dominant Brazilian independent music company Som Livre, which works with Marilia Mendonça, Jorge & Mateus and others in repertoire, publishing, festival production and distribution; and the $430 million purchase of Kobalt’s recorded-music division, AWAL (FINNEAS, Little Simz, Deadmau5), which was approved in March by U.K. regulators. In an evolving digital landscape, Swidler notes the importance of laws keeping pace with innovation. “We have a responsibility, on behalf of our artists and songwriters, to protect their creativity while embracing new digital experiences.”
Executive vp of business affairs/chief music licensing counsel, iHeartMedia
iHeartMedia’s return to in-person live events last year kept Fleet and his team busy as the company navigated the complex COVID-19 regulations around the country to put on shows safely. The broader issue that matters to Fleet? “It’s the same concern as in society as a whole,” he says, “which is an inability to empathize and recognize the legitimacy of someone’s problems other than your own. We are all trying to build a vibrant, economically powerful 21st century music business ecosystem, and we can only do that if we truly listen to each other and make the economic models sustainable for everyone.”
General counsel, Spotify
Associate general counsel/head of legal strategy, Spotify
Associate general counsel, Spotify
In 2021, Spotify underwent a massive global expansion, as the streaming service launched in over 80 additional countries, bringing its operations to a total of 184 territories. “This would have been a feat in any year, but doing this in a year with limited travel made this that much more of a challenge,” Choset says. Despite the departure of longtime chief legal officer Horacio Gutierrez to Disney last year, the company is pushing forward, with its legal team calling the return to live music the industry’s most pressing concern in 2022.
General counsel/chief diversity officer, SoundCloud
Senior vp of business and legal affairs, music, SoundCloud
Director of business and legal affairs, SoundCloud
SoundCloud’s executive leadership team helped steer its evolution from an independent streaming service into a full-service distributor. But that wouldn’t have happened without the company first launching fan-powered royalties, a user-centric model for royalty payment to its independent artists that is based on the total number of streams rather than market share. The change underlines SoundCloud’s belief that the industry should focus on “deepening the connection between artists and fans and ensuring that artists at all stages of their careers, especially emerging and independent artists, are rewarded fairly with more equitable payouts, transparency and control over their own careers,” says Porch.
Chief counsel, content and services, Apple
Senior counsel, content and internet services, Apple
Director, iTunes and Apple Music legal, Apple
Brahim Ait Ben Larbi
Principal legal counsel, music publishing, Apple
Apple’s legal team in the past year has supported the launch of spatial audio on Apple Music. “We had to make the case to the labels to get their artists on board and then remix and redeliver entire catalogs, because this is the next step for music,” says Miles. “It’s a big project for the industry, and it was some work to make it a win-win for everyone. But artists and their fans love the magic of hearing their music in spatial audio, so that’s a really strong foundation on which to build your deal terms.”
Head of legal/associate general counsel, Amazon Music
Senior corporate counselors, Amazon Music
Amazon Music improved its service for all of its Unlimited subscribers last year, with the company making high-definition music and spatial audio available at no additional cost. Gauss described his work on the feature as a highlight of the past year, but notes that the industry as a whole “needs to remain ahead of the curve in adapting new technologies, addressing evolving customer preferences and reacting to ever-changing other entertainment offers.”
Executive vp/general counsel/secretary, Live Nation Entertainment
Rowles, who joined Live Nation in 2006 and serves as both the company’s general counsel and a corporate officer, helped guide the reorganization of the company as it prepared to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. That has meant continuing to rely on an organizational structure that includes a small corporate mergers and acquisitions group, which oversaw major transactions out of the Beverly Hills office (including closing the purchase of Mexican promoter OCESA). Company lawyers also continue to report to the heads of their individual business units. While the tragedy at Astroworld that left 10 fans dead and scores more injured has emerged as one of Live Nation’s most significant legal challenges, the company is working with outside counsel in that matter as it continues to cooperate with investigators.
COO/general counsel, AEG Live
AEG’s longtime top lawyer navigated the company through the changing tide of pandemic protocols in 2021, as the promoter executed some of the most aggressive vaccination rules in the United States. “Certain states’ regulations may override our mandate, or a few artists may not want to immediately get on board with the plan, but we know that using our platform to take a strong position on vaccinations can make an impact,” Trell says. AEG initially announced it would require proof of vaccination for every fan attending Coachella, Firefly and other festivals. In January, AEG dropped the requirement for festivals after California’s Department of Health changed state rules, but the company still requires proof of vaccination at its indoor concerts.
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, general counsel, Sony Music Publishing
Senior vp/head of U.S. digital, Sony Music Publishing
Senior vps of business and legal affairs, Sony Music Publishing
Sony Music Publishing’s legal team has guided the world’s largest publishing company through another banner year. Apart from catalog acquisitions — especially the estimated $500 million deal with Bruce Springsteen — and exciting new signees, the team is most proud of its songwriter-friendly initiatives like the Legacy Unrecouped Balance program and the Songwriter Assistance program, as well as a provision providing signees with 24/7 counseling support, which Abitbol calls “just the beginning.” Over the next year, the team is focused on fighting for fair royalty rates at the Phonorecords IV trial of the Copyright Royalty Board, which will establish rates paid by interactive streaming services for the next five years. “This is our one opportunity to fight for fair mechanical royalty rates that reflect the incredible contributions of songwriters,” Abitbol says.
Senior vp of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Vps of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
The Warner Chappell team kept busy over the last year, acquiring a number of massive catalogs, including its new crown jewel: the global music publishing rights to David Bowie’s song catalog. As Butler puts it, “it was an absolute honor” and an “amazing collaborative experience” for the Warner Chappell legal team to be a part of the transaction, which involved “more than 400 songs from almost 30 studio albums spanning a period of more than 50 years.” On the horizon, the attorneys are looking at the implications of NFTs for Warner Chappell songwriters. “While they are offering exciting new ways to share music,” says Butler, “it is critical that we ensure that our songwriters are protected and fairly compensated in this rapidly growing uncharted area.”
VP of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
VP of business and legal affairs, international and digital development, Universal Music Publishing Group
Senior director of business and legal affairs and creative affairs Nashville, Universal Music Publishing Group
Senior director of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
Over the last year, the UMPG team has sealed new deals with heavyweights like Sting, Louis Bell, Lionel Richie, Julia Michaels and, most recently, Neil Diamond. The company’s acquisition of Diamond’s song and master recording catalogs is the culmination of a decadeslong relationship between the artist and UMG. As the fight for fair compensation at the Copyright Royalty Board hearings continues, the lawyers have been particularly focused on “ensuring that artists and writers are paid fairly for the use of their music on streaming platforms,” says Glista. He sees the role of the publisher as a protector and partner for writers so that they can “continue doing what they love doing and continuing creating music for all of us to enjoy.”
Executive vp/general counsel, SESAC Music Group
Last summer, Badavas helped secure SESAC’s purchase of the digital rights collection agency Audiam from Canadian rights management group SOCAN. The acquisition helped SESAC expand beyond its core business and, according to Badavas, enhanced its “ability to claim, track and report YouTube royalties, streaming mechanicals and Canadian digital mechanical royalties for its songwriters, composers and music publishers.” Audiam, which launched in 2013, has collected $140 million for songwriters and publishers as of 2021, and its integration into the performance rights organization supports the growth of its “multirights, multiterritory global rights management business,” he adds.
General counsel, SoundExchange
“One of the most pressing concerns is the need to update our laws to reflect the rapid change in the ways music is now consumed,” Dadson says. Last June, the SoundExchange legal team, assisted by outside counsel, won a royalty rate increase from the Copyright Royalty Board for sound recording artists and rights owners of 17% for ad-supported digital music services and 8% for subscription services. After nine years at the rights management nonprofit, Dadson was promoted to general counsel in September 2021, and he intends to advocate for even higher rates in his new role, “making sure both emerging and existing platforms are paying creators fairly not only in the U.S. but around the world.”
Chief legal officer, The Mechanical Licensing Collective
Johns is helping The Mechanical Licensing Collective transform and simplify how streaming and download services obtain all the necessary rights for musical works and accurately pay creators and rights holders. Created by the Music Modernization Act of 2018 to administer blanket mechanical licenses for digital service providers, The MLC distributed $280 million in mechanical royalties, and its membership doubled to 16,000 in its first year of operations. Perhaps as importantly, says Johns, it “provided unprecedented levels of transparency into data related to The MLC’s work.”
Executive vp/chief legal and business affairs officer, ASCAP
Though Kim notes that “the music business is still recovering from the pandemic,” ASCAP has deftly adapted: The PRO reported in March that its revenue collections in 2021 reached a historic high of $1.335 billion while it distributed $1.254 billion to songwriters and publishers — a 3.4% increase from 2020. Its members have thrived, too, highlighted by Jon Batiste earning an artist-leading 11 nominations at the upcoming Grammy Awards, along with eight for Justin Bieber and seven each for Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. Still, the company continues to push forward, says Kim, adding that it “finalized a significant number of deals last year that will help to provide long-term income security for ASCAP members,” specifically focusing on agreements with major streaming, broadcast and audiovisual licensees.
Senior vp/general counsel, BMI
BMI’s legal team helped the performing rights organization and its affiliates navigate through “changing waters,” says Rosen, including the catalog sales boom, an explosion of new technology platforms and calls for greater data transparency. As businesses continue to recover from the impact of COVID-19, the music community at large has an obligation to “recognize its songwriters and composers have been hit just as hard, if not harder,” he adds, “and it’s our job to preserve the means for them to continue creating the music that fuels an entire industry.”
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association
Any upstart technology company that uses music to help build a user base can expect a call from the NMPA if it’s not paying royalties along the way. Over the last 18 months, the NMPA negotiated settlements regarding past unlicensed royalties with the major players of a new generation of online entertainment services: social media apps TikTok and Triller; livestream service Twitch; and publicly traded gaming platform Roblox. “These deals have brought not only value to the music publishing industry,” says Aguirre, “but also helped develop new relationships and partnerships between publishers and some of these fast-growing digital platforms.”
Chief legal officer, RIAA
For the RIAA, Doroshow executed a pair of high-profile copyright infringement cases on behalf of the labels that were initially filed while he was a partner at Jenner & Block. Each of the cases affirmed protections for copyright holders against digital infringement: The first, against the Russian stream-ripping site Kurbanov, awarded labels $83 million in damages; the second, against mixtape site Spinrilla, granted a summary judgment on the site’s liability. “In a time of constant innovation and a steady stream of ‘next big things,’ ” he says, “it’s more important than ever that all platforms and services that use and profit from music obtain the necessary licenses and pay rights holders and creators for their work.”
Senior director of business and legal affairs, Merlin
McWhinnie has been at the forefront of helping digital music licensing service Merlin expand its membership, including to new continents with deals in Africa with Boomplay; in India with JioSaavn, Spotify and Resso; and in Southeast Asia with JOOX and TREBEL. The London-based lawyer says that while the industry must continue to support the growth and diversity of streaming services, “it is also important that we continue to encourage innovation by making it easier for emerging verticals and business models to access music.” That includes generating incremental revenue through deals with social music platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Triller and with business-to-business platforms such as Soundtrack Your Brand.
Equity partner, Fox Rothschild
Partners, Fox Rothschild
Associate, Fox Rothschild
Fox Rothschild significantly expanded its music department after 2020. Equity partner Abdo is part of a hiring team at the firm that recruited attorneys from diverse backgrounds; Rogers, Rose and Vaquerano are among those who arrived in the past two years. Rogers renegotiated Kanye West’s recording agreement with Def Jam ahead of the release of Donda. Bowles counseled client A$AP TyY of the rap collective A$AP Mob on his distribution deal with AWAL. Katz and Mandelbaum represented Mötley Crüe in the sale of the band’s master recording catalog to BMG. She and Reinert advised the estate of Muddy Waters in managing his music catalog and a new administration deal for his publishing. Katz joined Threadgold in helping the digital music/video distributor Symphonic in closing a large round of financing, and she collaborated with Vaquerano in advising former Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge on the sale of his master catalogs. She and Rogers advised Rick Ross on branding and equity deals with the wine and spirits company Sovereign Brands. Rose won dismissal of a defamation suit against Ross resulting from his autobiography, Hurricanes: A Memoir.
Gary P. Adelman
Managing partner, Adelman Matz
Sarah M. Matz
Partner, Adelman Matz
Lisa F. Moore
Principal, Moore Pequignot
Member, Moore Pequignot
When Cardi B sued a YouTuber for waging a “malicious campaign” to hurt her reputation, the rapper turned to a team of four veteran entertainment litigators from two different firms to represent her. Defamation lawsuits are hard for celebrities to win, but Moore, Pequignot, Matz and Adelman pulled it off, securing nearly $4 million in damages for Cardi B. The win shouldn’t surprise anyone: Moore Pequignot is a well-known Atlanta entertainment boutique that has repped Offset and The Blind Boys of Alabama, while the New York-based Adelman Matz has repped Migos, Khalid and A$AP Rocky.
Head of legal, Schillings International
London-based Afia, whose clients include Adele, Elton John and Johnny Depp, says the vast majority of her work has been “below the radar” — stopping the media from publishing intrusive and false stories about her clients. She led the team that won a landmark privacy case for Meghan Markle against Associated Newspapers and successfully defended her victory on appeal. She also advised on battling defamatory allegations published about a Grammy Award-winning client in the media, resulting in an apology and removal of the contested content. The most pressing concern she sees in 2022: “a potential World War III.”
Partners, Alter Kendrick & Baron
Alter Kendrick & Baron advised Primary Wave on how to pour some sugar on its long-standing partnership with Def Leppard with a deal in January that gave the music publisher additional stakes in the band’s publishing and master royalty income. Alter has guided deals in the past 12 months collectively worth more than $2.5 billion, including the representation of Primary Wave on its acquisition of assets from the estate of James Brown and publishing/master recording catalogs of iconic artists and writers that include Stevie Nicks, Luther Vandross, America, Gerry Goffin, Chris Isaak, Patrick Leonard, Olivia Newton-John, The Four Seasons and Culture Club. She was music counsel to HYBE on its merger with Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings and advised both Reservoir Media Management in its acquisition of Tommy Boy Music and BMG Rights Management in purchasing the ZZ Top music catalog. With rising interest by private equity in music assets, Alter counsels several equity investors and financial stakeholders in the industry.
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine
Davis Wright Tremaine’s past and present clients include The Weeknd, Max Martin, Gwen Stefani and Lil Nas X, as well as the three major-label groups. In October, Anderson scored a major victory for The Weeknd and Martin when a federal appeals court ruled that their song “A Lonely Night” did not infringe the copyright of another tune written by two British songwriters in a case initially filed in 2019. Looking ahead, Anderson says, “a major concern and something being litigated now is whether Copyright Act statutory termination rights apply to recording contracts, allowing recording artists to claim ownership of a vast number of master sound recordings.”
Equity partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton
Partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton
By 2021, just one year after joining the firm, former artist manager Barker had signed songwriter and producer clients to nearly every Nashville publisher, brokering deals totaling more than eight figures. His biggest wins include landing TikTok breakout Warren Zeiders a recording contract with Warner Records — in what Barker says was a record-setting level in country music history for a new artist. With veteran clients like Bryon Gallimore and Paul Overstreet, Barker is closely watching the evolution of rights management. “We are going to see a future that’s ripe with tokenization of intellectual property,” he says, “where every songwriter has the ability and know-how to be in tune with real-time ownership and valuation of their assets.”
Partner/co-chair, content, media and entertainment practice, Jenner & Block
Partner, Jenner & Block
On behalf of the major music groups and other members of the RIAA, Bart led the team that won a summary judgment in November 2020 on liability in a copyright infringement case against hip-hop mixtape site Spinrilla. On behalf of SoundExchange and other music industry clients, Warren helped lead a Jenner & Block team that last June obtained a significant rate increase from the Copyright Royalty Board for royalties paid by ad-supported and subscription digital music services.
Partner, Simons Muirhead Burton
London-based Baskind worked on the acquisition, led by his partner Alasdair George, of a substantial interest in the recorded music and publishing assets of Ace Copyrights by Cosmos Music, the oldest independent music company in Scandinavia. The ACE catalog includes some 9,000 recordings and 3,000 songs, including titles by Etta James and B.B. King. The firm’s client list includes Nick Cave, Alan Walker and Tion Wayne, and Baskind says he sees a “significant opportunity within the creative industries” in the rapid development of Web3, but notes that “comes with the concern around regulating and managing this growth on behalf of all.”
Founding partners, Beame & Mencher
Beame and Mencher represent artists and producers Andrew Maury (Shawn Mendes, Mika, Olivia O’Brien) and Mod Sun, who co-steered Avril Lavigne’s seventh studio album, Love Sux, and co-wrote/directed the upcoming film Good Mourning With a U with longtime collaborator Machine Gun Kelly. The firm also works with Global Citizen, the international advocacy organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty. A safe and sustainable return to live events is a paramount issue for the industry, says Mencher, who served as the chief legal architect — managing COVID-19 protocols, artist/talent contracts and insurance issues — for Global Citizen’s Vax Live concert in May 2021.
Jill H. Berliner
While the law firm declines to cite specific clients, Garcia says Rimon represents a number of Grammy-winning artists, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees and entertainment entrepreneurs, as well as an independent record company, providing clients “with a virtual business affairs department.” Garcia also says the firm has recently advised clients on cases including Soundgarden’s lawsuits with the estate of Chris Cornell and Nirvana’s dispute with fashion designer Marc Jacobs and Spencer Elden, the man who appeared as a baby on the cover of the band’s Nevermind album.
Partners/Co-founders, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder
A new publishing deal for songwriter Jon Bellion and a hot Super Bowl ad with Frito-Lay for longtime client Charlie Puth were just two of the agreements Rothenberg guided during the last year. The firm runs point for top executives, songwriters and artists — among them Andra Day, Chloe x Halle, Jazmine Sullivan, A$AP Ferg and Marshmello. “When I started in the industry, it was often more lucrative to have written the hit than performed it,” Rothenberg says. “But now, anything connected to the master [recording] is paying higher. We must address equitable compensation for songwriters.” He also predicts that boons in catalog sales and streaming will continue: “If it’s a stream of music, somebody is selling it.”
Partner, Boyarski Fritz
Boyarski Fritz celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021, but the boutique entertainment firm has remained focused on the future. Its label work involves steering NFT initiatives for Timbaland’s Beatclub, negotiating catalog sales for songwriter-producers Tainy and Louis Bell, and deals for the estates of Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White. “Music catalog valuations have reached their highest levels in modern-day history, garnering a massive appetite from private equity and public markets globally,” Boyarski says, but inflation and rising interest rates could result in more supply than demand. The dealmaker encourages creators to choose their partners and strategies wisely to ensure that their music remains top of mind. “Music is art,” he says, “not a commodity.”
Partners, Ziffren Brittenham
Branca has long served as the co-executor of the Michael Jackson estate and has helped secure a number of lucrative deals for the late pop singer. The firm steered the deal for a music biopic with Lionsgate and Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King; the launch of MJ: The Musical, which debuted on Broadway in February; and the post-pandemic return of Michael Jackson One — the long-running Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil production set to Jackson’s music. The firm’s focus in 2022 and beyond remains to support “social justice and accountability and truth on social media,” says Branca.
William J. Briggs II
Venable’s clients include Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, Migos and Gucci Mane. Briggs notes that many artists today “have been sued or have had claims made against them for copyright infringement arising from social media posts. Many have found pictures of themselves [online] and have simply reposted those photographs on their social media accounts. Those posts have been the subject of copyright infringement claims by paparazzi, who often claim entitlement to damages greater than a license fee they could obtain for the photograph. We have resolved a number of these claims.”
“How to reconcile the competing claims of record companies and artists to a share of the digital income pot” is the most pressing issue facing the music business, says Tregear. The firm’s notable clients include Coldplay, Roger Waters and the estates of George Michael and Prince. The Russells music team also helped close one of the year’s biggest deals, advising Kobalt on the sale of its Kobalt Music Royalty Fund II — comprising over 62,000 copyrights — for $1.1 billion to investment companies KKR and Dundee Partners in October.
President/CEO, V. Brown and Company
Brown, the longtime attorney for Cash Money and its co-CEOs Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams, believes artists need to find more ways to generate money. “From my view, the vast majority of artists make no money,” he says, “and the most pressing issue for them is figuring out how to create alternative streams of income.” Founded in 1992, V. Brown and Company continues to help both veteran artists and younger acts including Erykah Badu, Dodgr and ATL Jacob.
Partner, Hertz Lichtenstein Young & Polk
Named partner, Hertz Lichtenstein Young & Polk
Young played a key role in the mediation and settlement of legal actions involving the estate of Tom Petty, “which included creating a business operation and establishing a management and business management team, while continuing to respect Tom Petty and his legacy,” he says. Young also represented Stevie Nicks in the sale of a portion of her music publishing catalog to Primary Wave. Buggé is an adviser to Apple on key music issues and acts as head of business affairs for the creative services company Platoon, including key artist deals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Africa. He has advised artist clients like Jaden Smith, Brent Faiyaz and Joshua Bell “on equity holdings in some of the industry’s most successful disruptive businesses and tech startups,” he says.
Partner in the litigation section/head of the entertainment and intellectual property sections, King & Ballow
Busch — whose clients include Marvin Gaye’s family (for whom he won the “Blurred Lines” copyright infringement case in 2015) — continues to work to ensure “that owners of intellectual property, and most notably writers of musical and literary compositions, are not only licensed but paid properly.” In addition to pursuing a claim against Spotify on behalf of Eight Mile Style — co-owner, publisher and administrator of some 250 songs by Eminem — he filed suits on behalf of comedians Robin Williams, George Carlin, Bill Engvall, Ron White, Nick Di Paolo and Andrew “Dice” Clay against Pandora “for alleged copyright infringement of their spoken word compositions, due to the failure to allegedly obtain either public performance or reproduction licenses or pay any royalties for the use of these works.”
Partners, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano
Among the many achievements of his firm and partners, Paterno’s recent negotiations on behalf of Dr. Dre stand out as the most high profile — if little recognized by fans. Paterno directed a team that was involved in all business aspects of Dre’s Super Bowl performance alongside Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent. The work involved dozens of contracts required with the NFL, Pepsi and all artists, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, production managers, choreographers and dancers — along with the clearance of music, trademarks and other intellectual property involved in the event.
Partners, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian
Groffman’s client Brandi Carlile wrote one of the most heartfelt music memoirs of the past year with Broken Horses, while her latest album, In These Silent Days, has earned her three Grammy Award nominations, including nods for record and song of the year. He also guided the transition of Paradigm Music to Wasserman. Carroll negotiated Patti Smith’s first endorsement deal with Rimowa luggage and guided the sale of Steve Earle’s publishing catalog. Guido has advised Megan Thee Stallion on her music and branding relationships, while Friedman negotiated her acting agreement for A24’s upcoming F–king Identical Twins. Gutman works with Groffman to offer day-to-day counsel to clients including Carlile, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Eric Church, Hipgnosis Songs Group and ATO Records. Among several catalog deals guided by Karalian is the sale by Julia Michaels of publishing and recording assets to Influence Media Partners. Cohen struck film/TV deals for the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and actress Olivia Culpo. As live music returns, says Bar, “Goth Babe and The Backseat Lovers are two examples of clients whose touring has exploded.”
Uwonda Carter Scott
Founding partners, Carter + Woodard
Carter + Woodard’s leading trio of entertainment attorneys represents acts including Summer Walker, Kelly Rowland, Lil Yachty, Big Boi and Metro Boomin. Milestones include representing the purchasers in an eight-figure deal for a publishing catalog that includes copyrights of the late R&B star Aaliyah and a “multifaceted” deal between Metro Boomin and Republic Records that included a label deal, an artist deal, a staff producer agreement and a consultant agreement. Additionally, the firm helped score branding/endorsement deals for their clients with companies including Target, Gap, Intel, Chef Boyardee, Reese’s Puffs Cereal, Amazon and FabFitFun.
Robert A. Celestin
Founding partner, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Alicia Ferriabough Taylor
Senior associate, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Representing the estates of hip-hop stars XXXTentacion and Pop Smoke, Celestin’s firm negotiated recent major deals including a distribution agreement for a Hulu documentary, an NFT deal and a new distribution pact with Columbia Records for XXXTentacion. The lattermost contract will include his earlier SoundCloud records and another posthumous album to be released later this year. The firm played a major role in the release of Pop Smoke’s second posthumous album, Faith, negotiating, drafting and clearing its producer and side artist agreements. All recording acts, producers and songwriters need to “register their work with the Copyright Office,” says Celestin. “When I speak at various music panels, I urge the creatives to ‘CYS,’ or ‘Copyright yo’ s–t!’ ”
Partners, ArentFox Schiff
After five years at another firm, Charap and Finkelstein returned to ArentFox in 2021, bringing with them top industry names including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, together with their music publishing company, Promopub; BMG Rights Management; and Wise Music Group. Focused primarily on buying and selling copyrighted works and royalty streams, the firm helped BMG with its acquisition of Mick Fleetwood’s recording stake in the Fleetwood Mac catalog. The firm continues to focus on new technologies for its clients. “In a world where digital music consumption by consumers and the use of music by new business platforms continues to grow exponentially,” says Finkelstein, “it is vital that songwriters are paid fairly for the use of their songs.”
Principal, Charlesworth Law
Charlesworth brought her experience as a former general counsel with the U.S. Copyright Office and a private litigator to the 2021 launch of her own firm, where, she says, “about half of my practice right now involves termination issues. We recently sued in federal court to reclaim a songwriter’s rights in the famous song ‘After the Love Is Gone’ [by Earth, Wind & Fire] from the publisher, which has refused to honor the writer’s notice of termination under the Copyright Act.”
Senior associate, Ritholz Levy Fields
Senior counsel, Ritholz Levy Fields
New York-based Chopurian recently renegotiated contracts for Latin music clients such as Sech, Ovy on the Drums and Myke Towers, while Nashville-based Cottingham did the same for country clients such as Brittney Spencer, Lily Rose, Andrew Jannakos and Ashley Cooke. Both attorneys agree that there’s room for greater diversity in their areas of practice. “There is a wealth of female creative and executive talent out there which is being underutilized,” says Chopurian. “More Latinas need to be involved in the actual creative process and in senior executive roles.”
Partner, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
“I have had the good fortune to represent ASCAP for more than 25 years in a variety of matters impacting music creators’ efforts to obtain fair compensation for their work,” says Cohen. That work has included ASCAP rate court proceedings and efforts by ASCAP to have the Department of Justice update the consent decrees that ASCAP and BMI have operated under for over 80 years. (The DOJ opted not to take action on the matter last year.) Other notable clients include the National Music Publishers’ Association, Sony Music Entertainment and communications/media company Altice.
Shareholders, Greenberg Traurig
A former federal prosecutor, Rosengart became a household name in 2021 through his representation of Britney Spears. He helped the pop star secure a win in November to end the 13-year conservatorship imposed by her father, Jamie Spears, and has vowed to continue fighting for an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing. Greenberg Traurig also counts as clients Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, the Recording Academy, iHeartMedia and OneOf (a leading music NFT platform). Rosenbloum, who heads the firm’s entertainment group, says that NFTs present “enormous opportunities,” but only if the industry can sort out royalties first. “The industry risks missing out,” he says, “on new revenue streams presented by these innovative technologies.”
Of counsel, Winslett Studnicky McCormick & Bomser
Cramer spent 15 years as an artist manager (Living Colour, Lisa Loeb, Wayne Shorter) before launching his two-decade-plus career as a music attorney, with clients including Disturbing Tha Peace, Ludacris, Nelly, Wu-Tang Clan, Stuart Matthewman and Robin Hannibal. He also represents composer-keyboardist-bandleader Robert Glasper and rising acts like $NOT, Yeat, Autumn! and Lancey Foux, as well as producers, songwriters and mixers such as SephGotTheWaves, Tom Norris and James Francies. His experience also includes handling business and legal affairs for Songs Music Publishing, electronic dance music label OWSLA and Round Hill Music.
Partner/chair of entertainment, copyright and media practice group, Proskauer Rose
Partner/co-chair of labor and employment law department/head of West Coast labor and employment practice, Proskauer Rose
Proskauer Rose counts among its clients Sony Music Entertainment, BMG/Chrysalis, Live Nation, the Recording Academy, Madonna, U2 and Daft Punk. Crawshaw-Sparks recently defended Live Nation and Madonna in multiple class actions and arbitrations arising from delayed starts, phone-free policies and environmental conditions at dates on Madonna’s Madame X tour and questions over the enforceability of mandatory arbitration clauses in online click-through contracts. Oncidi specializes in employment law in the entertainment/media and financial services industries. He was the lead counsel for the Recording Academy in its dispute with former president/CEO Deborah Dugan, which resulted in a confidential settlement in June 2021.
Partners, Latham & Watkins
Latham & Watkins advises some of the largest firms and organizations in the music industry, including Live Nation, the National Association of Broadcasters, Meta, Snap, Roblox and Triller, as well as an increasing number of investors in music assets. The firm defended online gaming platform Roblox in a copyright infringement action brought by the National Music Publishers’ Association — and achieved a settlement for the platform in June that opened the door to licensing talks with music publishers.
Founder/principal, The Davis Firm
Partner, The Davis Firm
Davis — whose client list includes producers such as Swizz Beatz and Mike WiLL Made-It, as well as artists like Wale and Barry Manilow — notes with pride that in 2021 he oversaw deals “that reflected the elevation of minorities into major leadership positions beyond just department heads.” That included the promotion of Ryan Press to president of North America at Warner Chappell Music, Carolyn Williams to executive vp of marketing at RCA and Jeannette Perez to president/COO of Kobalt Music Publishing, as well as the return of Rani Hancock to Columbia Records as executive vp/head of A&R. Youngberg’s clients include Swizz Beatz, LL Cool J and Lil Jon for whom she negotiated a deal on the new HGTV home improvement show, Lil Jon Wants to Do What?.
Silvino Edward Díaz
Chair, entertainment law group, EPGD Business Law; founder, Starving Artists
Díaz has focused on independent and rising producers and acts, including producers Caleb Calloway (Cazzu) and Mr. NaisGais (Rauw Alejandro), manager Angelo Torres (Álvaro Díaz) and artist Amarion. For Amarion, Díaz defended and settled a breach of contract action brought by his former management in Puerto Rico. Díaz also founded Starving Artists in Miami, a legal/business counsel service for artists and entrepreneurs. Asked what the biggest ongoing challenge is for the industry, he says, “Properly compensating independent artists for their recording income.”
Partners, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
Snyder, who has handled legal matters for Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and others, won a ruling for Bob Dylan in August to dismiss a lawsuit that claimed the iconic songwriter owed a portion of his massive Universal Music Group catalog sale to the estate of a former collaborator. Edelman, meanwhile, helped UMG beat a $100 million proposed class action filed by Tom Petty’s ex-wife that sought a portion of the money that the label had recovered through litigation over the 2008 warehouse fire that destroyed a trove of master recordings. He is now representing Sony in a different class action over copyright terminations.
Head of music, Lee & Thompson
“Extensive work” on Harry Styles’ 42-date Love on Tour U.S. trek — which sold 719,000 tickets and grossed $94.7 million — kept Engel busy in 2021, his 10th year as head of music at London-based Lee & Thompson. The sale to Primary Wave of songwriter-producer Steve Kipner’s publishing catalog — which includes his share of hits by Olivia Newton-John, Christina Aguilera and Chicago — was one of a number of catalog acquisitions that Engel helped guide. Other notable clients include Craig David, Little Mix, MNEK and Styles’ former One Direction bandmates Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson. The firm also successfully represented Steve Jones and Paul Cook in their London High Court trial against John Lydon over the use of the Sex Pistols’ songs in a TV drama.
Timothy Liam Epstein
Partner, Duggan Bertsch
Epstein represents over 100 venues, promoters and festivals including Riot Fest, Pitchfork, Baja Beach Fest, Sofar Sounds and Lightning in a Bottle. He helped Rolling Stone and PMC (the parent company of Billboard) close their acquisition of the Las Vegas festival Life Is Beautiful. The event ranked second on Billboard’s Top Boxscore year-end tally in 2021 after drawing over 160,000 in attendance and grossing $18.3 million in three days. The deal took more than two years to close, following delays due to the pandemic and the untimely loss of festival and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh in 2020.
Ilene S. Farkas
Partner/co-chair, music litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
James G. Sammataro
Partner/co-chair, media and entertainment group, Pryor Cashman
Frank P. Scibilia
Benjamin K. Semel
Partners, Pryor Cashman
Pryor Cashman’s client list spans the industry’s top talent, including Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars and Paulo Londra, alongside major labels and publishers Universal, Sony, Warner, peermusic, ABKCO and others. The firm represents the National Music Publishers’ Association and the Nashville Songwriters Association International in actions before the Copyright Royalty Board, proposing rates and terms payable by interactive streaming and limited download services such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Spotify. Its top priority, says Sammataro, is “the struggle to ensure proper control and compensation for creators from digital uses, particularly as the music marketplace comes to be dominated by new business models.”
Partner, entertainment, media and technology group, SMGQ Law
Leslie José Zigel
Partner/chair, entertainment, media and technology group, SMGQ Law
With a client list of artists and music companies including Marco Antonio Solís, Wisin and Carlos Vives, SMGQ Law cites recent negotiations such as Pitbull’s “I Feel Good” Tour, which ranked at No. 20 on Billboard’s 2021 Top Tours chart and HBO’s music series A Tiny Audience, which nabbed an Emmy Award nomination. The firm negotiated Vives’ involvement, through his hit single “Colombia, Mi Encanto,” with Disney’s blockbuster Encanto, which has spent nine nonconsecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200.
Partners, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Since joining the firm in January as chair of music and digital media practices, Fohrman has overseen transactions for a diverse client base that includes TikTok, Match Group and metaverse companies AmazeVR and Roar Studios. Weingarten represented Jamie Spears in the litigation with his pop-star daughter Britney over her conservatorship and post-termination proceeds. Fohrman adds that Jamie tapped Weingarten for “his expertise in handling high-profile, high-stakes litigation such as the claims being pursued in this instance.”
Chair, music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Vice chair, music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Co-office administrative partners, Nashville, Loeb & Loeb
The firm that looks out for BTS, Carrie Underwood, Diana Ross, Luke Combs, The Who, Sony Music Publishing and the Academy of Country Music represented Warner Music Group in its acquisition of the David Bowie estate’s music publishing assets and BTS label HYBE’s joint venture and distribution deal with Universal Music, as well as the K-pop superstars’ McDonald’s campaign. “It’s extremely rewarding that the real value of music industry [intellectual property], the artist and the artist’s brand is finally being realized,” says Frankenheimer. “But there’s a responsibility to make sure that the midlevel, young and emerging artists are sharing in that as well.” Steering the live-music business back from its pandemic vacuum represented another critical issue. “COVID-19-related cancellations were not expressly covered in many agreements, so promoters and vendors suffered tremendously and are now pushing to have the artists assume this liability,” says White. “We need to establish the new economic models that balance the risk allocation for all parties.”
Louis “Skip” Miller
Partners, Miller Barondess
Frid and Miller represent groups such as Five Finger Death Punch, Bad Wolves and Backstreet Boys as well as Universal Music Group and Live Nation. Last April, the firm resolved a dispute among members of Journey in which client Neal Schon, as well as Jonathan Cain, settled a $10 million trademark infringement lawsuit regarding the continued use of the band’s name. Frid adds that he also “litigated and resolved a dispute between Bad Wolves and its former lead singer, Tommy Vext, allowing Bad Wolves to move on with a new singer.”
Partner, entertainment transactions group, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Partner/co-chair, entertainment and IP litigation practice group, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Partners, entertainment and IP litigation practice group, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
The firm’s client Katy Perry prevailed in a yearslong copyright infringement case involving her 2013 hit “Dark Horse.” Earlier in March, Lepera, as lead counsel for the defense, obtained a decision by the district judge to toss a $2.8 million jury verdict of infringement, which was unanimously affirmed by the Ninth Circuit in a decision that set a precedent on music copyright issues. The firm’s clients also have included Drake, Post Malone, Max Martin, Universal Music Group and Ultra International Music Publishing.
Partners, O’Melveny & Myers
Partner/trial practice chair/firm vice chair, O’Melveny & Myers
The firm helped bring client SiriusXM “an August appellate win in a landmark music industry case regarding performance rights for recordings created before 1972,” says Petrocelli. He and Godesky are also representing Kesha in the defamation suit brought by producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, whom the singer has accused of sexual misconduct. They’re gearing up for the long-awaited trial that is set for early 2023.
Partners, Granderson Des Rochers
Managing partner, Granderson Des Rochers
Partner/chair of new media practice, Granderson Des Rochers
While the firm represented J. Cole on behalf of his The Off-Season tour with Live Nation, Granderson Des Rochers also supervised the joint venture between Quality Control’s Solid Foundation Management and SoundCloud. The joint venture’s goal is to discover new talent and provide them with custom resources, tools and access. Given the rise of new music distribution channels such as direct-to-digital service providers and NFTs, Granderson — whose firm also represents H.E.R., J Balvin and songwriter Bernie Taupin — says it’s crucial that “artists be empowered with all information possible to maintain ownership, control and a fair share of proceeds derived from their works.”
Founder, The Gray Law Firm
Representing a mix of legacy acts and new artists, Gray has helped secure deals across the R&B and hip-hop sectors for Ron Isley, Taz Taylor, Nick Mira and Internet Money, among others. Recent highlights include negotiating a TV deal with 50 Cent and Starz on behalf of Black Mafia Family co-founder Southwest T, a publishing deal for Benji Entertainment, producer of “Go Crazy” for Chris Brown and Young Thug, and Capella Grey’s record deal with Capitol Records, following the release of hit single “Gyalis,” which Gray says “took the world by storm.”
Craig S. Marshall
Partners, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
When Justin Bieber launched his Justice world tour on Feb. 18 in San Diego, the star used his platform to raise awareness about criminal justice reform, climate issues and voter registration. Representing Bieber behind the scenes is Rosenberg, who also advises Ariana Grande, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez and LVRN. Greenspan counts among his clients Paul Tollett, Dead & Co. and Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom he advised on the sale of their publishing catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Mobasser advises Common, Jack Johnson and Erykah Badu; Light represents Queens of the Stone Age, Disturbed and Pulse Music; and Marshall works with Kevin Abstract, Elle King and Yeti Beats.
Gary R. Greenstein
Member, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Specializing in the digital exploitation of intellectual property, the Washington, D.C.-based Greenstein’s recent cases include representing Google before the Copyright Royalty Board in the Phonorecords IV rate-setting proceeding, Stingray Music USA and Rockbot before the CRB for the Business Establishment Services IV proceeding and Roblox in its now-settled dispute with the National Music Publishers’ Association. He is a fierce opponent of the rampant “consolidation of rights” in today’s music industry.
Senior partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Partner, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Named partner/head of the music department, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
The firm boasts an all-star client list. Grubman represents Bruce Springsteen, the estate of David Bowie, Paul Simon, Sting, Spotify and senior executives such as Lucian Grainge, Michael Rapino and Jon Platt. Jacobs advises Lil Nas X, Kali Uchis and Take a Daytrip, while Meiselas advocates on behalf of The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Usher, Lizzo, Sean Combs, GAYLE and the Robin Hood Charity. Among the firm’s highlights of the past year are record-setting catalog sales for Springsteen, Bowie, Sting and Simon; The Weeknd’s partnership with Amazon and his upcoming stadium tour; Gaga’s role in House of Gucci and her latest duet album with Tony Bennett; and Lil Nas X’s sponsorships and endorsement deals with Uber Eats, Logitech, Taco Bell and Postmates.
Pierre Hachar Jr.
Managing partner, The Hachar Law Firm
General partner, The Hachar Law Firm
Hachar’s Miami office represents clients including Gente de Zona, Anitta, Vibras Lab, Deorro and Justin Quiles. Hachar represented Quiles in a complex and multiparty restructuring of the artist’s global recording and publishing deals with Warner Music Latin and Kobalt, respectively. The litigator is passionate about educating newer artists and executives, with his top concern being the shift into consumption of new technologies “that the industry is not ready to execute,” he says, citing the metaverse and NFTs.
Managing partner, Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch
Partners, Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch
Herbsman Hafer oversaw a number of catalog sales in 2021, most recently Regent Music and Jewel Music to Primary Wave. The catalogs include the songs “Pipeline” (Brian Carman, Bob Spickard), “More Today Than Yesterday” (Pat Upton), “Lonely Teardrops” (Berry Gordy Jr., Gwen Gordy and Roquel “Billy” Davis) and Christmas classics like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (Tommie Connor) and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Noël Regney, Gloria Shayne). “Working on the sale was a journey through the history of 20th-century American music put together by a true independent music publisher,” says Herbsman.
Managing partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley
Partner, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley
As the touring business returns, among the most pressing issues is “the dominance of Ticketmaster in the primary and secondary ticketing services market,” says Iser. The firm’s clients include the estate of Michael Jackson; such artists as Jackson Browne, David Byrne, Cardi B, Offset, Lil Wayne, Swae Lee, French Montana, Trey Songz and Lana Del Rey; and companies like Del Records, Roland, Saban Music Group and Third Side Music. Iser and his team also represented producers Justin Raisen, Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman in the just-settled suit against Lizzo over the authorship of “Truth Hurts.”
Erin M. Jacobson
Attorney/CEO, Erin M. Jacobson
Jacobson’s client list spans Grammy and Emmy winners, legacy artists and catalogs, music publishers, independent artists and companies, and heirs and estates. Her most recent cases involved catalog acquisitions, music estate issues, copyright terminations, music publishing agreements and international music licensing agreements. Jacobson has advised on the music rights issues involved in both licensing and selling music and its associated intellectual property in NFTs. She says the industry “is still fighting for proper pay for its artists, and especially its songwriters.”
Russell A. Jones Jr.
Attorney, Law Offices of Russell A. Jones Jr. and Associates
Two years into the pandemic, the music industry’s artists are “now happily spending more time on tour and personal appearance agreements,” says Jones, who counts country artists Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Trisha Yearwood among his clients. He notes that the biggest challenge for the music industry in 2022 is “reintroducing live music to the people.”
Olawale “Wale” Kalejaiye
Associate, music group, Sheridans
London-based Kalejaiye helped clinch fashion endorsement deals with Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger’s Tommy Jeans for Nigerian newcomers Burna Boy and Tems, respectively. Additionally, he helped negotiate major-label bidding wars for Tems at RCA/Since93 and for former model JNR Choi at Epic Records. His goal moving forward is to help solve “the black-box conundrum” of $2.5 billion in unallocated royalties for rights owners, he says, noting that the “rise of smart contracts, cloud computing, data security and collective ownership can provide a solution.”
Joshua A. Kamen
Founder/owner, The Law Offices of Joshua A. Kamen
Kamen’s firm represents City Girls, 6LACK and Givēon, who sold out his first headlining tour, landed six Grammy nominations and collaborated with artists such as Justin Bieber and Drake in the past year. Kamen stresses the importance of artist development. “As attention spans get shorter, we need to figure out how to get kids to meaningfully connect with new artists again and not just listen to music as the soundtrack to viral videos,” he says. “There will never be a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Chair, entertainment, media and sports practice group, Barnes & Thornburg
Senior counsel, Barnes & Thornburg
In addition to his continued work with clients Bob Dylan and Michael Bolton, Karlov represented the NFL in production and guild matters and the procurement of music rights for Super Bowl LV. Katz, who represents the Country Music Association and senior executives like Steve Carless, Mike Dungan, John Esposito, Randy Goodman and Monte Lipman, led a team that helped promoter TEG execute a December benefit concert headlined by Kanye West and Drake at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. With expanding opportunities for music licensing, says Karlov, “a more efficient system for synch would unleash a lot of money and uses for all.”
Associate, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Kim’s client list ranges from South Korean hip-hop trio Epik High and pop artist Jackson Wang to Spotify for numerous podcast productions, Tinder and Match.com in various music-related transactions and the immersive virtual reality concert producer AmazeVR. On behalf of the lattermost company, Kim says he spearheaded negotiations with Megan Thee Stallion’s team, as well as her label and publisher, for “a one-of-kind Enter Thee Hottieverse VR concert that will be exhibited in movie theaters across the United States in the coming months.”
Russell L. King
Director, King Law Firm
Since the beginning of the pandemic, King has negotiated numerous “endorsement deals, non-fungible token drops and other alternative revenue sources” for his clients, he says, structuring an upcoming e-commerce venture for Juan Luis Guerra and clothing and fragrance lines for Maluma with Macy’s, as well as deals for the latter with Anheuser-Busch, Versace, Quay, Oppo and Hennessy. Maluma was one of the first artists to announce a new tour at “a time of great uncertainty,” says King, but the outing ranked as the No. 14 tour of the year. King negotiated the Latin star’s tour agreements to “protect him through that calculated risk as well as the central withholding agreement [on nonresident income] with the IRS,” he adds.
Entertainment attorney/president, Kinney Law
For its artist clients, Kinney’s firm manages traditional negotiations involving label and publishing deals, terminating transfer rights, catalog sales and partnerships such as future royalty streams. But the work that sets it apart in the music space, she says, is expertise in the burgeoning technology sector, from interactive and virtual reality media experiences and the metaverse to helping on intellectual property due diligence on assets that clients want to mint for NFTs, “which is far more complex in the music space than other areas of intellectual property. There has been so much exciting new ground broken in recent years, largely in response to the pandemic, and we love to help our clients stay on the cutting edge and benefit from these opportunities.”
Partner, Bray & Krais Solicitors
Over 5.5 million viewers tuned in to Ed Sheeran’s TikTok livestream last June and its two replays, making it the biggest-ever live-music performance on the platform, according to TikTok. For Krais, whose London-based firm represents Sheeran, the show was one of several high points in another challenging 12 months for the live sector, boosted by the return of touring in the second half of the year. That included the rescheduled No Filter Tour by Bray & Krais client The Rolling Stones. Originally slated for 2020, the outing ranked as the No. 1 tour of the past year with a gross of $72.3 million, according to Billboard Boxscore. Krais’ other clients include Mumford & Sons, Elton John and British rappers Skepta and KSI.
Simon Rust Lamb
Law offices of Simon Rust Lamb; COO/general counsel, Bulldog Digital Media
As the pandemic continued to affect live events, Lamb advised major independent festival promoters, including the dance fest producer Disco Donnie Presents. He helped navigate challenges associated with cancellations and COVID-19-responsive festival operations amid rapidly shifting protocols and co-authored strategic communications in the face of litigation and crisis. “The work of independent promoters is critical to local culture [and] artist development and as an alternative to conglomerates,” he says.
Managing partner (retired), Lapidus Root & Sacharow
In the past year, Lapidus announced his retirement after nearly two decades of leading his Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm, representing superstar artists, producers, major record companies and film studios. He takes special pride in his longtime representation of Disney Music Group and Special Olympics, including his involvement with A Very Special Christmas, the compilation series benefiting the annual competition for differently abled athletes.
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
Managing partner, LaPolt Law
Cardi B’s role as Playboy’s inaugural creative director-in-residence and founding member of a new creator-led online platform, Centerfold, is just one of the recent trailblazing deals sealed by the firm’s LaPolt and Scott, who also mind the legal business of Offset, 21 Savage, The Kid LAROI, deadmau5 and Steven Tyler. The industry issues that top LaPolt’s list? “Dwindling royalties paid to songwriters due to government regulations and Copyright Royalty Board proceedings, tours still getting canceled due to COVID-19 and issues concerning systemic racism,” she says.
Partner, intellectual property and media practice, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Head of intellectual property and media practice, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Marks and Larson are on the front lines of the battle over royalty rates. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the rate determination of the Copyright Royalty Board for 2018-2022, which sets the mechanical royalties that client Pandora, as well as other interactive streaming services, pay to music publishers. In December, the CRB adjusted the royalty rate for noninteractive webcasters, including the firm’s clients Pandora and SiriusXM, under the Web V rate proceeding. They expect podcasting to be the next frontier in the battleground for the ears and dollars of music fans.
Shay M. Lawson
Intellectual property and entertainment attorney, Lawson McKinley
Lawson represents some of hip-hop’s biggest names, from artists Offset and Pimp C to producers Sheldon Ferguson (Moneybagg Yo, Travis Scott), Groove (EarthGang) and Chaz Mishan (Ramengvrl, Sofía Reyes, Jason Derulo). She has remained a committed advocate for the Black community, working to combat inequities across the industry as a member of Songwriters of North America, a private working group within the Recording Academy and the Black Music Action Coalition. She also has advocated for federal legislation to curtail the use of rap lyrics as proof of guilt in criminal proceedings.
William R. Leibowitz
Founder, William R. Leibowitz Law Group
In an industry where deal-making is already happening fast and furiously — and accelerating — Leibowitz is at the center of the whirlwind, representing Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Songs Fund as it tries to close acquisitions for the music assets in its billion-dollar pipeline. In 2021, he negotiated and closed many Hipgnosis acquisitions including deals for rights and/or royalty streams by artists, songwriters and producers like Christine McVie, Andrew Watt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Carole Bayer Sager, Stefan and Jordan Johnson, Rhett Akins and Andy Wallace.
Associate, DLA Piper
Lueddeke’s most recent achievement comes by way of his work representing songwriter-entrepreneur Philip Lawrence (Bruno Mars) in multiple litigations related to his music publishing catalog and ownership of the iconic Record Plant recording studio in Hollywood and its related trademarks. “For a music fanatic like me, having the opportunity to work on matters involving such a legendary studio where some of the greatest albums ever made were recorded has been a dream come true,” says Lueddeke. “I feel very fortunate to represent Philip, who, in addition to being a world-class musician and entertainer, is a great person.”
Owner/senior partner, Marcus & Colvin
Clients Jason Aldean, Kings of Leon and Joy Oladokun have long counted on Marcus for straightforward guidance, particularly now as digital video and streaming platforms evolve at a mind-bending pace. “Web3, blockchain/node technology, NFTs and gaming models will disrupt the music industry,” says Marcus. “When executed with real value, NFTs and node networks will provide artists and fans with next-level relationships and profitability.” Marcus weathered a personal crisis as well after partner Jeff Colvin sustained life-threatening injuries during a series of intense thunderstorms in Nashville in May 2020. “Jeff and his son have just about fully recovered,” he says. “We came together as a law firm to support them as best we could — that was the easy part.”
Partners, Mark Music & Media Law
Working with acts such as Billie Eilish, FINNEAS and Guns N’ Roses, Ferreria and Mark have used their combined 14 years at Mark Music & Media Law to create success, guiding breakout singer-songwriter Lauren Spencer-Smith’s new label deal with Island/Republic and negotiating Eilish’s headlining slot at Coachella. Their greatest concern? “For the past few years, it has been the same issue: the calculation and collection of royalties received from digital service providers,” says Ferreria. “Our industry needs to ensure that an appropriate share of the revenue makes its way back to the creators in every instance.”
Angela “Angie” N. Martinez
Attorney at law, Angela N. Martinez
Martinez’s roster of clients includes Latin chart-toppers Ozuna, Camilo, CNCO, Ricardo Montaner, Mau y Ricky and Luis Fonsi, whom she most recently represented in the sale of his publishing catalog to HarborView Equity Partners. “With acquisition agreements becoming more prominent in the Latin music industry,” she says, “it is fundamental that artists and their teams have copies of all of their agreements, have access to all of the royalty platforms for the corresponding royalty statements and have realistic expectations of what their catalog is worth.”
James E. McMillan
Founder, James E. McMillan
Because he’s also busy running his own record label, ART@WAR, McMillan is “selective” about the legal clients he takes on. One artist who fits the bill is Bobby Shmurda, whose team reached out to McMillan last year to help renegotiate the rapper’s deal with Epic Records following his release from prison after six years. “I’m personally committed to working with people who are looking to transition from difficult circumstances into leadership roles,” says McMillan, who helped Shmurda set up his business infrastructure and “get his show back on the road.”
L. Londell McMillan
Chairman/CEO, The McMillan Firm
McMillan has an ownership stake in and manages half of the business and financial interests on behalf of Prince Legacy LLC once it closes probate this year. Prince Legacy includes the artist’s remaining siblings who didn’t sell to Primary Wave as well as McMillan and Charles Spicer. With a client list including the Mt. Westmore collective (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Too $hort, E-40), the veteran music attorney’s other recent achievements include successfully opposing Primary Wave’s efforts to create a single joint holding company to manage the Prince estate’s assets. In today’s challenge-filled economy, cultural and economic equity remain important, says McMillan: “There should be more senior Black executives in C-suites and more Black-owned companies doing business with global enterprises.”
Entertainment trial lawyer, McPherson
As artists return to live performances, McPherson has remained vigilant about ensuring crowd safety at his clients’ concerts and festivals. He has represented Travis Scott for two years and continues as his attorney following the tragedy in November at the Astroworld festival, where 10 people died and hundreds were injured during a crowd surge at the 50,000-capacity show. (He has said producers would have stopped the concert if requested by the police, as they did with the 2019 Astroworld when it went past curfew.) Looking ahead, his firm’s top priority is “how to get back on track with touring and festivals after the pandemic — and how to do it safely.”
Founder/principal, Middleton Law
Last August, the late singer Aaliyah’s multiplatinum album One in a Million hit streaming platforms for the first time. It was soon followed by other classic but long-unavailable albums by Timbaland & Magoo, Tank, Toni Braxton, JoJo and others from the illustrious Blackground Records catalog. After negotiating a distribution deal between the legendary ’90s label Blackground Records and distribution company EMPIRE, Middleton says he’s especially proud of having helped revitalize a catalog that “hasn’t been available to fans for over 10 years.” The Harlem native’s client list includes rappers Yung Bleu, Fabolous and Cam’ron.
Partners, Milom Horsnell Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan
In 2021, the firm negotiated artist deals for major TV musical competition series and represented clients in agreements for Las Vegas residencies, while also representing buyers and/or sellers in a dozen catalog sales with an aggregate purchase price of over $28 million. Luke Bryan, Mickey Guyton, Carly Pearce and Keith Urban are among its clients. According to Crow and Milom, one of the music industry’s most pressing concerns this year is how to develop new artists in light of changes forced upon the industry by COVID-19 and the shifting sands at terrestrial radio and digital service providers. How can the industry collectively build and sustain arena-level hard-ticket acts, they ask, if the focus is on social media metrics?
Carron Joan Mitchell
Partner, Nixon Peabody
Mitchell recently joined Nixon Peabody from Hertz Lichtenstein Young & Polk. She brings her experience in representing artists including Ari Lennox, Brent Faiyaz, Cuco, Freddie Gibbs, Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples and EarthGang and in negotiating branding deals for clients with Coca-Cola, Calvin Klein, Facebook and others. On the firm’s website, she notes: “Clients are asking to be paid in cryptocurrency, and while in the past companies pushed back on this method of payment, there are companies now open to this new way of accounting. I’m also excited to see how Web3 and the metaverse impact the sports and entertainment industry as more and more clients are starting to explore ways to monetize in the virtual worlds.”
Zia F. Modabber
Managing partner, California/chair, entertainment and media litigation, Katten Muchin Rosenman
Modabber is defending the Michael Jackson estate in a class action lawsuit regarding the artist’s first posthumous album. (The plaintiffs claim that Jackson wasn’t the vocalist on three tracks.) The California Supreme Court has granted a review of a ruling by the trial court, with Modabber to lead “oral arguments that will address previously undecided First Amendment issues on the boundary between protected artistic speech and expression, on the one hand, and pure commercial speech that may be easily regulated, on the other,” he says. The firm’s other top clients include Trent Reznor, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Lil Nas X, Céline Dion and the Recording Academy.
Managing partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
Co-founding partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
While representing the three major labels, the firm’s partners “won an important case against two of the most popular stream-ripping services in the world, websites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com,” says Oppenheim. A U.S. magistrate recommended — and a district judge then ordered — the owner of the sites to pay the labels nearly $83 million in damages for copyright infringement. Oppenheim and Zebrak (along with Covington & Burling) also continue to represent the major labels and their publishers in ongoing copyright infringement actions against internet service providers including Charter Communications and Bright House. “Both ISPs,” says Oppenheim, “have repeatedly turned a blind eye to [their] subscribers’ repeated infringement of music copyrights.”
Partners, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
Managing partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
With clients that include Adele, Taylor Swift, Neil Diamond and P!nk, the firm was busy with Swift’s two 2021 releases, as well Green Day’s Hella Mega Tour (with Fall Out Boy and Weezer), which was the first stadium tour to return to the road in 2021. Salomon was the lead lawyer for the sale of Diamond’s masters and publishing to Universal Music Group and Universal Music Publishing Group that was announced in February. “The teams at UMG and UMPG are first rate,” Salomon says, “and their experience working with Neil’s catalog, and his comfort level with them, were critical to the process.”
Partners, Fischbach Perlstein Lieberman & Almond
In the past year, Lieberman and Perlstein have been involved in the trading of music assets on both the buy and sell sides. On the buy side, they helped client GoDigital Media Group navigate some complicated acquisitions, including a few music catalogs. The firm also handled GoDigital’s acquisition of Sound Royalties, a company that provides financing solutions to music creators. From the sell side, the firm’s representation included working with music creators in selling income streams derived from music used in animated film and TV programs to Cutting Edge Music Holdings. Among other capabilities, Cutting Edge provides a range of music services to films, TV shows and video games, and has put together a $125 million fund with Blantyre Capital to buy TV and film music rights, according to press reports.
Senior partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Leader of entertainment, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Partners, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Partner, entertainment litigation, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Manatt Phelps & Phillips boasts a diverse range of music clients that spans veterans the Eagles, Paul Anka and Neil Young to contemporary acts Migos, ODESZA and Sturgill Simpson. The firm’s 2021 docket included representing sports and entertainment agency Wasserman’s acquisition of Paradigm Talent Agency’s North American live-music business, Dundee Partners’ $1.1 billion deal for Kobalt Capital’s music rights portfolio and Marshmello and Bastille’s win in a copyright suit over the hit “Happier.” “Music consumption and integration is at an all-time high, generating billions in wealth,” says Bromley. “Unfortunately, very little is going to the bottom line for those who create the music. It is more critical than ever for all participants in the value chain to work together to drive value to those who create the music.”
Founding partner, Arrington & Phillips
Associate attorney, Arrington & Phillips; general counsel, Collective Gallery
Representing buzzworthy R&B/hip-hop clients like YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Wolfpack Global Music/Lil Baby, Bow Wow, SpotemGottem and Muni Long, Phillips says the biggest concern facing the music industry is how artists leverage their star power to monetize their brands. “They need to be smart in a way to not oversaturate themselves by making calculated moves,” he says. Over the last year, the firm negotiated a global label deal for YoungBoy Never Broke Again with Motown for his imprint, Never Broke Again Entertainment, and also a separate deal with Atlantic to release his independent album From the Bayou, alongside Birdman, which has reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums chart.
Entertainment lawyer and attorney, Plummer Law Group
Plummer, who represents artists including Anthony Hamilton, Jhené Aiko, BJ the Chicago Kid, India.Arie and How Sweet the Sound, both successfully negotiated a multimillion-dollar publishing deal for Chopsquad DJ and acquired a music beat for a TikTok client after they had gained millions of views. Her goal now? “Staying ahead of how music is used in connection with technology and ensuring that all of the creatives involved in the creation of the music are fairly compensated, from streaming platforms to use of music in NFTs.”
Partner, Michelman & Robinson
Last year, Poster was named head of Michelman & Robinson’s corporate and securities department. He earned the promotion after advising longtime client Massarsky Consulting, a boutique investment firm with music assets valued at over $6.5 billion, in its acquisition by Citrin Cooperman. Poster, who counts principals Barry Massarsky and Nari Matsuura as personal friends, says the acquisition will “enable both companies to grow and prosper for years to come.”
Partners/co-chairs, global entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
Partners, global entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
During the pandemic, the London-based Pryor led an initiative for his firm to author two white papers, a guide to livestreaming and a guide to the metaverse, that were offered for free on the Reed Smith website to support the industry during the COVID-19 shutdown. Sessa, who is co-chair with Pryor of the firm’s entertainment and media industry group, serves as outside counsel to Concord Music and has advised on all of the company’s numerous recent acquisitions. In addition to negotiating a wide range of deals for artists and companies, Love advises on the sale and acquisition of recorded music and music publishing assets, as well as rights issues related to digital distribution and new technologies. Among Shapiro’s achievements, he handles all business and legal affairs for Avex USA. His clients include Rihanna, Kaskade, Jon Bon Jovi (with Sessa), Bella Poarch, Saweetie, Anitta, Ali Tamposi, Lord Huron, Josie Maran, Grimes and Angelina Jordan.
Rollin A. Ransom
Partner/co-leader of global commercial litigation and disputes practice, Sidley Austin
Ransom is representing clients including Universal Music Group in a putative class action suit in which the plaintiffs are seeking to reclaim the rights to their recordings under the 1976 Copyright Revision Act. “This major litigation is ongoing and currently proceeding through discovery,” says Ransom. The case potentially affects “legions of recording artists from the late 1970s and early 1980s who are looking to take advantage of this statutory provision to attempt to reclaim ownership rights,” with later generations of artists to follow. “Commentators have described the matter as a ‘ticking time bomb.’ ”
Founder/owner, Reinhold Global
Reinhold Global’s client list includes artists Marc Anthony, Thievery Corporation and Spencer X (who has “55 million TikTok followers,” she says); companies such as Live Nation, C3 Presents, Magnus Talent Agency and Sound Talent Group; and festivals including Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, BeachLife, Lollapalooza and Global Citizen. For the 24-hour Global Citizen Live broadcast last September, Reinhold served as chief outside counsel with responsibility for artist contracts, as well as TV production and event production agreements. The concert, which featured performances by over 50 acts including Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Jennifer Lopez and BTS, raised over $1.1 billion in commitments and pledges to fight poverty and climate change through the planting of 157 million trees worldwide. In Reinhold’s view, “climate change” is the most pressing concern facing the music industry in 2022.
Elliot A. Resnik
Partner/chair of entertainment, Masur Griffitts Avidor
Resnik’s clients include hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and music agencies All Things Go Music, Convicts Agency and Heard Entertainment. He also represents the National Independent Venue Association in its efforts to help revive the live-entertainment industry. He assisted the tourism agency NYC & Co. to secure the rights to music including Chic’s “Good Times” to promote the post-pandemic reopening of New York. “I’ve never been happier to be able to see both the city and our live business back in full swing.”
Founding partner, Roberts & Hafitz
Attorney, Roberts & Hafitz
Roberts & Hafitz’s clients include hitmakers such as The Chainsmokers and Robin Thicke, as well as Arthouse Records & Publishing, whose signee GAYLE topped the Billboard Global 200 in early 2022 with breakout hit “abcdefu.” With major labels turning their attention to TikTok in an age of viral-made hits, the father-and-son team helped guide numerous rising talents through label bidding wars such as BoyWithUke, Ricky Montgomery, Chloe George and Lilyisthatyou. Harry, son of founding partner Jaimie, says he is concerned with issues including “the low compensation paid to songwriters, particularly by digital streaming services.”
Founder/managing attorney, RodFel Law
For client Rapetón Networks, led by Angel “El Guru” Vera, Rodriguez-Feliz says his RodFel firm negotiated a joint artist development venture with Yandel’s label, Y Entertainment Records. The deal created Rapetón Approved in 2020, a platform “for increasing exposure for Latin artists from the start of their careers,” he says. Rodriguez-Feliz — whose notable clients also include Lenny Tavárez, Cerebro (a producer for Sech) and Álvaro Díaz — handles all legal matters for Rapetón Approved, and was co-counsel for its deal with Warner Music Latina to “support the venture in reaching our goals with the artists that participate in the project.”
Owner, Rogers Law Group
For Rogers, who represents rappers Nardo Wick, Coi Leray, G Herbo, EST Gee and Tink, the most pressing issue facing the industry is streaming services’ royalty rates for songwriters. As the Copyright Royalty Board works to set fair rates for mechanical streaming royalties, Rogers notes that “having more artists and songwriters advocate and be aware of what’s happening will only help get the rates up.” Music, though, isn’t Rogers’ sole focus: For visual artist Shantell Martin, the attorney negotiated an exclusive collaboration with Adidas/MakerLab and a deal with the Boston Ballet for Martin’s first choreographic work, ChoreograpHER.
Founder/managing partner, Rossi
Senior associate attorney, Rossi
Rossi, the former vp of business affairs at EMI Latin/Capitol Latin, represents a trove of Latin artists, including Karol G (for the renewal of her publishing agreement with Kobalt and tour sponsorship with AT&T) and Nicky Jam (for his partnership with La Industria Bakery and his European tour). Rossi also advised Noah Assad on his publishing administration agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group and Rich Music on its renewal of Sech’s deal. His clients also include Paloma Mami, Manuel Turizo, Danny Ocean and the estate of Jenni Rivera.
Partner/co-chair, music industry group/vice chair, sports industry group, Covington & Burling
Partner/chair, music industry group, Covington & Burling
Partner/co-chair, music industry group, Covington & Burling
Covington & Burlington (along with co-counsel from Oppenheim + Zebrak) represent both the record labels and the publishing companies of the three major music groups in copyright infringement actions against Charter Communications and Bright House based on their failure to take action against subscribers who they knew were pirating music. In another area of focus, Perry looks forward to the “exciting and novel opportunities for platforms, creators and rights holders” presented by NFTs and the metaverse, but is also wary of how they “present great challenges if not managed thoughtfully.”
Diana A. Sanders
Co-chair, music practice group, Russ August & Kabat
Stanton “Larry” Stein
Chair, media and entertainment practice group, Russ August & Kabat
Ashley R. Yeargan
Co-chair, film and TV practice group, Russ August & Kabat
Stein and Yeargan are “currently representing Drake in a number of litigation matters, including prosecution of a right of publicity claim and defense of numerous cases filed in connection with the Astroworld festival,” says Stein, adding that Sanders’ work with offerings of security tokens and NFTs allows “for investments in companies that entitle investors to potential returns from music royalties.” The firm’s clients also include Post Malone and Roddy Ricch.
Managing partner, Selverne Kelley Bradford
Selverne has been involved in some high-profile music asset transactions over the last few years, including helping Round Hill Music prepare the company to go public prior to its launch as a song catalog royalty fund on the London Stock Exchange. While his firm has been involved in both sides of transactions, the majority of Selverne’s work is representing institutions in acquisitions, financing, due diligence and business affairs, he says. The main event at the firm in the past year was adding two name partners, Palisa Kelley and Scott Bradford.
Owner/managing partner, Shaw Esquire
After watching the success of The Eastie Boyz-produced “Chosen” — by Blxst with features from Tyga and Ty Dolla $ign, and got a boost last year thanks to TikTok — Shaw is now eager to see her clients Tha Eastie Boyz enjoy a similar lift thanks to a “major” publishing deal that she negotiated with Warner Chappell. With a client roster that includes recent Atlantic Records signee Jayson Cash and R&B artist Sainvil, Shaw’s negotiations remain more important than ever: “Artists and musicians have to be a jack-of-all-trades and be much more entrepreneurial — but are making way less money in return,” she says.
Founder/owner, Shihadeh Law
Marquis “Quest” Malloy
Associate attorney, Shihadeh Law
With a client list packed with artists, songwriters and producers ranging from El Guincho to producer Roy Lenzo (Lil Nas X), Shihadeh and Malloy are well acquainted with both their clients’ specific interests and larger industry trends. Shihadeh recently helped Grammy Award-winning producer J White Did It (Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, 21 Savage) form More Hits Publishing in partnership with Milk & Honey and negotiated a publishing venture for it with Downtown Music Publishing. “Transparency in accountings for streaming revenue is an issue that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” says Shihadeh, “but has an enormous impact on gauging the fairness and accuracy of a creator’s royalty income.”
Over the past year, Eisner’s music team has negotiated numerous deals to generate alternative sources of revenue for recording artists, including those in the NFT and branding spaces, while also striking residency agreements for clients in Las Vegas and at Carnegie Hall in New York. The firm represents acts such as Matchbox Twenty, Suzanne Vega, G-Eazy, Sophie B. Hawkins, Andreas Vollenweider and Jon Batiste; songwriters and producers including Jasper Lee Harris, Boi-1da and Barry Eastmond; and, perhaps most notably, the estate of late R&B star Aaliyah.
Simran A. Singh
Managing partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
Christopher R. Navarro
Partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
The firm represented Daddy Yankee in his sponsorship and ambassadorship deals with Airbnb, Sprite and Samsung. For Natti Natasha, the firm helped close a partnership with Amazon for her reality show, Everybody Loves Natti, and deals with global brands like MAC, GrubHub and Sugar Bear. Singh and Navarro also assisted Duars Entertainment and Rauw Alexandro with the renewal and extension of their partnership with Sony Music Latin.
Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Spiro defended Jay-Z from accusations that he violated an endorsement contract for a Gold Jay-Z cologne brand, eventually winning a trial verdict in November that cleared the rapper of wrongdoing and avoided paying $67 million in requested damages. A former Manhattan prosecutor who later worked for legendary celebrity defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, Spiro declined to disclose his other industry clients, but he defended rapper Bobby Shmurda on drug and gun charges and has represented Megan Thee Stallion in connection with her shooting by Tory Lanez. He also penned a letter to New York lawmakers on behalf of Meek Mill and many other artists, calling on legislators to ban the use of rap lyrics in criminal prosecutions.
Founder/CEO, Stilwell Law
Stilwell Law represents country veteran LeAnn Rimes and Argentine singer-songwriter Noel Schajris, as well as the MusicFIRST Coalition, Future of Music Coalition and Lyte, the live-event ticketing platform. The attorney sees fair compensation for musicians as the most pressing concern facing the industry in 2022. “Professional musicians are still woefully undercompensated for the use of their work across all platforms,” she says, noting that “this is true with respect to both recording artists and songwriters. Continued challenges to touring make economics brutal for performers and those who support them.”
President, Sukin Law Group
Sukin Law Group’s estate business has kept the firm busy, including initiating the planning for celebrations for what would have been Aretha Franklin’s 80th birthday on March 25, as well as this year’s 50th anniversary of her landmark Amazing Grace album. Working with George Gershwin’s heirs, Sukin was able to recover ownership of Gershwin’s masterpiece “Rhapsody in Blue.” Going forward, Sukin, who also represents the writers of the musical Les Misérables and the Johnny Marks estate’s St. Nicholas Music, says the most pressing issue facing the music industry is “the continuing efforts to restrict the income and rights of recording artists and songwriters.”
Founder, Ron Sweeney & Co.
A leading attorney in the business for over four decades who has represented artists ranging from James Brown to Lil Wayne, Sweeney perhaps made his biggest impact of this decade outside of his official work with his own firm. In 2020, he wrote an open letter called “Elephant in the Room” to instruct the industry on “how to address the inequities [in the business] as it relates to Black people.” The letter’s impact was widely felt: “The majors responded, among other things, by eliminating the unrecouped artist royalty accounts for artists signed before 2000, as I suggested in the letter,” Sweeney says. “A lot of artists, Black and white, are now getting paid.”
Adam Van Straten
Principal, Van Straten Solicitors
Van Straten represented The O’Jays when Round Hill Music Royalty Fund acquired the masters to 532 of the group’s original recordings, including classics such as “Love Train” and “Now That We Found Love.” His overarching mission? To secure “equitable remuneration in an increasingly tech-centric industry” for clients Craig David, KT Tunstall, Bad Boy Chiller Crew and Koffee, he says. “It is crucial that the music industry adopts technologies in a way that treats artists and songwriters fairly, allowing them to appropriately maximize any potential alternative income streams.”
James L. Walker Jr.
President, Walker & Associates
Over the past three decades, Walker’s Atlanta-based firm has represented high-profile music clients including Aretha Franklin and Bobbi Humphrey, as well as distinguished civil rights leaders, such as the families of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Dick Gregory, among others. Walker is managing cases in 15 jurisdictions, with two recent copyright infringement cases involving client Andre Sims, whose lawsuit against producer Darhyl “DJ” Camper over the H.E.R. track “Focus” was settled in 2021.
Founding partner, Wigdor
Wigdor and Willemin represented Deborah Dugan, the former Recording Academy president/CEO, in her claims of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation that resulted in a confidential settlement in June 2021. Willemin calls that “a case study in leveraging the legal system to effectuate industrywide change,” noting that after Dugan came forward with her allegations, the academy implemented or announced numerous large-scale changes. The firm’s other clients include former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and former Fox News producer Jennifer Eckhart, in employment discrimination and sexual harassment disputes, respectively.
Partners, Serling Rooks Hunter mcKoy Worob & Averill
Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill’s clients span Maroon 5, Hall & Oates, Leon Bridges and 50 Cent, whose surprise performance at the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI halftime show was negotiated by the firm. In addition, the firm has represented both buyers and sellers in multimillion-dollar asset purchases and sales agreements, including Kobalt Music and Iconoclast. Says Serling: “Always in the music business, one of the most pressing concerns is ascertaining and commercializing the next major area of music exploitation after streaming.”
Founder, Yankovsky Law
Defining her mission as getting power and profits into the hands of individuals and small businesses “who actually make the music,” Yankovsky in 2020 created the OutHouse Counsel program to offer legal and business guidance to independent artists and their allies, “helping them to get their music out into the world, manage their rights — and make damn good money doing it,” she says. Her clients have included ArtistShare, home to Maria Schneider and others, which launched its partner label, Sam First Records, last year.
Principal attorney, Yu Leseberg
Yu represented Argentine trap star Paulo Londra in a two-year legal battle with Cristian Salazar and producer Daniel Oviedo (aka Ovy on the Drums), with whom he co-founded Big Ligas in 2018. In August, Yu reached a settlement under which Londra has no further obligations to Big Ligas, clearing the way for Londra to sign a new deal with Warner Music Latina in March. Yu’s clients also include Ty Dolla $ign, individual members of the Black Eyed Peas (as well as songwriters and producers for the group), Diane Warren, Jeff Gitelman, Gerardo Ortiz, and Jess Jackson, who co-produced four tracks on Pop Smoke’s posthumous album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon (Deluxe).
Owner/partner, The Zia Firm
Partner, The Zia Firm
The Zia Firm’s client list includes Machine Gun Kelly, Bia, Tierra Whack, Bandsintown and artist-songwriter Starrah (Rihanna, Maroon 5), who secured a new joint venture with Pulse Music Group in March. Founder Zia describes working with Starrah as a journey that “brought her from a young songwriter to a superstar songwriter to now a publishing executive and owner of her own company, 3:02 Publishing,” he says. The firm ventured into new territory as well, representing the virtual music group Kingship in its precedent-setting record deal with Universal Music Group’s Web3 label, 10:22PM.
Contributors: Darlene Aderoju, Rania Aniftos, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Katie Bain, Steve Baltin, Alexei Barrionuevo, Starr Bowenbank, Dave Brooks, Dean Budnick, Anna Chan, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Mariel Concepcion, Stephen Daw, Bill Donahue, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Paul Grein, Lyndsey Havens, Steve Knopper, Juliana Koranteng, Carl Lamarre, Cydney Lee, Joe Levy, Joe Lynch, Heran Mamo, Geoff Mayfield, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Jessica Nicholson, Glenn Peoples, Bryan Reesman, Kristin Robinson, Jessica Roiz, Neena Rouhani, Dan Rys, Micah Singleton, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Jaelani Turner-Williams, Andrew Unterberger, Christine Werthman, Jewel Wicker, Deborah Wilker, Nick Williams, Todd “Stereo” Williams
Methodology: Nominations for Billboard’s executive lists open no less than 120 days in advance of publication. (For a contact for our editorial calendar, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.) The online nomination link is sent to press representatives who send a request for notification before the nomination period to email@example.com. Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers for 2022 were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In-house counsels were limited to the companies shown. Otherwise, Top Music Lawyers focused on outside counsels. In addition to information requested with nominations, editors consider 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 Luminate (formerly MRC Data) and social media impressions using data available as of Feb. 13.
Leading Law Schools of the Top Music Lawyers
The most frequently cited alma maters of the 2022 class of honorees.
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University (New York)
Brooklyn Law School (Brooklyn)
Columbia Law School, Columbia University (New York)
Fordham University School of Law (New York)
Harvard Law School, Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
New York University School of Law (New York)
Southwestern Law School (Los Angeles)
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley, Calif.)
University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (Los Angeles)
University of Southern California Gould School of Law (Los Angeles)
*Enrollments source: U.S. News & World Report
This story originally appeared in the March 26, 2022, issue of Billboard.