Music Business Lawyers: How They Charge
By Todd Brabec, ASCAP Executive VP of Membership and Jeff Brabec
In a world of extremely complex contracts and business relationships, where one word in a 100-page agreement can mean the difference between financial security or bankruptcy, selection of an attorney is one of the more important choices that has to be made.
Hourly Rates. Many law firms charge a client a set dollar figure per hour of work done. For example, in the entertainment industry, fees can easily range from $150 to $500 per hour for attorneys. All actual out-of-pocket costs (e.g., copying, fax and telephone charges, messenger, overnight mail, court filing fees, courier bills, secretarial overtime, etc.) will be billed to the client, as the hourly fee does not include such costs, also known as disbursements.
Retainers. Certain clients pay an overall monthly or yearly fee to a law firm, from which actual hourly charges billed during a particular year will be deducted. For example, a client may pay a law firm a guaranteed fee per month, which keeps that firm available for legal advice during the year.
Flat Fees. A fairly common arrangement when an attorney is negotiating a single agreement for a client (e.g., an exclusive songwriter’s agreement, a recording artist agreement, a record producer agreement) is the flat fee. Under this type of arrangement, the lawyer tells the client in advance how much the negotiation and representation will cost regardless of the amount of time expended.
Percentage of Earnings. In addition to the hourly and flat-fee arrangements, some lawyers are also entitled to a percentage of the client’s income under the agreement that is negotiated. Occasionally, these percentage arrangements apply only to the initial advance received under the agreement being negotiated. At other times, the percentage applies only to advances that are paid during the term of the agreement. And at still other times, the percentage applies to all income generated by the agreement, regardless of whether the monies are earnings or advances or whether the monies are payable during the term of the agreement or afterward.
© 2007 Todd Brabec, Jeff Brabec
For more information, check out the book Music, Money and Success: The Insider’s Guide To Making Money In The Music Business (Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales/502 pages) available for sale at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Music Sales Group and http://www.musicandmoney.com.