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Talk To Our Lawyer | 07.06

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But the reality is that these industry professionals may not be knocking down your door for the chance to work with you, and none of them work for free.

As an entertainer, you have to play a number of roles to get your career off the ground. For example, although you are the lead singer and songwriter for your band, you also find yourself booking shows, making sure the band performs the shows, sending out press releases to get the word out about what the band is doing, and trying to keep track of all the money being spent and (hopefully) being earned from your band’s performances and record sales.

If you were a major recording artist selling millions of albums, you would probably have a booking agent, manager, publicist, record label, and accountant working with you to perform these tasks—which would be great, so you could spend more time focusing on singing and songwriting. But the reality is that these industry professionals may not be knocking down your door for the chance to work with you, and none of them work for free.

At some point, you will need one or more of these industry professionals if you are going to continue growing your business as an entertainer. Regardless of whether you are ready to add these individuals to your team, you should always be on the lookout for potential team members so you have a contact or relationship in place when you need it. You should also be realistic about what you can do with your resources (i.e., time, money, expertise) and when it makes sense to bring an industry professional into the picture. For example, if you are presented with a recording contract, you would absolutely need to hire an entertainment attorney to review it before you sign, as the initial investment you make with the professional could end up saving you much more in the long run.

The following tips will help you conduct yourself more professionally as an entertainer, decide when to work with industry professionals, and establish how to work with them to make your relationship as effective and efficient as possible.

·   Act professionally | Present yourself in the best possible way and be respectful of others in the industry at all times. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you by including your contact information on any documents you submit, leaving your phone number on voicemails, etc.

·   Be organized | For meetings, bring any relevant documents as well as a written list of questions, tasks and topics to discuss, and outcomes to accomplish.

·   Keep detailed records and receipts | Even if you throw everything in a shoebox and organize it once a month, keep everything in one place at all times so you know where to look when you need it.

·   Be on time for meetings | To most professionals, time is money…literally. Be as respectful of their time as you want them to be of yours.

·   Expand your network | Relationships are key in this business and it’s often who you know that matters. Keep in touch with (and keep track of) industry contacts, and organize business cards and other contact information you acquire throughout your career.

·   Educate yourself | The more you learn about the industry, the more likely you will be to succeed in it (and not get taken).

·   Make it a team effort | Keep your team members informed about what you are doing and what your other team members are doing. Make sure everyone’s role, responsibilities, and time frame are clear.

·   Get everything in writing | This is especially true for contracts and other agreements, but also take good notes when meeting with a professional, and/or ask for a summary of the meeting (i.e., what was discussed, what you need to do/give to the professional, what the professional needs to do/give to you) from the professional.

·   Sign on the dotted line…eventually | Don’t sign anything until your lawyer has reviewed it.

·   Shop around | When shopping for professionals, ask questions about experiences the professional has had that are similar to your situation, ask what kind of fees the professional charges, and ask for references. Follow up with references. Choose the professional you feel most comfortable with and have the most confidence in.

·   Pay your bills | If you have questions about a bill or statement, or are not able to pay a bill in full upon receiving it or think a statement is incorrect, call the professional and discuss the matter with them. Most professionals are flexible with their billing and can work with you. Do not just ignore the bill and hope it goes away.

·   Communication is key | As Dicky Fox so aptly noted in the motion picture Jerry McGuire, “The key to this business is personal relationships.” Professionals work for you, but relationships are a two-way street. If you keep your professional contacts informed of what’s going on with you and the rest of your team, they will be better able to advise you, you’ll get to know each other better, and your relationship will be strengthened in the process. Don’t forget, professionals are people, too. They have busy schedules and lives outside of the office. They need to be reminded sometimes and they even make a few mistakes now and then. But if you are clear about your expectations and truly develop relationships with your professionals, you’ll be able to deal with life’s obstacles, and your successes will become theirs.

·   Cross your fingers | Luck plays an amazingly large role in entertainment industry success. I’d rather have luck than brains any day of the week (although having both is even better). Remember, luck is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Translation: Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Be prepared and keep your eyes open.

This article provides an overview of some issues you should consider if you are engaging in activities in the entertainment industry. Please consult with an attorney and/or other professional who has industry experience for advice regarding your particular needs and issues.

| Danica L. Mathes is an entertainment and intellectual property attorney with Blackwell Banders Peper Martin LLP and an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

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