Understanding the Legal Aspects of the Music Industry

Music-related careers are affected by complex legal matters, from issues related to copyrights, trademarks and licenses; to recording, publishing and distribution agreements; and from contract negotiations to tax filings. The term music law refers to these various legal principles, practices, regulations, rules, statutes and customs that have evolved in the music industry as well as certain legal aspects in other areas of the entertainment industry, which includes motion picture, television, sports and theater.

Much of music law and entertainment law fall into two main categories: litigation and transaction. Litigation involves the law of intellectual property consisting of copyright law, trademark law, trade secrets, libel and slander, and the right of privacy and publicity. Transaction refers to laws pertaining to business organizations and commercial transactions such as contracts, royalties, licensing, partnership, corporations, tax, securities, labor, health and safety, immigration and international law.

The music industry involves not only performers and songwriters but also music publishers, recording labels, merchandisers and the live events sector, which includes festivals/concerts, performance venues, promoters, talent managers and production service providers such as lighting and staging companies. Professionals working in music industry management must have a solid understanding of music law to build their careers and to remain successful. One of the best ways to obtain knowledge of music law for someone wanting to enter or expand their career in music industry management is to pursue a master's in music business. Music business students receive the basics of music law and if they desire, they can go on to earn a law degree.

Importance of understanding different laws in music industry

Because artists and other people working in music industry management face complicated legal issues on a regular basis, it is important that they secure a music or entertainment attorney to assist in their business affairs. But it is equally important that they build their own foundation of understanding different laws associated with live event management, copyrights, licensing, contracts, employment discrimination and common music industry practices and regulations.

While a graduate with a master's in music business will have learned the basics of music law, various resources are readily available to anyone in music industry management. Law libraries can be a good starting place. Academic journals, legal reports and bulletins can be invaluable resources for the latest legal news pertaining to the entertainment and music industries. Websites maintained by music industry, artist and advocacy organizations are generally educational when it comes to legal issues. Sites that may be helpful include the American Bar Association's Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries; American Federation of Musicians; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music Inc.; and Recording Industry Association of America.

A music business professional can grow and succeed by combining a passion for music with a solid understanding of the legal and business aspects of the industry.

Learn more about the Frost School of Music’s online master’s in music business program.





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