Like managers and booking agents, lawyers must get paid. However, they are smarter than booking agents and managers. Therefore, lawyers generally get paid in the form of billable hours rather than as a percentage of your income (lawyers will say that managers and booking agents are smarter since they are commissioned and don’t have to chase artists around to get them to pay their bills…probably neither is smarter than the other). Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $600 an hour (this high end is really only found at the elite firms) for their services. Some lawyers will work on a percentage basis and typically take 5 to 10 percent of the income generated from a deal. This includes personal advances paid to an artist from a label.
Additionally, there is a hybrid arrangement, where the lawyers will charge a low hourly fee with the understanding that, at the end of the deal, they will receive a percentage of the net money that the artist receives from the label. In this scenario, insist that any hourly fees billed to the artist be deducted from the attorney's take. Lastly, some lawyers will take a fee based on the size of the deal once it is concluded. This is referred to as “value billing.” In this type of relationship, you pay a fee based on the ultimate “value” of the deal. The more value the lawyer helped you get, the more he gets paid. In all of these cases, it is important to stress that lawyers should only draw their percentage from the net artist share and not the gross money received. Lawyers can become incredibly creative when it comes to fees. There is simply no way to cover all the possible permutations out there.
The above examples are meant to give you an overview of how the process works. Whatever your fee agreement, one thing is for certain: the more money you are making, the more you will be paying to your lawyer. Therefore, just like managers and agents, lawyers want you to succeed. They are going to try to use their contacts - be they record companies, managers, booking agents, advertising houses, or anywhere else potential money might be found - to aid you in growing your career and income.
Written by George Howard
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!