The Attorney and the Tour- Event Recap
A Look into the Legal Aspects and Business Elements of Live Music on the Road
By: Sydney Abualy
(1L Delegate Executive Board)
On November 28th, BESLS invited Gary Casson, Monika Tashman, and Phil Sarna to join in a discussion about the legalities of live music events and the touring artist experience. Attendees were given the unique opportunity to learn about the music business from an esteemed panel of industry professionals. Mr. Casson is an independent music business consultant who draws upon his extensive industry experience as the Executive Vice President of Elektra Entertainment, Inc. from 1983 – 2003. Ms. Tashman is a partner in the Entertainment Law Department of Fox Rothschild, LLP. She has achieved success by complementing her client services with her expertise as a certified executive coach. Mr. Sarna is the Senior Managing Director and owner of PS Business Management LLC, a full-service business management firm. He has used his 24-year tenure in the music business to guide his diverse roster of clients through challenges they face in the entertainment industry today.
Having known one another for years prior, there was a familiarity that brought about a comfortable and casual vibe among the panelists. Armed with their diverse experiences, the panelists focused the discussion on how the music industry has transformed with the emergence of technology, industry tips for artist success, and the current state of the “360 deal” in 2017.
When the music business was known as the “record business,” Mr. Casson reminded the audience that the industry was not predominantly about touring. Artists used their records to promote live touring, and not much else. Prior to the advent of iHeartRadio and other streaming services, it was local radio that enabled artists to gain recognition. Ms. Tashman informed the audience that one of the only ways for an artist to promote their music was to call up a radio station and ask for their song to be heard. Mr. Sarna summed up the unconventional, edgy culture of touring, pre-dating a tech influence, by reciting an old saying; “If an artist did not sell the seats, then tear up the front row!”
The panelists recalled the major shift of the industry, from being “hustler-run,” creating deals out of nothing, to becoming a professionally orchestrated business. Mr. Sarna reminded the audience that platforms such as Napster and iTunes changed the landscape of the business by popularizing artists internationally. Currently, 75% of the “revenue pie” is in touring. Further, the industry is inventing technology just for touring purposes. Sites such as Pandora and Spotify promote global touring by providing artists with information indicating the far-reaching locations where their music is being streamed. The panel informed the audience about the major players in touring; starting with the agent, who books the tours, the promotor, who books the venue, the manager who “pumps up” the artist, delivers them to the show, and builds the touring audience, the crew, and of course, the artist. The panelists shared with the audience that every successful tour is built from a strong crew and a thoughtful tour protocol that lays out policies regarding the chain of command, drug-use, harassment, and other rules of conduct. While technology has granted the touring industry a much wider reach, the panelists reminded the audience that emerging artists need to narrow their scope, and begin their careers by selling out their local venues first, before moving to a larger scale.
The “360 deal” is a contract that is built between an artist and the record label that controls pieces of artist revenue from all aspects, including sponsorship, publishing, merchandising, and touring. “The bands are the brands,” Mr. Casson added. The goal of a “360 deal” is for the record label to share in every aspect of revenue that they can create from the artist. The panelists emphasized that artists are more savvy and industrious than they used to be. Chance the Rapper and other independent artists, are starting to stray away from any third-party sharing of their income sources, and have moved towards making smarter deals.
For those who would like to continue your music industry education, Mr. Casson recommended the book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” by Don Passman. Ms. Tashman also shared one of her industry favorites, “Hitman: Forty Years Making Music, Topping the Charts, and Winning Grammys,” by David Foster.
After about an hour and a half of discussion, the panelists joined Brooklyn Law School students in a one-on-one networking opportunity. We would like to thank the panelists for sharing their industry experience and joining us for this memorable evening.