Thursday, August 22

The Business Side of the Music World


The music industry used to be a relatively simple world, where bands scored record deals, played, sold CDs and made a nice profit. In recent years, this has changed. This aspect of the music industry is the subject matter for a winter UCLA Extension course, Legal and Practical Aspects of the Music Business, starting Jan. 12.

For around 10 years, entertainment lawyer Dina LaPolt has been teaching the business class, which covers what music industry professionals need to know to succeed in the business, from new arrangements between record companies and music artists to how to monetize income in connection with mobile downloads, issues that have become especially relevant with the current state of the music industry.

“(This is) a very exciting time for the music business and yet at the same time it’s challenging,” said Brad Rains, former student of the course and now senior director of creative services in film, television and advertising at Bug Music.

Those in the industry are focusing on finding a way to monetize the new platforms of music prevalent today, and they are currently doing so with the Internet model of music, according to LaPolt.

Right now, the music industry is in a state of disarray and in the midst of a major recession. Problems have been presented by changes in how music is available on the Internet, from illegal downloading to finding a way to keep music relevant as a product.

“There’s a clear trend, which is a loss of control … that amounts to a loss of money,” LaPolt said. “That’s really the problem. … (The industry) held on to this antiquated business model that should have expired 15 years ago.”

LaPolt said the young millennial generation values instant gratification, and is more concerned with convenience and interactivity than legal ownership issues.

Rains, whose position entails representing songwriters, producers and artists and overseeing his company’s 250,000 copyrights, is regularly faced with this constant struggle.

“We are the copyright holders and copyright administrators, so every song stolen is money stolen out of our pockets,” Rains said.

To combat this, Rains goes after and tries to shut down avenues for illegal downloading, among other things. In this area, the Internet has significantly impacted the legal side of the music industry.

The Internet has also ushered in the age of social networking, which gives artists an immediate way of sharing their music on a worldwide scale. It has helped move the music industry in its current direction, which is focusing on the fans.

“It’s about making music available in a lot of different ways,” said Damian Elahi, attorney at Warner Bros. Records.

Although economically speaking, business is not at its best, Elahi said he believes that the music industry is in a good place overall, because the new focus is deciding how to supply what people want. This makes record companies be more creative and artists get more creatively involved with the release of their music.

By the same token, instead of the previous prepackaged model of music, fans now have more platforms available for listening to music because artists are releasing music much more quickly to many different outlets.

“We’re trying to catch up to what we should have done eight years ago … Now the consumer took over, and we’re forced to do what the consumer wants,” LaPolt said.

One possible direction for the music industry LaPolt sees for the future is a subscription service model, in which, for subscribing at a low monthly fee, you would get access to unlimited music. Also, to earn faithful support from fans and thereby monetize assets, an important tactic is creating an emotional connection between the artist and consumer.

“People still are very culturally affected by music. That hasn’t changed; the way that people want to get their music has changed,” LaPolt said. “By giving (consumers) free music in the beginning, they become fans of the artist. … They might actually start paying for things because they’ve become a fan.”

LaPolt has been involved in almost every aspect of the music industry, from performing in bands to promoting punk concerts. Now, as a renowned lawyer ““ her independent firm, LaPolt Law, P.C. handles about 200 clients and she represents and manages the assets of Tupac Shakur’s estate ““ she teaches those in the music industry the importance of viewing the artist as a brand. The practical knowledge taught in the course helps students succeed in careers in the music industry. Rains, who started off as an assistant to a creative vice president while taking the class, credits a portion of his success today to the class and LaPolt’s passionate teaching.

“I don’t believe that I would’ve risen through the ranks … as quick as I did without the knowledge that I learned from Dina,” Rains said.

Although the music industry is faced with the challenge of keeping up with the times, those with intimate knowledge of its workings are optimistic. Elahi said he is excited, as a lawyer, to be at the forefront of the changing industry.

“I’m happy to be … working with the overall music industry to form and craft what’s going to be the music business of the future,” Elahi said.

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