You listen to music all the time, from when you’re driving to work to going on a run to shopping at the grocery store. However, you probably don’t think about all the work that goes into producing the tracks that surround your ears. Here’s your crash course in the music industry and its relationship to entertainment law.
Many professionals are involved in the music industry, and their rights are all protected by entertainment law. Composers create the melodies and harmonies for each song, and songwriters or lyricists create the words if there are any. Then, singers and instrumentalists, including percussionists, woodwind players, brass players, and electronic musicians, perform the song. Sound engineers and other studio professionals work together to record each track, and producers, publishers, and retail agents distribute the records to the public. For particularly famous musicians, the process also involves managers, booking agents, and equipment crews.
Why Do Musicians Need Legal Protection?
Because so many people are involved in the music industry and because the profits are so high, a variety of laws protect musicians’ intellectual property. These include copyright laws and trademark laws, which govern the ways in which other people can use and replicate musicians’ works. As with most legal issues, entertainment law is incredibly complicated and varies heavily depending on each musician’s contracts. As a result, it is crucial that professional musicians have an entertainment lawyer who can advise them on new contracts and help them if legal battles ensue. John Branca is one such lawyer who has represented many famous groups:
- The Jackson 5
- The Rolling Stones
- ZZ Top
- The Beach Boys
- Fleetwood Mac
- Earth, Wind and Fire
He notes that celebrities often lose control of their publicity because of the many different online news sources today, so it’s important for musicians to have a legal team ready to help them in case something goes wrong.
What Are the Relevant Laws?
Any musician whose music is popular benefits from the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988. This law requires people who want to publically perform copyrighted music to receive music from the owner. The copyright holder may be required to grant music license requests depending on if he or she holds a compulsory license, but this act still gives copyright holders control over and knowledge of who is performing their music.
Another relevant law is the Fairness in Musical Licensing Act of 1997, which governs the use of unlicensed music in businesses such as restaurants. Small business owners do not have to apply for music licenses when they stream music or turn on the radio for their customers’ enjoyment. However, if they want to host a group that covers certain records, that performance must be licensed.
The music industry is constantly expanding and changing, with streaming services and developments in electronic music necessitating changes in entertainment law. If you’re ever in doubt about whether a performance needs to be licensed, consult with an entertainment lawyer who specializes in music law.