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Talent Scouting, Production Tips, and Entertainment Law

As a producer my main focus is to act as a talent scout for new and very deserving musicians and then blend their talents with top notch seasoned pros. Pros that these undiscovered talents probably look up to and have studied and have been influenced by. People that I myself admire and respect. I usually grant one or two people per project a production scholarship which gives them the opportunity to make some money while co-writing and tracking an album or compilation project.

The first thing that I look for when assigning a production scholarship is attitude. I look into people not at them when I talk to them. My first question is did they come here so that they may serve or are they here for their own selfish motivations? I look for a humbled yet confident personality as a boisterous ego will not readily survive in my organization. I look for courtesy and respect as well. Then I look at the obvious like their musicianship, composition skills, overall style, dedication, motivation, technical abilities, and availability.

Making music should be a fun and rewarding experience for all involved. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. I've heard of several bands (from garage bands to supergroups) that have broken up over some minor stupid technicality that just happened to rub someone the wrong way.

A producer's job can be rewarding but it is not always easy. It takes a certain amount of psychology and people skills to fully succeed. True artists are the most sensitive creatures on the planet. They may get upset over a misunderstanding and instead of coming up to you and saying "Something is bothering me can we talk?" they may opt to hide in a shell and let it bubble up inside until one day they just go livid on you. Artists have big imaginations and they sometimes build up mountains out of molehills. It's important to let your people know up front that if there is a problem to please let you know because you are there for them. Sometimes they forget that you are an approachable, compassionate, and genuinely caring human being that truly does have concern for their feelings.

The main focus is to have fun and then secondly to gain success. They say the most successful people are those who love what they are doing. My main objective is to provide a healthy working environment so that we may together as a unit get the best creative ideas out of a situation.

The other important factor that I seek as a producer is the sobriety of the musicians. The last thing I want to do is babysit a drug problem, drinking problem, or any personal issues. I do not allow cigarette smoking in the work rooms either. I look for people with a clear head. Period. As far as the personal issues go.....sometimes I'll get someone in that is depressed cause they got in a fight with their girlfriend or whatever. I have this invisible garbage can that I place at the door of the recording session, dressing room, wherever and I ask that the musicians throw all their crap of the day into that can before they enter the work area. When the work is done then they can stop by the trash can and pick it up as they walk out the door.

Another thing that I really must stress is to have full control over your promotions department and get your own "Official Website". Otherwise you may find a conflict of interest that you would never foresee even in your wildest dreams.  Things can happen that you least expect and then you end up having to go clean up someone else's mess at the cost of your hard earned reputation.

I also highly recommend learning all you can about business law, contracts, and legalities. For example, if it's a copyright issue you're dealing with then try and get to know someone at the US Copyright Office in Washington, DC. If someone there likes you maybe they'll give you a direct line so you don't have to go through all the headaches of dealing with a menu of options that goes on for 3 minutes before you find the right button to press which sends you to a voice recorded message of another 5 minutes before you are put on hold till the next available operator gets on the line to finally answer your question. A copyright attorney may try and charge you $500.00 for advice on subjects that are a little more involved or technical than the average no-brainer basic copyright issues. A US copyright underwriter will answer those same questions with the same accuracy for free. If you are lucky enough to land one of these people on a first name basis then by all means find out a little bit about them. Find out what their hobbies are or where they like to dine and surprise them with a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or drop them a cool postcard while you're on vacation.

Your local library has great outline material regarding "Work for Hire Contracts", "Assignments of Copyright", stuff like that in their reference department. They usually have a photocopy machine and all you have to do is pay for the photocopy of the samples. Get all of the sample contracts that you can and log them into your computer. Study up on each one and what they mean and then you'll know which one to pull up for whatever purpose you need. Then all you have to do is fill in the blanks by typing in the persons name, title of the work, out of pocket expense, etc.

Make sure to get a Legal Plan. They run around $26.00 a month and that includes unlimited legal advice. One of the benefits of a legal plan is that an attorney is obligated to review all contracts that you submit at no additional expense. If there's anything not quite right about the contract the attorney will instruct you on how to fix it.

If you have to rewrite something and you don't understand all the legal jargon then by all means consult with a paralegal. A paralegal is the equivalent to an attorney's secretary and is usually the one who ends up writing the contracts on his behalf anyway. What the attorney usually does is review it, eliminate the bugs, and negotiate a better deal for his client. Entertainment attorneys can run anywhere from $100 an hour (Smalltown USA) to $450 per hour (Beverly Hills) depending on where you live and that can get rather expensive if you are paying a lawyer's rate for a job that ends up being handed to his secretary. The one thing that I must stress about a hired attorney (verses a legal plan) is that EVERY TIME you make a phone call or step foot in his office, you can unrest assured that there is a clock that is keeping track of every single minute he's with you or working on your project...so any changes, questions, reviewing, or advice...anything at all... can add up to a BIG expense in no time. To find a legal secretary in your town all you have to do is look in any Yellow Pages phone book under "paralegal".

Another advantage of a legal plan is that they also write unlimited letters (all inclusive)...and when you finally do find yourself in need of a high caliber music attorney for an important job (like the negotiation of a label deal) you automatically are granted a pretty hefty discount for being a member of the plan.

I want to stop here now for now. (I need to get some sleep) I will continue to post more information at a later date.