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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

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Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Success

by Wallace Collins

Wallace Collins

Wallace Collins, Entertainment Lawyer.

Wallace Collins has experienced the music industry in many forms, breaking in as a music artist himself, and now represents numerous music artists as well as visual artists, designers, and media properties as an entertainment lawyer and intellectual property attorney.

 

In the most high profile court case Wallace was involved with, his client received the largest monetary judgment ever awarded for the use of a single “sample” in the rap song “Whoomp! There It Is”. He has written numerous articles for legal and trade publications, Billboard magazine, Entertainment Law and Finance and The New York Law Journal, and has appeared on many national television and radio broadcasts including Court TV and Hard Copy.

While it seems like Wallace had an easy road,  as the cliché goes, “looks can be deceiving”.  What first seemed like a monumental failure turned into a greater passion for life and ultimately, greater success.

Here’s Michael Nova’s inspiring interview with Wallace Collins…

 

Wallace, before becoming an entertainment lawyer, you were an artist yourself. Can you please share with us how you got your start and how you were able to get discovered by your first record label, Epic Records?

As a young teenager I was an avid songwriter inspired by The Beatles like so many others at the time. I formed bands to be able to perform my songs for an audience and to be able to record my songs.

It was a different era then where you recorded on a small cassette player at home then rehearsed in order to book time and record in a formal recording studio. We would save up what we could for months to afford to book a studio session and make the best demos we could.

For years we would send around our demos to record companies only to be rejected – until one day that changed. Long story short, one time we moved from a 4-track studio where we had started some basic tracks to an 8-track studio. There it turned out that our reel-to-reel master tape now had a lot more tracks, so we filled them up with overdubbed vocals.

We shopped that demo around and got interest from CAM, Jimmy Ienner’s production company that had worked with the Raspberries and he was impressed with what we had done vocally (even though we barely even understood what we were doing). That production company financed us making real masters in a real studio with a real producer, and when I was just 18, I was signed to a record deal with Epic Records.

 

And what happened after you were signed? This led to a second record deal with EMI?

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the record label shenanigans that went on in that world, our Epic single “Rock & Roll President” was not properly set-up and promoted so was not a hit.

Although it was released by Epic on the same days as Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music White Boy” – so we were in good company – when our single failed to get the traction that those other artists got, we were dropped.

We were heartbroken, but CAM believed in us as a band, and me as a songwriter, and so they financed some more recordings. They pitched us to United Artists records and we were signed again.

We were in the studio working on our album when we got the word that EMI had bought out United Artists. We soon realized that this was not good news since EMI stripped most of the artists off the UA roster, including us. So again we were without a record deal (in an era when you had to have one to be viable as an artist).

 

That’s unfortunate, but it seems like many bands were caught in similar situations around that time. Can you talk about dealing with the adversity you faced as a recording artist that led you in another direction?

After the Epic deal and the EMI/UA deal I was still just 20 years old, so I kept on working at my craft: writing songs, recording, and performing live at every club and venue we could play. The band line-up would evolve with other players over the years always in an effort to make it better and better.

We played New York clubs during the week and pretended to be a cover band on the weekends to make a go of it. In the early 80s we were playing double bills with The Smithereens at The Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways in New York city – but when they got signed and we did not, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It seemed we were relegated to playing smoky clubs until the wee hours for meager pay as a cover band, and I grew to resent it. I had hit a sort of glass ceiling that allowed me to play music, but not the way that I wanted to.

As I explained to a friend by analogy, I wanted to be a painter, but instead of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel like Leonardo I was relegated to painting houses – not the level of painter sufficient to satisfy my ambitions at the time.

I did a lot of soul searching while I continued to play music in the club scene.  I was not sure what to do at the time, but I knew I needed to change course. Gradually, I gravitated toward the idea of law school, something that would take me completely out of the scene I was in and let me reinvent myself and then come back to the music business reincarnated.

 

So is it fair to say that you would never have found your passion in life as an entertainment lawyer if you had never experienced the disappointment you felt as a music artist? In other words did the setback in your journey eventually lead you paradoxically in the right direction?

Absolutely, although I felt that I had failed at my life’s goal of being a successful songwriter and recording artist, and I was devastated at the time, having the courage and fortitude to make the extreme change necessary to change course at the time proved to be a lifesaver.

I was stuck on a path that was not leading me where I had wanted to go, and there were certain enjoyable elements of the musician’s lifestyle that acted as a powerful inertia for me.  However, as hard as it was to leave the laid back life of a musician living day to day, and engage in the rigors of law school, the change functioned like a rocket launch in moving me to another path in life.

Had I not been brave enough to push myself to make the radical life change, (although there was still a bit of a rocky road ahead), I would never have found the passion I now enjoy as an entertainment lawyer.

 

So then your journey took you back to law school, but upon graduation, you couldn’t find work in the entertainment industry, so you had to take work in corporate law while looking for the right opportunity to get back into the entertainment industry. Was that a difficult process for you and how did you overcome that challenge?

Although many of my fellow students did not enjoy the rigors of law school, for me it was invigorating. It was hard work, but I was motivated and I enjoyed the challenges.

After graduating there were hefty student loans to pay off and no options for me to get a job with a record company or entertainment law firm since they all wanted lawyers with experience.

I had no choice but to take jobs with corporate firms to get that experience (and pay off some of those hefty student loans). For a few years the big paychecks at the corporate law firms were somewhat satisfying (and practical), but after a while the work seemed soul-killing for me.

I had no passion for the daily work. I was heading in the right direction toward my goal, but I realized that I still was not there yet. However, since some of my old musician friends and others I had known in the record business knew I was now a lawyer, they contacted me, and I started doing some work for them on their contracts on weekends. I found my moonlighting legal work and the music business contracts (and interacting with the music people) was more satisfying than what I faced at my day job at the corporate law firm.

 

And how did you eventually work your way into the entertainment industry again?

It took some time, but the music business work I did weekends and evenings eventually led to more and more.  Friends told friends, and eventually I was getting more and more inquiries – even though I still had my big law firm “day job.”

I kept hustling as best I could to make more and more contacts in the music business, both through musicians and through other people I met that worked at record companies. I attended music business conferences and started writing articles for Billboard and other trade papers.

Eventually, I was invited to speak at some conferences.  I came to realize that if I was willing to take another risk, leave the comfort of the big law firm life and strike out on my own, the risk might bring a reward – and it did!

 

So how were you able to build up your reputation in the entertainment industry to where you were able to reach a level where you felt you were achieving the kind of success that you dreamed of?

Lucky for me, when I struck out on my own as an entertainment lawyer it was the early 1990’s – still a boom time for the record industry. CDs caused many people to re-purchase the same music they already owned on vinyl or cassette along with new music, so money was rolling into the record business.

Rap music was burgeoning, and since some of the bigger entertainment law firms were overloaded with their rock star music clients (and did not necessarily see the future of urban music), solo practitioners like me could pick up business.

Again, luck and timing played a part once I moved myself into the right place. One day an unknown artist called me for a consultation, and we ended up doing a deal with Puff Daddy’s BadBoy Records (and then more and more artists that were going to get signed to BadBoy came to me).  A year or so later the same thing happened with Jay Z’s Roc-a-Fella Records: one artist came to me to do his deal, and once I did that deal, the word spread, and then many more artists and producers working with that label came to me.

To be honest, it just kind of kept going and growing like that, and I built it up one brick at a time, until I had built up an entertainment law practice of my own. All the time I kept writing articles and speaking at conferences to it all worked to reinforce what I was doing day to day.

 

So now as you look back on your journey, what have you learned about overcoming adversity in life, as in our phrase, “fall down seven times, rise up eight”?

The secret to success has certainly been “fall down seven times, rise up eight” for me. There are moments in life where you can stay on the path you are on, even if you are not satisfied with your life just because it feels comfortable and is easier than pushing yourself to make a change.

You need to trust your instincts, and use your mind to overcome the resistance around you. Pushing against the inertia of habit and lifestyle was not easy, but the reward has been great for me: from bedroom songwriter to Epic recording artist, from singer in smoky clubs to Fordham law school, from stuffy corporate law firm to entrepreneurial entertainment lawyer in control of my own destiny.

Each move required me to push myself out of my comfort zone to reach further for something more – but each time the new life turned out to be much more satisfying.  I believe that loving what you do and doing what you love for a living is worth a million dollars (no matter how much or how little you actually make doing it). The secret to having a good life is to be happy doing what you do.

 

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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USA Songwriting Competition Podcast 2017

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  1. “Criminal” by Jerad Finck
  2. “That Thing” by Due West
  3. “Fight to Death” by Jesse Blaze Snider& Freddy Scott
  4. “Half A Heart” by Gail Swanson & Willie Nelson
  5. “Horses in Heaven” by Terry Fator
  6. “Let It Go” by Trev Lukather
  7. “Only Fooling Myself” by Kate Voegele
  8. “Not Ready” by Frank Raknes Schonberg
  9. “Believer” by American Authors
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The Importance of Creating An Internal Band Contract

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The Importance of Creating An Internal Band Contract

by Wallace Collins

 

 

Andy Hill & Renee SafierOver the years there have been many lawsuits between and among the members of various musical bands. These lawsuits have concerned everything from disputes over the distribution of money to the right of departing members to use (or not to use) the band name in connection with ongoing endeavors. In most cases, it would have been better to be safe than sorry, and get the understandings of the band members in writing when everyone was in agreement just so all the parties remember what they agreed to at the start.

The internal group member contract between the members of a band is fundamentally important, but many musical groups ignore this crucial early step. When two or more people associate for the purpose doing business they create a partnership in the eyes of the law. General partnership law applies to the association unless a written agreement states otherwise. General partnership law provides, among other things, that all partners equally own partnership property and share in profits and losses, that any partner can contractually bind the partnership and that each partner is fully liable for the debts of the partnership. In the case of most musical groups, a written agreement setting forth the arrangement between and among the group members as partners is preferable to general partnership law.

A band agreement can address issues such as who owns the group name (and whether and in what capacity a leaving member can use the group name), who owns what property (including not only sound equipment but intangible property such as recording agreements and intellectual property such as the songs and the recordings created by the group), and how profits and losses are divided. Since it almost goes without saying that members of a band inevitably leave and groups inevitably disband, it is important to structure an inter-band agreement in the early stages of a career. It will function in a sense like a prenuptial agreement when matters start to disintegrate, and it can make the break-up process less painful.

Some bands may deal with this agreement among themselves and some bands may have a lawyer prepare a basic inter-band agreement. If it is a fairly equal partnership where all members are writing and performing and sharing equally, it is a fairly simple process. However, where some members are songwriters and others are not and/or where one member claims ownership in the name or another makes significantly larger financial contributions than the others, it can become a complicated process. If the band cannot work it out among themselves, they can either sign a conflict waiver permitting the one attorney to act solely as scribe (and not as advisor) on behalf of the group, or each member of the group may need to get his or her own lawyer to protect each respective member’s interests. Like it or not, as artistic and creative as forming a band can be, this is a business and it is wise to recognize that and deal with it. These inter-band issues are better dealt with at the beginning when everyone is optimistic and excited rather than later when tempers flare and bitterness pervades as egos clash.

A typical band contract will address certain fundamental group issues. One important issue is who owns the group name if one member leaves or if a group dissolves which group of members are entitled to use the name. Under partnership law the partners would be the joint owners of the name and any member would probably be permitted to use the name (or maybe no members would be allowed to use the name once the partnership is deemed dissolved). Trademark rights are determined based on the “use” of a mark (not on who thought of the name) so each of the members of the group would be an equal co-owner of the group name under trademark law. The end result under either partnership law or trademark law might be impractical.

In most cases, the band agreement will state that if a particular founding member was the creator of the group name then only a group comprised of that member and at least one other member can use the name. This will apply whether one other member leaves or if the group disbands and only the founding member and one other reform the group. There are as many different ways this provision can be drafted as there are different group names.  When a group member leaves, the remaining members are going to want to keep the group name and are not going to want the leaving member to dilute its value or confuse the public by using it in any way. The band agreement provision may say that a leaving member cannot use the name at all or that the leaving member can only mention that he was “formerly” a member of the group (provided that such credit is printed smaller than the member’s name or his new group’s name, etc.).

Rights in the group name may also concern revenues generated in addition to rights, specifically as they concern the sale of merchandise (e.g., hats, t-shirts, calendars and other products and paraphernalia). The band agreement should have a “Buy-Out/Pay Out” provision which would deal with this financial aspect of the group name.

The band agreement will need to contain provisions regarding the sharing of profits and losses. One provision may pertain to revenues earned during the term while each member is in the group and another may pertain after the departure of a member or the demise of the group. In most cases, a group just starting out will have a provision that all profits from the group are shared equally between all members with an exclusion for songwriting monies (which each of the respective songwriter members would keep for themselves). Where an established group adds new members the provision may provide that a new member gets a smaller percentage than the founding members.

However, in most cases, during the term there is not a problem determining appropriate revenue shares. The more complicated problem of revenue division arises after a member departs. The agreement may provide that the leaving member is entitled to his full partnership share of profits earned during his tenure but a reduced percentage (or no percentage) of profits derived from activities after his departure – or the agreement may provide for a reduced percentage for a short period of time after departure (e.g., 90 days) and then nothing thereafter. This is an easier issue to remedy as it relates to live performances and sales of merchandise during those performances than it is as it relates to record royalties. The group needs to determine what happens, for example, when a group member performs on 3 albums but leaves before the fourth album is recorded. Although it might be acceptable to refuse to pay the leaving member any royalties on the fourth and future albums recorded by the group under the record contract the leaving member signed as part of the group, it might not be fair to refuse to pay that leaving member his share of royalties from the 3 albums that he did record with the band. Of course, this might vary in the agreement depending on whether the leaving member quit or was fired.

Another important financial issue is the question of the leaving member’s share of partnership property such as band recording equipment or a group sound system. Again, the agreement might specify a monetary payout to the leaving member if he is terminated but forfeiture if the leaving member quits. If merchandise with the leaving members name and likeness still in inventory is sold after the member leaves, a decision will have to be made about whether and how much the departed member might receive for the use of his name and likeness.

The issue of control is also very important to deal with in inter-band contract. In most cases, each member will have an equal vote and a majority will rule. However, there are as many variations as there are bands. For example, some acts might require unanimous agreement or an important member may have two (2) votes and/or the band’s manager may have a tie-breaking vote. The agreement may also provide that certain matters such as requiring financial contributions from group members or incurring debts on behalf of the band require a unanimous vote. Again, there are endless variations including situations where a particular member makes all of the decisions or where new members do not have a vote on band business. One interesting inter-band arrangement was that of The Beatles.  In answer to that age-old question, “no”, Ringo did not get less. In fact, my understanding of their arrangement was that it was what might be called a reverse democracy: each member had one vote but if any member voted against doing something then the band would not do it. In other words, their arrangement required unanimous consent to proceed with an activity.

Another issue of control that must be decided for the band agreement concerns the hiring and firing of band members: how votes are calculated (e.g., will each member get one vote or will a particular member’s vote count double) and how many votes are needed (e.g., a majority or a unanimous vote) to fire a group member and/or hire a new member. In most cases, a new member voted into the group will then be required to sign on to the internal group contract. It must also be decided how to vote on any amendments to the band agreement since this may materially effect the relationship between the members after the group has started. In most cases, a majority vote will be deemed determinative but some members may prefer a unanimous vote on such things as amending the agreement (as well as hiring or firing). This will have to be decided between and among the members of the group.

Finally, the group’s internal agreement should contain a comprehensive Buy-out/Pay-out provision that deals with departing members. In most cases, whether the leaving member quits or is fired the agreement will provide that the leaving member waives all rights in the intangible assets of the partnership (e.g., the group name, the group contracts, etc.). If the member quits, he might waive any right to and benefit derived from the hard assets such as band sound equipment. If the leaving member is fired, the agreement might provide that he or she is entitled to the pro rata percentage of the current value of the hard assets. With respect to this payout, the band agreement may provide that if the valuation exceeds a certain amount (e.g., $25,000.00) or would put the band partnership in financial distress, the payout would be in a certain number of equal monthly installments (e.g., over 12 months).

Again, this Buy-out/Pay-out provision can be as simple or as complicated as the band members deem necessary. There are as many variations in this as there are differences in personalities between the members of a group. Each member and each group must find its own balance.

Inter-band issues and disputes are many and varied. Recently, a member of the Eagles sued the remaining members saying he was forced out of the Eagles’ corporation by the other shareholders (and invoked provisions of the California corporate law pertaining to minority shareholders in close corporations). Years ago an ex-member of The Black Crowes sued his former band mates claiming that he was entitled to an equal share of all the money they made after they threw him out of the band. His contract claim was based on nothing more than a pie chart drawn on a napkin. Legend has it that, years before while eating at a dinner after a band rehearsal, each member had signed his name on his slice of the “pie” drawn on the napkin allegedly agreeing that they would stay together and share all of the money equally come what may. Of course, when circumstances changed the fired member used that napkin to assert his rights.

It is difficult to form a good band and to achieve a successful career in the music business. Any group of two or more musicians working together would be well-advised to create and sign a good Internal Band Contract so that the band does not later self-destruct over money and ego issues and forfeit its hard-earned career success. In a perfect world, each member could afford its own lawyer to quickly and inexpensively prepare and sign such an agreement. In the real world, that may not be the case. In any event, some kind of basic band agreement is a good starting point for any new band.

 

Wallace Collins is a New York lawyer specializing in entertainment, copyright, trademark and internet law. He was a recording artist for Epic Records before attending Fordham Law School. Tel:(212) 661-3656 / www.wallacecollins.com

 

For more information on entering IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

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5 Things I’ve Learned About Composing for Film and Television

by Fred Kron

 

Fred KronAt the age of one, when most infants are pounding on the table, I was pounding out the notes to “Happy Birthday.” My childhood was spent studying Beethoven, Brahms, Madonna, and Hall & Oates, as well as the super catchy tunes of television composing legend Mike Post. Did I practice? Sure, sometimes. But did I play what I heard on the radio and television? All the time! From pop tunes to TV themes, movie scores and obscure jingles, I tried to soak it all in. My college years were spent at the University of Miami, studying and earning a degree in Jazz Piano Performance. But once I became aware of multitrack recording and sequencing, I was hooked. My official transition from performing into the world of composition came through a college friend who had just graduated and landed a job with Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production company. Without my knowledge, he had bothered someone there just long enough for them to ask me for a demo reel, which I thankfully had been working on. A job was offered to me by Adam Sandler to compose music for a batch of Internet short films, and so began my career as a film and television composer. Here are five things I’ve learned along the way.

 

  1. When in Doubt, Ask

Trying to read your clients’ minds and understand what they want from you for their project (musically, emotionally, and stylistically) can seem a bit challenging at first, but with experience and learning what questions to ask, you can greatly improve your chances for a successful collaboration. These questions can range anywhere from what sonic palette you might choose to whether the client is looking for a textural vs. melodic approach.

 

  1. Know Your Studio and Sounds

Everyone works a bit differently, but many composers spend more time than they’d ever care to admit working on templates (preloaded instrument tracks, mix routing, and EFX) so that sounds are dialed in, and always at their fingertips when composing. I have some templates, but I usually like to start with a blank page. I don’t see this as a disadvantage, as I’ve made it a point to become extremely familiar with my sound libraries and plug-ins, and often the extra 15 seconds it takes me to load a sound can be time spent thinking of what part I might lay down, or what I might order for lunch.

 

  1. Don’t Be Married to Anything

Sure, in your heart of hearts, you know that what you’ve submitted on your first pass is “pure gold,” but everyone has an opinion (and, unfortunately, they’re probably making more money than you are), so it’s a good idea to let them express theirs. I’m only half kidding. Making changes is part of the gig! Sometimes, requests for changes come in the form of statements like, “Yeah, definitely add a crescendo there, and make it really soft so we can barely hear it.” That’s one of my personal favorites. More often than not, collaborators give good notes that can really make the cue or piece better.

 

  1. Always Be Improving

Prior to my composing career, my background was mainly as a pianist and keyboardist. That part of my skill set has always been extremely advantageous to me, even if I’m landing a writing gig; instant demonstrations are always impressive and create great networking opportunities. It also helps me work faster and more efficiently. For example, if I’m working on an orchestral composition, the less time I spend performing the parts, the more time I can spend on tweaking controllers and geeky MIDI things for realism.

 

  1. Remember: Composing Is Collaborative

You are composing music to make the picture better, and that is the only acceptable outcome. The people hiring you all have unique personalities, varying degrees of musical knowledge (and vocabulary), and different approaches to their projects. Embrace these differences, as they are often what keeps each project unique and fresh.

 

[Permission Reprint by Keyboard Magazine]

Fred Kron is a Los Angeles-based keyboardist, composer, arranger, and orchestrator, who currently has music in more than 12,000 episodes of television. His current projects include original composing for Fox, touring with Colin Hay (Men at Work), and subbing on keyboards for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!


For information for the 2016 IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), visit: http://www.inacoustic.com

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2016 International Acoustic Music Awards Podcast

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Thanks for tuning into our 2016 podcast episode for the International Acoustic Music Awards.

Acoustic Music Radio

Acoustic Music Radio

  1. “Two Mountains” by Ron Korb
  2. “Waterfalls” by Meghan Trainor
  3. “Hooked On Me” by Jack Newsome
  4. “Samsara” by Ricky Kej
  5. “Need A Break” by David Myles
  6. “A Little Longer” by Lord & Lady
  7. “Enough” by Cam Nacson

Intro & Outro Music: ”A Bakers Dozen” by Muriel Anderson

 

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