New Legal Guide Alerts Songwriters, Musicians to Business Pitfalls

As record labels take Internet companies to court to determine how music will be distributed and paid for, a new instructional tape points out that there are many existing laws songwriters and artists must take into account if they want to succeed in the music business.

The Musician’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Music Law covers questions about ownership and copyright of songs and recordings; choosing a band name and maintaining rights to it; choosing the best business setup; duties and rights of personal managers, business managers and talent agents; advantages and disadvantages of union membership; how record labels and music publishers are organized; negotiating recording and songwriting contracts; and calculating royalties from record sales and other uses of music.

Written by music attorney Joy R. Butler and published by Sashay Communications of Arlington, Va., the instructional package consists of two cassettes (with a running time of three hours) and a 62-page booklet that summarizes the points made on the tapes, lists additional reference sources and provides a glossary of common music-law terms. The suggested retail price is $29.95.

To prevent the tapes from sounding like a dry lecture on law, the information is scripted in a question and answer format that uses the voices of two narrators, an artist and a legal expert.

Although there is nothing here that applies only to country music, Butler does refer to the group Shenandoah in pointing out the financial hazards of using an unsecured name.

This instructional package is no substitute for a music attorney, but it does point out the situations in which one is needed.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to