One of the entertainment attorneys I connected with this past month while researching music law was Evita G. Kaigler. She founded The Law Offices of Evita G. Kaigler in Atlanta, Georgia, a law practice designed to create change within the music space by advocating for musical integrity and supporting the people who create the music. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia and a Juris Doctor Degree from Emory University School of Law. In addition to the tools provided in her educational background, Evita pulls her knowledge from various working experiences with organizations such as the Global Legal Division of The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta’s own Sho’Nuff Records, and Music Is My Business, LLC. She is a member of the Georgia Bar Association’s Sports and Entertainment Law Section, member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and a volunteer attorney for the Georgia Truancy Intervention Project. Evita has spoken at various universities, law schools and music conferences to empower, through information, those who want to serve the music community.
Because of her expertise in helping both independent artist and independent labels and developing future music attorneys, I put together the following interview:
Thank you for allowing us the time to discuss the legal side of the music industry. Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started in law and decide on a focus in music law?
My interest in music stems from my love of music as a kid. I always say that music chose me and that I never had a choice to be involved with it. Becoming a music lawyer was the natural choice for me to be a contribution to music and be immersed in music at the same time.
What are some of the typical situations that you have seen where music artists, songwriters, and producers find themselves in a legal bind?
There are a handful of legal binds that I see. One that happens often is where an artist or producer enters into an agreement without counsel. They have signed the agreement based on trust or a poor lack of judgment as to what they believe the contract to entail. It takes two seconds to sign a contract yet it can take a great amount of time and money to get out of one. Another instance is when creative people (artists, producers, songwriters, musicians) come together to create but walk away without a documented expression about the rights involved with the material that has been created. Every song is connected to a bundle of rights that deal with two core issues: who controls the property and who gets paid from it.
When an artist signs a contract with either a manager or a record label, what the contract does NOT contain is just as important as the items written into that contract. What are some of the major items in contracts you’ve seen that were either missing or included in a problematic way?
This is a very big question with many pieces, especially because a management agreement and a recording agreement are two very different types of contracts that are each very intricate. However, I will say this … if you’re not a lawyer within the music space, chances are that you will not be able to clearly identify and understand what is IN a contract and you are not likely to have a trained eye to identify what is NOT IN a contract. What’s not included in a contract is just as important as what IS included in the contract. Definitely seek legal counsel.
With the rise of Do-It-Yourself musicians, some of those artists more than likely do more than they should. At what point does an artist need to seek out the services of a music attorney?
I find that many aren’t exactly sure why they may need a music lawyer. Most are aware that they should have an attorney review agreements; however, they should also seek the guidance of a lawyer in a consulting capacity. If artists are employing the DIY model, it’s likely that they are creating without a solid knowledge of the business and rights attached to the work that they have created. A music lawyer can assist the artist, producer, songwriter with developing practical goals and providing education about the legal steps or legal maters that should be considered along the way.
When a new artist comes to you for help in beginning their career, what are some of the steps you take to start their career development and strategy?
I’m always interested in learning why people have chosen to be involved in the music space. This lets me know what their motives are and what may or may not be important to them. To assist a client with strategy, I ask that clients to assess and develop 6-12 month goals. I want to make sure that each has a perspective of creating a healthy balance in the areas of their music, their business and their brand.
You’ve worked with not only artists, but the independent record label side as well. What are some of the legal aspects that an entrepreneur should focus on when building an independent record label?
They should understand that they have started a business that includes basic business principles that more often than not must be learned. It’s not difficult to start a record label. However, it takes education, strategy, and good music to make an impact. I believe that every indie label, just like an indie act, should always be fan/consumer focused. It’s not about being a celebrity or a celebrity label; it’s about creating a strategy that’s innovative and connects the fan/consumer directly to the music. It’s not just about being seen or selling a product, I believe it’s about connecting with a fan/consumer in a way that invites them to invest in the brand continuously and over time. This takes smarts and a genuine spirit of providing fans/consumers with great music and a phenomenal music experience to match.
A disruption appears taking place in the industry as digital music distribution becomes more dominant. What do you see for the future of the music industry and the legal challenges that the industry will face?
An obstacle for the music business has been the effect of technology on containing intellectual property and containing it within a monetized system, not necessarily digital distribution. Digital distribution through platforms such as iTunes may create a different music purchase experience than in the past; however, I don’t believe that it is hindering the music business. Instead, it’s the viral and vast nature of the Internet that makes it difficult to identify and implement a strong revenue generating system that’s going to cover all ways in which people can obtain music on the Internet. When it’s difficult to track where music is and how it becomes available, it definitely poses a problem for laws (i.e. copyright law) that are centered on ownership and control of various rights within an original work of authorship (i.e. a song). I’m not sure where things are headed …. that’s the million dollar question that has been bouncing around the music industry for years. However, there are certainly strategies that those within the music industry can employ within a changing environment to stay relevant.
I know you are passionate about developing future music attorneys. What advice would you give to someone interested in the field of music law?
Understand the music space. Approach the music space with the mind to create change within the space. Always uphold musical integrity. Lastly, join Future Music Attorney at www.futuremusicattorneys.com!
If you could only give one piece of advice to someone entering the music industry, what would it be?
Don’t forget about the music!
Thank you for taking the time to share with us on music and the law.
Certainly! Thank you for your time and interest!
We make available the information contained in this interview between Japheth Campbell and Evita G. Kaigler for educational purposes only, as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this information you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Ms. Kaigler. Legal topics found on the 360° Digital Artist blog should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.