The 2014 International Music Conference was a real treat! Producers, songwriters, music executives and music professionals were in attendance giving conference goers deep insight on the business and how to prepare for success!
We had the opportunity to speak with one of the IMC panelists, Attorney Curtis Martin II where he discussed his background, life as an attorney, and his tips for upcoming artists and how they can legally protect themselves!! Check out what he had to say below:
The IMC: What’s your background?
CM: I’ve been told that I’m an artist trapped in a lawyer’s body. I was exposed to the creative arts early in my life and spent much of my childhood drawing, writing, painting and playing music. Music was my first love and I received numerous awards as a high school musician and even had the opportunity to tour with the US Army Band as a teenager. I also received the US Marine Corps Semper Fidelis Award for music as a high school senior and contemplated pursuing a career in music. However, I decided to maintain music as a hobby and pursue a business degree while in college. I obtained a business degree then moved to Atlanta and worked in corporate America before deciding to attend law school.
I still enjoy painting, writing poetry and playing music so my entertainment practice is a natural fit given my background and interest in the creative arts.
The IMC: What made you want to pursue a legal career?
CM: I can’t recall a single event or moment that influenced my decision to become an attorney. I enjoyed working in corporate America and was successful but unfulfilled in several aspects of my professional life. I enjoy reading and have always admired the lives of individuals who have affected positive change in the lives of others. Many of those individuals were trained as lawyers and my favorite aspect of being an attorney is the ability to use my law degree to serve others.
The IMC: What was your law school experience like?
CM: Law school was an incredibly difficult yet rewarding experience. I was considered a non-traditional law student because I had a professional career prior to attending law school. The learning curve was steep during my first year but I adapted and enjoyed the experiences in and out of the classroom. For example, I was a well-rounded student and active in a number of student organizations during law school and founded initiatives designed at providing greater resources for minority students and increasing scholarship offerings for diverse students.
The IMC: Tell me about your practice and your work in the area of entertainment law.
CM: I’m a litigator and clients hire me to help them solve difficult problems. I represent clients locally and nationally and my practice extends to several industries. In the entertainment industry, I represent a range of clients to include artists, producers, managers, production companies and other entertainment related entities in claims involving breach of contract and business torts. Breach of contract actions typically involve disputes related to the terms of a contract or one party not fulfilling their obligations arising from an agreement. Business torts typically involve harm done to intangible assets, such as business relationships or intellectual property. For example, business torts include unfair competition, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.
The IMC: Ok, as an attorney, what is a typical day like for you?
CM: My practice requires quite a bit of travel for client meetings, depositions, hearings, etc. When I’m not traveling, I’m in the office drafting briefs, motions and/or preparing for depositions. All of my clients know how to reach me 24/7 so I also spend a large amount of time communicating with them in an effort to resolve problems prior to litigation.
I’m also a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on topics related to my practice and enjoy spending time mentoring law students and new attorneys.
The IMC: Ok, so speaking from the entertainment aspect, why is it important for musicians especially indie artists and up and comers to have an attorney on their team?
CM: I always tell prospective clients to start with the end in mind. It’s important to have the right team of advisors around you from the very beginning so that you don’t find yourself trapped in a deal with terms that are not suitable for your long term success. It’s also critically important to have someone well versed with contract terms to help explain the benefits and potential drawbacks with certain provisions.
As a litigator, my involvement is typically related to disputes arising after a contract has been executed. However, my firm has attorneys that assist with advising clients during contract negotiations.
The IMC: Taking a page out of what happened to Jojo and even TLC, new artists get caught in deals that are bad and prevent them from releasing music or prevent them from keeping any money that they’ve earned. Why is that?
CM: As a new artist, you’re excited to sign that first deal and often jump at the opportunity without thinking about the long term considerations. Similar to professional sports, there’s no guarantee that there will be a second or third deal, so it’s important to carefully consider the terms of an agreement and understand whether it is beneficial to your long term objectives. Today, many deals are presented as “one size fits all” and require a seasoned attorney to negotiate terms which are suitable to the artist’s best interests and long term success. So, what may be considered a “bad deal” for one artist may be a “good deal” for another but it’s difficult to know which is which without the proper representation and legal counsel.
The IMC: As a litigator, what is one common “trap” you see musicians falling in that they’re forced to get out of?!
CM: The biggest problem that I encounter is when an artist or musician sticks his/her head in the sand. Artists should stay engaged in all of their affairs and make sure that their team of advisors is held accountable for all of their legal and business commitments. In this regard, it’s important to have a reputable and trustworthy team of advisors working on behalf of your interests.
The IMC: As a new client, how can your firm, Miller & Martin help me?!
CM: Miller & Martin is a full service law firm with attorneys that practice in over 30 different areas of law. With such a broad platform of experienced attorneys, I tell clients that I’m the last attorney that they should ever have to hire. Our firm has the ability to address a wide range of personal and professional needs while providing exceptional client service.
As it relates to litigation, it’s my job to take the stress off of my client so that he/she can focus on the creative process.
The IMC: Sounds great! Finally, in the 11 years you’ve been practicing law, you’ve won several accolades and distinguished honors. Is there more that you want to accomplish in the coming years?
CM: I’ve been very fortunate and blessed but I haven’t scratched the surface of what I want to accomplish personally or professionally. On a personal level, my wife and I have two young children and it’s important for me to provide the same nurturing environment that I had when growing up with my family. Professionally, I really enjoy helping my clients attain success while knowing that I was able to add value as a part of their team.
I’m also involved in a number of exciting initiatives designed at providing opportunities for young adults and look forward to seeing the successful outcomes from those endeavors.