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The Four Most Important Agreements in the Recording & Music Publishing Industries

(1k+ reviews)

Produced on January 07, 2016

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Course Information

Time 1h 1m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Arts & Entertainment

Course Description

Contracts are essential to the music business. Over the years four “standard” forms of agreement have emerged that apply to relationships between the principal players in the business, that is, artists, songwriters, and producers on the talent side, and managers, record companies and music publishers on the business side. These contracts are an artist’s recording agreement with a record company, the management contract between a manager and talent, a producer contract with a label or with an artist at the direction of a label, and a music publishing agreement with a writer.


Countless hours are spent negotiating monies payable under the agreements and the details of other terms, but the basic legal and business relationships between these parties are largely defined by and generally fall within the parameters of the standard form agreements.


Generally there are two kinds of standard agreements – one pro talent and the other favoring the manager, record company or publisher as the case may be. In this seminar, entertainment law attorney and returning Lawline Faculty Member Steven Gordon joins music lawyer Bob Celestin to discuss the standard terms of these contracts and the best positions, regarding each key term, for talent and the best position for the other side to better prepare you to represent talent or the manager, label or publisher as the case may be.


Learning Objectives: 

I.     Gain an overview of the most important agreements in the music business

II.    Identify the main deal points and legal issues in those agreements

III.   Grasp the new choices and methods of distribution in the record business

IV.   Know how to best represent your clients in the music business

V.   Identify the major sources of income from music recordings and songs and how those monies are paid and to whom


Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Steve Gordon

Steve Gordon Law

STEVE GORDON is an entertainment attorney with over 25 years of experience, including ten years as Director of Business Affairs/Video for Sony Music. His current and recent clients include emerging and major record label artists; managers; music and television producers; entertainment companies such Time Life Films, Shout Factory and Soul Train Holdings; and cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. He also represents television, film and web based producers and production companies.

Other areas of his practice include serving as an expert witness; counseling producers of and participants in reality TV shows; registering trademarks and copyrights; and supervising copyright infringement and contract litigation.

Steve also operates a music clearance service for producers and distributors of feature films, documentaries, ad campaigns, musical theatre, concert programs, audio compilations, and music based apps and websites.

Steve is the author of The Future of the Music Business (Hal Leonard 4th ed. 2015). The book provides a legal and business roadmap to artists, entrepreneurs and music industry professionals for success in today's music business. Steve updates the book at www.futureofthemusicbusiness.com. His new book, The 11 Contracts That Every Artist, Songwriter and Producer Should Know, will be published by Hal Leonard this spring but is available for pre-order now at https://www.backwingstore.com/products/the-11-contracts-that-every-artist-songwriter-and-producer-should-know.

Also an educator, Steve frequently lectures on entertainment law and music business issues, and is the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships. As a Fulbright scholar he taught courses on music business and law at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and Tel Aviv University in Israel.

His CLE video for Lawline, "Thicke v. Gaye: Will the Jury's Decision Have a Chilling Impact on Creativity?" won the "Best Program" award at the most recent ACLEA (the Association for Continuing Legal Education) conference.

Steve is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

Robert A. Celestin

The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin

Mr. Robert A. Celestin, Esq. has practiced entertainment law in New York City for over 25 years. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, Mr. Celestin started his legal career as an Associate at the corporate law firm, Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler. He then went on to work in the legal department of Clive Davis’ Arista Records before becoming the VP/GM of Uptown Records, Inc., (“Uptown”) the label responsible for merging hip-hop and R&B and launching the careers of “Mary J. Blige”, “Jodeci”, “Guy” and others. At Uptown, Mr. Celestin worked alongside Andre Harrell and Sean “P-Diddy” Combs. He later went on to work for Untouchables Entertainment, Inc., as VP/GM and was instrumental in the success of rappers “Pete Rock and CL Smooth”; R&B trio “Intro”; and R&B vocalist “Donnell Jones”. Mr. Celestin then went on to work with his mentor, entertainment attorney Louise West, Esq., in representing “Timbaland”, “Missy Elliot” and “Ginuwine”. He also managed the Grammy nominated and platinum selling Pop/R&B group “City High”. Presently, Mr. Celestin’s law firm, the “Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin”, represents and provides strategic advice and counsel to independent record label start-ups and production companies, recording artists, book publishers and authors, producers, songwriters, reality TV stars, DJ’s and others. Past and present clients include “Secondhand Serenade”, “The Clipse”, “Pusha T”, “Mickey Factz”, “Petey Pablo”; celebreality stars “Toccara”, “Laurieann Gibson”, “Momma Dee” and “Arzo Anwar”, super manager “Blue Williams” and old school legends like “Foxy Brown”, “Big Daddy Kane”, “Marley Marl”, radio DJ’s “Funkmaster Flex”, “DJ Self”, and “DJ Lobo”, and others. 


Sherry W.

Great program - would have liked to have. copies of sample contracts discussed

gerard m.

Good basic information that explains the four major contracts in the music business

Michael C.

Very very interesting

Alizabeth H.

Very informative and made complex topics simple.

Matthew A.

Good presentation.

Sarah K.

Both of these "professors" were great. I couldn't decide which one I liked better! I'll be watching this one again. They provided so much information, I'm sure I missed a few things. Very good.

Elena L.

Best on yet. loved seeing the argument from both viewpoints.

Andrea G.

My friend knows bob and thinks he's great!

Jesse H.

Top notch course. Two true pros providing real-world practical info. I really appreciated how they played off each other at times, illustrating both sides of a negotiation.

Jon R.

Great course, highly recommended

Shauny L J.

Great CLE. Thanks for making this available.

Bettye C.

Both presenters were excellent in presentation and information delivered.

Gerard M.

good program

Alicia T.

I liked the two attorneys' dialogue and the real-world example of the recording agreement that was used. I also appreciated hearing both perspectives of the negotiations for each agreement.

Donald L. M.

Lots of practical information.

Paul A.

Interesting presentation from very knowledgeable and experienced practicioners

Julie T.

informative and interesting

Rhonda R.

An interesting presentation with good explanations of the history of the recording business. Both of the attorneys are excellent.

Andrew S.

Good program.

Steven R.

Very Informative

Anita O.

Very informative, and really enjoyed them together as presenters.

David N.

Covered a lot of ground well.

Larry S.

Very interesting & well done.

Frank R.

Very good. My son is becoming a musician's manager. This will help him understand.

arthur f.

interesting...4 contracts discussed. talent shares monies with everybody. lots of contracts and accounting.

Kathryn S.

great job!!

Robert L.


tim r.

Both speakers seemed to express genuine enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Erika A.

Steve Gordon's presentation was top notch. Appreciate having the issues laid out and clearly explained.

Daphne Marie C.

Great info!

Michael B.

This was an excellent course. Could they do a follow on american idol, glee and other talent shows?

Julie C.

Wow, so much info! Might need to watch this again after studying the PowerPoint.

Thuy-Linh N.

The two speakers were very effective distributing the information.

Alan L.

Liked the practical examples and comments.

omar e.

Excellent primer for any attorney desiring to enter industry. I like panel-type discussion.

Nicholas D.

Very interesting and informative but subject is too voluminous and complex for one hour program

Bruce N.

Very interesting, thanks

Mark V.

Excellent presentation. Good primer on the business.

Ana M. M.

Excellent presentations!

Phil S.

Very informative for the uninitiated.

Lee H.

Pretty complex contracts and percentages and income etc. You had better know what you're doing if you represent an upcoming artist!!!

Jordan H.

I really enjoyed the cross conversational format. Both presenters we very well organinized and knowledgeable.

Meri G.

Really really good program

Shara L.

Very informative. Especially appreciated precise examples that included numbers.

William H.

Very knowledgable instructors

Jason M.

Very good

Henry S. S.

Very interesting and informative.

JoAnn S.

This course was very informative and I would highly recommend.

Dane R.

Highly technical and precise presentation.

Dennis G.

Interesting facet of contracts

Susan G.

Terrific presentation for my beginner level.

Mark C.


Saneda W.

Excellent course


This is an excellent primer on this area of entertainment law. Very useful techniques and suggestions.

Keith B.

It's great

Elaine D.

Interesting topic. would be interested in more!

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