MFM’s 2nd Monthly Workshop Tackles Tough Legal Issues with the Help of LegalShield
Date: May 23, 2016
Venue: WeWork Wall Street
Review by Dawoud Kringle
On Monday, May 23rd, Musicians For Musicians (MFM) presented its second workshop: A legal workshop for musicians with LegalShield Associates, Mike Juliano and Brad Bolnick.
LegalShield is a subscriber service that provides professionals and families with unlimited access to a network of law firms in an economical legal service in all 50 states. They are endorsed by the National Association of Attorneys General, and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. LegalShield’s structure protects their clients, offers legal advice, and helps create a legal structure that protects one’s business. In the case of musicians, this is essential. LegalShield’s website offers a variety of templates for different legal documents or contracts (e.g. photography releases, a non-disclosure agreement or NDA, loans, etc.). LegalShield allows musicians the same legal resources that a musician with a larger budget has. If, for example, a struggling musician’s song is stolen by someone. He has no legal recourse, because he hasn’t the resources to hire lawyers and file a lawsuit. LegalShield provides this. Their business model allows all people to have equal access to the same legal advice and protection that was once the exclusive privilege of the rich. They also offer membership perks, such as discounts with other businesses.
Michael Juliano is a writer, award winning filmmaker, former professional musician/music publisher and an associate through LegalShield. His music has been on commercial radio around the world. He was sought by major and independent record labels before moving into the film business. Brad Bolnick is a commercial actor, LegalShield broker, and financial consultant with his firm www.gcbprivatewealth.com. Brad specifically works with musicians, actors and arts professionals on financial empowerment.
MFM founder and president Sohrab Saadat Ladjavardi opened the workshop with an introduction to what MFM does and believes. He introduced Mike and Brad. Mike spoke a bit about LegalShield, and touched briefly on his affiliation with the Freelancers Union, and their pursuits. Early in the meeting, one of the participants shared that he’d previously engaged LegalShield’s services, with satisfactory results.
The workshop covered a wide variety of topics; ones often overlooked by most musicians. These included band, manager, and gig agreements, money owed from performances, non disclosure agreements for creative projects not ready for the public, copyright Infringement, licensing, contracts, registrations of works, and other relevant topics. All this stemmed from the importance of one’s music career and project having a sound business structure.
Aspects of both the legal structure of a musical / band, and other aspects of business / personal affairs were discussed in considerable detail. One interesting, and for me, new, idea that was presented was the process of incorporation. In this, bands would not generally incorporate as a collective entity. Instead, the individual members will incorporate, and then work together under a contractual agreement. The idea here is of band members having a contractual agreement about distribution of revenues. One of the advantages of working through LegalShield is that it is a cooperative of clients and legal workers; not a law firm. A conflict of interest does not happen if two LegalShield members are engaged in a lawsuit.
Brad illustrated an interesting example of how a band can maneuver a legal problem. A band with four members, each of whom has legal protection through LegalShield, is cheated by their record company. This can be approached as each individual member of the band, plus the band as a corporate entity, can file a lawsuit against the record company. An individually strong, and at the same time, united front, will offer more efficient legal protection to musicians.
One of the things discussed was the importance of non-disclosure agreements. An example being a bandleader showing his / her work to band members, or whomever. An NDA will protect the bandleader, songwriter / composer from having his music and intellectual property taken from him. Non-disclosure agreements can also include non-imitation clauses. In other words, an artistic concept or public persona specific to an artist / band can be protected from theft or blatant imitation by an NDA.
There was some discussion about the pros and cons of contracts between friends or long standing associates, and the best way to approach this. A legal structure protects musicians / bands from predators—and anyone in the music business knows there are predators (in fact, many music business professionals who prey on musicians are former—and frustrated / failed—musicians who understand how to exploit musicians’ weaknesses). In the course of the discussion, it was stated that the presence of contracts will immediately weed out people who will attempt to cheat you. An honest person will not be intimidated by the presence of a contract; nor by one’s insistence upon having a contractual agreement.
Ultimately, it’s not what we know that hurts us, it’s what we don’t know. What’s important is clarity.
Toward the end of the workshop, there was discussion about the purpose and function of MFM. Saadat offered clarity about how MFM functions and what it offers its members.
The workshop ended with MFM member David Belmont performing a solo guitar piece. The brief piece he played had shades of the kind of colorful chordal structure found in the vintage works of Oregon / Ralph Towner. It was quite beautiful (although, it was unfortunate that the participants in the workshop were so stoked by the stimulating and inspirational ideas that were discussed that many people did not give Benoit’s music the attention it deserved).
This workshop is indicative of the direction MFM is moving. The foundation’s humble beginnings are clearing up its former ambiguity with astonishing speed, and presenting actual practical benefits that empower musicians. Expecting more great things along these lines is not an unreasonable assumption.