Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (2024)

When artists, songwriters or music business executives face a legal challenge, they can’t just shake it off.

Sometimes they need a good attorney. Billboard’s 2023 class of Top Music Lawyers — nominated by their firms and peers, and chosen by our editors — are an essential resource for the music industry’s rising artists, songwriters and superstars alike.

In courtrooms and boardrooms, their work last year involved conflicts over some of the hottest hits on the charts, song lyrics — and even tattoos.


Billboard Women in Music 2023 ListRevealed04/03/2023

Attorneys on this list took part in battles involving the originality of the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” in a case that was settled in December without a final ruling; Ed Sheeran singing in a London courtroom to successfully prove he didn’t steal “Shape of You” from an earlier song; Dua Lipa facing not one but two copyright suits over her smash hit “Levitating,” the top Billboard Hot100 song of 2021; Young Thug and Gunna’s indictment in a gang-related case that cited rap lyrics to back state charges; and CardiB taking the stand to convince a jury to dismiss claims, including privacy violation, from a California man whose back tattoo was Photoshopped onto the cover of her 2016 mixtape, Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol.1.

Catalog sales continued to grow both more popular and richer, as 2023’s top attorneys advised on the transfer of publishing or recording rights from creators such as Justin Bieber, Brad Paisley, Sonny Rollins and the estates of Juice WRLD, Leonard Cohen and McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield, to name a few.

Clearly, attorneys stay busy. But they also take time to reflect on the broader state of the music business. For this year’s Top Music Lawyers report, Billboard asked them not only about their clients and achievements but also about the balance of power in our industry and how it might further shift to those who truly drive its success — artists and songwriters.

We also asked attorneys what is the most pressing concern facing the music business in 2023. One topic, which was hardly mentioned a year ago, came up repeatedly: the rise of generative artificial intelligence, a technology that can create new content by drawing from existing data.

“Because the music industry was built substantially on the creative contribution from recording artists and songwriters, the concern is that AI-generated songs could take up space in the competitive market for music consumption and replace career artists,” says Craig Marshall, an equity partner of Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger& Light. “This also gives rise to a number of copyright issues that will have to be resolved. After all, copyright statutes were created to incentivize artists to create new works by protecting originality. Now it seems that AI is using that originality to replace human art.”

Previn Warren of the law firm Motley Rice expresses his concern succinctly: “This may be an existential moment for artists, not just the industry that supports them.” —BILL DONAHUE and THOM DUFFY

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (2)

Jeffrey Harleston
General counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Saheli Datta
Executive vp/chief compliance officer and employment counsel, Universal Music Group
Steve Gawley
Executive vp of business and legal affairs and east coast label business development, Universal Music Group
Nicola Levy
Executive vp of digital business affairs, Universal Music Group
Alasdair McMullan
Executive vp of business and legal affairs/head of litigation, Universal Music Group
Michael Seltzer
Executive vp/head of commercial transactions for business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group

In August, the major labels, including UMG, settled a yearslong lawsuit against internet service provider Bright House and its corporate parent, Charter Communications, over the ISP’s liability for users uploading copyrighted works without permission — “a good old-fashioned copyright infringement case,” Harleston says. “Even in 2023, I think it’s important that we reinforce and support the rule of law as it applies to copyright and the artists’ ability to be compensated for their work.” That will continue, he says, as technology evolves, especially in “the AI discussion.” Harleston stresses the importance of “how we address these innovations in a way that’s supportive of the music community.”

Paul Robinson
Executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group
Brad Cohen
Senior vp/head of litigation/associate general counsel, Warner Music Group
Jon Glass
Senior vp/head of digital legal affairs, Warner Music Group
Maryrose Maness
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Thomas Marcotullio
Senior vp/chief counsel, mergers and acquisitions and corporate law, Warner Music Group
Trent Tappe
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group

In the past year, WMG has renewed licensing agreements with Meta and SoundCloud; expanded with mergers and acquisitions in the United States, the Middle East and India; and won “substantial settlements and jury verdicts in copyright-infringement cases against ISPs,” Robinson says. But the biggest change was at the top of the company, as Robert Kyncl replaced Stephen Cooper. “Most of all, we’re proud of working with our board to ensure a smooth and efficient CEO search and transition process,” Robinson adds.

The balance of power in the music business would shift toward artists and songwriters if…: “It has already happened. Over the last six years, as a result of how the streaming economy has heightened competition for signings, artists and songwriters are seeing higher advances, higher royalty rates, lower delivery commitments and shorter rights retentions.” — Robinson

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (3)

Julie Swidler
Executive vp of business affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Stu Bondell
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, international, Sony Music Entertainment
Wade Leak
Executive vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer, Sony Music Entertainment
Jeff Walker
Executive vp/head of business and legal affairs, global digital business, Sony Music Entertainment
Susan Meisel
Senior vp/corporate deputy general counsel, Sony Music Entertainment
Jennifer Womack
Senior vp of business and legal affairs, film, television and podcasts, Sony Music Entertainment

Over the past 18months, Sony’s legal team oversaw two major deals: the late-2021 acquisition of Bruce Springsteen’s publishing and master-recording catalog for a reported $500million and the acquisition of the distribution and artists services company AWAL from Kobalt in a deal worth some $430million, which received final regulatory approval in May. Swidler says of Springsteen: “This is an artist who has been with Columbia for his entire career and wants his legacy and future to stay with Columbia.” On the AWAL transaction, she adds, “It’s just one more opportunity for us to give artists different ways of engaging with us.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (4)

Kevan Choset
Vp/associate general counsel/head of legal strategy, Spotify
Sofia Sheppard
Associate general counsel/head of global licensing and business development, Spotify
Darren Schmidt
Associate general counsel/global head of label licensing, Spotify
Lucy Bridgwood
Associate general counsel of global publishing, Spotify

Spotify’s legal team helped broker a settlement between major music streaming services and publishers and songwriters that set streaming royalty rates through 2027, “providing rate stability and avoiding another Copyright Royalty Board trial,” says Sheppard. The team is concerned with helping artists build their careers when all streaming platforms collectively are ingesting over 100,000 tracks daily — and rising. “I believe that this makes it critical for platform providers and rights holders to work together,” Sheppard says, “to provide artists, songwriters and users with the best possible discovery experiences.”

Gabe Fleet
Executive vp of business affairs/chief music licensing counsel, iHeartMedia

As more industry attention turned toward the metaverse during the past year, Fleet led negotiations for iHeartMedia music licensing and strategy opportunities that included an iHeart-branded entertainment space in Fortnite, an iHeart world in Roblox and a partnership with Super League Gaming. The moves were part of an effort to help iHeart adapt to a changing digital ecosystem, says Fleet. “We have to find a way for services to be meaningfully profitable while also fairly compensating creators and copyright owners.” In early March, Fleet joined law firmof Latham & Watkins as a partner in the connectivity, privacy & information practice.

Antonious Porch
General counsel/chief diversity officer, SoundCloud
Ama Walton
Senior vp of music licensing and partnerships, SoundCloud

SoundCloud’s acquisition of AI company Musiio in early 2022 was a game-changer, according to Porch. The purchase both amplified the company’s existing music intelligence capabilities and allows “further leverage of the platform’s vast data to identify what’s next in music trends and talent,” says Porch. Musiio’s business-to-business audio referencing search (that “listens” to music) and its automated tagging and playlist tools will help SoundCloud identify talent and trends early, adds Porch. Walton worked on the company’s fan-powered royalties (FPR) to oversee a more transparent option for artists to monetize directly on the platform and led the legal team on negotiations for SoundCloud’s global licensing deal with Warner Music Group — the first major-label rights holder for the FPR payout model. Over 150,000 artists on the platform have been using the FPR system since the signing, with independent artists experiencing a near 60% increase in rates than with the traditional prorata model, according to SoundCloud.

Robert Windom
Chief counsel, content and services, Apple
Elizabeth Miles
Senior legal director, iTunes and Apple Music, Apple

As leading attorneys at Apple, Windom and Miles share in the company’s recent accomplishments, from Apple Music’s partnership with the NFL for Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show on Feb.12 to the rise of the company’s immersive spatial audio product. In announcing the company’s results on Feb.6 for the first fiscal quarter of 2023, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that it had reached a new milestone with over 2million active devices in its installed user base, while its services business set a new revenue record of $20.8billion. Apple services include Apple Music and the company’s other digital content: books, video, games and podcasts.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (5)

Stephen Worth
Associate general counsel/head of legal, Amazon Music
Cyrus Afshar
Associate general counsel, Amazon Music
Nicolas Gauss
Jon Cohen
Senior corporate counsels, Amazon Music

While streaming platforms promote recording artists by default, Amazon Music is highlighting the work of songwriters through a global sponsorship with The Ivors Academy, the U.K. association for music creators, and plans to release live performances and interviews on its Amazon Music U.K. Twitch channel. In February, to mark the announcement of Sting being named an academy fellow of The Ivors — its highest honor — Amazon Music exclusively released a demo of Sting’s track “If It’s Love” from his 2021 album, The Bridge. “In the coming years, our team will work hard to help advance the work of The Ivors, one of the world’s top songwriter associations,” says Cohen.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (6)

Michael Rowles
Executive vp/general counsel, Live Nation Entertainment

Rowles points to Live Nation’s acquisition of Mexican concert promoter OCESA and integration of its business as “a big focus over the past year-and-a-half as we continue to expand globally to better serve artists and their fans.” The deal had been put together in 2019, then “got delayed for obvious reasons,” he says, “so finally getting the chance to successfully close the transaction and combine our businesses has been huge.” Looking at the broader issues facing the industry, Rowles says: “Artists need the ability to set the rules on how their tickets get to their fans. We’re already seeing laws strip their control away, giving scalpers more power. We recently launched fair-ticketing reforms with support from other top artist coalitions, managers, music labels and agencies to advocate for artists deciding the rules on how their tickets can be sold, transferred and resold. We’re doing everything we can to advocate for better laws for the sake of artists and fans across the country.”

Shawn Trell
COO/executive vp/general counsel, AEG Presents

Trell is more than an attorney for AEG Presents, the promotion arm of Anschutz Entertainment Group. As COO, executive vp and the company’s top lawyer, he oversees new club construction, including spearheading the development of a 3,500-seat venue in Raleigh, N.C., with Kane Realty to serve as a flagship property in the fast-growing state.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (7)

Peter Brodsky
Executive vp of business and legal affairs/general counsel, Sony Music Publishing
Michael Abitbol
Senior vp/head of U.S. digital, Sony Music Publishing
Nicole Giacco
Jonas Kant

Senior vps of business and legal affairs, Sony Music Publishing

Sony Music Publishing’s legal team closed numerous landmark deals and renewals with hit-making writers in the last year, including Ashley Gorley, Tainy, Anitta, Ryan Tedder, Danger Mouse and Måneskin. The team also expanded the major publisher’s reach worldwide over the last year. “I’m excited that SMP has opened offices in emerging markets such as India and Nigeria,” says Giacco. “Just as Spanish-language songs have become more mainstream in the U.S., I look forward to learning new music with regional influences and seeing those songs reach even more listeners.” Next up? Giacco and her colleagues are finding ways to protect their songwriters as generative AI technology becomes mainstream. “It is important we evolve with new technologies like AI,” she says.

Angelica Merida
Vp of business and legal affairs and international and digital business development, Universal Music Publishing Group
Kerrigan Hennings
Ira Hoffman
Vps of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group
Don Glista
Senior directors of business and legal affairs and creative affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group

The lawyers at UMPG are proud to have closed numerous major agreements in the past year. “Our team has worked on deals for The Weeknd, the Juan Gabriel estate, Univision, the Elvis Presley estate, Neil Diamond and the Frank Zappa estate, just to name a few,” says Merida. The team is also paying close attention to AI: “With the broader adoption of music-centric AI,” she says, “it is more important than ever to ensure that the value of songwriters’ and artists’ creative contributions continues to be recognized and protected.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (8)

Peter Rosenthal
Executive vp/global head of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Steve Butler
Senior vp of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music

Rosenthal and Butler have led the legal teams at Warner Chappell to think global. “We’ve worked hard to unify and increase collaborations,” says Rosenthal. “This has led to highly impactful deals, including our acquisition of beloved Spanish artist Joaquín Sabina’s publishing catalog and our worldwide administration agreement with Mosaert, the independent creative label and publishing company founded by Belgian singer-songwriter-composer Stromae.” In addition, the executives helped to establish legal policies and strategies for Warner Chappell’s Web3 efforts including the company’s partnership with Defient, a Web3 entertainment company, and the anticipated launch of “Archives”—a digital museum backed by blockchain that will spotlight the stories of songs.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (9)

Christos Badavas
Executive vp/general counsel, SESAC Music Group

Badavas and his team “operate in an increasingly global legal and business affairs environment,” encompassing performing rights, licensing and administration services, sonic brands and specialty music, he says. Last year, SESAC expanded Mint, its international online licensing joint venture with SUISA, into Asia. “This fundamental shift in the scope of our department’s focus has required us to scale our policies and practices to accommodate the growth,” Badavas says. And because of that experience, Badavas also understands the implications of the rise of AI: “We need to make AI work for the creative community,” he says.

Tim Dadson
General counsel, SoundExchange

In June 2022, SoundExchange sued streamer Slacker and its parent company, LiveOne, alleging they had failed to pay millions in royalties and late fees for the use of recordings. In October, the case was decided in U.S. District Court in California in SoundExchange’s favor, with the judge ordering Slacker to pay nearly $10million. The ruling also permanently barred the company from using the statutory license to stream music — an option automatically provided to internet radio companies such as Slacker — forcing it to negotiate direct licenses going forward. Dadson calls the latter move “an unprecedented victory for creators.”

Kristen Johns
Chief legal officer, The Mechanical Licensing Collective

The Music Modernization Act of 2018 created the Mechanical Licensing Collective to provide an urgently needed means for the blanket mechanical licensing of musical works to music streaming services and download stores. It has since distributed over $1billion in blanket royalties since April 2021 to more than 25,000 songwriters, composers, lyricists, publishers, administrators and ex-U.S. collective management organizations. “Our organization operates with an unprecedented level of transparency,” Johns says, “as demonstrated by the creation of its free, public database of more than 30million musical works.”

Clara Kim
Executive vp/chief legal and business affairs officer, ASCAP

On behalf of ASCAP’s “outrageously talented songwriters and composers,” Kim says, she has negotiated licenses with top streaming platforms such as YouTube, Netflix and HBO Max in deals that have generated historic levels of revenue. For six consecutive years, ASCAP has reported over $1billion in distributions. “We’re really proud that our concerted licensing efforts are paying off with higher rates for certain performances and resulting in increased royalties paid to ASCAP members year over year,” says Kim. On March8, ASCAP reported a 14% increase in collections to $1.5billion, while also reporting that its funds available for distribution to songwriters and publishers grew 10.7% to $1.4billion in 2022.

Stuart Rosen
Senior vp/general counsel, BMI

For its songwriting and composing members, BMI took action in federal rate court against the North American Concert Promoters Association in 2018, with court proceedings concluding in late 2022. According to BMI, royalty rates historically paid by the NACPA — which is the licensing representative for promoters including Live Nation and AEG — did not reflect the value that songs bring to live concerts. The litigation highlights BMI’s “commitment to ensuring that our songwriters are fairly compensated for their musical contributions,” as songs are the “backbone” of the concert industry, says Rosen. “BMI sought a rate that reflects the value that our songwriters and composers bring to the multibillion-dollar live-concert industry, which is more in line with global models,” he says, “and captures the various ways the modern concert promotion business monetizes the use of our creators’ work.” A decision in the case March 28 awarded a 138% increase in rate to 0.5% of the event’s revenue. It also expands that revenue base to include a cut of concert hall VIP packages and box suites, tickets sold directly to the secondary market and servicing fees received by the promoters.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (10)

Danielle Aguirre
Executive vp/general counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association

In August, the NMPA and the Nashville Songwriters Association International reached a settlement with music streaming companies in the PhonorecordsIV rate proceeding that gave music publishers and songwriters a modest raise in royalty rates for the period of 2023 to 2027. “After seven long years of fighting with these digital music companies,” Aguirre says, “we found a way forward that provides the highest rates in the world and the highest rates in history — and will allow us to find new ways to work together to increase the value of songs.”

Ken Doroshow
Chief legal officer, RIAA

Doroshow has achieved victories in piracy cases that have established “that stream-ripping services unlawfully circumvent technical measures designed to protect copyrighted works,” he says. “As piracy continues to evolve and becomes ever more technologically complex, it is critical to reinforce the vitality of bedrock rules like Section 1201’s anti-circumvention prohibitions [in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act], which the decisions in… these cases achieved.”

Ryan McWhinnie
Vp of business and legal affairs, Merlin

For Merlin’s independent music company members, McWhinnie has taken the lead on several major deals at the licensing organization, with digital partners including Apple, Deezer, Meta and Spotify. He has also negotiated premium deals with the business-to-business platform STYNGR and provided music licensing solutions for video games and the metaverse. McWhinnie was also behind a deal with streaming giant FLO, which will help Merlin members reach a new audience in South Korea. Also, “2023 has already highlighted the breakneck speed at which AI continues to develop,” says McWhinnie. “While traditionally the competition has been between majors and independents, in the future, it may well be between humans and algorithms.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (11)

Kenneth Abdo
Paul Bowles
Cynthia Katz
Tim Mandelbaum
Michael Reinert
Leron Rogers
Alex Threadgold
Heidy Vaquerano

Partners, Fox Rothschild

Beginning 35 years ago, in Minneapolis, Abdo built a nationally recognized entertainment law firm that merged with Fox Rothschild in 2017. Over the past 18months, he has brokered catalog sales, renegotiated or negotiated recording and publishing deals for John Driskell Hopkins (Zac Brown Band), Mick Mars (Mötley Crüe), Three Dog Night, Kool& The Gang, Hanson, EricB.& Rakim and others. Vaquerano and Katz have advised their client HarbourView Equity Partners on high-profile acquisitions of music catalogs, including works from Incubus, Brad Paisley, LadyA and Sum41. From the firm’s New York office, Mandelbaum has guided the sale of the music publishing catalogs of Shannon Rubicam and George Merrill, including the Whitney Houston hits “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” to Primary Wave. For the estate of McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield, Reinert executed a renegotiation with Universal Music Group and an agreement with Sony Music Publishing to take over administration of the icon’s catalog, including songs like “Mannish Boy,” “Rollin’ Stone” and “Got My Mojo Working.” Among Rogers’ numerous deals in the past year was negotiating a tour deal with MaryJ. Blige for the Black Promoters Collective. A former DJ and label executive, Threadgold represents numerous independent labels, distributors and artists. He serves as outside general counsel to VP Records, helping the New York-based label deal with thousands of reggae, dancehall and soca artists. He is also outside general counsel for Symphonic Distribution, helping the digital distributor sign clients and acquire catalog.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (12)

Jenny Afia
Partner, Schillings International

A leading privacy and reputation lawyer, Afia has a client list that includes Madonna, Adele, Elton John and Johnny Depp, but she highlights her recent crisis management for a performer, whose identity she could not disclose, who was the subject of false allegations that could have severely affected the artist’s reputation and career. “Whilst the entirely unjust situation was emotionally scarring, thankfully justice prevailed and their career and fan base are deservedly intact,” she says. In 2021, Afia led the team that won a London High Court privacy case for Meghan Markle against Associated Newspapers and successfully defended the duch*ess of Sussex’s victory on appeal.

Lisa Alter
Katie Baron
Partners, Alter Kendrick & Baron

Alter and Baron handled over $3billion in star-studded music acquisition deals during the past year-and-a-half, frequently for their client Primary Wave, including agreements for the works of Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors (for an undisclosed amount), Joey Ramone (for a reported $10million) and James Brown (for a reported $90million). Alter says the industry’s biggest challenge is “increasing consolidation of content ownership in the music space,” predicting a shrinking group of catalog owners could “cause a seismic shift in the balance of power.”

The balance of power in the music business would shift toward artists and songwriters if…: “…legislators cared more about creative content and less about campaign contributions from DSPs.” — Alter

Jonathan Altschul
Founding attorney, The Altschul Firm

Altschul recently negotiated a “bespoke agreement between Warner Records and SM Entertainment” for the rights to K-pop girl group aespa’s new releases outside Asia, he says. “The unique structure of the agreement provided the resources that helped result in a No.3 album debut on the Billboard200,” says Altschul, referring to the group’s second release, Girls. “I also helped negotiate the agreement that led to aespa making its U.S. performance debut on the main stage at Coachella” in 2022.

Ken Anderson
Jill Berliner
Ray Garcia

Partners, Rimon

“We continue to represent a number of prominent and marquee artists in all aspects of their careers, including numerous Grammy winners and Rock& Roll Hall of Fame inductees,” says Anderson, who continues to serve as general counsel and litigation supervisor to iconic acts including Beastie Boys, The Chicks and Ben Folds, as well as the estates of Mama Cass Elliot and Rock& Roll Hall of Fame nominee Warren Zevon. The most pressing concern facing the music industry, says Anderson, is “navigating the minefield of royalty transparency and fairness in streaming, subscriptions and international affiliate royalty retention. Digital exploitation is to the 2020s what record clubs were to the 1990s.”

Peter Anderson
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

Anderson — whose clients include The Weeknd, Mariah Carey, Sam Smith and the three major music groups — obtained a dismissal, affirmed by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, for Authentic Brands in a case involving “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” made famous by Elvis Presley. The court ruled that the heirs of songwriter Hugo Peretti couldn’t use the termination right in the Copyright Act to regain control of the song. Since the termination right only applies to deals signed by creators themselves, the court said, the termination provision did not apply to the deal that sold away rights to the song. “The Court of Appeals limited those termination provisions to their plain meaning, which is important for future cases interpreting those provisions,” Anderson says. “The Court of Appeals also concluded that plaintiffs’ interpretation would subvert Congress’ intent.”

Craig Averill
Jeff Koenig
Joseph Serling
Jeff Worob

Partners, Serlings Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill

One year after negotiating 50Cent’s appearance during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in 2022, the firm scored a Super Bowl 2023 win with Jack Harlow’s Doritos commercial — a follow-up to his viral Kentucky Fried Chicken partnership and 2022 New Balance collaboration. Of the challenges facing the industry, Koenig is concerned with the incorporation of “AI into the creation process. We could lose the human component that gives music its texture and lasting emotional appeal,” he says.

Hector Baldonado
Founder/principal attorney, The Baldonado Group

Baldonado’s client roster has grown to include the estate of Juice WRLD, rappers Lil Durk and Trippie Redd and several high-level executives. Negotiating a nine-figure catalog earnings sale, multiple label deals and renegotiating record and publishing deals are all familiar territory for him. The next challenge? “AI technology is of serious concern because of deepfakes and the possibility of copyright infringements,” says Baldonado.

Christian Barker
Equity partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton
Lauren Kilgore
Partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton
Lauren Spahn
Equity partner, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton

Barker reports closing over $20million in deals for the firm in the last year for Grammy Award-winning producer Byron Gallimore, songwriter Benjamin Johnson, country artist Dipper (with Warner Records/Underscore Works) and Cinq Music Group, for which Barker signed on as outside legal counsel. “The major players in the music industry have a sacred responsibility to embrace diversity — of background and of thought,” Barker says. And those companies should be “promoting products and projects that inspire consumers to do the same in a positive and forward-thinking manner.”

Andrew Bart
Partner/co-chair, content, media and entertainment practice, Jenner & Block

Representing the major music companies, Jenner& Block won a $46.7million jury verdict against San Marcos, Texas-based ISP Grande Communications Networks, which must pay Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Records and other labels for copyright infringement. The monthlong jury trial in Austin resulted “in a finding of willful infringement and a verdict against an ISP that took a blind eye to massive infringements by its subscribers on its network,” says Bart. Jurors found that Grande Communications was legally liable for the copyright infringement of its users and that it owed separate damages for each of the more than 1,400 songs that were pirated on the company’s network.

Richard Baskind
Head of music and entertainment, Simons Muirhead Burton

Baskind heads the music team at London-based Simons Muirhead Burton, which worked on the recent management buyout of Primary Talent International from CAA. The surprise decoupling came less than a year after CAA closed the deal for the U.K. booking agency in a $750million acquisition of parent company ICM Presents. The new deal has Primary Talent, founded in 1990, returning to independent ownership, with more than 450 acts including The1975, The Cure, Lana Del Rey, Noel Gallagher, Dropkick Murphys and Patti Smith. The firm also works with Sony Music Publishing, Nick Cave, Tom Grennan and management company Closer Artists, which counts George Ezra and James Bay among its clients.

David Beame
Brian Mencher

Founding partners, Beame & Mencher

In 2022, the firm continued to build on the success of 2020’s One World: Together at Home and 2021’s Global Citizen Live by bringing the Global Citizen festival to New York and Accra, Ghana, on the same day. The September event raised $2.4billion to help end extreme poverty, with Mencher leading the legal team to oversee global clearance rights, media deals and distribution and intellectual property considerations.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (13)

Jeff Becker
Chair of entertainment and media law practice group, Swanson Martin & Bell

With an eclectic client list featuring Grammy-winning poet J.Ivy, singer-songwriter Natalie Jane, Shaquille O’Neal (as music counsel) and the estate of NFL great Walter Payton (name and likeness rights), Becker handles a range of challenges and opportunities. He recently signed producer Dru DeCaro to Position Music following his work on Em Beihold’s “Numb Little Bug.” He believes the industry’s most pressing issue is “short attention spans caused by short-form content.” Virality from a 10-second TikTok clip “often results in audiences and labels wanting instant gratification,” he says, then perhaps not engaging with artists beyond one song — or even part of one song.

David Bercuson
Founder, Bercuson Law

Bercuson has long repped Luis Fonsi, Julio Iglesias, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, as well as entertainers such as Cristina Saralegui, Adamari Lopez and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but says his most satisfying work is representing Farruko, as well as his management company and his indie label, from the onset of his career through his hit single “Pepas,” which spent 26 weeks at No.1 on Hot Latin Songs. Farruko’s success has allowed Bercuson to “negotiate extremely favorable and lucrative artist, distribution and publishing agreements,” he says. It dovetails with his desire to educate indie artists, “with respect to their ability to navigate and work within the digital universe for advertising, promotion and marketing of their careers.”

Josh Binder
Jeremy Mohr
Paul Rothenberg

Founding partners, Rothenburg Mohr & Binder

Working with client Top Dawg Entertainment’s TDE label to release SZA’s RCA blockbuster SOS and the launch of her accompanying tour were among recent high points for the firm. Now based in Beverly Hills, Calif., and New York, it also represents Charlie Puth, Gunna, Logic, Marshmello and Chloex Halle. Binder says that “free-flowing, unchecked misinformation” and the coming AI onslaught are concerning. “Artists are bombarded with misinformation,” he says, “and are often left wondering what’s actually true, making it nearly impossible to determine the best direction. And watch out — AI is going to make things much more complicated.”

Marina V. Bogorad
Partner, Gerard Fox Law

Bogorad served as lead counsel in one of the music industry’s most significant, recent legal battles — representing songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler as they accused Taylor Swift of stealing lyrics to her smash hit “Shake It Off” from an earlier song about “playas” and “haters.” The case ended with a settlement in January, but not before Bogorad won a number of surprising mid-case victories that sent the case hurtling toward a trial. “This was an exciting issue to handle because there is a dearth of case law dealing with similarity of lyrics alone, which is what my clients claimed,” Bogorad says.

Jason Boyarski
David Fritz
Partners, Boyarski Fritz

Representing an array of musical artists — from Joan Jett, Marc Anthony and Lil Kim to the estates of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White and Prince — Boyarski and Fritz have a 360-degree view of the industry. “The ease [with] which recording artists can release their own music with do-it-yourself distribution tools makes music discovery as exciting and prevalent as ever,” Boyarski says. “However, Spotify tells us that there are over 49,000 new songs added to the service every day, which means great music is sometimes lost in a sea of new music.” He adds that the royalty structure to pay artists is convoluted and becoming outdated. “The market-share payment system — versus a system of paying artists an actual portion of subscriber fees based on music use — is an issue that will continue to be debated in 2023.”

John Branca
David Lande
David Byrnes

Partners, Ziffren Brittenham

As co-executor of the Michael Jackson estate, Branca co-produced and helped finance the Broadway show MJ, which opened in February 2022. Branca has also handled major publishing transactions for clients including Brian Wilson, Enrique Iglesias and Fred Durst and assisted in estate management in the sale of Leonard Cohen’s music publishing catalog. He represented Primary Wave in its acquisition of the estate of James Brown; advised Authentic Brands Group about its rights to Elvis Presley, including assistance in the Elvis film; and negotiated a new distribution deal for the Bee Gees’ recording catalog with Capitol Records. Lande — whose clients include Olivia Rodrigo, Beyoncé, Shakira, Rosalía, Jennifer Hudson, BTS (through HYBE), SZA and Pharrell Williams — represented Justin Timberlake in the sale of his music publishing catalog to Hipgnosis for a value reported to be between $85million and $100million. With clients including Kelly Clarkson, Travis Scott, Blake Shelton, Pentatonix, Parkwood/Beyoncé, Jeff Bhasker and the estates of Eazy-E, Kurt Cobain, Tom Petty and Mac Miller, Byrnes has worked on deals including representation of Robby Krieger and the Ray Manzarek estate in the sale of their recording, publishing and other interests in The Doors.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (14)

Alandis Brassel
Counsel, Scale

Brassel — whose clients include CMG Records artist 10Percent as well as Jordan Occasionally and Bubba Sparxxx — has been focusing on “the issue of equity” in his work, “whether it’s negotiating equitable deals for artist and songwriter clients, advocating for equitable royalty share and distribution for legacy artists or serving on the board of Nashville Music Equality and teaching in the Sony Black Music Certification Program.” He’s looking to apply that same foresight to “evolving technologies AI and Web3 to enhance the creators’ bottom line and the fan experience.”

William J. Briggs II
Partner, Venable

Along with representing A-list clients like Stevie Wonder, Gucci Mane, DaBaby and Anita Pointer, Briggs has spent much of the last year representing “several celebrities — none named above — in high-stakes extortion matters, some of which [were] resolved with the assistance of law enforcement,” says Briggs. Looking forward to the future, Briggs says the music industry’s next battle is “reversion of masters to artists and artists’ control of content.”

Jo Brittain
Simon Esplen
Chris Gossage
Gavin Maude
John Reid
Steven Tregear

Partners, Russells

The London-based firm counts Coldplay, Glass Animals and the estate of George Michael among its clients. Russells, which was established in 1974, has represented many veteran artists since the start of their careers. In the last year, it has acted on behalf of several of the industry’s most important companies, including Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, BMG, Kobalt and Sony Music Publishing. “Our work for these clients is wide-ranging commercial, corporate acquisitions and litigation work,” says Gossage, who heads a specialist team that oversees catalog and music rights sales. He says that side of the business remains healthy heading into 2023, “although it will face issues linked to the industry’s increased exposure to more general economic pressures.”

Sandra Brown
Alan Clarke
Jerry Juste
Kendall Minter

Of counsel, Greenspoon Marder

Greenspoon Marder is one of the firms representing the estate of Biz Markie in a case against the late rapper’s former manager, Jennifer Izumi, alleging trademark infringement and fraud, and theft of song royalties. (Izumi, in a statement, said she “vehemently” denied the allegations and looked forward to proving them “completely false and defamatory.”) Greenspoon Marder also represents Lecrae, Philadelphia-based rapper 2Rare and producer-songwriter Dernst “D’Mile” Emile, among others. Brown says the growing use of AI could become a major concern for music creators: “Will AI-created music replace producers, songwriters and artists?”

Vernon Brown
CEO/president, V. Brown & Company

Brown maintains a formidable client list boasting Cash Money, Epic Records artist Pyrex and Republic Records producer ATL Jacob, who enjoyed success in 2022 after netting a Hot100 chart-topper with Future’s “Wait forU,” featuring Drake and Tems. Despite Jacob’s prominent rise, Brown hopes budding producers can receive better payouts. “One of the most pressing concerns is fairness in artist and producer royalty agreements and payouts,” he says. “The current system is not beneficial to the creatives.” He also believes the scales would tip toward performers if digital service provider payments “were structured in a manner that was more favorable to new artists.”

Ed Buggé
Partner, Hertz Lichtenstein Young & Polk
Ken Hertz
Jamie Young

Named partners, Hertz Lichtenstein Young & Polk

With clients including Apple, Céline Dion, Gwen Stefani, Fleetwood Mac and Perry Farrell, the firm spent the last 18months counseling on issues related to music, technology, dealmaking and touring, Buggé says. In addition to advising on catalog sales of both iconic and new recording artists that fetched prices in the range of eight and nine figures, the firm also provided counsel on the launch of music and media startups related to gaming, the metaverse, virtual reality and AI. The firm works with top talent that includes “Will Smith, H.E.R., Keke Palmer, Tom Morello and Melissa Etheridge on new media content, literary, theatrical — including Broadway, audio, film and TV projects,” Buggé says.

Richard Busch
Partner in the litigation section/head of the entertainment and intellectual property sections, King & Ballow

Busch represents Eight Mile Style, which controls musical compositions written in part by Eminem, in a copyright infringement action against Spotify involving over 240musical compositions. The claim alleges some provisions of 2018’s Music Modernization Act are unconstitutional. Busch’s client portfolio also includes the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin, as well as comedians Bill Engvall, Andrew “Dice” Clay and George Lopez. He represents the comedians in a lawsuit against Pandora for allegedly infringing their copyrighted literary works by distributing content without obtaining licenses to publicly perform or mechanically reproduce their routines. He’s also representing Rick Astley in a suit against Universal Music, Yung Gravy and others for allegedly re-creating Astley’s voice on “Betty (Get Money)” without permission.

Matthew Buser
Founder, Buser Legal

Buser negotiated the recording agreement for one of 2022’s top breakout acts: the rapper GloRilla, who turned heads with “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” with Hitkidd, reached the Hot100 top10 with the CardiB collaboration “Tomorrow” and inked a deal with CMG/Interscope. Buser also helped rising rapper Destroy Lonely secure his deal with Opium/Interscope, the label started by Playboi Carti. Working across a rangy roster of artists and producers, both veterans and newcomers, Buser’s mission remains the same: ensuring that creators are “fully recognized as largely being the driving force behind successful records.”

Joe Carlone
Leslie Frank
Marjorie Garcia
Howard King
Scott McDowell
Peter Paterno
Michael Rexford
Jacqueline Sabec
Laurie Soriano

Partners, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano

Soriano did legal work for Kim Petras in advance of the September release of her collaboration with Sam Smith on “Unholy,” which won the Grammy in February for best pop duo/group performance. Sabec sold the catalog of Huey Lewis and the News to Primary Wave and negotiated brand licensing deals for legacy artists including the Jerry Garcia Wellness line of hemp-derived CBD products. Frank and her team handled legal matters for the release of Skrillex’s double album release, Quest for Fire and Don’t Get Too Close. Paterno was honored by the Recording Academy with the 2023 Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award during Grammy Week. King reports that he resolved “an eight-figure commission claim against a major rock band and negotiated resolution of multiple disputes between bands and their labels, managers and, sometimes, former bandmates.”

Rosemary Carroll
Michael Guido
Elliot Groffman
Rob Cohen
Gillian Bar
Renee Karalian
Ira Friedman
Paul Gutman

Partners, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian

Carroll continues to represent “meaningful and important artists who inspire” her, she says, including, among others, Patti Smith, The Strokes, Phoebe Bridgers, Iggy Pop, The Gaslight Anthem, Anohni and Natalie Merchant (the last four of whom are releasing new albums in 2023), as well as Lucinda Williams, who will publish a memoir, Don’t Tell Anyone the Secrets I Told You, in April. Groffman — who represents Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews and Trey Anastasio, among others — saw client Brandi Carlile keep soaring this past year with her historic collaboration with Joni Mitchell at the Newport Folk Festival. He also negotiated newcomer Ben Goldsmith’s signing to Sony Nashville. Guido worked with Cohen on the sale of Ultra Records to Sony Music and with Friedman on the sale of 12Tone Records to Warner Music. Bar’s clients include Michael Brun, “a brilliant writer-producer who has worked with JBalvin and Ed Sheeran. Brun is signed to Astralwerks for his own artist project,” she says. Karalian negotiated Kid Cudi’s tour deal with AEG and the launch of his Moon Man’s Landing Festival, in partnership with AEG, in his hometown of Cleveland. Gutman worked with Eric Church on the creation of Solid Entertainment, a company bringing together Church’s entrepreneurial ventures, co-launched with his manager, John Peets of QPrime.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (15)

Uwonda Carter
Donald Woodard

Founding partners, Carter + Woodard

Carter+ Woodard represented Summer Walker in connection with the release of her sophom*ore album, Still Over It, which debuted at No.1 on the Billboard200 and charted 18 of its songs on the Hot100. The firm also represented Metro Boomin in connection with the release of Heroes& Villains, which also debuted atop the Billboard200. For client Lil Yachty, Carter+ Woodard represented the artist in connection with the release of Let’s Start Here. The set debuted at No.1 on Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums — and in the top10 of the Billboard200.

Robert A. Celestin
Founding partner, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Tiffany Ballard
Of counsel, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Alicia Ferriabough-Taylor
Junior partner, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Camille Anidi
Chris Wellington

Associates, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin

As co-counsel for the estate of Pop Smoke, and representing clients including the estate of XXXTentacion, along with Desiigner, 6ix9ine and CashmoneyAP, Celestin and his team negotiated international distribution for the 2022 Hulu documentary Look at Me: XXXTentacion, in addition to the companion documentary and album In His Own Words: XXXTentacion. Debuting at No.1 on the Soundtracks chart, Look at Me: The Album also reached No.17 on the Billboard200. Among the most critical issues the industry faces today, says Celestin, is lack of artist development. “Record labels exclusively focus on analytics and trends as opposed to developing and nurturing artists to have sustainable careers,” he says.

Ross Charap
Matthew Finkelstein
Partners, Arentfox Schiff

Charap and Finkelstein represent Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, together with their music publishing company Promopub. They played a key role in the U.S. Copyright Office’s recently proposed rule to ensure the Mechanical Licensing Collective pays streaming royalties to artists and songwriters who invoke their termination rights. The proposed new rule is both “fair and imperative,” says Finkelstein, who also represented BMG Rights Management in BMG’s acquisition of John Legend’s music publishing catalog and its acquisition of the late Harry Nilsson’s publishing catalog and income streams generated from his recordings.

Jacqueline Charlesworth
Prinicipal, Charlesworth Law

Charlesworth, whose résumé includes a role at the U.S. Copyright Office, focuses on transactional, litigation and policy matters for artists, songwriters, film studios, TV networks, digital companies and trade associations at the firm she founded in 2021. Much of her work focuses on copyright termination. Notes Charlesworth, “Practically every matter I handle involves some issue that Congress didn’t consider when enacting the termination provisions, which keeps it interesting.”

Stephanie Chopurian
Partner, Greenberg Chopurian-Valencia & Associates

Chopurian’s notable clients include Myke Towers, Arcángel, De La Ghetto, Gerardo Ortiz, Fergie and Ovy on the Drums, who recently produced KarolG’s history-making Mañana Será Bonito, which debuted atop the Billboard200 as the first Spanish-language No.1 album by a female artist. Chopurian’s firm was also recently involved in Ovy on the Drums’ label deal with Warner Music Latin, Towers’ songwriter agreement with ASCAP, Sech’s affiliation with BMI and Chencho Corleone’s publishing agreement with Warner Chappell. Chief among Chopurian’s concerns about the industry is “the failure to recognize the value of the songwriters and producers behind the music artists, because without those songwriters and producers, the artists themselves would not exist.”

Jay Cohen
Partner, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

Representing clients including Sony Music Entertainment, the National Music Publishers’ Association, Grupo Salinas, Charter Communications and ASCAP (the latter for over 25years), Cohen’s recent work has focused largely on creators’ efforts to obtain fair pay. This includes ongoing discussions with the Department of Justice to modernize ASCAP’s 80-year-old consent decree. Cohen is currently engaged in rate court litigation with the terrestrial radio industry as well, he says, “trying to obtain fair market compensation for creators whose music drives the economics of the radio industry.”

Jay Cooper
Founder, Los Angeles entertainment practice, Greenberg Traurig
Steve Plinio
Shareholder, entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Jess Rosen
Co-chair of Atlanta entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Bobby Rosenbloum
Chairman, global entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Mathew Rosengart
Shareholder, media and entertainment litigation practice, Greenberg Traurig
Paul Schindler
Shareholder/senior chair of New York entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig

Greenberg Traurig represents acts including Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Arcade Fire, Kenny Chesney and Marc Anthony, as well as companies and organizations including Spotify, The Recording Academy, Meta, Lululemon/Mirror, Equinox Media/ SoulCycle and Epic Games (and its divisions, Bandcamp, Harmonix and Fortnite). In late 2021, Rosengart obtained a court order suspending James“Jamie” Spears as conservator of Britney Spears’ estate, ending his 13-year control of his daughter’s affairs. Last July, Rosengart obtained a court order defeating James’ motion to obtain Britney’s deposition while also obtaining a court order compelling James to produce documents and sit for his own deposition. In July and October of last year, he also defeated James’ efforts to unseal certain records of Britney’s. The court order that Rosengart obtained blocking Britney’s deposition, after a contentious hearing, was upheld on appeal in December 2022. The most pressing concern for the music industry, says Rosenbloum, is the complexity of licensing music rights on a global basis. “The fragmentation of music publishing rights among publishers, performing rights organizations and collective management organizations — often on a country-by-country basis — together with the complexity of licensing from these multitude of rights owners/administrators, is continuing to result in billions of dollars being left on the table annually.”

Roger Cramer
Of counsel, Winslett Studnicky McCormick & Bomser

Cramer, who represents five-time Grammy winner Robert Glasper, in addition to rappers Yeat, $NOT and Eem Triplin, says he is “very proud of the work” his team did to release Glasper’s guest-heavy Black Radio3 (winner of this year’s Grammy for best R&B album), as well as three releases by 23-year-old Yeat: 2Alivë, 2Alivë (Geëk Pack) and EP Lyfë. The firm had to negotiate “scores of agreements,” Cramer says. Black Radio3 alone “required 45 separate agreements to complete delivery. My team works really hard and really well.” Triplin has an EP coming in the second quarter of this year. Meanwhile, Cramer emphasizes the need to pay non-mainstream artists “a bigger share of streaming revenue.”

Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks
Senior partner/chair of the firm’s entertainment, copyright media practice group, Proskauer
Anthony Oncidi
Partner/co-chair of the labor and employment law department/head of west coast labor and employment group, Proskauer

Proskauer represents clients across the music industry, from The Recording Academy, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group to names like Madonna and Rick Rubin. But among the most significant cases they’ve handled recently was one brought by a former Live Nation employee, Oncidi says. “We represented Live Nation Entertainment against claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination,” he says of the case, which was settled early this year. On what are the most pressing concerns companies face today, Crawshaw-Sparks says it’s the challenge of figuring out how to embrace technology while stopping “rampant infringement of creative works.”

Sy Damle
Andrew Gass
Alli Stillman
Jonathan West
Joe Wetzel

Partners, Latham & Watkins

Latham & Watkins counts among its clients major music companies and organizations including Spotify, Live Nation, Meta, Roblox, Pandora, iHeartMedia, the Digital Media Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Digital Licensee Coordinator. (The latter represents the digital music services in the licensing system created by the Music Modernization Act.) The firm represented Spotify in connection with the litigation and settlement negotiations over the price for mechanical rights for streaming services before the Copyright Royalty Board, “which ultimately resulted in a deal touted by both sides as a significant step forward for the industry,” says Gass. Looking ahead, “sorting out the relationship between music rights owners on one hand and the AI sector on the other is the most pressing challenge facing the music industry,” says Gass. “As with all conflicts between new technologies and incumbent rights owners, it will be interesting to see how this one ultimately gets resolved.”

Doug Davis
Founder, The Davis Firm

In addition to working with clients Swizz Beatz, LLCoolJ, DJ Snake, Kandi Burruss and others during the past year, Davis helped negotiate new leadership roles for Kobalt president/COO Jeannette Perez, Warner Chappell president Ryan Press and RCA Music Group executive vps Carolyn Williams and Karen Lamberton. He believes artists and executives must work closely in the immediate future to prevent major music and tech companies from marginalizing creators: “Without a collective intervention by the advocates representing the creators,” says Davis, “the corporate interests will steamroll the future of creatives and their heirs for greater quarterly profits.”

The balance of power in the music business would shift toward artists and songwriters if…: “… the huge influx of capital by private equity and investment banks is deployed to recapture rights and copyrights from the major music companies for the benefit of creators. We are entering an era where artists, producers and songwriters have never been armed as well as they will be now to fight the majors to retake ownership.”

Scott A. Edelman
Chairman, Milbank
Atara Miller
Partner, Milbank

The firm successfully represented BMI in a five-week trial in federal rate court last fall against the North American Concert Promoters Association — the licensing representative for Live Nation and AEG, among others — to reset the rates paid to songwriters for the performance of their music at live concerts. The case was decided March 28 (see entry above on BMI’s Stuart Rosen). “The prior rates were first negotiated in the mid-1990s and were never adjusted to reflect the dramatic growth of live concerts over the last decade,” says Miller. “Live concerts are now a hugely important part of the music industry and incredibly profitable. Songwriters should get their fair share of the profits.” The most pressing concern facing the music industry? “Finding ways to monetize music,” says Miller, “that allow new, developing and established songwriters and artists to earn a living wage.”

Scott Edelman
Partner/co-chair of media, entertainment and technology practice group, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
Orin Snyder
Partner/co-chair of global trial practice group, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

In addition to doing work for each of the industry’s big three music groups, Edelman scored a major win in March 2022 on behalf of Apple when he secured a rare major summary judgment on the issue of willfulness in three copyright infringement lawsuits relating to Apple’s iTunes Store. “The decision in Apple’s favor… marks the first time a court has held on summary judgment that a digital service provider’s reliance on contractual representations from content providers can preclude a finding of willful infringement,” says Edelman. Meanwhile, Snyder handled matters for major artists including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga, the latter of whom he advised in connection with a threatened copyright infringement lawsuit over her 2018 A Star Is Born smash “Shallow” — which, to date, has not yet been filed.

Lawrence Engel
Head of music, Lee & Thompson

Lawrence Engel of Lee& Thompson advised Harry Styles on all aspects of his Love on Tour worldwide trek, including arrangements with promoter Live Nation and merchandise contracts with New York-based Merch Traffic. Since launching in September 2021, the 132-date tour — which included a record-grossing 15-night residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden — has sold 3.1 million tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore. Scheduled to wrap July22 in Reggio Emilia, Italy, the tour has earned $401.6million to date. London-based Engel’s other notable clients include Craig David, MNEK, JessieJ and Styles’ former One Direction bandmates Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (16)

Tim Epstein
Partner, Duggan Bertsch

As the independent concert industry’s top lawyer, Epstein is constantly working on behalf of his 1,000-plus clients, reviewing booking agreements for festivals, representing promoters in disputes and negotiating contracts for acquisitions and mergers. Last year, he put together the Suenos Deal on behalf of Baja Beach Festival with C3Presents, creating Chicago’s largest Latin festival at Grant Park, where Lollapalooza is held. He also represented Life Is Beautiful when Billboard parent company Penske Media Corporation purchased the event. He says his biggest concern in 2023 is getting artists more involved with promotion. “We need help from the artist selling soft tickets and have tried mandating social media minimums in our contracts,” Epstein says, adding that agents and managers are hesitant to mandate social media promotion from their clients. “The artists need to do more to promote the festivals they are performing at in order to protect the live ecosystem.”

Paul M. Fakler
Partner, Mayer Brown

Fakler is a go-to lawyer for digital music services’ royalty rate-setting disputes before the Copyright Royalty Board and federal courts, counting SiriusXM, Music Choice and Google among his client roster. Fakler’s biggest case right now pits his client Pandora against stand-up comedians who say they deserve a new stream of spoken-word royalties. Though not specifically a music case, Fakler predicts that the outcome “will have a significant impact on all music streaming services and record companies.”

Ilene S. Farkas
Partner/co-chair of the music group and copyright, media and entertainment litigation and music litigation practices, Pryor Cashman
James G. Sammataro
Partner/co-chair of the music group and media and entertainment litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
Frank P. Scibilia
Partner/co-chair of the music group and the copyright, media and entertainment litigation, music litigation and music transactions practices, Pryor Cashman
Benjamin K. Semel
Partner/co-chair of the music group and media and entertainment litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
Brad D. Rose
Partner/chair of the intellectual property group, Pryor Cashman
Donald S. Zakarin
Partner/co-chair of the litigation and music groups and media and entertainment litigation practice, Pryor Cashman

Pryor Cashman advises all of the major labels and publishing companies, plus several major artists, including Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and Megan Thee Stallion. But it was the matters on which they advised the NMPA and the Nashville Songwriters Association International that Farkas says “were two of the most economically consequential proceedings in the music industry.” In the first remand proceeding, known as PhonorecordsIII, Pryor Cashman lawyers fought to obtain and uphold a rate increase for the mechanical streaming rates that songwriters and publishers received. In the second, PhonorecordsIV, Farkas says, “We were able to negotiate a landmark settlement with the interactive streaming services — the first such settlement since 2012 — on the eve of trial, obtaining a further increase to the statutory rates.”

Sidney Fohrman
Alex Weingarten

Partners/chairs, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Shane Nix
Partner, Willkie Farr & Gallagher

During the past18 months, Willkie Farr& Gallagher have been working with a startup venture, backed by the holding company IAC, “in connection with the development of a digital marketplace for the buying and selling of securitized music assets on a regulated, public exchange,” says Fohrman. The firm represents Selena Gomez, Jamie Spears and TikTok, among others. The most pressing concern for the music industry? “The fact that most recording artists and writers do not make a living wage,” he says. “We, as an industry, should work collaboratively to ensure that all music industry stakeholders — from artists, writers, labels and publishers to distributors and companies innovating music use — all thrive during these times of unprecedented music creativity and consumption.”

Karl Fowlkes
Founder, The Fowlkes Firm

Last year, Fowlkes client BLXST stormed the Hot100’s top10 as a featured vocalist on Kendrick Lamar’s “Die Hard”; this year, client Synthetic reached similar heights as co-producer on Lil Uzi Vert’s energetic single “Just Wanna Rock.” Fowlkes also negotiated Synthetic’s co-publishing deal with 10KPublishing and Universal Music Group Publishing, plus helped Synthetic build their own publishing company, Hologram, which has signed nearly a dozen producers. Fowlkes says, “The Fowlkes Firm has shone as a producer-focused law firm empowering producers to step out of the shadows and build sustainable businesses.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (17)

John Frankenheimer
Chair, music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Derek Crownover
Debbie White
Vice chairs, music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Tiffany Dunn
Partner, Loeb & Loeb

The firm negotiated a catalog sale and go-forward deal with Sony Music Publishing and Domain Capital Group for Ashley Gorley, who has written or co-written for Carrie Underwood, Bon Jovi, Blake Shelton and Dan+ Shay. Sony Music Publishing is one of Loeb’s corporate clients, along with Warner Music Group and Big Loud, while also serving acts such as Underwood, BTS, Morgan Wallen and Diana Ross. “The music industry continues to face challenges related to the changing nature of music consumption,” says Frankenheimer. “The rise of streaming services and the potential of [non-fungible tokens (NFTs)], the metaverse and related valuation issues have disrupted traditional revenue models and raised questions about how artists and songwriters are compensated for their work.”

Adam C. Freedman
Founder, The Law Offices of Adam C. Freedman

Freedman’s clients include DJs Subtronics and ACSlater, music video producer and artist Glassface, director and photographer Louieknows, producer Einer Bankz and event promoter Space Yacht. He recently helped Steve James sell the rights to his publishing and recording catalogs and also closed publishing deals for several producers, including Bankz (PoloG’s Hot100 No.1 “Rapstar”). Among pressing issues, Freedman notes “how difficult it is for independent artists and producers to simply get paid for the work they’ve done. Meanwhile, labels and publishers, especially the majors, don’t seem to be [investing in] making it any easier.”

Sasha Frid
Louis “Skip” Miller

Partners, Miller Barondess

Frid marked a string of legal victories in 2022, including a jury verdict on behalf of Virtual Sonics and its founders, Jeremy and Julian Soule, who were sued by former investors Scott and Skyler Mednick when they claimed they were owed millions in deferred compensation. “The jury returned a verdict in less than an hour, agreeing with our clients that the Mednicks got everything they were owed when they sold their interests to the company,” says Frid. Virtual Sonics, which specializes in developing digital music instruments, is part of a diverse client roster at Miller Barondess. The firm also represents Mötley Crüe, Smokey Robinson, Backstreet Boys and Five Finger Death Punch, among others.

Jeffrey B. Gandel
Founder, The Law Office of Jeffrey B. Gandel

The Electric Zoo’s lead outside counsel for the music festival’s entire 15-year history, Gandel’s client list also includes artists such as Acraze and Warren Haynes, and producers Gordo (Drake) and Angel Lopez (Jack Harlow). Among other recent feats, Gandel negotiated Acraze’s 2022 deal with Capitol Music Group and Thrive, while the DJ-producer’s “Do It to It,” featuring Cherish, snagged licensing deals for over 20TV, film and commercial placements. Similar synch success happened for Gandel clients Duke& Jones, whose remix of “Jiggle Jiggle” (a collaboration with Louis Theroux) was among TikTok’s top songs of 2022.

Eric German
Christine Lepera
Jeffrey Movit
Bradley Mullins
Gabriella Nourafchan Ismaj
David Steinberg
J. Matthew Williams

Partners, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

Dua Lipa hired Lepera and her colleagues — who together form one of the top legal teams in the country for artists and songwriters facing copyright lawsuits — last year to handle two high-profile cases over her smash hit “Levitating,” 2021’s year-end Hot100 No.1 song. The firm also geared up to rep Post Malone in a similar lawsuit over songwriting co-credits for his 2019 hit “Circles,” but settled out of court in March. Their biggest win of the year, however, was a major appeals court ruling for Katy Perry that rejected a case regarding her 2014 Hot100 chart-topper “Dark Horse.” Lepera says the case highlights how musicians are “fighting back to preserve their independence and right to create with commonplace expression.”

Damien Granderson
Guy Blake
Elizabeth Moody
Colin Morrissey

Partners, Granderson Des Rochers

Granderson Des Rochers helped usher K-pop heavyweight HYBE into the hip-hop market in February by handling its purchase of Quality Control, the Atlanta label representing Migos, Lil Baby, City Girls and Lil Yachty. The firm is concerned about the future of AI, says Morrissey, whose clients include rappers SoFaygo, Mike Dimes and MadeinTYO: “The complete uncertainty for creators, distributors and tech companies is sure to cause chaos.” But he adds that traditional label models are “less necessary than ever” and, increasingly, “artists have freedom to get their art to the public.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (18)

Navarro Gray
Founding partner, The Gray Law Firm

The Gray Law Firm recently handled contracts associated with Ronald Isley’s latest releases and album, Make Me Say It Again, Girl, which included features from Beyoncé, 2Chainz and Earth, Wind& Fire. The firm also represents notable R&B and hip-hop acts DDOsama, Internet Money and Lil Kim. According to Gray, the most pressing concern facing the music industry lies in supplemental income for recording artists. “Signed artists usually receive their advance and do not get additional monies from the label until the label decides to exercise its option,” Gray explains. “Independent artists may rely on streaming monies on a month-to-month basis. Regardless if the artist is signed or indie, they need to come up with additional ways to create immediate supplemental revenue.”

Eric Greenspan
Jeffrey Light
Craig S. Marshall
Francois Mobasser
Aaron Rosenberg

Equity partners, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light
Audrey Benoualid
Partner, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light

The firm’s many clients include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Deftones, Grateful Dead, Jack Johnson and Yeti Beats, and its attorneys recently closed catalog sales for Bieber and Red Hot Chili Peppers. In January, Hipgnosis Songs Capital confirmed its deal to buy 100% of Bieber’s publishing, as well as his artist royalties from his master recordings and neighboring rights, for more than $200million, according to a source familiar with the situation, making it the largest rights sale for any creator of Bieber’s generation. It’s also Hipgnosis’ biggest acquisition to date, covering all 290titles in Bieber’s catalog released prior to Dec.31, 2021, including his most recent album, 2021’s Justice. In looking at the broader legal landscape, Myman Greenspan’s Marshall is among those who express concern about the rise of generative AI. “Because the music industry was built substantially on the creative contribution from recording artists and songwriters, the concern is that AI-generated songs could take up space in the competitive market for music consumption and replace career artists,” he says. “This also gives rise to a number of copyright issues that will have to be resolved.”

The balance of power in the music business would shift toward artists and songwriters if…: “…true partnerships were formed between artists and labels — or other investors in music — to develop careers. As more and more artists learn that they can have a significant role in marketing and promoting their works independently, artist leverage could rise exponentially if they practice patience and rely on themselves more often, rather than jumping into a relationship with a partner who is chasing a song rather than a career.” — Marshall

Gary R. Greenstein
Member, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Greenstein, who is based in Washington, D.C., and specializes in technology transactions, represented Google before the Copyright Royalty Board in the PhonorecordsIV rate-setting proceeding. The case ended in a negotiated settlement of rates to be paid by interactive streaming services for the use of music beginning in January. In his view, everyone should profit fairly: “The economics of the music industry need to change so that distributors can have a path to profitability, which will benefit all participants and not just a select few.”

Pierre Hachar Jr.
Managing partner, The Hachar Law Group
Cody Pellicer
General partner, The Hachar Law Group

The South Florida law firm represents Carin León, Justin Quiles and Dalex Chayanne, as well as Celia Cruz’s estate and the label Mr.305, founded by Pitbull. They represent Frabian Eli in the litigation against his former management client, Latin trap star Anuel AA. One of the most pressing concerns in the music industry, according to Hachar, is “dealing with a saturated market where the formats for consuming music are constantly evolving and changing.” He urges that the power structure in the business would shift toward artists if “they kept control of their copyrights and learned how to effectively administer, market and monetize them.”

Jonas Herbsman
Managing partner, Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch
Michael Frisch
Dorothy Weber

Partners, Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch

After working on several catalog sales — including Regent Music and Jewel Music to Primary Wave — the firm oversaw the sale of jazz legend Sonny Rollins’ music rights to Reservoir in a deal that includes publishing and recording rights to the jazz legend’s music. “It was an honor to represent one of the most decorated artists of all time,” Herbsman says of Rollins, who will turn 93 in September. Rollins received the lifetime achievement award at the 2004 Grammys and was feted by the Kennedy Center Honors in 2011.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (19)

Lawrence Iser
Jonathan Steinsapir

Partners, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump Holley

An advocate for clients including Jackson Browne, Del Records and Third Side Music, Iser and his firm have for years pushed to give artists more control over their assets, from merchandise to streaming data. He represents music-funding service beatBread, which pays advances based on streaming royalties — leaving other revenue services untouched. “It is next to impossible for non-stars to make a living off streaming revenue,” says Iser. “While there are lots of avenues for new artists to distribute their music online, only the top artists will make substantial money.”

Erin M. Jacobson
Attorney/CEO, Erin M. Jacobson

Jacobson handled cases related to acquisitions, publishing, licensing, complex catalog terminations and the counseling of estate and legacy catalogs, with recent proceedings involving Elvis Presley, The Ronettes, iconic TV theme songs and holiday classics, among many others. But while her work focused on historic music, Jacobson identifies the industry’s most pressing issue as one that’s extremely of the moment: AI. “This is an emerging area that will present a lot of practical and legal challenges as new avenues of technology,” she says.

Neville L. Johnson
Founding partner, Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson’s roster includes Janet Jackson, guitarist Andy McKee and rising musical group Between Friends. But founding partner Johnson highlights the firm’s work on behalf of musicians without star billing. Settling “a major class action” suit against the American Federation of Musicians and the Hollywood actors’ guild, SAG-AFTRA, “returned millions of dollars to a nonprofit fund benefitting thousands of session musicians and vocalists,” he says. For 2023, he believes “transparency in accounting” remains a pressing concern. Streaming, he notes, has “failed to adequately democratize its earnings, and artists are still being routinely cheated by industry middlemen.”

Russell A. Jones Jr.
Attorney, Law Offices of Russell A. Jones Jr. and Associates

Jones, whose notable clients include Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith, was key in negotiating agreements for Brooks’ multiyear stadium tour that wrapped in August 2022. Jones notes that among the biggest challenges facing the music industry are “collection and equitable distribution of various royalty streams from [digital service providers], social media, all other digital exploiters and over-the-air radio.”

Joshua A. Kamen
Founder/owner, The Law Offices of Joshua A. Kamen

Kamen negotiated new publishing deals for clients Nija Charles (a Grammy nominee for songwriter of the year and winner of the Hitmaker trophy from the National Music Publishers’ Association and Billboard), and OZ, who charted eight songs in the top20 of the Hot100 in the past 18months. He also negotiated various brand, tour sponsorship and merchandise deals for clients Giveon, City Girls, Teddy Swims, 6LACK and IDK. “I think we need to figure out how to get kids to meaningfully connect with new artists again and not just listen to music as the soundtrack to viral videos,” Kamen says, adding that “building the right team around each artist” is also crucial.

Jason Karlov
Chair, entertainment, media and sports practice group, Barnes & Thornburg
Joel Katz
Senior counsel, Barnes & Thornburg

The clients of Barnes& Thornburg include Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, the Country Music Association and The Recording Academy, and senior executives such as Steve Carless, Monte Lipman, Randy Goodman, Mike Dungan, John Esposito and Scott Borchetta. The firm represented the NFL for Super BowlLVI in 2022 and Super BowlLVII earlier this year, including all production and guild matters, procurement of music rights, negotiating licenses and commercial agreements for live performances. Barnes& Thornburg also have been establishing the structure for the Grammy organization worldwide.

Priyanka Khimani
Founder, Khimani & Associates

Khimani’s clients include some of the most prominent names in India’s music industry. Bollywood royalty such as Shankar Mahadevan, Arijit Singh and the estate of playback singing legend Lata Mangeshkar, plus hip-hop stars Badshah, Divine and King are just a few who rely on her. In recent months, she has helped Divine license a sample of the title cut from the soundtrack of the 1993 film Baazigar, advised Canadian Indian rapper-singer APDhillon for his recent appearance at the inaugural edition of Lollapalooza India in Mumbai and guided the Berklee Indian Ensemble on clearances for its Grammy-nominated collaborative album, Shuruaat, which features nearly 100musicians. Says Khimani, “Each of these has been unique in structure and involves a foreign counterpart.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (20)

Russell L. King
Director, King Law Firm

Maluma had a standout year in 2022, as King negotiated the launch of his client’s mezcal, Contraluz; his smash burger chain, Dembow; an endorsem*nt deal with Hugo Boss; participation in and recording of the official song for the World Cup; and participation in the 2022 Formula1 Miami Grand Prix and related South Florida concerts. King says that live music “is back and stronger than ever after the pandemic. But the battle scars are very evident, with the parties requiring additional protection of their interests” with “risk minimization such as insurance.”

Christiane Kinney
President/attorney, Kinney Law

In the past year, Kinney was involved in a project with Blind Burners, a group of visually impaired artists and performers. Through her client Big Rock Creative, a virtual world was created in the metaverse, designed for Blind Burners and other similarly impaired virtual reality users. Next, Kinney is looking to protect her artists against the “fascinating but dangerous” rise of AI-generated artwork. “There will be a surge of copyright infringement claims filed in the not-so-distant future,” she says, “in which many legal theories and issues will be tested.”

Mark Krais
Simon Goodbody

Partners, Bray & Krais

Krais and Goodbody represented EdSheeran in last year’s U.K. High Court copyright infringement trial over the singer’s 2017 global hit “Shape of You.” Sheeran and co-writers Johnny McDaid and Steven McCutcheon won after a judge ruled that the star hadn’t copied the song from a little-known track by British artist Sami Switch. The victory “laid down a marker for those parties who may seek to use litigation as a tool to pressurize songwriters and publishers into making settlement payments, irrespective of the merits of the underlying dispute,” the firm said in a statement. London-based Bray& Krais’ other clients include The Rolling Stones, Universal Music Publishing, Sony Music Publishing and rapper KSI.

Evan Krauss
Daniel Shulman
Owen Sloane
Andrew Tavel
Partners, Eisner
Jordan Gutglass

Senior counsel, Eisner

In addition to its work on behalf of clients Jon Batiste, G-Eazy, Boi-1da, PartyNextDoor, Matchbox Twenty/Rob Thomas, Sofi Tukker, the Aaliyah estate and others, Eisner recently represented boutique merchandiser Ceremony of Roses in its deal with Sony Music, announced in 2022, where the major label made a strategic investment in the company. The deal also included the launch of the brand as a new global merchandising, media, design and events company under the Sony umbrella. The firm continues to assist with and consult on the negotiation of Ceremony of Roses’ artist merchandising agreements at all levels.

Dina LaPolt
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
Sarah Scott
Managing partner, LaPolt Law

The current McDonald’s campaign featuring CardiB and Offset, and the release of new songs from The Kid LAROI through an immersive experience in Epic Games’ Fortnite are just two of the recent blockbuster deals negotiated by LaPolt and Scott, who also count 21Savage, deadmau5 and Steven Tyler as clients. LaPolt also has been urging members of Congress to support the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act, which would sharply limit when any form of creative or artistic expression — including hip-hop lyrics — could be used as evidence against the creator of the works.

Todd Larson
Benjamin Marks

Partners, Weil Gotshal & Manges

Representing clients such as SiriusXM, Spotify, Twitter and AEG Presents, Marks and Larson have a front-row view of the industry’s royalty battles. Citing his biggest case of 2022, Marks says his representation of AEG and the North American Concert Promoters Association against BMI in the BMI rate court in the Southern District of New York sets “the royalty rates paid by members of the [promoters association] for the public performance of songs in the BMI repertoire for the period from 2014-2022.” The suit was decided March 28 and Marks says“the ruling is considerably closer toNACPA’s rate proposal than BMI’s.”

Bernie Lawrence-Watkins
Founder, B. Lawrence Watkins & Associates

It has been a banner year for Lawrence-Watkins’ “Big Energy” client Latto. Her hit single peaked at No.3 on the Hot100, while parent set 777 reached No.15 on the Billboard200. In addition to negotiating clearances for 777 and Latto’s appearances on Lizzo’s The Special Tour, Lawrence-Watkins says she “negotiated various endorsem*nt and live-performance deals with the likes of Steve Madden, Savage Fenty, Apple, Essence, WNBA, Wingstop, Sprite, Spotify and more.” A best new artist Grammy nominee and Billboard’s 2023 Women in Music Powerhouse honoree, Latto is part of a client roster at Lawrence-Watkins’ firm that includes rising artists such as Baby Tate, Young Nudy and Doe Boy.

Shay Lawson
Founder/managing attorney, law firm of Lawson McKinley

Lawson has served as a voice and advocate for the passing of the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act in California and for the RAP Act at the federal level to prevent the use of rap lyrics and creative expression as evidence of a crime. She says, “The fight for state and federal legislation is so important as artists continue to face unfair criminal scrutiny, arrests and charges solely based on lyrics and creative expressions.”

William R. Leibowitz
Founder, William R. Leibowitz Law Group

Leibowitz has been in the thick of the music-asset acquisition boom for the last 18months, representing both the publicly traded Hipgnosis Songs Fund and Hipgnosis Songs Capital — the private investment partnership vehicle between Hipgnosis Songs Management and Blackstone, handling the closing of rights acquisitions from Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, the estate of Leonard Cohen, Nile Rodgers, Kenny Chesney and Nelly Furtado. Besides representing the various incarnations of Hipgnosis, his other clients include INXS, Iron Maiden and Global Merchandising services.

Kent Marcus
Owner/senior partner, Marcus & Colvin

In addition to advising an eclectic list of recording artists, Marcus’ clients include publishers and Web3 companies, giving him valuable perspective on what he calls “the possibilities versus the dangers of technology. Technology always moves faster than the industry.” Guiding Kings of Leon, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Molly Tuttle, Lainey Wilson, Joy Oladokun, Marcus King, Margo Price and Black Pumas, the firm looks to “give them the best protection and opportunity for success.” Recently, that involved brokering and closing a nine-figure deal for Aldean’s masters to Spirit Music Group.

Doug Mark
Founding partner, Mark Music & Media Law
David Ferreria
Harry Roberts

Partners, Mark Music & Media Law
Jaimie Roberts
Of counsel, Mark Music & Media Law

Billie Eilish, FINNEAS, Ice Spice, Danny Elfman, Guns N’ Roses and other top talent are part of the firm’s diverse roster after Los Angeles-based Mark Music& Media Law merged with New York’s Roberts& Hafitz at the end of 2022. Clients also include Warner Films’ Water Tower Music, for which the firm negotiated music deals in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Warner Bros. Pictures’ forthcoming live-action Barbie directed by Greta Gerwig. Among Ferreria’s top industry concerns: “Modernizing recording agreements and other contracts to keep up with the fast-paced and content-intensive nature of the industry.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (21)

James E. McMillan
Managing partner, James E. McMillan; CEO, ART@WAR

When McMillan’s firm was engaged to represent a popular young drill group, his team faced the challenge of working with a group member who was a minor, “protecting his rights and interest for the long term on one hand, while attempting to seize his current opportunity in a fast-paced marketplace on the other,” he says, calling that environment “a challenging terrain to navigate. It’s easy for a minor to get caught up in the hype of flash cash, fancy clothes and social media fame. As stewards of his rights, our job is to do our best to protect his interests so that when the spotlight fades, he still has something to show for it.” McMillan is among those fighting against the use of rap lyrics in criminal prosecutions. “California has passed legislation to address this issue,” he notes. “The other states need to catch up.”

L. Londell McMillan
Chairman/CEO, The McMillan Firm and NorthStar Business Enterprises

McMillan is a co-owner of the business entity Prince Legacy — formerly the Prince estate — and his firm represents the catalog of late Mobb Deep member Prodigy, established acts Mount Westmore (the hip-hop supergroup of Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Too $hort and E-40) and DougE. Fresh, plus the NorthStar Music Group and McMillan-owned hip-hop magazine The Source. The firm has also secured co-publishing deals with Stargate and Pulse Music for emerging artists Kyla Imani and Lucas Santos. The latter is in keeping with McMillan’s chief concern in the coming year: “Protection of artists’ and songwriters’ revenue streams and healthcare.”

Ed McPherson
Founding partner/trial lawyer, McPherson

With a client roster including Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, Justin Timberlake and Kelly Clarkson, McPherson considers “frivolous lawsuits” to be the industry’s most pressing challenge, particularly “copyright lawsuits that stifle the creativity of songwriters and concert-related suits that will ultimately cause ticket prices to increase so significantly that only a select few fans will be able to afford them.”

Robert Meitus
Managing partner, Meitus Gelbert Rose

Working with artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Keb’ Mo’ and Nathan Johnson (composer for Glass Onion and Knives Out), Meitus says a pressing concern for the music business remains “gender and racial equity throughout the industry,” including record production, airplay, the Grammys and high-level employment opportunities in record labels, publishers, artist management and other companies. Meitus is also the co-founder of and legal counsel for Mandolin Software, which Fast Company recognized as a leading innovative music tech company for its products such as Fan Navigator, a comprehensive fan data platform.

Matthew Middleton
Founder/principal, Middleton Law

Middleton helps his clients “navigate and take advantage of effective independent distribution models,” he says. Whether they’re forging new mainstream partnerships, such as rapper ShaEK signing with Warner Records last summer, or reasserting their indie cred (as Alabama hip-hop superstar Bleu did when he abruptly exited his management deal with a tweet just months before his newest release), Middleton’s clients have an attorney who is committed to “vigorously advocating for artists and songwriters to be compensated fairly,” he says. With Blackground Records, another client, Middleton also finds new generations of fans, as he did last April, when he set up a first vinyl pressing for the late Aaliyah’s self-titled 2001 release.

Michael Milom
David Crow

Partners, Milom Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan

The firm, which represents clients including Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Carly Pearce, Scotty McCreery, Kelsea Ballerini and Mickey Guyton, closed 13catalog transactions during the past year, totaling over $139million. Milom and Crow note that artist development remains an ongoing concern within the music industry, saying that there needs to be a balance between the pursuit of immediate social media metrics and long-term careers.

Carron Joan Mitchell
Partner, Nixon Peabody
Farrah A. Usmani
Counsel, Nixon Peabody

Among her many other clients, Mitchell handled all legal transactions on behalf of Brent Faiyaz, whose album Wasteland debuted at No.2 on the Billboard200. Honored as an ASCAP Woman Behind the Music in 2022, Mitchell sees transparency in the industry as an issue. “Luckily, many companies are taking notice and are creating platforms to enable more transparency with everything, from the deal structures to budget spends and accountings,” she says. Usmani’s diverse client roster includes genre-defying band Rainbow Kitten Surprise, booking agents and concert promoter Outback Presents. Usmani represented Outback Presents in its deals to secure the rights to produce and promote the 2023 tours of Rauw Alejandro and Romeo Santos. The next frontier is AI-generated music, she says, noting, “Those of us representing human artists and songwriters will have to stay ahead of the curve to ensure our clients have the opportunity to evolve in tandem with technology.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (22)

Zia Modabber
Managing partner of the Los Angeles offices/chair of the entertainment and litigation practice, Katten Muchin Rosenman
Lil NasX, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Nine Inch Nails and the estate of Michael Jackson are just a few of the firm’s clients. “I’m fortunate to represent so many exceptionally gifted performers, including one of my longest clients, Trent Reznor,” he says. “Since we started together over 20years ago, my role has evolved to where I now function as a sort of outside general counsel. He is an absurdly talented recording artist, songwriter and performer.” While compensating musicians fairly remains a pressing industry issue, Modabber says, “Look out for AI because it’s about to force a host of new challenges.”

Lisa F. Moore
Principal, Moore Pequignot
Andrew Pequignot
Member, Moore Pequignot
Gary P. Adelman
Managing partner, Adelman Matz
Sarah M. Matz
Partner, Adelman Matz

Moore Pequignot’s attorneys represented CardiB in a closely watched trial over accusations that the superstar rapper violated a California man’s rights by photoshopping one of his tattoos onto a mixtape cover. After just an hour of deliberation, the jury sided with Cardi, clearing her of millions in possible damages. That was the second victory Moore Pequignot secured for Cardi in 2022, following a $4million defamation verdict against a gossip blogger who published lies about the rapper. On that case, the firm teamed with Adelman Matz’s attorneys; that firm has also represented Migos, Khalid, DaBaby and A$AP Rocky, as well as companies such as Beatport, HYBE and Justin Bieber’s Drew House.

Matt Oppenheim
Managing partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
Scott Zebrak
Co-founding partner, Oppenheim + Zebrak
Jeff Gould
Alex Kaplan

Partners, Oppenheim + Zebrak

While representing the three major music groups, the firm has continued to combat “copyright infringement and piracy from stifling the lawful ecosystem for enjoying music,” Zebrak says, noting recent settlements in infringement cases against Charter Communications and Bright House, which involved more than 23,000 copyrighted works. Oppenheim+ Zebrak has also brought copyright infringement suits against the music video app Vinkle and the video-sharing app Triller. It alleges that Vinkle “is built on a library of copyrighted musical works that Vinkle neither owns nor has obtained a license to use,” says Zebrak, and charges Triller with “willful and unauthorized use of copyrighted sound recordings in Triller’s commercial social media service” and “failure and refusal to pay millions of dollars in contractual licensing fees.” Those companies contest the claims.

Don Passman
Ethan Schiffres

Partners, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman
Gene Salomon
Managing partner, Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman

As the live market came roaring back after the pandemic shutdown, the firm was busy getting artists back in front of audiences, including Adele’s sold-out Las Vegas residency, P!nk’s upcoming tour, Taylor Swift’s massive outing and even helping conductor Gustavo Dudamel shift from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the New York Philharmonic. But for Salomon, the highlight was opening night for ABeautiful Noise, the Broadway jukebox musical based on longtime client Neil Diamond’s life. “That Neil was able to get up and sing with the cast at the end,” he says, “was a special moment.”

Michael Perlstein
Robert H. Lieberman

Partners, Fischbach Perlstein Lieberman & Almond

The firm has been involved in numerous purchases and sales transactions involving master recordings and song compositions for various creators during the last 18months, as well as numerous agreements involving complex copyright issues. While they decline to specify the parties in those agreements, Perlstein lists as clients Bob Dylan, Peggy Lee Associates, Edward Holland, the estate of Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, Paul Simon and Sylvia Tyson; Lieberman cites clients including GoDigital and its Cinq Music Group subsidiary, E40, Strange Music and Run It Up Records.

Adrian Perry
Partner/co-chair of music industry group/co-chair of entertainment and media industry group, Covington & Burling
Neema Sahni
Partner/co-chair of music industry group/vice chair of sports industry group, Covington & Burling
Jonathan Sperling
Partner/chair of music industry group, Covington & Burling

Covington& Burling represents many of music’s most powerful companies, including the three major music groups. Last year, the firm helped bring Universal Music Group into the Web3 era by representing it in partnership agreements with NFT marketplaces Curio, Snowcrash and Billboard (through Unblocked), while also advising the company on the formation of the NFT-backed band Kingship. Moving forward, Perry says the firm is concerned with “how economic headwinds and an associated decline in ad-based streaming revenue may impact revenue and licensing structures.”

Chip Petree
Partner, Ritholz Levy Fields

With clients ranging from country heavyweights Chris Stapleton and Brothers Osborne to roots-music masters Tyler Childers and Billy Strings, Petree’s firm has worked to “enhance fan engagement in nontraditional ways” with unique brand partnerships, appearance agreements and live-music streaming deals, he says. “One example is Chris Stapleton’s relationship with RAM Trucks,” says Petree, who opened his firm’s Nashville office in 2014. “Within the last two years, Stapleton’s recording of the Al Green classic ‘I’m a Ram’ has been used in a RAM advertising campaign and a Super Bowl pregame spot that ran before Stapleton’s widely praised rendition of the national anthem.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (23)

Daniel Petrocelli
Trial practice chair/firm vice chair, O’Melveny & Myers
David Marroso
General litigation practice head, O’Melveny & Myers
Leah Godesky
Terrance Dugan

Partners, O’Melveny & Myers

One of the firm’s clients, Global Music Rights, recently settled a yearslong legal dispute against the Radio Music Licensing Committee. The settlement followed the performing rights organization’s 2016 antitrust lawsuit over music licensing fees that RMLC’s 10,000 radio station members pay GMR’s 100-plus songwriters, which include Drake, Pharrell Williams, Lizzo and Nicki Minaj. O’Melveny& Myers settled copyright infringement lawsuits against two terrestrial radio companies, Red Wolf Broadcasting and One Putt Broadcasting, earlier this year. Marroso says ticketing practices will be the music industry’s most pressing concern in 2023. “Government investigations and private litigation surrounding ticketing practices are expected to raise important questions about competition, market power and related issues,” he says.

Lee Phillips
Senior partner, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Jordan Bromley
Partner/entertainment group leader, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
W. Joseph Anderson
Eric Custer
Gary Gilbert
Robert Jacobs
Beau Stapleton
Monika Tashman

Partners, Manatt Phelps & Phillips

Manatt Phelps& Phillips handled two of the music industry’s top deals of 2022: Dundee Partners’ $1.1billion acquisition of Kobalt Capital Limited’s music rights portfolio, KMR Music RoyaltiesII, and Francisco Partners Management’s move to obtain a majority stake in Kobalt Investment. Manatt’s partners represent music clients including Pepe Aguilar, Paul Anka, Jackson Browne, Tracy Chapman, Death Cab for Cutie, Diplo, Dirty Projectors, The Drums, the Eagles, Major Lazer, ODESZA, Steve Perry, Thievery Corporation, Jack White, Brian Wilson, Neil Young and the estates of Burt Bacharach, John Lee Hooker, Rick James and Pop Smoke.

Vince Phillips
Co-founder/partner, Arrington & Phillips
Aurielle Brooks
Senior associate, Arrington & Phillips; general counsel, Collective Gallery

Representing YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Lil Baby (for his label, Wolf Pack Global), Bow Wow, Keri Hilson and other top clients, Phillips and Brooks have cleared a number of platinum- and gold-certified albums and singles, and negotiated TV deals and two national arena tours. Under their representation, YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s label secured a joint venture with Motown Records. The firm also brokered a catalog sale for the chart-topping rapper. According to Brooks, a major issue facing the music industry today is a lack of authenticity, coupled with demand for instant gratification. “Truly authentic talent and artistry seem to be harder to discern now more than ever,” Brooks says. “The rise of TikTok and various outlets that allow a singular quick buzz to blossom is great for artists who have sat undiscovered for some time, [but] it is a cloudy indicator of what is true of this artist.”

Tabetha Plummer
Founder, Plummer Law Group

Plummer has been making money moves for a client roster that includes R&B singers Jhené Aiko and Ledisi, and Grammy-nominated producers Rex Rideout and Mike City. Her firm has helped hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg expand his portfolio to include a Skechers sneaker line and a Death Row cannabis brand. But even with those wins, she’s increasingly concerned about “how streaming services pay writers, producers and artists,” she says, as well as the emergence of AI technology in recorded music: “It creates a litany of other legal issues, beginning with who owns the copyright, name and image rights.”

Michael Poster
Chair of music acquisitions and financing/partner, Michelman & Robinson

In one of the most significant hip-hop deals of the year, Poster and his team spearheaded a majority stake acquisition in the publishing catalog of the late Chicago rapper Juice WRLD. The multimillion-dollar transaction also gave Opus Music Group majority ownership of the rapper’s master-rights income from releases including five top five-charting albums on the Billboard200. The deal was “a great example of how we’re able to bridge the gap between private equity and corporate work,” he says, “and rights issues, personalities and the complexities of the music industry.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (24)

Edwin Prado
Founder/CEO, Prado Law Offices

Prado’s name is synonymous with reggaetón and urban music, with a lengthy client list that includes Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and AnuelAA, as well as labels Pina Records, ElCartel and Glad Empire, and superstar clients Ricardo Arjona and Romeo Santos. The veteran attorney — who practices law in Puerto Rico, Florida and New York — had a particularly busy year, representing Daddy Yankee and Pina Records in breach of contract and copyright infringement cases, respectively, and handling the aftermath of the plane accident that killed producer Flow La Movie and his family. Prado also negotiated Nio García’s complex exit from record label Flow La Movie and joined Pina Records founder Raphy Pina’s defense team in post-appeal procedures related to his 2021 conviction on a federal gun charge.

Gregor Pryor
Stephen Sessa

Partners/co-chairs, global entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
Joshua Love
Eric Marder
Edward Shapiro

Partners, global entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith

In addition to representing some of the most established global digital music companies, Pryor works extensively in music and Web3, advising pioneers such as Animoca, Unity, deadmau5’s Pixelynx, Stationhead, Gala Music, BandLab, Audius, TSX Entertainment, Opulous and Frever. Sessa serves as Concord’s outside counsel and has led all of the company’s major publishing acquisitions, including the works of Phil Collins and Genesis, as well as Downtown Music, Imagem, Pulse, BUnique, Razor& Tie, Tams Witmark, Samuel French, Sikorski and many others. Love represented Seeker Music Group in all its major catalog acquisitions, including Christopher Cross, Troy Oliver and Run the Jewels, and Spirit Music Group when it acquired Jason Aldean’s catalog of recordings. Shapiro serves as counsel to Rihanna in all her endeavors, most recently handling her Super Bowl Halftime Show performance and new venture with PUMA. Marder, the firm’s newest partner, also represents Roc Nation as outside counsel for music matters.

William Ramsey
Partner, Neal Harwell

Ramsey, whose past and present clients include Garth Brooks, Kane Brown, Miranda Lambert and Red Light Management, represented a number of acts in major trademark and copyright disputes over the last year. But he says his most gratifying work has been representing the Otha Turner Collection, which has been acquired by the National Museum of African American Music. In June, Ramsey hosted his 28th annual Ode to Otha fundraiser, a tribute to the Black fife-and-drum blues musician, which raised money for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. “Opportunities like this allow me to advocate for my clients — and friends — outside the courtroom so that together we can keep the legacy and impact of traditional music alive,” Ramsey says.

Rollin Ransom
Partner/co-leader of global entertainment, sports and media practice; global commercial litigation and disputes practice; managing partner of the Los Angeles office, Sidley Austin
Matthew Thompson
Partner/co-leader of global entertainment, sports and media practice, Sidley Austin

Sidley Austin’s client Universal Music Group had a major development in the closely watched litigation involving hundreds of artists who sued the label in a single lawsuit to regain control of their master recordings. Earlier this year, the firm obtained a denial of class certification with a federal judge in New York ruling that the case cannot proceed as a class action but rather each musician will have to file his or her own case. This latest ruling comes four years after “Missing You” singer John Waite filed a lawsuit — as lead plaintiff — over copyright law’s termination right.

Berkeley Reinhold
Founder/owner, Reinhold Global

Reinhold, whose firm specializes in entertainment, touring and music, serves as general counsel for Lollapalooza and offered guidance on its global expansion into Asia. The festival held its first shows in Mumbai, India, in January, marking the fest’s seventh international territory alongside South America, Europe and North America. Reinhold’s other notable clients include Live Nation, Global Citizen and such acts as Marc Anthony, Thievery Corporation and Winston House. She believes that climate change is the most pressing concern facing the live-events industry.

Elliot Resnik
Partner/chair of entertainment, Masur Griffitts Avidor

Resnik’s clients include Killer Mike and his hip-hop duo, Run the Jewels, as well as music agency All Things Go Music and the National Independent Venue Association. Some of Resnik’s successes over the past year are supporting the release of RTJ ­Cu4tro — Run the Jewels’ Spanish-language reimagination of its fourth album, in collaboration with several Latin artists — and the sale of Killer Mike’s publishing to Reservoir Media, including his future works and back catalog. Looking ahead, Resnik keeps the fight for fair compensation to writers, publishers and performers top of mind, “ensuring we don’t allow their rights to be undervalued in the coming transition to Web3 platforms.”

Alexis Robinson
Daniel Schnapp

Partners, Sheppard Mullin

In the past 18 months, Sheppard Mullin, which represents Spotify, ASCAP, Peloton and Vevo, led Atlanta-based investment firm Domain Capital Group in acquiring multiple music catalogs including the works of Nashville hit-maker Ashley Gorley. The firm also guided Sony Pictures Television’s purchase of Industrial Media, owner of the reality series American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, among others. Looking ahead, Schnapp says the rise of “emerging technologies and innovative platforms” like virtual reality, augmented reality and AI “will undoubtedly have a profound and potentially disruptive effect on the status quo.”

Carlos Rodríguez-Féliz
Founder/managing partner, RodFel Law

Rodríguez-Féliz — whose clients include RaiNao, Lenny Tavárez, Villano Antillano, Subelo Neo and Young Miko — says the most pressing concern in the industry is “how fast music is being consumed by fans and how demanding of music the public is in short periods of time.” Securing Antillano’s global publishing deal with Warner Chappell, Sech producer Cerebro’s deal with Kobalt and Tavárez’s publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing are just a few of his recent negotiations.

Angela Rogers
Owner, Rogers Law Group

Rogers’ firm negotiated multimillion-­dollar client deals with Nike, Sprite, Adidas, UGG, Forever21 and Bose during the last 18months. “Major companies have always had a presence in the Black music space,” says Rogers, whose primarily R&B/hip-hop client roster includes Coi Leray, Nardo Wick, Tink, GHerbo, ESTGee, Jay Electronica and Marsha Ambrosius. “But in the past, artists would have to concede on either money or deliverables just for an opportunity to work with some of these brands. However, now we’re seeing corporate companies coming to the table with more lucrative and innovative deals that value the artists’ cultural impact.”

Oswaldo M. Rossi
Founder/managing partner, Rossi
John R. Baldivia
Partner, Rossi

The firm provided legal services to Colombian superstar KarolG, who had a top-grossing tour, a history-making Billboard200 No.1 album with Mañana Será Bonito and new brand deals with Corona and Google Pixel. Rossi also assisted with Noah Assad’s joint venture with Live Nation and the renewal of Bad Bunny producer MAG’s publishing deal with Warner Chappell and his producer agreement for Un Verano Sin Ti. Baldivia says a pressing concern is “finding a way for the Latin music world as a whole to compete financially with the rest of the general market in all facets of the business.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (25)

Todd Rubenstein
Founding principal, Todd Rubenstein Law

Rubenstein recently negotiated several high-profile signings, including ThxSoMuch’s deal with Elektra, d4vd’s deal with Interscope and Jeleel’s deal with 10KProjects. “The process [of negotiating dv4d’s and ThxSoMuch’s deals] was a case study of the issues facing lawyers in 2022 to 2023,” he explains. “From insufficient rights to tracks licensed from online services, to deal roadblocks caused by provisions buried in the online indie distributor websites, to artwork pulled from Google without necessary rights, it has become harder for young artists to close record deals because of third parties.” Rubenstein’s firm also represents Khalid, songwriting-production duo The Monsters and Strangerz, songwriter-­producer Oak Felder and songwriter Theron Thomas, among others.

Steven H. Sadow
Principal, Steven H. Sadow
Brian Steel
Founder, The Steel Law Firm

When Young Thug and Gunna were indicted in May 2022 on accusations that they participated in a violent Atlanta street gang, they tapped veteran Georgia attorneys with extensive experience handling such cases. Steel, a well-known Atlanta criminal defense attorney who had previously represented 21Savage, is serving as lead counsel for Young Thug in the ongoing trial, which started in January and is expected to run for months. Gunna hired Sadow, who also counts Rick Ross, T.I. and Usher as clients. Along with attorneys from the firm Garland Samuel& Loeb, Sadow helped Gunna negotiate a plea deal that allowed him to exit the case in December without cooperating with prosecutors.

Daniel Schacht
Partner/music and intellectual property attorney, Donahue Fitzgerald

In his eight years as a partner, Schacht has expanded Donahue Fitzgerald’s clientele to include newer artists such as singer-songwriter mxmtoon, adding to its powerhouse roster of legacy artists including Santana, the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and songwriting duo Cynthia Weil& Barry Mann. Among many other matters, Schact led the team representing Wixen Music Publishing in its suit against Triller, seeking over $50million in damages for copyright infringement. The case, Schacht says, was “successfully resolved in September 2022.”

Michael Selverne
Managing partner, Selverne Bradford

Selverne doesn’t disclose clients, but sources tell Billboard that he represents Round Hill Music, closing the company’s music-asset acquisitions. In the past year, those have included a stake in the publishing catalog and a share in the master royalties of Alice in Chains and both the publishing catalog and master royalties from David Coverdale, among other deals. While terms of those deals were not disclosed, Billboard estimates the deal for Coverdale’s music assets carried a $35million valuation.

Robert J. Sherman
Partner/co-chair, entertainment finance practice, DLA Piper

Sherman was the lead attorney in Concord’s historic $1.8billion music securitization of over 1million copyrights. The asset-based security offering is the largest in terms of both size of issuance and number of assets. Apollo Global Management and Redding Ridge Asset Management structured the transaction and formed an investor syndicate led by Apollo-­managed funds. Sherman believes one of the most pressing concerns for the industry is to expand the streaming revenue base internationally. DLA Piper’s client roster includes Gold State Music, Epitaph Records and Multimedia Music.

Jodie Shihadeh
Founder/owner, Shihadeh Law

Shihadeh focuses on setting up clients (among them Dim Mak Records, Shenseea, Two Friends, EDEN and Matoma) for long-term success, negotiating deals that give them greater ownership of their creations and more favorable copyright reversion terms. She recently negotiated the immediate reversion of one notable songwriter client’s entire 10-year publishing catalog, which her firm is now shopping. And she has a keen eye on tech and trends. “The industry is going to have a day of reckoning soon,” Shihadeh says, “about its relationship with and reliance on TikTok.”

Larry Shire
Named partner/head of the film and television department, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Kenny Meiselas
Named partner/head of the music department, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Joe Brenner
David Jacobs

Partners, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks

The legal powerhouse founded by Rock& Roll Hall of Fame inductee Allen Grubman has spent the past year-and-a-half on massive megastar deals: stadium tours for The Weeknd, Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga; Usher’s Las Vegas residency; The Weeknd’s upcoming HBO show, The Idol; Lizzo’s Amazon show, Watch Out for the Big Grrrls; and multimillion-dollar catalog sales for Springsteen, David Bowie and Sting. “In this post-COVID-19 return to live performance, we have negotiated the biggest tour deals of 2022 and 2023,” says Meiselas, who adds that “diversity in high-level leadership positions” is the industry’s most pressing concern.

Simran Singh
Founder/managing partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
Michael A. Trauben
Founder/partner, Singh Singh & Trauben
Christopher Navarro
Partner, Singh Singh & Trauben

Singh and his partners helped several marquee clients make major deals in the last year, including Marco Antonio Solís, whose Amazon documentary, ElBuki: Las Letras de Mi Historia, was released worldwide in December. The firm also oversaw the catalog acquisition, purchase and sale agreements for clients Ozuna and Duars Entertainment — and repped Daddy Yankee and his La Última Vuelta World Tour, which grossed $197.8million.

The balance of power in the music business would shift toward artists and songwriters if…: “…we routinely educate and inform artists and songwriters early on in their careers to create and implement strategic business strategies and structures, which take advantage of certain inherent rights and long-term monetization — many of which the majors have implemented for decades.” — Singh

Stanton “Larry” Stein
Head of media and entertainment group, Russ August & Kabat
Irene Y. Lee
Ashley R. Yeargan

Partners, Russ August & Kabat

The firm defended Drake and 21Savage in a trademark infringement lawsuit that Condé Nast filed for their spoof of a Vogue cover to promote their 2022 album, Her Loss. (The promotional blitz also featured parodies of The Howard Stern Show, Saturday Night Live and NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series.) The firm continues to manage over 5,000 brands and attendant rights as part of its role in protecting the intellectual property portfolios of artists such as CardiB, deadmau5, The Kid LAROI, Mick Fleetwood and Tyga, and labels including mau5trap, DirtyBird, 10KProjects and Imagendary Studios. “It’s not a new concern,” says Stein, “but there continues to be a situation where the majority of artists are not being sufficiently compensated for their work, particularly given the proliferation of streaming and the extremely low per-stream royalty that they are paid.”

Rachel Stilwell
Founder/CEO, Stilwell Law

Stilwell Law has participated in multiple proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition and Future of Music Coalition on competition among audio delivery platforms. The firm also represents a mix of artists (LeAnn Rimes, AlB. Sure!, Noel Schajris), songwriters (Darrell Brown, Andre Merritt) and audio pros (Gavin Lurssen, Michael Romanowski, Paul Wolff, Tek O’Ryan). Stilwell cites the dominance of Ticketmaster and StubHub in the live-event ticketing space as the most pressing concern facing the music industry in 2023.

Michael Sukin
President, Sukin Colton Law Association

Sukin, whose clients include the estates of Aretha Franklin, George Gershwin and Charles Aznavour, as well as St.Nicholas Music (the home of Christmas classics written by the late Johnny Marks), spent much of the last year reviewing the European Union Copyright Directive package as it applies to artists’ rights. “The difficulty of protecting copyrights” remains a pressing concern, says Sukin, as well as “protecting pre-1972 recordings.” The firm, with offices in New York, London and Nashville, also represents S2BN, the Michael Cohl-led live-entertainment promotion and production firm.

Ron Sweeney
CEO, Digital Disruption Entertainment

Sweeney, who prefers not to name his clients, is known to have worked with James Brown, Jimmy Jam& Terry Lewis, Swizz Beats and Lil Wayne, among others. At the moment, he’s most concerned with quantity over quality in the business, notably “the number of records released daily and how it affects the ability to market and promote new artists,” he says. The 40-year industry veteran believes power dynamics would shift if more artists reached stardom through “independent labels not connected to the majors,” he says. “It’s coming.”

Brandon E. Tatum
Managing attorney, The Law Offices of Brandon E. Tatum

Tatum negotiated a groundbreaking NFT fashion capsule collection and branded comic book for a K-pop client he cannot name, pending confirmation of the deal. Tatum’s other clients include SoundCloud, Gala Games/Gala Music, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Sleepy Brown and Teddy Riley.

José J. Torres
Founder, Torres

Torres keeps a low profile, but he is a key figure in Puerto Rico’s music scene with superstar clients including Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro and La Buena Fortuna Music (which manages Kany García, Residente, Pedro Capó and Ile, among others). His expertise goes beyond individual artist contracts and routine legal matters. Last year, his firm assisted in closing a major strategic alliance between an independent label and a major U.S. label that “could potentially shape the next five years of new and upcoming Latin artists,” says Torres. Of primary concern for 2023, he says, is AI and the “proliferation of new platforms that undervalue and minimize music and creators’ rights.”

Adam Van Straten
Principal, Van Straten Solicitors

Van Straten’s firm advised Warren Cuccurullo — a 2022 Rock& Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of Duran Duran — when Mojo Music& Media acquired his catalog of songwriter and publishing rights, including Cuccurullo’s share of artist royalties and neighboring rights in Duran Duran’s top10 Hot100 hits “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” Other notable clients include slowthai, Leo Sayer, Koffee and KT Tunstall. In 2023, Van Straten predicts, labels and streaming services will face “increased scrutiny and pressure” to increase royalty payments to artists and songwriters. “The current position is tense,” he says. “We need to see greater transparency and an improved position for creatives.”

James L. Walker Jr.
President, J. Walker & Associates

Over the past year, Walker has continued winning high-profile cases, including 112 member Marvin “Slim” Scandrick’s trademark infringement case and the Andre Simsvs. DJ Camper copyright case. He was an investor in the recent Broadway revival of The Piano Lesson starring SamuelL. Jackson and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, the musical about the rise of the titular act. He says protecting copyrights in the digital age is among the industry’s most pressing concerns. “We are preparing articles, workshops and handouts in this area,” he says, “to guide the music and entertainment industry.”

Previn Warren
Member, Motley Rice

True to his firm’s motto — “Causes not just cases” — Warren represents clients such as SESAC and SoundExchange to ensure musicians earn a fair rate of return from tech and media companies. “I’m representing SESAC in a dispute with the broadcast radio industry to raise the rates that AM/FM should pay to play the compositions of artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and Glass Animals,” he says. Warren also notes that the rise of AI “may be an existential moment for artists, not just the industry that supports them. I think it presents significant issues that the industry will have to reckon with.”

Douglas H. Wigdor
Founding partner, Wigdor
Michael J. Willemin
Partner, Wigdor

The firm defeated a motion to dismiss made by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and various universities in connection with their clients’ claims that the NCAA continues to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay student athletes the minimum wage. The firm’s clients include former Recording Academy president/CEO Deborah Dugan; current and former NFL coaches Brian Flores, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton; model Tarale Wulff, who testified against Harvey Weinstein during his trial in New York; and former Fox associate producer Jennifer Eckhart. On another important topic, Willemin says: “While progress has certainly been made, we look forward to seeing continued advancement in diversity within the music industry, and particularly within its leadership.”

Marcus Wiggins
Founder, Wiggins Sports & Entertainment

For the past 12 months, Wiggins — whose clients include Bully Park Records — has been working to recapture royalties for legacy artists New Birth, Dawn Silva (of Brides of Funkenstein), Elijah Baker (Tony! Toni! Toné!) and Jerome Brailey (Parliament-Funkadelic), as well as the label Total Experience (The Gap Band). “If I can assist those who were taken unfair advantage of, I will do my best to help,” he says, hoping that the entire industry moves toward creating equity. Of key importance, Wiggins stresses, is for streaming income to fairly reflect streaming numbers.

Richard C. Wolfe
Founding attorney, Wolfe Law Miami

With notable clients including Maluma, Travis Scott, Menudo and Walter Kolm, Miami-based Wolfe says he has solved three major disputes between artists and managers in the last year (client Danny Ocean with his manager, client Indi-E Entertainment’s Jorge Pino with singer Feid and one more he says is confidential). He views copyright termination claims becoming “everyday issues for catalogs that are more than 35 years old” as one of the industry’s pressing concerns.

Andrea Yankovsky
Founder, Yankovsky Law

Specializing in intellectual property law for independent businesses and individual creators, Yankovsky makes protection and enforcement accessible. She prevailed in a Trademark Opposition Proceeding at the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for client Masterdisk and implemented copyright enforcement strategies for streaming, resulting in takedowns and revenue gain for her clients (most of whom she declines to identify). She says her early experience as a recording engineer “provides a different perspective” and, in addition to bread-and-butter tasks like negotiating output deals and recapturing rights, she founded the OutHouse Counsel program, which is designed to provide indies with the same legal advice more readily available to major labels and their artists.

Helen Yu
Founder, Yu Leseberg

Yu negotiated client Paulo Londra’s 2022 label contract with Warner Music Latina after managing litigation that freed the Argentine rapper from label Big Ligas. The resulting album, Back to the Game — his first in three years — arrived in November. The firm also closed exclusive apparel deals for client Westside Merchandising with hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore (Snoop Dogg, Ice-Cube, E-40, Too $hort) as well as hip-hop magazine The Source. Yu’s diverse roster includes Ty Dolla $ign, Jeff Gitelman, Gerardo Ortiz, members of the Black Eyed Peas and Adrián Chaparro. Yu says that as the first Asian American woman to lead a music law firm, she is passionate about inclusion and creating opportunities for underdogs.

Adam Zia
Owner/partner, The Zia Firm
Nate Kuo
Partner, The Zia Firm

While continuing to represent Machine Gun Kelly, French Montana, 070Shake and others, the firm helped singer-­songwriter Starrah launch 3:02 Music Group — a publishing joint venture with Pulse Music Group that has since signed a number of rising artists. Zia calls it “an honor” to be part of his client achieving a long-awaited goal, “especially [her] being a Black, LGBTQ+ woman songwriter, artist and now CEO.” Fighting for higher compensation for songwriters is among Zia’s top priorities: “It remains too difficult for a majority of our songwriting community to earn a proper living, even if writing on successful songs,” he says. “Songwriters are too important to music to have such a small piece of the pie.”

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (26)

Leslie Zigel
Partner/chair, entertainment, media and technology group, SMGQ Law
Javier Feito
Partner, entertainment, media and technology group, SMGQ Law

Zigel and Feito represent Pitbull, Marco Antonio Solís and Carlos Vives, among other top stars, and recently served as counsel for Puerto Rican reggaetón duo Wisin& Yandel’s La Última Misión world tour, which included 14 concerts at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot. The firm also served as general counsel for Maffio’s label Alkatraks Records and as lead counsel for the 2022 Billboard Latin Music Awards and Latin American Music Awards for client MBS Productions. Zigel cites “the inefficiency of royalty collection and payment processes with the labels, music publishers, [digital service providers] and YouTube” as among the industry’s most pressing concerns. “It has led to several billions of dollars of monies being held in escrow due to misattribution of royalty recipients, incorrect split sheets and label copy.”

Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Rania Aniftos, Cathy Applefeld Olson, Megan Armstrong, Chuck Arnold, Nefertiti Austin, Katie Bain, Steve Baltin, Karen Bliss, Starr Bowenbank, Dave Brooks, Anna Chan, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Mariel Concepcion, Stephen Daw, Elizabeth Dilts Marshall, Bill Donahue, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Griselda Flores, Paul Grein, Amit Gurbaxani, Raquelle “Rocki” Harris, Lyndsey Havens, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Katy Kroll, Carl Lamarre, Cydney Lee, Elias Leight, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Heran Mamo, Geoff Mayfield, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Melinda Newman, Jessica Nicholson, Paula Parisi, Ronda Racha Penrice, Glenn Peoples, Sigal Ratner-Arias, Isabela Raygoza, Bryan Reesman, Kristin Robinson, Jessica Roiz, Neena Rouhani, Dan Rys, Crystal Shepeard, ­Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Jaelani Turner-Williams, Andrew Unterberger, Jewel Wicker, Deborah Wilker

Methodology: Nominations for Billboard’s executive lists open no less than 150 days in advance of publication, and a link is sent to press representatives by request before the nomination period. (Please email for inclusion on the email list for nomination links and for how to obtain an editorial calendar.) Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers for 2023 were chosen by editors based on factors including, but not limited to, nominations by peers, colleagues and superiors. In-house counsels were limited to the companies shown. Otherwise, Top Music Lawyers focused on outside counsels. In addition to information requested with nominations, editors consider attorneys’ representation of clients with notable music industry impact. That impact is measured by metrics including, but not limited to, chart, sales and streaming performance as measured by Luminate and social media impressions, along with Billboard Boxscore, using data available as of Feb. 15.

Leading Law Schools of the Top Music Lawyers

The most frequently cited alma maters of the 2023 class of honorees.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (27)

1. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University (New York)
Enrollment: 888

2. Brooklyn Law School (Brooklyn)
Enrollment: 1,070

3. Columbia Law School, Columbia University (New York)
Enrollment: 1,293

4. Fordham University School of Law (New York)
Enrollment: 1,150

5. Harvard Law School, Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
Enrollment: 1,747

6. New York University School of Law (New York)
Enrollment: 1,413

7. University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley, Calif.)
Enrollment: 1,088

8. University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 1,038

9. University of Miami School of Law (Miami)
Enrollment: 1,077

10. University of Southern California Gould School of Law (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 613

*Enrollments source: U.S. News & World Report

This story originally appeared in the April 1, 2023, issue of Billboard.

Billboard’s 2023 Top Music Lawyers Revealed (2024)
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