Billboard’s 2024 Top Music Lawyers Revealed

Nominated by their firms and peers, and chosen by our editors, Billboard‘s 2024 Top Music Lawyers list comprises the attorneys guiding superstars and industry-driving companies — led by lawyer of the year Christine Lepera.

Negotiating recording deals, global tours and catalog sales, their legal savvy drives the music business. And this year, they have much advice to offer on the rise of generative artificial intelligence.

Lawyer of the Year

Christine Lepera might be one of the country’s top music litigators, but decades ago, she wasn’t even sure she still wanted to be a lawyer at all.

In 1986, just a few years after she graduated law school, she was working at a New York firm where she was “dissatisfied” and, like many young attorneys, faced existential questions about her chosen career path.

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“I never intended to be a music lawyer, and after four years at a corporate firm on Wall Street, I was basically ready to quit the law entirely,” she recalls with a laugh.

Today, that’s hard to imagine. Lepera — who is chair of the music litigation group at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp (MSK) — for years has been one of the music industry’s go-to trial lawyers.

To read the full profile on Lawyer of the Year Christine Lepera, click here.

Music Groups

Jeff Harleston
General counsel/executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group
Saheli Datta
Executive vp/chief compliance officer and employment, Universal Music Group
Rob Femia
Executive vp of business and legal affairs, Universal Music Nashville
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
Magda Vives
Executive vp of business and legal affairs for Latin America and Iberian Peninsula, Universal Music Latin America

In the current music industry climate, UMG’s legal team stays focused on efforts “to defend and protect the rights of our artists, songwriters and music publishing company” from generative artificial intelligence (AI) companies like Anthropic, which it sued in November over “unlawful ingestion, appropriation and infringement of legally protected works as well as the appropriation of the culture and unique identity of our songwriters,” Harleston says. “[AI] is remarkable technology and can potentially enhance the creative process. However, it should only be deployed with the consent and in the service of the artist.”

Most pressing issue: “Eliminating fraudulent tracks and nonmusic sounds from the music streaming platforms,” Harleston says, “allowing for a more ‘artist-­centric’ experience for creators and fans.”

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
Michael Kushner
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, business and legal affairs, Warner Music Group
Maryrose Maness
Senior vp/deputy general counsel, Warner Music Group
Trent Tappe
Senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance officer, Warner Music Group
Dana Sheahan
Vp/head of mergers and acquisitions of corporate legal, Warner Music Group

WMG, along with attorneys from Pryor Cashman, prevailed on behalf of Ed Sheeran in the copyright lawsuit over whether Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” a No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015, copied Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On.” Robinson says the case is an example of the importance of the company’s dedication to “defend[ing] the rights of our artists and songwriters.” But the music group is also focused on boosting the value of those rights and music in general: “In a world where more than 100,000 new tracks are being uploaded to streaming services every day,” he says, “the most pressing issue is enhancing the value of the music of artists and songwriters such as ours that drives engagement on these services.”

In May 2023, Ed Sheeran won a copyright case confirming that his 2015 hit “Thinking Out Loud” did not infringe Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On,” a victory for the legal teams at Warner Music Group and law firm Pryor Cashman.

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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

As streaming growth in the world’s biggest markets begins to slow, SME’s legal team is working to keep expanding the company’s opportunities around the world and in new sectors, particularly gaming and social media. “Our team works globally across Sony Music to offer legal support systems that help our labels and divisions reach their creative and commercial goals,” Swidler says. “We are focused on working to ensure that there are proper rights environments and deal frameworks that can support commercial activity and greater partnership expansion opportunities across platforms where music content is core to their customer experience.”

Advice on AI: “When AI companies want to use our artists’ voices and music,” Swidler says, “they must seek permission and make sure that there is a proper business plan to pay all those in the music ecosystem that contributed to this music.”


Eve Konstan
General counsel, Spotify
Kevan Choset
Vp/associate general counsel/head of legal strategy, Spotify
Darren Schmidt
Associate general counsel/global head of record label licensing, Spotify
Sofia Sheppard
Associate general counsel/global head of licensing and business development, Spotify

Spotify has 602 million active monthly users but has posted inconsistent profits. That could change after Konstan and her team helped build an audiobooks business, fought Apple for better in-app payment terms and secured rights to podcasts such as Trevor Noah’s What Now? Spotify’s health is crucial, considering it’s the single largest source of music royalties — $9 billion in 2023 alone. That responsibility isn’t lost on Konstan. “The most pressing issue facing the music industry today,” she says, “is growing the total pie of listeners and revenue to ensure more artists are able to live off their work.”

Advice on AI: “Whatever we think about the state of AI and its legal treatment,” Konstan says, “it’s important to stay nimble and try to think several steps out because things may change fast.”

Jon Kurland
Executive vp of business affairs and chief entertainment counsel, iHeartMedia

Over the past year, music fans have tuned in to some of their favorite artists’ live performances in part because of Kurland’s work to expand iHeartMedia’s platform partnerships. In addition to the iHeartRadio Music Festival shifting its distribution partner to Hulu, enabling a livestream after years of cable broadcasts, Kurland helped iHeart partner with Meta for its expanded Horizon Worlds virtual reality concert experiences, as well as showcasing an immersive Ed Sheeran performance in Fortnite. “Fans are spending increasing amounts of time in virtual and interactive spaces, a factor which was only accelerated by the pandemic,” Kurland says. “At iHeart, we are committed to reaching listeners wherever they are.”

Most pressing issue: “As the music industry achieves unprecedented growth, it will continue to be important for stakeholders to work in concert to achieve meaningful service profitability while also adequately compensating artists and other rights holders.”

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

SoundCloud finalized a global licensing deal with Merlin in 2023 that lets Merlin members and their artists participate in SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties model, “a trailblazing alternative to the traditional pro rata model to pay artists equitably,” Walton says. “The Merlin deal seamlessly integrates with the SoundCloud initiative First Fans, leveraging SoundCloud’s robust recommendation algorithms to amplify exposure for new uploads, ensuring both artists and listeners alike discover and engage with fresh content.” Importantly, Walton adds, the integration also brings fans and creators together at scale and helps artists find their audience, which is something she says is “close to my heart.”

Most pressing issue: “The economic model behind streaming needs fixing. Most artists don’t make an adequate living income despite the consistent demand for streaming,” Walton says. “Fair remuneration and transparency are crucial to … the future of music.”

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

The legal team at Apple Music helped support the company’s big expansion into classical music, which last year included the launch of the Classical app in March and then the acquisition of Swedish classical label BIS in September. “In addition to the product counseling, deals and [mergers and acquisitions] support our team performed for the acquisition and new product launch, we had a chance to learn about the customs and practices of the classical music business, which can be quite different than in other genres and may date back to long before Apple existed,” Windom says. “It’s really thrilling to bring the full power of streaming to this important category of our music culture.”

If I quit law, I would: “Be a musician, of course,” Windom says.

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

During the past year, Worth has seen Amazon Music collaborate with artists, labels and managers to cultivate a “next-generation” approach to tour merchandise. Through partnerships with artists such as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Doja Cat and Rauw Alejandro, Amazon Music has expanded the concept of purchasing tour merch to encompass fans buying merch in venues to be shipped to their homes. The returns were immediate, with the exclusive, online Renaissance-themed Beyoncé merch capsule breaking the Amazon Music record for first-day sales from an artist collaboration. Successes like these have only made Worth even more “excited about what [Amazon Music] has planned for 2024.”

If I quit law, I would: “Volunteer as a mountain guide,” Worth says, “giving skiers tours of a ski area in the winter and helping backpackers explore the backcountry during the summer.”


Michael Rowles
General counsel, Live Nation

Rowles spent much of the past year working on ticketing legislation following the major disruptions that affected Ticketmaster during Taylor Swift’s problem-plagued ticket sale in 2022. “Live Nation led the industry by moving to all-in pricing at our owned and operated venues and festivals so that fans see the total cost of the ticket upfront,” Rowles says. “All-in pricing is one of many ticketing reforms we and a broad industry coalition are calling for as part of our FAIR Ticketing platform.” The company, according to Rowles, is also seeking reforms to protect fans and empower artists, including a ban on speculative ticketing, stronger enforcement of the Better Online Ticketing Sales Act and giving artists control over resales. “You’ll see us and a broad industry coalition advocating for ticketing reforms that protect the artist-fan connection,” Rowles says.

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

The last year has yielded more major milestones for AEG’s top attorney as the company’s global touring division keeps expanding its footprint. “It has been among the most significant experiences of my career to have been involved in the single most successful tour in music history — Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour,” Trell says. The trek, which will reach Europe this spring, is poised to become the highest-grossing global tour of all time by the time it wraps in December. “So many people across AEG Presents all around the globe have contributed to the execution and success of that tour,” Trell says. “That effort has truly highlighted the strength of this company and the collaborative work environment that exists here among our touring teams in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia.”

The international reach of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour benefited from the global legal support of AEG Presents.

Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Image


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

The legal minds at SMP are ensuring it remains the industry’s largest publisher by inking new writers and extending the contracts of established talent. Kant says the team is especially proud of contract renewals for Usher, Tyler, The Creator, Sara Bareilles, System of a Down, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Warren “Pete” Moore. In addition, the legal team worked closely with top studio clients like Apple TV+, Sony Pictures and Shaftesbury Films. And it is leading SMP into the AI age, spearheading its strategy for the emerging technology and how the company can protect its copyrights. “We must embrace the creative opportunities AI affords,” Kant says, “but we must also ensure that it does not come at the expense of respecting songwriters and their copyrights.”

Most pressing issue: “Educating, mentoring and making our business more approachable and transparent,” Kant says.

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

The business and legal affairs team at UMPG is fighting for the value of music. Earlier this year, Universal Music Group — including UMPG — let its contract with TikTok lapse, effectively pulling millions of musical works and sound recordings from the platform in an effort to gain better remuneration for music. Hennings says, “Reforming royalty payment structures in the social media space to properly recognize the value that music brings to those platforms” is the most pressing issue facing the business, and his team is boldly leading the charge. UMPG’s attorneys have also kept busy signing a number of new stars to the roster, including Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey, Wallows and Maggie Rogers. “Everyone we sign brings a unique value to our roster,” Hennings says, “and strengthens our reputation as the premier songwriters-first publishing company.”

Peter Rosenthal
Executive vp/global head of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music
Steve Butler
Head of legal and business affairs for North America, Warner Chappell Music
Chris Head
Tim Meade
Senior vps of legal and business affairs, Warner Chappell Music

The attorneys at Warner Chappell Music have had a lot to celebrate this year. “We’ve continued our tireless advocacy for songwriters across multiple fronts,” Rosenthal says, “from our involvement with the Copyright Royalty Board ­Phonorecords IV settlement — which secured the world’s highest streaming rates to date — to proposed rulemaking by the U.S. Copyright Office on the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s distribution of royalties.” Rosenthal and his team are also proud to have drawn up the contracts for its roster’s new signees, from legends like Mick Jones, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg and Burton Cummings to current stars like Morgan Wallen, 21 Savage, Zach Bryan, Coco Jones, Maria Becerra, Laufey and Yng Lvcas.

Most pressing issue: “Continuing to enhance the engagement and value of music,” Rosenthal says, “amid the ever-­increasing competition for people’s time, attention and entertainment budgets.”


Christos Badavas
Executive vp/general counsel, SESAC Music Group

In March 2023, the acquisition of the analytics, content management and distribution platform AudioSalad solidified SESAC as “a comprehensive music services platform that can administer rights and distribute music on behalf of independent publishers and labels worldwide,” Badavas says. Regarding the rise of AI, he says the technology “will not replace human expression and artistry that speaks to people. Focus on how your music connects uniquely with people as AI is adopted and leverage [its power] to drive efficiencies in licensing and rights management for your works.”

Most pressing issue: “The barriers to entry for the creation and distribution of music have lowered dramatically. While this has democratized who can write, record and release music, it has also led to oversaturation. As a result, breaking through the noise is a huge challenge.”

Tim Dadson
General counsel, SoundExchange

Dadson cites SoundExchange’s $150 million suit against SiriusXM over unpaid royalties as “one of the best examples” of how the organization — the designated administrator of the compulsory license outlined in Section 114 of the U.S. Copyright Act — “enforces the terms that govern licensees’ use of creators’ work.” SoundExchange accused the satellite giant of using “contrived” methods to underpay royalties owed to artists. (SiriusXM has denied the allegations, stating they were based on a “flawed and biased examination.”) “While we’d prefer to find business solutions,” Dadson says, “we will use all means at our disposal to ensure that creators are paid every cent they are owed.”

Advice on AI: “Engage with your representatives locally and nationally to ensure that creators’ rights are at the center of any proposed rulemaking or legislation around artificial intelligence.”

Kristen Johns
Chief legal officer, Mechanical Licensing Collective

The final mechanical royalty rate determination for interactive streaming for the period of Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2022, published by the Copyright Royalty Board in August 2023, was “a significant development for not only the MLC as the sole entity tasked with administering blanket mechanical licenses for eligible streaming and download services in the United States, but also for the music industry as a whole,” Johns says. Songwriters and publishers are due nearly $400 million in additional payouts following the determination, according to information released by the MLC. “The deadline to provide adjusted data and corresponding royalty payments was Feb. 9,” Johns says.

Most pressing issue: “The necessity for accurate data reporting. Accurate and transparent data practices ensure that copyright owners and creators are paid for their work.”

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

Addressing the issues raised by AI has been a priority for more than a year, Kim says. “In November, we submitted an extensive set of comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to their notice of inquiry on AI to help policymakers understand the stakes for music creators.” In June, Kim adds, the ASCAP board of directors adopted six guiding principles regarding AI: human creators first, transparency, consent, compensation, credit and global consistency. The transparency principle is another priority while moving forward: “ASCAP’s distribution rules, governing documents and awards show rules are all publicly posted … and ASCAP members have 24/7 access to their performance royalty information,” she says, adding that ASCAP and BMI’s Songview provides performing rights data for their combined repertories. “We believe the entire industry has to provide more transparency to songwriters for the system to work fairly and efficiently.”

Stuart Rosen
Senior vp/chief legal officer, BMI

BMI, which closed its sale to New Mountain Capital in February, had two high-profile legal victories in 2023. “BMI prevailed against AEG, Live Nation and the North American Concert Promoters Association,” Rosen says. “As a result, BMI affiliates will receive a rate 138% higher than the historical rate and an expanded revenue base.” The decision is on appeal. BMI also fended off what Rosen called the Radio Music Licensing Committee’s “unprecedented and improper” joint rate proceeding against BMI and ASCAP.

Most pressing issue: “Ensuring that businesses that use music understand and recognize the full value of what music creators bring to their industries. While it’s a never-ending challenge, BMI is always ready to advocate for our songwriters, composers and music publishers so they’re fairly compensated and valued for their essential contributions to the many industries that benefit from their creations.”

Emio Zizza
General counsel, Global Music Rights

The powerhouse sibling duo of Billie Eilish and FINNEAS won the Academy Award for best original song on March 10 for “What Was I Made For?” from the film Barbie, a month after the composition earned them two Grammys — and they previously sought performing rights royalties to match their creative stature by signing with Global Music Rights. “For over a decade, it has been GMR’s express mission to ensure that superstar creatives are paid superstar rates,” Zizza says. “However, the industry at large needs to go much further in order to properly recognize the outsize value brought by the most popular artists to every sector of music.” GMR, a division of The Azoff Company, has also recently signed YoungBoy Never Broke Again, the estate of George Michael, The Black Keys and Bel-Air composer Jacob Yoffee.


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

Social media companies have shed their reputation as licensing backwaters and engaged with music rights holders — with one notable exception: the platform formally known as Twitter, now known as X. That impasse could change after the $250 million copyright infringement lawsuit that 17 music publishers brought against the company in a Tennessee federal court in June 2023. “Twitter was one of the last, largest digital companies that refused to license music despite benefiting from a substantial amount of music on its platform,” Aguirre says. “It was time to hold Twitter to account, and NMPA spent over a year developing evidence to demonstrate Twitter’s massive copyright infringement.”

Advice on AI: “Educate yourself about how generative AI works. Understand how your copyrights are being used by generative AI companies, and don’t be afraid to protect your copyrights where necessary.”

Ken Doroshow
Chief legal officer, RIAA

In April 2023, “Heart on My Sleeve,” a song written and produced by TikTok user ghostwriter977 and performed by AI-generated replicas of the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, set off alarms in the music industry. By the following month, Doroshow was speaking at one of the first formal proceedings — a U.S. Copyright Office “listening session” — dedicated to the issue of protecting artists from nefarious uses of generative AI. “My team has done dozens of filings, meetings and briefings across the executive and legislative branches as well as in state capitols,” Doroshow says. “[We’re] laying down an intellectual architecture for the ethical development of AI in ways that promote human creativity and maximize the benefits of responsible AI for all.”

If I quit law, I would: “Play my guitar all day and night.”

Ryan McWhinnie
Vp of business and legal affairs, Merlin

A key to McWhinnie’s work at digital licensing firm Merlin is finding new approaches to the pro rata royalty model with his streaming partners that will drive more value to music creators while ensuring appropriate protections. Whether it’s Deezer’s “artist-centric” royalty distribution system, Spotify’s new “track monetization” approach or SoundCloud’s Fan-Powered Royalties model, McWhinnie says his role is to “ensure that these initiatives accrue to the benefit of our members, their artists and the incredible music they create while ensuring that these moves do not disintermediate independents.”

Most pressing issue: “Tackling artificial streaming and fraudulent content is an incredibly important issue facing our industry. At Merlin, we are laser-focused and deploying significant resources on doing all we can to combat these corrosive issues, which penalize legitimate actors and pull monies away from artists and the rights holders who invest in their careers.”

Talent & Litigation

Kenneth J. Abdo
Paul N. Bowles III
Cynthia L. Katz
Tim Mandelbaum
Michael L. Reinert
Leron E. Rogers
Alex Threadgold
Heidy Vaquerano
Partners, Fox Rothschild

Among the firm’s deep roster of clients are 10K Projects, Berry Gordy, Cash Money Records, Coco Jones, the estates of Bill Withers and Muddy Waters, HarbourView Equity Partners, Mötley Crüe, Primary Wave, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder, Trace Adkins and Kool & The Gang. Abdo negotiated the 2021 release of Perfect Union, the last Kool & The Gang album to involve, at that time, the surviving four of the original five members. Abdo also represented Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe on the sale of his publishing catalog to BMG and closed the deal for his first solo album, The Other Side of Mars (Megaforce Records). He led the closing team for BMG Rights on 12 catalog acquisitions.

Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe sold his publishing catalog to BMG in a deal negotiated by Ken Abdo of Fox Rothschild.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Gary Adelman
Sarah M. Matz
Partners, Adelman Matz

Adelman Matz specializes in the fashion and beauty brands for some of pop’s biggest names, including Justin Bieber’s Drew House line and Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. Beauty. In the past year, the company helped facilitate Drew House’s collaboration with the NHL on the jerseys for the 2024 All-Star Game held in Toronto and represented R.E.M. Beauty in its global intellectual property (IP) ownership and protection strategy. In 2022, alongside the law firm of Moore Pequignot, Adelman and Matz represented Cardi B in her successful defamation action against a gossip blogger. As a firm, Matz advises clients to “lean in” when it comes to AI, counseling that “the people and companies who do their best to embrace the technology in a manner that helps them … will be in the best position in the long run.”

Lisa Alter
Katie Baron
Partners, Alter Kendrick & Baron

Alter and Baron — whose clients include Primary Wave Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management, Iconic Artists Group and Reservoir Media Management — worked on multiple major transactions in recent months. The firm represented Primary Wave in acquiring a stake in recording, publishing and other rights for The Doors, BMG in the acquisition of The Hollies’ sound-recording rights and Influence Media Partners in its acquisition of the catalog of Enrique Iglesias in a reported nine-figure deal. Regarding AI, Alter says the firm is “pushing clients to explore the ways in which you can enhance the exploitation of your music assets in partnership with ethical AI ventures — including the creation of new or rerecorded material and the development of branding opportunities including holograms and other audiovisual productions or otherwise.” They’re also watching the declining share of English-language music worldwide, highlighting the need for international strategies for music publishers and rights holders.

Jonathan Altschul
Managing attorney, The Altschul Firm

In an increasingly global industry, Altschul has negotiated a partnership between Korea’s SM Entertainment and RCA Records tied to K-pop group RIIZE, announced in September, after doing the same for SM Entertainment with Warner Records for aespa in 2022. The latter was Warner Music Group’s first collaboration with a K-pop act, with the girl group earning three No. 1s on Billboard’s World Albums chart to date. He also worked on deals for the creators of as1one, the first boy band comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

Advice on AI: “Fighting against the implementation of new technology that consumers want has always been a losing battle for the entertainment industry. The better approach is figuring out the best ways to monetize the new technology and provide fans with connections and experiences that AI cannot easily replace.”

Ken Anderson
Jill Berliner
Ray Garcia
Celeste Moy
Partners, Rimon

“With a practice that represents some of the music industry’s most iconic recording artists and songwriters” — including Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Beck, The Chicks and Soundgarden — “as well as certain leading independent record companies and publishers, we have been able to empower established artists with the reversion of their sound recording and publishing copyrights and propelled new, talented artists on their career paths,” Garcia says. Last year, the firm represented Nirvana when an appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a copyright lawsuit regarding the band’s use of the 1949 illustration Upper Hell. The court deemed the lawsuit, brought by the heir of illustrator C.W. Scott-Giles, must be resolved in the United Kingdom.

If I quit law, I would: “Return to my former life as a rock journalist,” Garcia says.

Peter Anderson
Partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

Anderson, whose clients include Mariah Carey, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Normani and Sam Smith, scored a major victory for Smith and Normani and their co-writers in September when they prevailed in a copyright lawsuit against their 2019 hit, “Dancing With a Stranger”; the California judge dismissed the case. Three songwriters had alleged that the tune, which reached No. 7 on the Hot 100, copied their 2015 song of the same name. Anderson, who has over four decades of experience in copyright and entertainment litigation, also represents major labels Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group.

Most pressing issue: “The continued filing of copyright infringement cases based on the mere presence of commonplace musical building blocks, such as a few pitches, chords and commonplace lyrics.”

Marvin Arrington Jr.
Vincent Phillips
Founding partners, Arrington & Phillips
Aurielle Brooks
Junior partner, Arrington & Phillips

Whether it’s newcomers such as Sexyy Red and Rob49 (one of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Artists To Watch in 2024) or seasoned artists like Keri Hilson and Bow Wow, Arrington & Phillips has advised them. Securing a major global touring deal for YoungBoy Never Broke Again with Live Nation for eight figures was no small feat. “This is monumental because this will be his first tour,” Phillips says. Other notable clients include Stevie J, Kevin Gates, That Chick Angel and Wolf Pack Global Music, home to Lil Baby.

Advice on AI: “Protect your IP,” Phillips says. “Make sure all of your label agreements, side-artist agreements, appearance waivers, etc., have language in them to protect yourself. Also, be diligent by further expanding your protections for your brand, name, image and likeness.”

YoungBoy Never Broke Again secured a global touring deal with Live Nation negotiated by Arrington & Phillips.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Craig Averill
Jeff Worob
Partners, Serling Rooks Hunter McKoy Worob & Averill

The firm, which represents Maroon 5, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, Leon Bridges and Maggie Rogers, among others, recently navigated a corporate restructuring for Rostrum Records that included the acquisition of Fat Beats Distribution. Its work also resulted in the separation of Rostrum’s catalog business from its front-line business, as well as the creation of a new division working with other stand-alone legacy catalogs. Maroon 5’s Las Vegas residency continues at the Dolby Live, and Bridges further expanded his acting career as the lead in The Young Wife, an independent film that premiered at South by Southwest.

Advice on AI: “It will be hard to develop and retain a loyal fan base without the ‘humanity’ of a real-life recording artist,” Averill says. “Think Taylor Swift fans standing outside of a sold-out stadium to listen to her music from a parking lot. I don’t see that happening around an AI artist.”

Ed Baden Powell
Nick Eziefula
Paddy Gardiner
Ben Gisbey
Tom Iverson
Euan Lawson
Ed Weidman
Partners, Simkins

London-based Simkins represents clients ranging from Universal Music Group and rights organization PRS for Music to acts such as Iron Maiden, Becky Hill, Eliza Rose and the estate of David Bowie. The firm is also representing Experience Hendrix and Sony Music against posthumous royalty claims by the estates of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. Lawson says the firm, which has been operating since 1962, also tries to help clients navigate shifting marketplace dynamics to develop “a sustainable and long-term career.” “The industry needs to continue to find ways to grow, but in a sustainable manner,” Lawson says, “ensuring that new talent is not overlooked in favor of catalog artists.”

If I quit law, I would: “Become a musician, of course,” Lawson says. “Although my talents — or lack of them — mean that giving up the day job is unlikely.”

Hector Baldonado
Founder, The Baldonado Group

Baldonado reports closing the sales of catalogs for eight-figure prices, renegotiating recording contracts for established artists and signing several new acts to major recording deals over the past year. His clients include the estate of Juice WRLD, which has had two posthumously released albums, Legends Never Die in 2020 and Fighting Demons in 2021, reach No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the Billboard 200. He also represents Lil Durk, Rod Wave, Coi Leray, Trippie Redd and Moneybagg Yo, among others. One year ago, before AI became a hot topic, Baldonado flagged his “serious concern because of deepfakes and the possibility of copyright infringements.”

Most pressing issue: “Greater diversity at the high executive level. I would also like more financial literacy for recording artists.”

Andrew “Andy” Bart
Co-chair of content media and entertainment practice, Jenner & Block

In late 2022, Bart led a team that secured a $46.7 million verdict on behalf of Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. At issue was the failure of defendant Grande Communications Network, a Texas-based internet service provider, to address the massive pirating of copyrighted recordings by its users. The jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and ruled that Grande willfully contributed to the copyright violations by failing to act against subscribers who were repeat infringers. Bart calls the trial result “a resounding win for the music industry.”

Advice on AI: “I don’t believe that anyone knows where AI is going to take the industry five years from now. Having said that, the battle over whether content owners should be compensated for the use of their assets to train AI models is an existential one.”

Richard Baskind
Alasdair George
Partners, Simons Muirhead Burton

Working on a wide array of issues that concern artists, labels, publishers and more, London-based Simons Muirhead Burton provides its clients with a global perspective. Among the greatest challenges now, according to Baskind, is “the proliferation of channels and the sheer volume of new releases daily: How do you get your music to rise above the noise and be noticed? To answer this question, direct fan engagement is critical. Social media and the use of available and emerging technology are key to achieving and sustaining that base of support.” Among the firm’s major transactions during the past year have been the acquisition of Lil Peep’s recordings catalog for the late rapper’s estate and the sale of Arctic Rights Management — one of the largest independent publishers in Scandinavia — to peermusic.

David Beame
Brian Mencher
Founding partners, Beame & Mencher

Beame & Mencher are legal advisers to the music-driven international advocacy nonprofit Global Citizen, where Mencher is general counsel and Beame holds the position of vp of global events and experiences. In November, in partnership with Kendrick Lamar’s creative imprint, pgLang, Global Citizen announced Move Afrika, an international music touring circuit in Africa. The first music event, Move Afrika: Rwanda, was headlined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist in December. Mencher oversaw the legal and business affairs of launching Move Afrika, whose aim is to create jobs and other business opportunities on the continent. As part of his efforts, Mencher says he is also “building the broader blueprint for establishing a continentwide tour throughout Africa while helping upskill the local communities to host first-rate international touring artists for years to come.”

Kendrick Lamar’s creative imprint, pgLang, and Global Citizen, advised by Beame & Mencher, teamed up to announce an international touring circuit in Africa.

Taylor Hill/WireImage

Jeffrey Becker
Chair of entertainment and media law practice group, Swansons Martin & Bell

“We are honored to work with a diverse array of talent,” says Becker, whose firm’s clients include Toosii, Natalie Jane, Shaquille O’Neal for his music projects as DJ Diesel, late rapper King Von and the estate of Frankie Knuckles. The firm also represents producers such as Dru DeCaro, whose production credits include “Money on the Dash” by Whethan and Elley Duhé, as well as Nick Henriques, who produced Crash Adams’ hit “Give Me a Kiss” and “If Only I” by Bebe Rexha, Loud Luxury and Two Friends. High points of the past year for the firm, Becker says, included signing deals for WesGhost with Columbia Records, Natalie Jane with Warner Chappell Music and C3 Presents, CIL with Warner Records and Ax and the Hatchetmen with Arista Records.

Audrey Benoualid
Eric Greenspan
Josh Karp
Jeffrey Light
Craig Marshall
Tamara Milagros-Butler
Robert Minzner
Francois Mobasser
Aaron Rosenberg
Partners, Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light

The firm boasts an all-star roster of clients including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Disturbed, Common, Yeti Beats, RuPaul, Tate McRae, Deftones, Erykah Badu, Reach Records, Silversun Pickups, Brett McLaughlin, Jennifer Lopez — and Ariana Grande, whose first album since 2020, Eternal Sunshine, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. “In addition to some interesting catalog sales over the last 18 months,” Milagros-Butler says, “we’ve also had the pleasure of handling the agreement for Dead & Company to appear at the Sphere in Las Vegas, as well as [Jennifer Lopez’s] new recording and publishing deals with BMG. Handling the heavy legal lifting to get ready for the much-anticipated 2024 Khruangbin tour has also been a ball.”

Advice on AI: “Keep calm and create on,” Milagros-Butler says. “Don’t be afraid to explore AI as a tool, but maintain human connection. And stay vigilant about protecting your IP and original work.”

David Bercuson
Founder/president, David Bercuson

Bercuson worked on the inclusion of music for the recently released biopic Bob Marley: One Love and defended composers and producers who had worked with the artist Canserbero from litigation and “specious claims,” he says. The underground Venezuelan rapper has been in the spotlight after his death was reinvestigated last year and found to be a homicide instead of suicide. In addition, Bercuson, who also works with Farruko and InnerCat Music Group, among other notable clients, defended longtime client Harry Wayne Casey of KC & The Sunshine Band from protracted copyright claims.

Most pressing issue: “With respect to new and independent artists, the need to understand, exploit and utilize the digital ecosystem to promote, market and distribute their music and videos.”

Josh Binder
Jeremy Mohr
Paul Rothenberg
Founding partners, Rothenberg Mohr & Binder

The Beverly Hills, Calif., firm that represents such stars as Charlie Puth, Gunna, Logic and Chloe x Halle has also worked with client Top Dawg Entertainment’s TDE label to release SZA’s RCA blockbuster SOS and launch her accompanying tour. Binder says “free-flowing, unchecked misinformation” and the coming AI onslaught are concerning: “Artists are bombarded with misinformation” all the time, 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.”

Most pressing issue: “The biggest dilemma facing recording artists is deciding which record partner to work with when faced with so many options,” Binder says. “Between self-releasing, pure distribution, label services and indie and major record labels, the value proposition of each partner is hard to determine.”

Jason Boyarski
David Fritz
Partners, Boyarski Fritz

Boyarski’s clients include the estates of Donny Hathaway and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, established superstars such as Marc Anthony and rising talents like JVKE and Maddie Zahm. For White’s estate, Boyarski negotiated a new administration deal with Sony Music Publishing and an agreement for a documentary about Earth, Wind & Fire and White’s life. He also guided Tainy’s signing to Republic Records and counseled JVKE on deals with AWAL and Kobalt, as well as brand partnerships with Bose, Walmart and Microsoft. For the producer duo Stargate, he cut a new joint-venture partnership with Pulse Music. And for NEON16, the company run by Tommy Mottola and Lex Borrero, he negotiated new publishing and distribution deals with Sony and a financing agreement with Firebird.

Most pressing issue: “Assuring that music creators are fairly compensated for music and that the tech platforms do not undervalue the power of the song,” Boyarski says.

Benjamin Brafman
President, Brafman & Associates

Brafman has been the go-to defense attorney for the rich and famous for about three decades, and while many of his peers have hung their jerseys in the rafters, the New York native shows no signs of slowing down, boasting a client roster that features hip-hop icons — Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Sean “Diddy” Combs — and nightlife royalty (Peter Gatien). The 75-year-old legal legend is making sure to stay on top of all the new threats that could possibly ensnare some of his clients — with the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases heading his list. (Legislation to prohibit the practice, the Restoring Artistic Protection Act, was reintroduced to Congress in April 2023.)

If I quit law, I would: “Be a writer or an entertainer — an actor or a comedian.”

John Branca
David Lande
David Byrnes
Partners, Ziffren Brittenham

Ziffren Brittenham handles all business transactions for a formidable array of superstars, from Beyoncé — for whom the firm negotiates business transactions including her Super Bowl ad for Verizon in which she teased the release of her latest album, Cowboy Carter — to Justin Timberlake, who just released a new album and announced a tour. In addition, the firm works with the Michael Jackson estate, which is developing a biopic of the legendary singer, and the Bee Gees, who also have a biopic in the works — Ridley Scott is reportedly in talks to direct. Other superstars for whom the firm handles all business arrangements include SZA, Olivia Rodrigo and Rosalía. Branca says, “Ziffren Brittenham has been at the forefront of the most important entertainment deals that have shaped pop culture today.”

Ziffren Brittenham represents Beyoncé in all business transactions, including the Super Bowl ad for Verizon in which she teased the release of her Cowboy Carter album.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

William Briggs
Joshua M. Rosenberg
Partners, Venable

With a roster of clients that includes Ariana Grande, The-Dream and Love Renaissance, Rosenberg points to Venable’s work defending pop singer Jason Derulo in a copyright dispute over his 2020 Jawsh 685 collaboration, “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat),” as an example of the firm’s commitment to clients. As for the future of music law, Rosenberg says, “New social media platforms that tacitly permit hackers to unlawfully obtain an artist’s music prior to release” present a new challenge. Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedowns “are necessary,” he says, “but you need to investigate the source of the leak to finally stop it.”

Advice on AI: “You can be proactive and take the fight to them,” Rosenberg says. “Or you can protect your rights as best as you can while the law develops and sheds light on your available remedies.”

Jordan Bromley
Partner/leader of Manatt Entertainment, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Robert Jacobs
Partner/leader of entertainment litigation, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
Gary Gilbert
L. Lee Phillips
Senior partners, Manatt Phelps & Phillips
W. Joseph Anderson
Eric Custer
Beau Stapleton
Monika Tashman
Partners, Manatt Phelps & Phillips

“Manatt Entertainment is dedicated to helping creators make the most of their brand value, so we launched our own unique U.S. Streaming Royalty Calculator in October of 2023,” says Bromley, whose firm represents the Eagles, ODESZA, Alicia Keys, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, BMG Rights Management and Downtown Music Holdings. “Our aim for this calculator was to pull back the curtain so artists can have a reliable way to understand how much they get paid from streams on Spotify and Apple Music.” In addition, Bromley says the firm closed over $1 billion in asset purchases and sales, “including some of the most iconic catalogs sold in 2023. One such deal was representing The Zombies in acquiring their rights to their 1960s recording catalog, which is a rare achievement for creators in the music industry.”

Vernon Brown
Founder/CEO, V. Brown & Company

A lot has changed since Brown launched his eponymous business and financial management company in 1992. Rap was a relatively new phenomenon, social media didn’t exist, and the only handheld computer Apple made was something called the Newton. Now, after having worked with a wide range of stars from Erykah Badu to Public Enemy, Brown is focused on ensuring that all artists, not just the ones he represents, receive their fair share in the digital economy. One big focus is getting platforms like TikTok and Instagram to properly pay rights holders for the use of their music. “My job is to guide and navigate people through a lot of decisions,” Brown has said. And this past year, he has done just that, helping negotiate deals for up-and-coming R&B sensation October London and rising multiplatinum producer Hendrix Smoke.

Scott Burroughs
Partner, Doniger/Burroughs

“I am most proud of the work we are doing on behalf of trailblazing Jamaican musicians Cleveland Browne and Wycliffe Johnson, through his estate,” Burroughs says. His firm brought the 2021 lawsuit on behalf of the musicians, who performed as Steely & Clevie, that claimed all musicians using the dembow rhythm at the roots of reggaetón are violating their copyright on the 1989 song “Fish Market.” The firm is also working to recapture 2 Live Crew’s copyrights from a label that acquired them. “As we have seen, labels will fight tooth and nail to deny an artist this right, so litigation will build in this area,” Burroughs adds, noting the firm’s work on the “copyright reversion right” allowing artists to “recover ownership of their work for their own projects or enter into new, more equitable deals.”

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

With the rise of AI on everyone’s mind, Busch says there are “many avenues where the law is unclear and developing. There may be viable claims where name and likeness are used separate and apart from claims for copyright infringement.” Busch specializes in copyright claims, having represented Marvin Gaye’s family in the “Blurred Lines” case and, in 2019, challenging the constitutionality of the Music Modernization Act by representing one of Eminem’s publishers in a lawsuit against Spotify. Busch says these are the “Wild West” days, and the rules “are really yet to be written.”

If I quit law, I would: “Be involved in a business involving new technology, providing whatever assistance I could. Between things like bitcoin and AI, we are indeed living in interesting times.”

Matthew Buser
Founding partner, Buser Legal

One of Buser’s clients, country singer Dylan Gossett, was hotly pursued by major labels in 2023 before signing a joint deal with Mercury Records and Big Loud. In addition to working with artists, Buser has a number of producers on his roster. He is determined that the music industry develops “more efficient clearance processes” for producers so they can get paid for their work in a more timely fashion.

Advice on AI: “Be cautious how much you use AI in creating your work because of the Copyright Office’s position on protectability. Also, don’t sleep on AI, because it’s not going anywhere.”

Joe Carlone
Peter Paterno
Michael Rexford
Jacqueline Sabec
Laurie Soriano
Partners, King Holmes Paterno & Soriano

King Holmes Paterno & Soriano worked with clients Ava Max, Kim Petras and Dominic Fike, who released new albums in 2023, landed movie music and brand deals and resumed regular touring. “It’s a relief that artists are able to promote their music again now, as in pre-pandemic days,” says Soriano, whose firm also represents Dr. Dre, Metallica, Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, Skrillex, Sia, Victoria Monét, Snow Tha Product, Xavi and Poo Bear, among others. While the return to touring normalcy is welcomed, Soriano is concerned about the “loss of boundaries to artists’ privacy and personhood” primarily caused by social media. “It was alarming to see artists, including my client Ava Max, assaulted onstage by members of the public,” she says, referencing a June incident where a man attending Ava Max’s Los Angeles show appeared to slap her while she performed onstage.

Rosemary Carroll
Michael Guido
Elliot Groffman
Rob Cohen
Gillian Bar
Renee Karalian
Ira Friedman
Partners, Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian

Carroll, Groffman and Friedman (assisted by firm associate Jared Leon) are the attorneys for Grammy-winning trio boygenius, with Carroll serving as counsel for Phoebe Bridgers (who also won a 2024 Grammy as a solo act) and Groffman the adviser for Lucy Dacus since her original 2016 deal with Matador. Along with Christiane Kinney, the attorney for Julien Baker, the firm helped negotiate the group’s deal with Interscope Records, its tour with AEG and various merchandising and media deals in support of the record, which won the Grammy for best alternative music album. Guido’s clients include Mark Ronson, the executive soundtrack producer for Barbie. Cohen negotiated the Jonas Brothers’ residence on Broadway. Bar represented PinkPantheress for her 2023 debut album, Heaven Knows. Karalian guided deals including Baby Keem’s extension of his recording contract with Columbia Records.

Trio boygenius struck the deal for its Grammy Award-winning debut album, the record, with guidance from attorneys at Carroll Guido Groffman Cohen Bar & Karalian and lawyer Christiane Kinney.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Uwonda S. Carter
Donald Woodard
Founding partners, Carter + Woodard

Several clients of Carter’s soared in the last 12 months — none higher than burgeoning rap superstar Metro Boomin. She represented him for his work as the creator/executive producer of the critically acclaimed Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse soundtrack, for which he co-produced 11 of the 13 tracks. Woodard advised Summer Walker on her contract renegotiation with Warner Chappell Music and negotiated her U.S. and international tour deal with Live Nation. Other notable clients for the firm include Muni Long, Lil Yatchy, Big Boi and Dion “No ID” Wilson.

Advice on AI: Do not “automatically agree to any term that would give the label unfettered control over ‘future media,’ ” Carter says, “and be very careful about licensing [your] images without having controls and approval.”

Chris Castle
Founder, Christian L. Castle Attorneys

Castle is known as an industry renegade who questions practices that are embraced by mainstream music industry legacy players. While the U.S. labels and publishers were willing to accept a five-year extension of the 9.1 cents-per-song statutory rate for sale formats (as opposed to streaming), Castle represented Helienne Lindvall, David Lowery and Blake Morgan in public comments before the Copyright Royalty Board proceeding for the Phonorecords IV term that covered 2023-27. “We stood with many other independents in opposing the proposed ‘frozen mechanical’ settlement,” he says. “The joint opposition opened the door to a new industrywide settlement with the labels that substantially increased the applicable rate [beginning at 12 cents per song]. And I’m proud that we made that new settlement without litigation.”

Robert “Bob” A. Celestin
Founding partner, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin
Alicia Ferriabough Taylor
Junior partner, The Law Offices of Robert A. Celestin

Along with representing the high-profile estates for hip-hop stars like XXXTentacion and Pop Smoke — and clients like 6ix9ine, Desiigner and others — Celestin spent much of 2023 securing a film score and soundtrack deal for composer Desmond Murray with Netflix, leading to the release of the official score of Juel Taylor’s sci-fi comedy film, They Cloned Tyrone. For his work, Murray received a 2023 Black Reel Awards nomination for outstanding score. Regarding the rise of AI in music, Celestin says he tells his clients to embrace the new tech instead of fighting it: “It’s not all bad news,” he says. “There is software now to help a producer record and mix music or even create new and unique sounds. It might even help a lyricist with writer’s block.”

Ross Charap
Matt Finkelstein
Partners, ArentFox Schiff

Finkelstein and Charap led a team in defending Mick Jagger and Keith Richards together with The Rolling Stones’ company Promopub in a copyright infringement suit over “Living in a Ghost Town.” The case was filed in Louisiana federal court by songwriter Sergio Garcia Fernandez, who claimed the two artists copied “recognizable and key protected elements” from two of his songs. A judge ruled in October that the state’s court lacked jurisdiction in the matter and dismissed the case; Fernandez has the option to refile in a different venue. The attorneys also represented The Pointer Sisters in the sale of their catalog rights to some of their biggest releases, including “I’m So Excited,” to BMG.

Most pressing issue: “Delivering a bigger piece of music earnings from all types of music users to songwriters and music publishers,” Charap says, “because it all begins with a song.”

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, represented by attorneys from ArentFox Schiff, won a dismissal in October of a copyright infringement suit involving their pandemic song “Living in a Ghost Town.”

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Jacqueline Charlesworth
Principal, Charlesworth Law

Charlesworth lists Disney, A+E, peermusic, Satisfaction Fulfilled (Malcolm McLaren) and William Champlin among her clients; for the latter two, the firm litigated two federal cases involving rights. Public case records show that peermusic and Satisfaction Fulfilled sued Sony Music Publishing over the usage of The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s 1984 R&B hit “Hey DJ,” co-written by McLaren, in Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” while in an unrelated case, songwriter-performer Champlin sued Music Sales Corp. and Wise Music Group over infringement for a song he co-authored for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1978, “After the Love Has Gone.” The cases reached settlement agreements, providing “happy endings for our clients,” Charlesworth says.

If I quit law, I would: “Finish my novel.”

Jay Cohen
Litigation partner, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

Cohen has represented ASCAP for more than 25 years and is currently engaged in rate court litigation with the terrestrial radio industry to, he says, “try to obtain fair market compensation for creators whose music drives the economics of the radio industry.” In addition to other matters, he is advising ASCAP and other clients including the National Music Publishers’ Association, Sony Music Entertainment, Grupo Salinas Charter Communications and Altice on AI-related matters, helping to ensure these organizations “are paid fairly when their work is used in any way by AI,” he says, “including specifically when their work is used to train AI models.”

Most pressing issue: “The continuing effort to obtain fair market compensation for music creators who, in a variety of contexts, are required to license their work on a compulsory or functionally compulsory basis rather than in a free market.”

Jay Cooper
Shareholder/founder, Los Angeles entertainment, Greenberg Traurig
Jeff Biederman
Steve Plinio
Shareholders, entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Jess Rosen
Shareholder/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, New York entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig
Charmaine Smith
Shareholder, entertainment and media practice, Greenberg Traurig

For Greenberg Traurig — which advises performers including Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney, composer John Williams and organizations like Epic Games, Meta and the Recording Academy — a major focus has been working with emerging companies in AI. According to Rosenbloum, the firm has been “navigating all of the unknowns in this new and exciting area” by providing companies strategic guidance for establishing platforms and services that legally use generative AI technologies, including thinking through business and legal issues, developing business models and licensing frameworks. “When it comes to developing products, platforms and services that use AI technology to generate new musical sound recordings,” Rosenbloum says, “the safer course of action while the law is being developed in this area is to refrain from using copyright-protected works to train the AI technology.”

Roger Cramer
Of counsel, Winslett Studnicky McCormick & Bomser

Cramer, who for 16 years managed acts such as Living Colour, Wayne Shorter and Lisa Loeb before turning to law full time in 2000, has a varied client list at the New York firm. He handles legal transactions for Yeat, Robert Glasper, Eem Triplin, $NOT, Lancey Foux, Guin Records, Summrs, Autumn, ­OWSLA, Tolou, Whyceg and Joeyy. “Over the last year, I had the pleasure of assisting Yeat with his worldwide tour, negotiating a label deal for Cegular Records with Santa Anna, signing Lancey Foux to Pulse and continuing to help guide the multifaceted and endlessly exciting career of five-time Grammy winner Robert Glasper,” Cramer says. The challenge facing the industry, he says, is “helping artists navigate the rapidly changing landscape of distribution, independent and major labels.”

If I quit law, I would: “Teach history to high school students.”

Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks
Chair of entertainment, copyright and media practice group, Proskauer Rose
Anthony Oncidi
Co-chair of labor and employment law department, Proskauer Rose

Highlights in the past year for Oncidi have included “advising and defending the Grammys in several employment litigation matters [and] assisting clients throughout the industry in dealing with their [diversity, equity and inclusion] initiatives in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding college admissions.” For Crawshaw-Sparks, “one of our highlights this past year includes defending Live Nation and Madonna in a class action lawsuit alleging breach of contract, false advertising and related claims in connection with alleged late starts for the first three shows of the North America leg for Madonna’s Celebration Tour.” Proskauer Rose clients also include Viacom, NBCUniversal, CAA, Sony Music, RCA, Columbia Records — and U2. “How [do you] fill a concert venue ever again after fans have experienced U2 at Sphere in Las Vegas?” Oncidi says.

Advice on AI: “Somewhere in the multiverse, humans win!” Oncidi says.

Sy Damle
Gabe Fleet
Andrew Gass
Alli Stillman
Jonathan West
Joe Wetzel
Partners, Latham & Watkins

Latham & Watkins’ clients span an array of music companies including Live Nation, iHeartMedia, Pandora Media and HYBE America, which the firm has worked with on its acquisition of hip-hop label Quality Control. Recently, the firm has “positioned itself as the preeminent thought leaders and go-to counsel for technology companies operating in the generative AI space,” Fleet says. He adds that dozens of companies have turned to Latham & Watkins for legal risk analysis surrounding new product launches, understanding the evolving public policy landscape, entering complex transactions related to generative AI offerings or defending copyright infringement lawsuits. Damle, Gass, Stillman and Wetzel are representing OpenAI in pending infringement suits related to the alleged use of textual works to train ChatGPT, as well as the infringement lawsuit by several major music publishers against Anthropic related to the company’s “Claude” AI assistant.

Robert Darwell
Alexis Robinson
Daniel Schnapp
Partners, Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton

The firm recently served as counsel for Domain Capital Group, an investment company that manages in excess of $8.4 billion in total assets, in acquiring the catalogs of rapper Iggy Azalea and Ashley Gorley, ASCAP’s 10-time country music songwriter of the year honoree. The firm — which represents some of the biggest names in entertainment including Amazon Studios, Spotify, ASCAP, Bytedance/TikTok, Vevo and Triller — also represented ASCAP “in negotiating numerous licenses with major global television network programmers, terrestrial, digital radio platforms and service providers, including a multiyear agreement with YouTube and SiriusXM,” Robinson says.

Most pressing issue: “Adapting to consumer expectations by creating immersive and engaging experiences, such as interactive content and virtual reality,” Robinson says. “Finding ways to deliver compelling experiences while navigating legal complexities is a key challenge for stakeholders.”

Doug Davis
Founder, The Davis Firm

With a client list ranging from Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry to Dionne Warwick to Swizz Beatz, The Davis Firm boasted a wide range of success stories over the past year. Davis helped negotiate the partnership of Sony Music Entertainment and Barry Weiss’ RECORDS and the sale of Polo Grounds Music’s recorded-music assets to Sony, as well as six catalog sales totaling over $200 million. “On an executive side,” he adds, “I am very proud of having negotiated Ezekiel Lewis’ presidency of Epic Records.”

Most pressing issue: “Technology companies’ goal of increasing profits by way of reducing royalty payments to creators. Spotify, for example, has been investing in podcasts and audiobooks, which are taking up a larger portion of the listening hours on this platform, which in turn reduces the pie of revenue that gets shared with artists, producers and songwriters.”

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

This year, Milbank represented BMI in litigation against the North American Concert Promoters Association, including members Live Nation and AEG, that reset the rates paid for the public performance of music at live shows. After a five-week trial, BMI secured an increase in the rate and an expansion of the revenue base to include revenue from box suites, VIP packages and service fees, in addition to the face value of tickets. (The case is on appeal.) Clients also include Edward Kosinski, one of three defendants initially charged in a criminal case connected with alleged efforts to sell Don Henley’s notes linked to the Eagles’ 1976 album, Hotel California. A New York judge dismissed the charges on March 6 after prosecutors alerted him that newly uncovered evidence cast doubt on whether Henley’s notes had actually been stolen.

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

Edelman, Snyder and their firm have represented some of the biggest artists and labels in the business — including Led Zeppelin, Lady Gaga and Elton John, as well as Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. In 2023, Snyder helped defend Bob Dylan against sexual abuse allegations in a case that was ultimately dismissed with prejudice, while Edelman secured a dismissal of tort claims levied against WMG in a case alleging sexual abuse against a band formerly signed to the label.

Most pressing issue: “As the gap between the most streamed music and everything else continues to grow and streaming manipulation proliferates, there will continue to be a push and pull between music labels and their artists and streamers over payment models,” Snyder says. “And with the European Union Parliament getting involved in reforming streaming rates, it could be a dynamic year for the streaming economy.”

David Eisman
Partner/head of Skadden’s media and entertainment group/leader of the Los Angeles M&A/corporate group, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

Eisman and his firm are proud of their representation of OVO Sound — the independent label co-founded by Drake — in its recently announced investment and partnership with the Todd Moscowitz-led Santa Anna Label Group. Additional notable clients include Alamo Records, Larry Jackson’s gamma., DJ Khaled’s We the Best Music, Litmus Music, Artist Partner Group and Latin-focused Ntertain.

Most pressing issue: “Increasing fairness and transparency in the industry to ensure that creators are fairly compensated for their work, including through the use of technologies such as blockchain to manage and track music rights and royalty payments. AI will drive up the number of creators and works in the market, which will further increase the need for more efficient, equitable and scalable payment and tracking mechanisms for labels and artists.”

Lawrence Engel
Head of music, Lee & Thompson
Will Everitt
Tim Fowler
Liv Lyons
Lizzie Payne-James
Partners, Lee & Thompson

Engel led Lee & Thompson’s five-person music team in advising Harry Styles on all aspects of his 2021-23 Love on Tour worldwide trek, which earned over $617 million across 169 shows and five continents, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing tour of all time. Other notable clients include Styles’ former One Direction bandmate Louis Tomlinson, Lana Del Rey, Depeche Mode, Wet Leg and British rapper Dave, whose song with Central Cee, “Sprinter,” spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Singles Chart last summer. The London-based firm also guided David Dollimore’s December launch of electronic label Disorder Records, in partnership with Geffen Records.

Most pressing issue: “Same as it has always been: to discover and break new artists,” Engel says, “so we can carry on competing with movies, games and sports.”

Harry Styles was represented by the London-based music team of Lee & Thompson on all aspects of his 2021-23 worldwide Love on Tour trek, which ranks as the fifth-highest-grossing tour of all time.

Lloyd Wakefield

Timothy Liam Epstein
Partner, Duggan Bertsch

Epstein advises independent U.S. promoters with clients that own and/or operate venues like Le Poisson Rouge in New York; College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Conn.; and Seattle’s El Corazon, as well as entities including Psyko Steve Presents, Sofar Sounds, Kilby Block Party, Baja Beach Fest, Riot Fest and Pitchfork Festival. “Despite various market headwinds on the live side, it has been a joy and a privilege to be able to work with clients at the operational counsel level,” Epstein says. “From watching Andy Levine [with Topeka Live] expand the team and meet the fans’ desire for VIP experiences, to Chris Den Uijl and Aaron Ampudia having grown well beyond successes with Baja Beach Fest and Sueños to additional shows and partnerships, to the ever-expanding tour stops for Zach Ruben and Adam Lynn with the Breakaway brand.”

Paul Fakler
Partner, Mayer Brown

Fakler — whose clients include SiriusXM, Pandora Media, Google and YouTube — is particularly proud of one case that is no laughing matter: Yellow Rose Productions et al. v. Pandora. Fakler and his firm represented Pandora Media in copyright infringement cases from nine comedians or their estates, alleging Pandora failed to obtain sufficient rights to the underlying jokes embodied in duly licensed sound recordings streamed on Pandora. The cases, he says, sought “to impose the music industry’s byzantine licensing practices on the comedy industry. The case will make new law on various topics related to sound-recording licensing and the comedy industry.”

Most pressing issue: “Finding a way to allow music streaming services to generate a profit on a sustained basis. After 25 years, that has still not happened, and it is in nobody’s long-term interest — least of all artists, songwriters or consumers — to keep making it impossible.”

Sid Fohrman
Alex Weingarten
Partners/chairs, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Shane Nix
Partner, Willkie Farr & Gallagher

In the past year, Willkie Farr & Gallagher represented Primary Wave in acquiring a 50% stake in the Village People catalog, which includes hits like “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.” The firm also worked on a joint venture with Can’t Stop Productions and Galilee Publishing (the Village People’s original label and publisher, respectively). With clients including Selena Gomez, Manny Marroquin, Create Music Group, the Joe Cocker estate and Snoop Dogg, Fohrman says, “We, as an industry, need to focus on economic solutions that promote both a vibrant and sustainable creative community without stifling innovation.”

Advice on AI: “Our common goal,” Fohrman says, “should be to establish a business model that protects and fairly compensates artists, writers and rights holders; respects and preserves human artistry; but also recognizes the commitment and genius of those driving this incredible innovation.”

Karl Fowlkes
Managing partner, The Fowlkes Firm

In addition to his longtime client and successful independent rapper Blxst, Fowlkes represents and provides strategic guidance and legal strategy to Hologram, a music production label and incubator founded by Grammy-nominated producer Synthetic. Hologram “has grown to 17 producers behind some of the biggest hits of the past 18 months from Ice Spice, Yeat, Lil Uzi Vert, 41, Nav, Trippie Redd and countless others,” Fowlkes says. Going forward, he believes streaming needs more transparency. “When fans stream a song, the money generated from those streams should go directly to that artist’s pocket,” he says. “We need to figure out a universal artist-centric payout system.”

Advice on AI: “Don’t fight it. Learn how AI can efficiently and effectively help your workflow and creative process, and be open. We know the negatives to AI, but not enough artists know the positives.”

John Frankenheimer
Chair of music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Derek Crownover
Debbie White
Vice chairs of music industry, Loeb & Loeb
Denise Stevens
Partner, Loeb & Loeb
Tiffany Dunn
Co-office administrative partner of Nashville, Loeb & Loeb

Loeb & Loeb oversaw more than $500 million in sales and acquisitions during 2023 with a client list that spans from artists like Carrie Underwood, Morgan Wallen, Diana Ross and Christina Aguilera to the estates of Johnny Cash and Otis Redding. Clients also include Sony Music Publishing and Warner Music Group. “Although the initial steps undertaken in 2023 to ensure that value is recognized for those who are actually creating interest and demand were much appreciated,” Frankenheimer says, “this is going to be an ongoing struggle that requires real commitment from all parties in the value chain.”

Advice on AI: “AI is here now,” Frankenheimer says. “There is strength in numbers, and the creative community aligned with their business partners — labels, publishers, agencies, managers — can form a powerful and unified message for those that shape the laws that will define what is and is not permissible in our world.”

Ken Freundlich
Founder/president, Freundlich Law

Freundlich defended Bad Bunny and Rimas Entertainment in two “high stakes” copyright infringement lawsuits. “In one of those matters,” he says, he “drafted and argued a complex, high-profile motion to dismiss concerning the copyrightability of the allegedly appropriated dembow rhythm.” He also submitted briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of LyricFind, which led to a lower court upholding the dismissal of a $50 million complaint against his client from Genius Holdings. The complaint was dismissed on copyright preemption grounds. With clients ranging from Sly Stone and members of the Family Stone to heirs of the founders of War, Freundlich says the biggest challenge facing the music industry “always has been and continues to be about protecting creativity.”

If I quit law, I would: “Spend more time expanding the repertoire and reach of The Singers in Law, the jazz vocal quartet that I co-founded a decade ago that currently performs in the Los Angeles area.”

Freundlich Law represents Bad Bunny and Rimas Entertainment in a suit claiming that scores of artists using the dembow rhythm at the core of reggaetón are violating copyright.

Cindy Ord/MG23/Getty Images

Sasha Frid
Skip Miller
Partners, Miller Barondess

Last August, a federal jury ruled in favor of client William “Smokey” Robinson and against his ex-manager Eric Podwall, who claimed the Motown legend owed him for touring and concert commissions worth over $2 million. Given legal issues now stemming from the rise of AI, Frid recommends clients “be proactive to protect [their] copyrights but also use AI’s ability to analyze data in order to release music that’s more likely to resonate with the artist’s target audience.” Among the firm’s other clients: hard-rock bands Mötley Crüe and Five Finger Death Punch and companies Live Nation and Warner Music Group.

Most pressing issue: “Due to the rise of streaming and search algorithms, as well as the vast availability of older catalogs,” Frid says, “it is difficult for new and independent artists to differentiate themselves and find an audience.”

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

Gandel’s firm negotiated deals for Medium Rare Live, which puts together such events as Shaq’s Fun House, Kelce Jam and Daymond John’s Black Entrepreneurs Day at venues including Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel and Brooklyn’s Maimonides Park. The firm’s clients also include Timbaland, OjiVolta and GORDO. Regarding AI, Gandel says, “The most important thing is for each of my clients to understand what it is and how it interacts with their work. Without that knowledge, clients will not be able to have intelligent conversations with their peers, and they will not be able to determine if this new technology is something that could assist them with their work or something that takes away from their creative endeavors.”

Most pressing issue: “The balance of income allocation between the digital service providers [DSPs], labels, artists, producers, writers, etc.”

Eric German
Christine Lepera
Bradley Mullins
David Steinberg
Partners, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

To read the full profile on Lawyer of the Year Christine Lepera, click here.

Damien Granderson
Guy Blake
Lynn Gonzalez
Elizabeth Moody
Colin Morrissey
Partners, Granderson Des Rochers

Granderson Des Rochers helped usher client Quality Control Music into a reported $300 million sale to K-pop giant HYBE America in February 2023, placing rappers Offset and Quavo, Lil Yachty, City Girls and Lil Baby under the same umbrella with BTS. The company advocates for a “more equitable share of streaming revenue” for its clients, which include J. Cole, J Balvin, A$AP Rocky and Wizkid, and major labels and publishers, Granderson says. “It’s more challenging than ever to have a sustainable career in the music industry unless the artist executes on a sound strategic plan,” he adds.

Advice on AI: “Always be aware of where your music is and be apprised of unauthorized versions of your songs, voice and likeness,” Granderson says. “Have the right lawyers and resources available to you to remain informed so you can protect your likeness and rights.”

Navarro W. Gray
Founding partner, The Gray Law Firm

Gray’s accomplishments go beyond working with clients such as Lil’ Kim, Ronald Isley and Internet Money. His recent achievements include closing a major publishing deal for DD Osama with Sony Music Publishing and negotiating recording agreements for not only MAF Teeski and APG, but also Baby Jamo and Listen 2 the Kids/Santa Anna and Lil Nuu and Island Records. Gray also negotiated all aspects of Isley’s last album, Make Me Say It Again, Girl, which featured appearances by Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Earth, Wind & Fire, Trey Songz, 2 Chainz, and Quavo and Takeoff. And, offering a full array of services, Gray negotiated a liquor distribution deal for Isley’s brandy, Ron Isley Liquid Gold.

If I quit law, I would: “Create an ’80s soft-rock band in which I would be the lead singer.”

Matthew Greenberg
Managing partner, Greenberg Chopurian-Valencia & Associates
Stephanie Chopurian-Valencia
Partner, Greenberg Chopurian-Valencia & Associates

The firm represents numerous Latin artists including Ovy on the Drums, Arcángel, Chencho Corleone, Sech, Yandel, Gerardo Ortiz, Prince Royce and De la Ghetto, as well as former Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie and the estate of Canserbero. Greenberg notes the company has been involved in defending clients in a 2021 action filed by lawyers for the Jamaican duo Steely & Clevie — Cleveland “Clevie” Browne and the estate of the late Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson — who claim that more than 150 different artists who use the dembow rhythm (the beat at the core of reggaetón) violates their copyright on their 1989 song “Fish Market.” The suit has an “impact on urban Latin artists, labels and publishers,” Greenberg says.

Most pressing issue: “Declining per-stream revenue to creators,” Greenberg says.

Gary R. Greenstein
Member, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Greenstein — who works with digital media and entertainment clients and counts AI, technology transactions and financial technology as his focus areas — is representing Google and Stingray before the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board in the Web VI rate-setting proceedings, which will determine streaming royalties for 2026-30. He previously represented Google in the Phonorecords IV proceedings, which resulted in a rates settlement that interactive streaming services pay for using music as of January 2023. “We also represent numerous broadcasters and streaming services in royalty audits by record companies, the [performing rights organizations] and SoundExchange,” he says.

Most pressing issue: “Where is innovation going to come from next, and will the currently constituted music business permit new businesses and ideas to germinate and flourish? You have three major labels and a relatively small number of services responsible for most music consumption.”

Jordan Gutglass
Evan Krauss
Daniel Shulman
Owen Sloane
Partners, Eisner

Eisner’s ability to “service all aspects of” Jon Batiste’s multifaceted career highlights the firm’s capabilities, Shulman says. Over the past year, Eisner has guided Batiste’s involvement in a critically acclaimed documentary (American Symphony), a Grammy-nominated album (World Music Radio), a role in last year’s The Color Purple, major brand partnerships (Coca-Cola, Tommy Hilfiger) and a festival with Batiste’s role as co-founder of the Miami edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival. The firm’s clients also include PartyNextDoor, G-Eazy, Boi-1da, Hype Williams, Sofi Tukker, Ceremony of Roses and Matchbox Twenty.

Most pressing issue: “Understanding what a long-term sustainable career looks like in an age of virality,” Shulman says. “This includes funding and financial resources for artists who want to remain independent and their ability to sustain a living, safety for artists and fans in-person and online, and a focus on mental health and the well-being of artists.”

Attorneys at the law firm Eisner have guided Jon Batiste’s moves along multiple career paths, including his Grammy-nominated album World Music Radio and his role in The Color Purple.

Christopher Polk/Golden Globes 2

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

The Hachar Law Group advises stars like Lele Pons, Chayanne, Alex Sensation and Justin Quiles. Highlights of the past year include restructuring the legal affairs for regional Mexican singer Carín León, who has established himself as a “market-leading independent artist topping the charts as a Latin Grammy winner, forming global partnerships with Universal Music Publishing and AEG for his first sold-out U.S. arena tour,” Hachar says. The industry’s challenges, he adds, include “the oversaturation of new music readily available makes it increasingly difficult for new or independent artists to stand out.”

Advice on AI: “Learn how to use it as a tool to your advantage, legally. It is not going away, and if you don’t learn, you will be left behind,” Hachar says.

Joe Halbardier
Founder, Halbardier

Halbardier’s firm represents artists including regional Mexican music stars Grupo Frontera, which has amassed multiple No. 1 songs on the Billboard charts, including “Que Vuelvas” with Carín León (Regional Mexican), “El Amor de Su Vida” with Grupo Firme (Regional Mexican) and “un x100to” with Bad Bunny (Latin Airplay, Global 200). “It has been incredibly rewarding to be able to help my clients navigate the challenges of rapid growth during the explosion of Mexican music,” Halbardier says. “Growing up in Texas, this music has always been a part of the culture, and to see its popularity grow not just in the United States but throughout Latin America and beyond has been especially exciting.”

Most pressing issue: “Artists have more leverage than ever before. At the same time, labels, distributors, publishers and promoters have better data and are best suited to market music in an increasingly complex and multifaceted environment; however, they are pulling back on risk.”

Matt Hallinan
Michael G. Rhodes
Partners, Cooley

“As personal counsel to Justin Bieber, I led and worked with the larger team of Matt Hallinan at Cooley, Scooter Braun and Dave Bolno at HYBE, and Hipgnosis on the sale of his music catalog for $203 million,” Rhodes says. Hipgnosis Songs Capital closed its deal in January 2023 to buy 100% of Bieber’s publishing, as well as his artist royalties from his master recordings and neighboring rights, Hipgnosis confirmed at the time. The deal was the largest rights sale for any artist of Bieber’s generation and also Hipgnosis’ biggest acquisition to date, covering all 290 titles in his catalog released prior to Dec. 31, 2021, including his most recent album, 2021’s Justice.

If I quit law, I would: “Go surf, ride my motorcycles, improve my golf index and hang with the grandkids,” Rhodes says.

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

The firm — whose clients include Lenny Kravitz, Desmond Child, Patti LaBelle and Judy Collins, as well as the estates of John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Roy Orbison — represented Foreigner’s Mick Jones, another music icon on its roster, in a global publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music. Herbsman and partners negotiated the worldwide administration agreement for the founding member of the British American rock band who is known for his impressive catalog of hits such as “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Urgent,” “Cold As Ice,” “Jukebox Hero” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”

Advice on AI: “Artists and creators must make sure that the agreements they are entering clearly address AI,” Herbsman says. “AI issues are lurking in areas you might not realize, and you don’t want to unknowingly grant those rights.”

Herbsman Hafer Weber & Frisch advised Mick Jones of Foreigner in a global publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music.

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

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

“Terminating copyrights to leverage various types of new deals for artists and songwriters” has been the law firm’s chief focus of late, Hertz says. Also on the team’s radar: catalog sales and advising on the establishment, expansion and acquisition of industry disruptors and leading independent management companies. Representing a diverse roster of artists and businesses that includes Apple Music, Céline Dion, H.E.R., Gwen Stefani, Keith Richards and Stevie Nicks, Hertz adds that two of the most pressing issues facing the industry are “TikTok and the increasing challenge for emerging talent of rising above the din.”

If I quit law, I would: “Volunteer, play pickleball, bake, play golf, build furniture, keep advising young entrepreneurs and spend more time in Portugal,” Hertz says.

Larry Iser
Managing partner, Kinsella Holley Iser Kump Steinsapir
Jonathan Steinsapir
Partner, Kinsella Holley Iser Kump Steinsapir

The firm is among the representatives of the estate of Michael Jackson, which sold half of the King of Pop’s publishing and recorded-masters catalog to Sony Music Group for a reported $600 million in February. The Kinsella Holley Iser team also represented majority heirs of Motown songwriter Ron Miller (co-writer of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life”), who had filed copyright termination notices to regain control of Miller’s works. Minority heirs “tried to invalidate several dozen termination notices,” Iser says of the firm’s response, led by Steinsapir. “We were able to have the case dismissed … holding that the termination notices were all valid.”

Most pressing issue: “Moving artists away from sales and touring revenue,” Iser says, and “toward diversifying income streams and connecting with audiences in innovative ways and tapping into new markets.”

Erin M. Jacobson
CEO/attorney, Erin M. Jacobson

Jacobson’s recent achievements include a catalogwide termination project that recaptured the copyrights of several hundred songs, including many Hot 100 top 10 hits; favorably concluding a complex case regarding foreign ­termination rights; and counseling of estate and legacy catalogs. Through her work, Jacobson has determined that the biggest issue facing the business is “a fundamental lack of respect for the use of music” regarding infringements by social media platforms, DSPs and even “other industries focused on intellectual property, like film and print.”

If I quit law, I would: “Be a watercolor artist and jewelry designer — which I already do outside of my law career as my creative practice.”

Neville L. Johnson
Founding partner, Johnson & Johnson
Douglas L. Johnson
Managing partner, Johnson & Johnson

After resolving what Douglas Johnson calls a “contentious contract dispute in arbitration” for Janet Jackson, the firm is representing Paula Abdul in her sexual abuse lawsuit against Nigel Lythgoe (he has denied the allegations), as well as APM Music in a variety of copyright enforcement matters. “We have been spearheading numerous class actions against the major record labels for improperly lowering streaming royalties paid to legacy artists,” he says. “The cases have enormous implications for older recording artists who haven’t individually renegotiated their contracts, since the labels are arguing that they consider any streaming royalties paid to those artists to be charity.”

Most pressing issue: “Streaming platforms continue to underpay record labels, who in turn underpay artists,” Douglas says, “and the status quo is simply untenable.”

Rusty Jones
Attorney, Law Office of Russell A. Jones Jr. and Associates

In May 2023, Jones’ client Garth Brooks launched his Las Vegas residency, Garth Brooks/Plus ONE, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace; due to demand, he extended dates into 2024. In March, Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, celebrated the Nashville opening of their Friends in Low Places Bar and Honky Tonk, which takes its name from Brooks’ signature 1990 hit. Jones also represents major country music names including Yearwood, Tim McGraw and the estate of Toby Keith, who died in February. For Jones, some of the most important issues the music industry faces include “internet theft” and “corporate downsizing during a period of high profits.”

Advice on AI: “Heed the warning from 2001: A Space Odyssey: Don’t trust HAL.”

Wale Kalejaiye
Partner, Sheridans

Kalejaiye helped negotiate Burna Boy’s Love, Damini tour that included ­European stadium shows and secured an Apple Music Live deal for his London stop last June. He also negotiated a publishing agreement between Sony Music Publishing France and Michael “London” Hunter, the British Nigerian producer behind Rema and Selena ­Gomez’s Hot 100 No. 3 hit, “Calm Down,” and “successfully finalized a distribution agreement” between Virgin Music and Dapper Music, the latter of which Kalejaiye describes as “the biggest street hip-hop label in Nigeria” that features Shallipopi, Seyi Vibez and others on its roster.

If I quit law, I would: Return to “my former life playing semiprofessional [soccer] for a local team, so I would love the opportunity to guide my local team, Charlton FC, back to the Premier League.”

Attorney Wale Kalejaiye of Sheridans in London helped negotiate Burna Boy’s Love, Damini tour, including his European stadium shows.

Natasha Moustache/Getty Images

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

In 2023, Kamen represented music executive Dante Ross as he relaunched the label Stimulated in partnership with Roc Nation’s Equity Distribution and published the memoir Son of the City. “I interned for Dante at Stimulated 25 years ago,” says Kamen, who represents multiple high-profile clients including Doja Cat, Teddy Swims, Giveon, City Girls and 6LACK. His clients also extend beyond artists to include producers such as Oz, who worked on Drake’s “First Person Shooter” (featuring J. Cole) and Jack Harlow’s “Lovin on Me.”

Advice on AI: “Songwriters and producers can use AI as a tool to create better demos, and artists can use AI as a fan engagement tool or to perform virtual concerts. New technologies often create a challenge in the music business, but it’s the early adopters who typically have the edge.”

Jason Karlov
Partner/chair of the Entertainment, media and sports practice group, Barnes & Thornburg
Brian Schall
Partner, Barnes & Thornburg

Barnes & Thornburg represent an array of clients in sectors including music and sports, such as Bob Dylan, Imagine Dragons, John Fogerty and The Killers, as well as the NFL and all of its 32 teams, 18 NBA teams and nine NHL teams. Last year, the company represented Fogerty for the repurchase of the Creedence Clearwater Revival catalog. Karlov says that one of the most pressing issues facing the music industry is “capturing the income from social media licensing.”

Advice on AI: “Wait and see how it all shakes out, and, in the meantime, protect yourself as much as possible,” Karlov says. “These are valuable future rights that are currently being addressed, and we will see them play out over time.”

Lauren Kilgore
Lauren Spahn
Partners, Shackelford Bowen McKinley & Norton

With a focus on the live-performance industry, the attorneys’ roster — which spans music festivals, talent agencies, talent buyers and promoters — totals over 300 events and and a collective nine-figure talent buy. Key artist clients include Tanya Tucker and Heart’s Ann Wilson. Post-pandemic, Spahn renegotiated major deals with agencies for talent-buyer clients including Romeo Entertainment and Variety Attractions, restructured performance agreements for agency clients like Reliant Talent and offered guidance for Heart’s 2023 tour.

Most pressing issue: “Ticketing prices, fees and practices like resales and the ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation with regard to the antitrust claims against Ticketmaster and Live Nation,” Spahn says. “More importantly, fans deserve to know what, and how much, they are paying for, as a lot of those fees don’t even end up in the artists’ pockets.”

Russell L. King
Director, King Law Firm

King continues to guide his clients — such as Maluma, Juan Luis Guerra, Carlos Vives, Quevedo, Melendi and Laura Pausini — with “their tax structuring and IRS agreements for touring, endorsement deals and music distribution contracts.” In just the past few months, multiple branding agreements that King negotiated for Maluma, in particular, have come to fruition: In late 2023, the Colombian hit-maker began to promote a smart glasses collaboration between Meta and Ray-Ban across platforms. More recently, in February, he headlined a Las Vegas concert presented by SiriusXM and Pandora in the week leading up to Super Bowl LVIII.

Advice on AI: “Unfortunately, other than right of publicity laws that vary in effectiveness on a state-by-state basis, there is little current protection for an artist regarding the threats posed by artificial intelligence, and, therefore, governmental action is urgently needed.”

Christiane Kinney
President, Kinney Law

Throughout the past year, Kinney has focused her expertise on catalog sales, touring agreements, endorsement deals and termination of transfer rights for legacy artists and their respective estates. She has assisted clients in navigating new media and technology deals and addressing their concerns with AI. Kinney also advised Grammy-winning acts during negotiations over publishing and label deals (including Julien Baker of boygenius for the group’s debut album). “Finding a balance where artists can be fairly compensated for their contributions while supporting the rise of new technology will continue to be one of the most pressing issues facing the music business,” she says.

If I quit law, I would: “Beg to play keys on tour with my clients.”

Mark Krais
Simon Goodbody
Partners, Bray & Krais

Krais and Goodbody handled “the necessary paperwork” for The Rolling Stones’ first album of original material in almost 20 years. Released in October, Hackney Diamonds entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3 and topped the charts in 20 countries, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France. The London-based firm’s other clients include Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Mumford & Sons and Sony Music Publishing. Of the challenges facing the industry, Krais and Goodbody say that Universal Music Group’s recent decision to pull its catalog from TikTok following a licensing dispute “calls into question the long-term commercial viability of promoting music consumption via short-form videoclips.”

Advice on AI: “For artist clients, the most urgent practical thing that they can do would be to understand what rights they are granting to third parties, like their label or publisher.”

Dina LaPolt
Founder/owner, LaPolt Law
Mariah Comer
Kristin Wenning
Partners, LaPolt Law

Four years after his detention by U.S. Customs and Immigration, rapper 21 Savage obtained his green card thanks to the work of LaPolt Law, which spearheaded the hard-fought campaign. The firm — whose clients include Cardi B, Mary J. Blige, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett and deadmau5 — also continued its efforts to pass the Restoring Artistic Protection Act in Congress to prevent the use of lyrics as evidence in court cases. On the AI front, LaPolt Law submitted comment papers to the U.S. Copyright Office on behalf of the Songwriters of North America, Music Artists Coalition and Black Music Action Coalition, advocating for the rights of creators as the technology presents new challenges across the music industry. The firm has also recently focused on lobbying for a federal right of publicity to protect against the unauthorized use of an individual’s voice, likeness and other personality traits.

To read more about Dina LaPolt, Billboard‘s first-ever Top Music Lawyers’ Choice Award recipient, click here.

Todd Larson
Partner, intellectual property and media practice, Weil Gotshal & Manges
Benjamin Marks
Head of intellectual property and media practice, Weil Gotshal & Manges

“We are representing SiriusXM and Pandora in Web VI,” Marks says, “the Copyright Royalty Board proceeding that will set the rates and terms for the statutory licenses for the reproduction and public performance of sound recordings by noninteractive music streaming services for the next five-year period, 2026-2030.” The firm is also representing the North American Concert Promoters Association — and its largest members, Live Nation and AEG — in a dispute with BMI over the royalty rate paid for live performances. The 138% rate increase awarded in March 2023 “is considerably closer to NACPA’s rate proposal than BMI’s,” according to Marks. But the firm is appealing the decision on behalf of its clients.

Advice on AI: “Proceed with extreme caution, don’t skimp on due diligence and investigations, and keep us on speed dial,” Marks says. “Minefields abound.”

Bernie Lawrence Watkins
Founder/CEO, B. Lawrence Watkins & Associates

With a loaded roster in hip-hop including Latto, Young Nudy, Tay Keith, Doe Boy and others, B. Lawrence Watkins & Associates has landed various deals for its artists, most notably in endorsements. The firm worked alongside Latto on her endorsement deals with HALLS, Sprite (for its Hip-Hop 50 celebration), Just E.A.T. and others. It also helped structure Young Nudy’s renegotiation with RCA Records while handling the clearances for Apple’s use of Doe Boy’s name, image and likeness rights in an Apple iPhone 15 commercial.

Advice on AI: “The use of AI is growing at a rapid speed. Read the terms-of-use policy prior to agreeing to incorporate AI in your creative works, and always have an attorney review your paperwork.”

Shay Lawson
Managing attorney, Law Firm of Lawson McKinley

Lawson’s firm has a noteworthy roster of clients in hip-hop and beyond including producers Sheldon Ferguson and Groove and the estate of rapper Pimp C. During the past year, Lawson took on major transactions and legal cases, including UGK’s collaboration with streetwear giant Supreme. An advocate for racial justice in the music industry, Lawson was also appointed policy chair for the Black Music Action Coalition and its advocacy efforts in the launch of the Congressional Hip Hop Task Force. The firm also worked on successful Louisiana legislation prohibiting the use of rap lyrics in criminal prosecutions and ongoing federal efforts on the Restoring Artistic Protection Act.

Most pressing issue: “The harm to artists, fans and venues by ticketing bots and the resale Wild West creating unfair ticket marketplaces.”

Bill Leibowitz
Founder, William R. Leibowitz Law Group

Leibowitz, whose top clients include Hipgnosis Songs Capital, Hipgnosis Songs Fund and veteran rock bands INXS and Iron Maiden, specializes in IP acquisitions and believes “songwriters are still grossly underpaid relative to the other participants in the music food chain.” For Hipgnosis Songs Capital, Leibowitz has closed major catalog purchases regarding Justin Bieber; Tobias Jesso Jr., who in 2023 became the inaugural Grammy winner for songwriter of the year, non-classical; Erika Ender, co-writer of the 2017 global smash “Despacito”; English songwriting-production team TMS (Tom “Froe” Barnes, Benjamin Kohn and Pete “Merf” Kelleher), whose credits include Lewis Capaldi’s biggest hits; and David Foster’s writer’s performance income.

Advice on AI: “If AI isn’t heavily regulated and controlled, the only beneficiaries will be the companies that own the AI software and their shareholders.”

The William R. Leibowitz Law Group advised Hipgnosis Songs Capital on the acquisition of publishing catalogs from writers including Erika Ender, co-writer of the 2017 global smash “Despacito.”

Niccolo Guasti/Getty Images

Robert Lieberman
Michael Perlstein
Partners, Fischbach Perlstein Lieberman & Almond

In addition to working with music companies like rights management firm GoDigital Media Group and its subsidiary Cinq Music, Lieberman’s firm also represents Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Cars and Lukas Nelson, as well as the estates of Peggy Lee and Dr. John. For his clients, Lieberman says that the past year has been defined by “numerous purchases and sales of music publishing and master catalogs involving complex copyright issues in excess of $200 million.” Viewing the overall industry landscape, Lieberman says a key concern remains “increasing artist and songwriter streaming royalty rates.”

Advice on AI: “Be patient,” Lieberman says. “Protect your rights contractually with the third parties that you are dealing with and wait to see how the marketplace will deal with it.”

Doug Mark
Founding partner, Mark Music & Media Law
David Ferreria
Leon Morabia
Harry Roberts
Jared Tankel
Partners, Mark Music & Media Law

With clients including Ice Spice, The Chainsmokers, Benny Blanco, Andrew Watt, Emily Warren, Laufey and writer Amy Allen, Mark Music & Media Law also advises best-selling authors, publishing catalogs, composers and labels. “Despite higher interest rates, catalog transactions continue to grow in scale and frequency,” Tankel says. “Our firm remains at the forefront of the business in [negotiating] purchases and sales.”

Most pressing issue: “The business is still and will always be driven by the creativity and talent of its artists,” Tankel says, “but there are more records, platforms and channels to promote and consume, etc., than ever, so it’s increasingly important that artist representatives understand the broad scope of the industry.”

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, who won two Grammys and an Academy Award for “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie, are clients of Mark Music & Media Law and among the stars who have signed for representation with Global Music Rights.

Frank Micelotta/Disney

Angela “Angie” N. Martinez
Founder, Angela N. Martinez

Martinez counts notable artists in Latin pop and urban music among her clients — Feid, Ozuna, Sebastián Yatra, Luis Fonsi, Ricardo Montaner and Maria Becerra. Over the past year, she negotiated multimillion-dollar catalog sales on behalf of songwriters Nacho and Gian Marco. “Within the realm of my profession,” Martinez says, “success should not be solely measured by the accomplishments achieved but also by the complexities skillfully navigated and resolved.”

Most pressing issue: “As we just saw with the TikTok-Universal face-off, technology services have transformed the landscape of music consumption. Numerous artists contest they are paid just a fraction of a cent per stream, raising concerns about their professional livelihood.”

Gavin Maude
Partner/head of music, Russells
Jo Brittain
Simon Esplen
Chris Gossage
Steven Tregear
Partners, Russells

Advising Coldplay on its Music of the Spheres tour, including the band’s ground-breaking sustainability initiatives, ensured another busy 12 months for Russells. The group’s global trek, which started in March 2022 and resumed in summer 2023 with a run of European shows, was the No. 2 tour of the past year and ranks as the second-highest-grossing tour of all time, earning $807.8 million to date. The London-based firm, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, operates at “the cutting edge” of catalog/IP acquisition and sales, Maude says, handling recent deals for clients Primary Wave, Reservoir and Iconic Artists Group, as well as the sale of Guy Chambers’ and David Gray’s rights to Bella Figura Music.

If I quit music, I would: “Tie my own [fishing] flies,” Maude says.

James E. McMillan
Managing partner, James E. McMillan

Last year, Houston artist Odetari ushered in a new subgenre of electronic music he dubbed Odecore, and Billboard recognized him as one of the biggest dance artists of 2023. He was No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Top New Dance/Electronic Artists chart and featured by the magazine alongside 6arelyhuman as one of the artists shaping the future of dance music. “After a hot bidding war, my team closed a smart and handsome deal for Odetari with Mike Caren,” founder of Artist Partner Group, says McMillan, who also still runs his independent label, ART@WAR, which boasts artists Cordae, Honey Baby and YBN Nahmir.

Most pressing issue: “As consumer attention span becomes shorter due to technology, the need to quantify fair compensation for rights holders becomes more necessary.”

L. Londell McMillan
Chairman/CEO, The McMillan Firm

McMillan’s list of clients over the years has included Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Isaac Hayes and Chaka Khan, but he’s best known for repping Prince Rogers Nelson. McMillan and Charles Spicer serve as managers for Prince Legacy, one of the two holding companies created to oversee the superstar’s $156 million estate. In a suit that became public in January, the two allege that four of Prince’s relatives have been improperly trying to force them out of the company. (Primary Wave, which owns the other half of the Prince estate, is not involved in the dispute.) Despite the legal fight, McMillan has been able to keep Prince’s art alive by producing events like the “Celebration” festival (the annual gathering of Prince fans) and the upcoming stage adaptation of the seminal 1984 film musical Purple Rain.

Ed McPherson
Partner, McPherson

Representing top acts across genres — Travis Scott, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park, Frank Ocean, Tool, Evanescence, Mick Mars and Chance Peña — McPherson takes pride in guiding his clients through legal complications in their careers. Most recently, he cites the “brutal attacks” that former Mötley Crüe guitarist Mars has experienced. “After founding the band, naming the band and performing with the band for 41 years, [he] has now been unmercifully ejected from the band and all of its corporate entities,” McPherson says.

Most pressing issue: “Without a doubt, frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous copyright lawsuits that stifle the creativity of songwriters and frivolous concert-related lawsuits that will ultimately cause ticket prices to increase so significantly that only a select few fans will be able to afford them.”

Kenny Meiselas
Partner/head of music department, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
Larry Shire
Partner/head of film, television, theatre department, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks
David Jacobs
Joe Brenner
Partners, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks

Meiselas represented Usher for his Super Bowl halftime performance in February, as well as his BMW and Uber Eats commercials for the big game and his subsequent tour and release of his latest album, Coming Home. In addition, the firm represents U2, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, the David Bowie estate, Lady Gaga, J Balvin, Zach Bryan, The Weeknd and many others. For Meiselas, who also produces films and TV shows, the most pressing music business issue is “navigating the new landscape created by the consolidation of the major labels, together with the emergence of new independent labels and distribution companies.”

Advice on AI: “The biggest concern for the client,” Meiselas says, “is to make sure that they have creative approvals and get compensated for AI exploitations of their name, likeness and music, similar to the legal protections that have been adopted for samples and music interpolations.”

Kenny Meiselas of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks represented Usher for his Super Bowl halftime performance in February, as well as his game-day commercials, upcoming tour and latest album, Coming Home.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Mike Milom
David Crow
Partners, Milom Crow Kelley Beckett Shehan

The firm, which represents clients including Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, Luke Bryan, Ricky Skaggs and Kelsea Ballerini, was instrumental in Ballerini’s recent extension of her partnership with her longtime label home, Black River. The firm also remains active in catalog sales, representing both buyers and sellers, as well as joint ventures, sponsorships and endorsements. Crow notes that ongoing shifts in the industry include labels no longer performing many of the traditional artist development activities, which fall to other sectors, such as publishers. “This in turn,” Crow says, “has impacted deal structures, and newer deals often won’t support labels sticking with a new artist for multiple releases, given the economics of the deals.”

If I quit law, I would: “Play fiddle in a bluegrass band,” Crow says.

Carron Joan Mitchell
Farrah A. Usmani
Partners, Nixon Peabody

Mitchell and Usmani have tackled a host of issues for their extensive list of clients, which includes Brent Faiyaz, Childish Gambino, Vince Staples, Cuco, Ari Lennox, Jordan Ward, Earthgang, Dame D.O.L.L.A (aka Damian Lillard), Masego, Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Fana Hues, Felix Ames, thuy, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Pussy Riot, Eddie Spear and promoter Outback Presents. Recently, Mitchell negotiated deals for Faiyaz’s sold-out worldwide tour, the release of his Larger Than Life project and his Apple Music Live deal. Usmani negotiated on behalf of Outback Presents for North American tours by comedians Bert Kreischer, Taylor Tomlinson and Nate Bargatze — three of Billboard’s top 10 highest-grossing comedy tours of 2023.

Most pressing issue: “How all of the label restructurings will impact artists’ careers and whether it will be beneficial to developing artists,” Mitchell says.

Zia Modabber
Managing partner of the Los Angeles offices/chair of the entertainment and media litigation practice, Katten

Modabber’s clients include Live Nation, Insomniac, the estate of Michael Jackson, André 3000 and Trent Reznor (who he has worked with for more than two decades). “We handle all of Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails, film scoring and entrepreneurial projects, including a number of upcoming ventures,” Modabber says. (Two-time Academy Award winners Reznor and Atticus Ross scored the upcoming film Challengers starring Zendaya.) “Trent’s a creative freak of nature,” Modabber adds. “I’m excited for what’s coming and proud to be even a small part of it alongside his entire team.” For clients concerned about AI, Modabber says, “Have fun with it, just not too much fun — there’s lots to figure out to make sure rights aren’t trampled.”

If I quit law, I would: “Figure out how to change my genetics into someone with legitimate artistic abilities. I am in awe of artists.”

Trent Reznor has been a client for over two decades of attorney Zia Modabber of the the law firm Katten, which handles his Nine Inch Nails, film scoring and entrepreneurial projects.

Michael Tran/AFP/Getty Images

Lisa Moore
Andrew Pequignot
Managing partners, Moore Pequignot

Moore and Pequignot count Cardi B, Offset, Mary J. Blige, YG, Cordae and BlocBoy JB among their clients. Besides guiding that impressive roster, their most notable recent achievements include successfully defending Cardi B in a suit that claimed the rapper violated a California man’s rights by photoshopping one of his tattoos onto the cover of her 2016 debut mixtape, Gangsta B-tch Music, Vol 1. A jury rejected the claim after just one hour of deliberation. “This was a significant case regarding an artist’s First Amendment rights to free expression,” Moore says, “and an important lesson about when someone falsely tries to claim credit for a talent’s hard work and success.”

If I quit law, I would: “Spend more time reading, running and traveling,” Moore says.

Jeffrey Movit
Head of litigation, ChaudhryLaw
Movit joined ChaudhryLaw in September, following recognition in the last two Top Music Lawyers lists at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. He is counsel for all of the defendants, including client Playboi Carti, in a suit that alleges violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In August, Movit obtained an order requiring the plaintiff and his counsel to pay attorneys’ fees to Movit’s clients. (Movit notes that his clients have since moved for dismissal of the action “as a matter of summary judgment.”) In addition to Carti, other clients include Polo G, G Herbo, Dr. Luke and Ronald Isley.

Advice on AI: “I urge everyone to actually use AI platforms — and not merely read about them — so that we can truly understand the problems and opportunities we face as an industry.”

Aliya Nelson
Partner, Greenspoon Marder
Sandra Brown
Alan Clarke
Jerry Juste
Of counsel, Greenspoon Marder
Kendall Minter
Of counsel, Greenspoon Marder (posthumous honor)

Greenspoon Marder negotiated with TriStar Pictures for a project focused on Sugarhill Gang’s seminal 1979 single, “Rapper’s Delight,” and is also negotiating a theatrical rights deal to bring the story behind the song to Broadway. The firm represented Lecrae in connection with his Grammy-winning Christian album Church Clothes 4 and counseled a company that creates Web3 content and applications for T.I. and The Trap Museum, Cee Lo Green and more. Last year, the firm suffered a great loss when Minter, 71, died Dec. 6 in Atlanta. Among his last major transactions was negotiating the June sale by George Brown, the founding band member and drummer of Kool & The Gang, of his stake in the group’s catalog (“Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie,” Get Down on It”) to Primary Wave, working in association with the band’s longtime attorney, Ken Abdo.

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

On behalf of Universal Music Group, Concord Music Group and ABKCO Music, Oppenheim + Zebrak filed a complaint in federal court in October against AI platform Anthropic, claiming it was unlawfully copying and disseminating copyrighted works to train AI models, including its assistant, Claude, to generate new lyrics. “Anthropic must not be allowed to flout copyright law,” the complaint states. Zebrak says the case, which has become a key legal battle over the future of AI music, has been “moved for a preliminary injunction.” The firm is also continuing to litigate against internet service providers over subscribers’ unlawful uploading and downloading of music after the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a $1 billion verdict in February.

Most pressing issue: “Protecting the rights of music copyright owners, and the value of music, in a digital environment,” Zebrak says.

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

The Beverly Hills, Calif., firm had a busy year, overseeing the sale of superstar Cher’s catalog to Iconic Artists Group, as well as handling P!nk’s ongoing world tour and Green Day’s Saviors stadium run, which will launch in the United States in July. The firm also handled legal matters for such clients as Taylor Swift, whose The Eras Tour continues through 2024; as well as Adele, Neil Diamond and award-winning composer Ludwig Göransson. Among the issues facing the music business that concern Salomon are “those trying to game the streaming ecosystem,” as well as “tech platforms trying to devalue music rights.”

Advice on AI: “AI can be a great tool in the hands of creators, but it can also be abused to undermine art and artists,” Salomon says. “Artists need to lead the charge to ensure their futures and the future of music.”

Last August, Iconic Artists Group acquired Cher’s full interest in her past sound recordings and compositions in a deal negotiated by Gang Tyre Ramer Brown & Passman.

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Adrian Perry
Partner/co-chair of entertainment and media industry group/co-chair music industry group, Covington & Burling
Neema Sahni
Partner/co-chair of entertainment and media industry group/co-chair music industry group/co-chair of commercial litigation practice/vice chair of sports industry group, Covington & Burling
Jonathan Sperling
Partner/chair of music industry group, Covington & Burling
Phillip Hill
Special counsel, Covington & Burling

Covington & Burling counts among its clients Sony Music Entertainment, Downtown Music, Global Music Rights, SESAC, TIDAL/Block, the National Music Publishers’ Association, LiveCo and Futureverse. The lattermost, a leader in AI and metaverse technology applications, has called on the firm for assistance in navigating some of the murkier legal matters related to fully licensed music-generation models. “You’ll get ‘taxed’ on what you don’t know,” Hill says. “For each use case, you need to understand what’s going on under the hood for the AI model or deployment at issue — or find someone who does.”

Most pressing issue: “Data — from ownership to usage to royalties and reporting, data is a long-standing, global issue,” Hill says. “Ongoing progress in standardization, sharing and transparency will likely bring old issues to a head, new issues to light and innovative solutions to market.”

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

Since 2016, the firm has represented Kesha in a defamation lawsuit brought by producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, whom she had accused of sexual misconduct. Last June, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Luke was a “public figure” and he would need to prove that Kesha had acted with “actual malice” when she made her accusations. The two reached a confidential settlement on June 22, “just days after we secured a series of key pre-trial appellate wins for Kesha that seismically shifted the trial’s legal landscape,” Godesky says. The two issued a joint statement in which Kesha said she “cannot recount everything that happened” while Dr. Luke maintained that he was “absolutely certain that nothing happened.” The firm is also the legal adviser for clients including Travis Scott, Global Music Rights and Liberty SiriusXM Group.

Tabetha Plummer
Founder, Plummer Law Group

Plummer made a name for herself representing Grammy-winning R&B singers Ledisi and Anthony Hamilton and producer Rex Rideout, as well as making brand-expanding moves for NFL great Deion Sanders and Power star Omari Hardwick. Her biggest recent win was for longtime client Adam Blackstone. Not only did Plummer negotiate a deal for his first holiday album, A Legacy Christmas, released in November, but she also “secured his pivotal music director role in Super Bowl LVIII, featuring Andra Day, Reba McEntire and the Usher halftime show,” she says. Plummer also assisted Blackstone with his upcoming Broadway production of The Wiz and guided Alicia Keys in moving forward with her new musical, Hell’s Kitchen.

If I quit law, I would: “Travel the world taking photos.”

Michael Poster
Partner-in-charge/music acquisitions and financing chair, Michelman & Robinson

Last May, Poster helped facilitate a deal between Sony Music Group and longtime client and music executive Barry Weiss for a 50/50 partnership in ­RECORDS, the label Weiss co-founded in 2015. Weiss’ former partners, Matt Pincus and Ron Perry, were bought out for a reported $100 million valuation, and Weiss will now run the label (which sources have said generated about $20 million in revenue in 2022) with chart-toppers like 24kGoldn and Noah Cyrus. Poster also represented Weiss in negotiations for Bossy Songs, his new publishing venture with Sony Music Publishing. Poster says the two deals are “a prime example of how we bring together our extensive experience in the music industry with our sophisticated transactional practice.”

Most pressing issue: “Streaming fraud, including the theft of streaming income, the manipulation of streaming data and the scamming of young artists into spending their limited budgets on shady streaming promoters.”

Edwin J. Prado Galarza
Owner/CEO/attorney at law, Prado Law Offices

Prado’s client list boasts stars of reggaetón including Daddy Yankee, Anuel AA, Darell and Nío García, as well as Ricardo Arjona and Romeo Santos. He recently negotiated publishing agreements with Kobalt for emerging composer-producer Angel Sandoval (Peso Pluma, Grupo Firme) and producer-composer BASSY (Eladio Carrión’s “3MEN2 KBRN”). Prado was the lead attorney in executive Raphy Pina’s appeal of a firearms conviction and is representing both Real Hasta la Muerte (Anuel AA’s label) in a complaint against basketball team Los Capitanes de Arecibo and producer Boy Wonder in a breach-of-contract civil dispute with artist Jon Z.

Advice on AI: “It is important to note that we can coexist in an industry that respects and nourishes the creativity and individuality of each musician, producer and artist while using AI to push the boundaries of music.”

Gregor Pryor
Managing partner, Europe and Middle East, Reed Smith
Steve Sessa
Partner/co-chair of the entertainment and media industry group, Reed Smith
Josh Love
Eric Marder
Ed Shapiro
Partners, Reed Smith

Bon Jovi, which is about to release its 16th studio album, Forever, in June, is a Reed Smith client. The firm also represents The Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, Megadeth, Kesha, Lil Uzi Vert, Linda Perry, Glen Ballard and the companies Kobalt, Lyric, Shamrock, Seeker and YG Entertainment (Blackpink). Reed Smith represented Concord in the purchase of the Round Hill Music Royalty Fund in a deal valued at $469 million.

Most pressing issue: “Fair compensation and revenue distribution for artists, particularly in the digital streaming era,” Sessa says. “With the shift from physical sales to streaming platforms, artists often struggle to earn a fair income from their music due to complex royalty structures and the dominance of streaming services. This issue has sparked debates and discussions about how to reform the system to ensure that artists receive fair compensation for their work in the digital age.”

William Ramsey
Member, Neal & Harwell

Among the clients that Nashville-based Ramsey “handled matters for” recently are Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Chris Young, Kane Brown and Tanya Tucker. “I also represent several music business managers, financial managers, talent agents, publishers and labels in a variety of litigation matters,” he says. However, he is most proud of his ongoing work with the production of Voices of Mississippi, which he describes as “an immersive multimedia experience and concert event that celebrates the people and art of the Southern blues, gospel and storytelling traditions.” To take it on the road, “I helped organize the project by handling contracts and licensing,” Ramsey says. The show held two tours in the United States in 2023, with a European run scheduled for later in 2024.

If I quit law, I would: “Be a farmer.”

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 represented client Warner Music Group in a joint venture with Elliot Grainge’s 10K Projects, home to artists such as Trippie Redd and Ice Spice (before Ice Spice moved under the umbrella of Capitol Music Group). As part of the deal, 10K is now a stand-alone label “within the WMG ecosystem,” Thompson says. Launched by Grainge in 2016, 10K makes the switch from Universal Music Group to join Atlantic Records and Warner Records among WMG’s collection of record labels. The new deal with 10K follows WMG’s acquisition of 300 Entertainment — reportedly for around $400 million — and its artists including Megan Thee Stallion, Young Thug and Gunna.

Most pressing issue: “Pressure on subscriber uptake and pricing of subscription music services together with implications for the music industry as a whole and impact on value of music assets and music businesses,” Thompson says.

Berkeley Reinhold
President, Reinhold Global

Reinhold has a long history with Lollapalooza, the music festival created by Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell. She first signed on as the festival’s general counsel in 2003, and in 2011 she helped the brand expand into international markets like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany and France. Lollapalooza’s annual Chicago event remains successful, according to promoter C3 Presents. She took on a new role in 2024 as a producer of the documentary Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza, which premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and will be released on Paramount+ later this year. Notably for an attorney focused on the festival business, Reinhold describes the most pressing issue facing the music business in two words: “climate change.”

If I quit law, I would: “Improve my French.”

Elliot Resnik
Partner of media and entertainment, Raines Feldman Littrell

While Resnik cites “joining up with [law partner] Andy Tavel and the team at Raines Feldman Littrell” as a highlight of his year, he’s most proud of his client Killer Mike, whose album Michael ­netted three Grammy Awards in February, including best rap album. “I handled the record deal with Loma Vista and the publishing deal with Reservoir, as well as handling all rights and clearances, producer and artist deals,” says Resnik — who came to Killer Mike’s aid when the rapper was detained by police after his Grammy wins. “I couldn’t be happier for Mike and the team,” says Resnik, whose clients also include the National Independent Venue Association and the All Things Go music festival.

If I quit law, I would: “Have smoking barbecue backstage at music festivals and [in] Montauk [on New York’s Long Island] in between surf or fishing sessions.”

Attorney Elliot Resnik of Raines Feldman Littrell shared in the Grammy night celebration with his client Killer Mike — and aided the rapper after he was briefly detained that evening following an alleged altercation with a security guard.

Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/G

Adam Ritholz
Jeff Levy
Chip Petree
Partners, Ritholz Levy Fields

At Ritholz Levy Fields — whose clients include acts from Brothers Osborne to *NSYNC and Robert Plant — a highlight of the past year has been the firm’s continued relationship with “Whiskey and You” singer Chris Stapleton. “I’m very proud of the work we have done to thoughtfully extend Chris Stapleton’s brand presence, especially with his recent collaboration with Buffalo Trace Distillery for [his own] Traveller Whiskey,” Petree says. And beyond the country sensation, Petree raises a shot of Tennessee whiskey to partner Ritholz: “[He] and I have continued to expand the firm’s presence in the catalog market by handling a number of high-profile catalog and music-rights sales, [including] several acquisitions for Primary Wave.”

If I quit law, I would: “Go back to work year-round for my childhood summer camp on the North Carolina coast,” Petree says.

Carlos Rodriguez-Feliz
Founder/managing partner, RodFel Law

Rodriguez-Feliz — who counts RaiNao, Rapetón Approved, Villano Antillano, Young Miko and Súbelo NEO as clients — says that leading the renegotiation of reggaetón duo Zion & Lennox’s publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing in December was a highlight for the firm. In September, Zion & Lennox — who recorded reggaetón hits including “Yo Voy,” “Bandida” and more from the genre’s first explosion in the mid-2000s — struck a deal for co-management by Walter Kolm’s WK Entertainment and producer Andres Castro’s Hits Don’t Lie.

Most pressing issue: “The compensation for rights owners from the streaming platforms as well as from social media, which have millions of users that [incorporate] music into their content. Although it is not music business-related, another issue artists face is mental health. Not many are aware and willing to seek help when needed.”

Angela M. Rogers
Founder/owner, Rogers Law Group

Rogers’ client Mass Appeal played a key role in last year’s 50th-anniversary celebration of hip-hop. The multimedia firm owns the HipHop 50 trademark and, under Rogers’ guidance, partnered with MLB for a livestream concert at Yankee Stadium starring legends such as Kurtis Blow, Slick Rick, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg and Run-D.M.C. Mass Appeal also produced the immersive exhibit “Hip Hop Til Infinity.” Rogers — whose roster includes Tink, Nardo Wick and Jay Electronica — says copyright infringement remains a major challenge. Noting the tug of war between Universal Music Group and TikTok, she says, “A balance between the two needs to happen soon so that creators aren’t the ones who suffer the most here.”

Advice on AI: “Be proactive in this new space. AI’s not going anywhere, so find a way to rethink your role as a creator and as an artist.”

Nick Rosenberg
Partner, Nolan Helmann

At Nolan Helmann, Rosenberg — who represents rapper IDK and beatmaker Mario Luciano — has been handling deals for immersive experiences for companies like Audio Anthem. He’s in the process of clearing rights for one band that has its masters, film, trademarks and publishing with different companies. “With immersive, there’s going to be a lot more music being exploited in that arena,” he says. “Every immersive experience does have that musical component to it. It’s a hard business. There are so many different stakeholders involved and real estate issues, but it’s exciting.”

Most pressing issue: “The divide between the haves and have-nots in the music business. The way the system is set up, it’s much harder for there to be working artists who are making a good living and have some success and can sustain it for their whole lives.”

Oswaldo Rossi
John R. Baldivia
Partners, Rossi

Rossi and Baldivia have positioned themselves at the forefront of Latin music, representing artists such as Karol G, Rauw Alejandro, Peso Pluma, Noah Assad and Juan Luis Guerra. Baldivia’s involvement in high-profile deals, like Karol G’s Mañana Será Bonito tour with Live Nation and MAG’s producer agreements with Bad Bunny’s Nadie Sabe lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana are highlights of his recent work. The firm has served as outside counsel for Rancho Humilde, Double P, Rich Music and Seitrack.

Advice on AI: “For now, the best thing to do is to pay close attention to the technological developments and how AI can be used as a tool for your music creation,” Baldivia says, “because the business side of AI is still a moving target.”

Law firm Rossi represented Karol G in her agreement with Live Nation for her Mañana Será Bonito tour.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Daniel Schacht
Partner, Donahue Fitzgerald

Schacht’s clients include Carlos Santana, Missy Elliott, Barry Mann, Mary Bono and the estate of Malik Taylor (aka Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest). Most recently, his firm handled Santana’s legal work for the documentary Carlos, released through Sony Classics, which premiered on streaming platforms in September. The firm is also representing former congresswoman Bono, widow of the late Sonny Bono, in the Cher v. Bono litigation regarding copyright terminations. Meanwhile, Schacht is watching the live space. “The success of ABBA Voyage shows how live music can be transformed through technology while building on a very traditional artist-audience connection,” he says. “Lawyers will be there to make sure artists retain and enforce their rights and avoid exploitation in a new medium.”

If I quit law, I would: “Run a small restaurant and music venue.”

John Seay
Owner, The Seay Firm

Seay, who was previously recognized on Top Music Lawyers in 2022 as a member of Carter + Woodard, has since set up his own shop that represents artists in genres spanning from hip-hop to country to rock. Clients including the estate of Russell Tyrone Jones (Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard), Rylo Rodriguez, Faye Webster and Lakeyah look to Seay for legal expertise. A recent notable success was “working to support the team around [rapper] That Mexican OT as his career began to take off in the last year, including clearance of Lonestar Luchador, which contains the RIAA-certified gold single ‘Johnny Dang,’ ” Seay says.

Most pressing issue: “The challenge for talent representatives is to help their clients develop and diversify their revenue streams to supplement income from streaming, which is minimal for the vast majority of artists.”

Michael Selverne
Managing partner, Selverne Bradford

Selverne’s list of clients includes the Spin Doctors, Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos (while also serving as co-counsel to Cheap Trick) and, on the corporate level, Alibi Music. Additionally, Selverne is active in the music asset marketplace, often representing institutions in financing, due diligence and business affairs for contemplated acquisitions. Last year, he was involved in one of the biggest music asset deals, providing legal representation to client Round Hill Music Group in the sale of its publicly traded Round Hill Music Royalty Fund to Concord for $469 million. He also led Round Hill’s acquisition of producer Steve Lillywhite’s royalties and buying the copyrights and songwriter royalties of Craig Wiseman, as well as its deal to buy Canadian record company and music publisher Linus Entertainment.

Robert Sherman
Co-chair of entertainment finance, DLA Piper

Sherman’s firm counts among its clients Concord, HarbourView Equity Partners, MultiMedia Music, Secretly Group, Bella Figura Music and Gold State Music, and he praises his team as a “leader in the burgeoning arena of music securitizations.” In December 2022, the firm closed a $1.8 billion music rights securitization for Concord. This was followed by an additional $500 million issuance in 2023 to finance Concord’s acquisition of Round Hill Music Royalty Fund — including songs by Alice in Chains, Bruno Mars and Louis Armstrong — in a deal valued at $469 million. Amid the rise of AI, he cautions clients to “prepare yourself to find ways to create value through AI while maintaining control of your copyrights.”

If I quit law, I would: “Be a lounge singer.”

Jodie Shihadeh
Founder/owner, Shihadeh Law

Shihadeh Law’s negotiations sent its clients’ music far and wide in 2023 as the firm established a global distribution infrastructure for Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak Records and handled agreements for Two Friends’ 2023 headlining tour, which included stops at Coachella and Fortnite’s FNCS Global Championship halftime show in Copenhagen. Shihadeh negotiated the use of Jamaican dancehall artist Shenseea’s music on the soundtracks to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Color Purple and Bob Marley: One Love. Endorsement deals also topped the firm’s accomplishments, with Shihadeh securing them for Two Friends with Smirnoff, Wendy’s, Celsius fitness drinks, DraftKings and Olipop; she did the same for Shenseea with H&M and Captain Morgan.

If I quit law, I would: “Run my family’s three-generation business importing Oriental rugs from across the Middle East and India and expand it.”

Shardé Simpson
Ciara Reed
Co-founders, Simpson & Reed

Simpson says the firm “specializes in getting startup companies, specifically record labels and distributors, off the ground and running smoothly.” Representing a wide range of clients that includes artists Meek Mill, Jimmie Allen and Vic Mensa and labels Desi Trill Music and Dream Chaser Records (established by Mill), the firm is dedicated to helping artists and labels build their empires. “Simpson & Reed assisted with the formation of Desi Trill Music,” Simpson says, “a newly formed record label, as well as music genre, co-founded by Shabz Naqvi and Tyran ‘TyTy’ Smith, co-founder of Roc Nation. Desi Trill is a fusion of South Asian and hip-hop music from both the United States and London.” Universal Music Group distributes the label.

Simran A. 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 represent major stars in Latin urban music, including Ozuna, Natti Natasha, DJ Nelson and Jay Wheeler. Their A-list roster also includes reggaetón superstar Daddy Yankee, whom they advised throughout his top-grossing La Última Vuelta world tour, which raked in $197.8 million and landed at No. 27 on Billboard Boxscore’s 2023 year-end Top 40 Tours chart. Daddy Yankee’s farewell trek — which he announced in March 2022 along with the news of his retirement — culminated with La Meta, a series of four back-to-back shows at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot, with his final concert scheduled for Dec. 3.

Most pressing issue: “Many artists argue that the current streaming model disproportionately benefits record labels and streaming services over the creators themselves,” Singh says. “Addressing this issue requires industrywide discussions and potential reforms to ensure that artists receive fair compensation for their work.”

The attorneys at Singh Singh & Trauben advised Daddy Yankee on his top-grossing La Última Vuelta world tour.

Gladys Vega/Getty Images

Alex Spiro
Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Spiro is a nationally prominent attorney who has represented Jay-Z, Megan Thee Stallion and Elon Musk, among others. In late 2023, he was identified as the representative for collectibles website Gotta Have Rock and Roll in its dispute with the Michael Jackson estate over unreleased studio recordings. Last July, it was reported that Jay-Z’s Team ROC — Roc Nation’s philanthropic and social justice division — had hired Spiro to get charges dropped against a Wisconsin man who was arrested after police mistakenly believed he was involved in a hit-and-run crash. Videos posted to social media appear to show a white officer punching the Black man, Jermelle English Jr. Spiro was previously chosen for the Top Music Lawyers list after he represented Megan Thee Stallion in connection with her being shot by Tory Lanez. He has also been among the attorneys calling for a ban on the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal prosecutions.

Brian Steel
Founder, The Steel Law Firm

Steel, a veteran criminal defense attorney in Georgia, is representing Young Thug in the racketeering trial in Atlanta over allegations that the rapper and others operated a violent gang called YSL for years. The music industry is closely watching the case because of prosecutors’ controversial use of Young Thug’s music as evidence against him. “The fight against the prosecution’s wrongful use of rap lyrics and music videos is so critical to our case and others like it,” Steel says. “The government targets innocent people without understanding the culture and dynamics of this multibillion-dollar industry or the artists who perform therein.”

Advice on AI: “I focus on criminal defense and the false information on public domains [that] can be wrongly used in investigations and prosecutions, and all must be prepared to unmask these falsities with proper expert analysis.”

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

The firm’s clients include Drake, Post Malone, DJ Khaled, 21 Savage, the estates of Juice WRLD and Donna Summer, and organizations including Songwriters of North America. Stein says the firm has been defending Drake and his companies in multiple proceedings, including the defense of over 1,000 suits resulting from his appearance at Travis Scott’s ill-fated 2021 Astroworld concert. (A motion earlier in March argued that Drake should not be named in those suits, as he did not play a part in planning the event.) During the past 18 months, the firm has managed over 5,000 brands and related rights in its role as “protecting, enforcing and managing intellectual property portfolios for artists such as Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Cardi B, deadmau5, The Kid LAROI, Mick Fleetwood, Tyga and iann dior,” as well as label and company clients, Stein says.

Rachel Stilwell
Owner, Stilwell Law

Stillwell Law’s clients include LeAnn Rimes, who in 1997 became the youngest Grammy Award winner for best new artist. With 15 studio albums under her belt, she still holds that distinction. Other clients are Grammy nominees Al B. Sure! (best known for his top 10 1988 hit, “Nite and Day”) and Noel Schajris (an Argentine Mexican singer-songwriter-pianist), songwriters Darrell Brown (who has written nearly 50 songs recorded by Rimes) and Andre Merritt, MusicFIRST Coalition, Wolff Audio and Lyte Inc. With Dan Lifschitz at Johnson & Johnson, Stilwell Law negotiated a settlement in a breach-of-contract action for nonpayment of royalties to client Tek O’Ryan.

Most pressing issue: “Congress must pass legislation in live-event ticketing that protects fans against deceptive practices from powerful primary/secondary ticket sellers and scalpers while recognizing that artists should be rewarded for having created the demand for tickets in the first place.”

Michael Sukin
President, Sukin Law Group

Besides representing artists including The Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys and Sir Mix-a-Lot, Sukin has gathered a list of achievements including developing a unique approach to policing unauthorized use of the names and likenesses of major artists, resulting in substantial benefit to asset value and monetization. He also negotiated unprecedented agency representation agreements for major Broadway musicals on behalf of rights holders and initiated the development of an annual live event for a legacy artist with worldwide fans to help with continued visibility and income.

Advice on AI: “AI is a developing area, both legally and functionally. It’s important to learn everything one can about this area as it applies to one’s business. Unfortunately, there are still no clear legal guidelines for guard rails. Proceed with caution, but don’t hesitate to vigorously protect your intellectual property.”

Ron Sweeney
Founder, Ron Sweeney and Company

Sweeney, who prefers not to name his clients, is known to have worked with James Brown, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Swizz Beatz, Lil Wayne, Clarence Avant, Tabu Records, Young Money Records, Easy E and Ruthless Records, Sean Combs and Bad Boy Records, Irv Gotti, Murder Inc., Public Enemy, DMX, Ja Rule, Morris Day, The Time, Klymaxx and Kool & The Gang, among others. As the music industry navigates the rise of AI, Sweeney has more of a positive spin, urging creators and executives to “keep an open mind.” He says, “There will be ways to monetize AI to the benefit of the artist who owns and controls their name and likeness and the copyrights to their music.” The 45-year industry veteran believes the bigger challenge is “how to break new acts” when it comes to cultivating younger talent.

Most pressing issue: “I’m not focused on the advance. I’m focused on the [deal] structure,” Sweeney said in a recent podcast interview. “My goal for my clients is to own equity so that when they decide to retire, they’ve got an asset that they can sell.”

José Juan Torres
Managing member, Torres

With offices in Puerto Rico and New York, Torres represents superstars such as Bad Bunny and Rauw Alejandro, as well as Residente and Eduardo Cabra, and music companies like The Wave Music Group. While Torres wouldn’t name the players, he cites as a recent highlight of his work an “intricate, triangular” transaction concerning the acquisition of specific rights from an independent label that “included influential figures in the current music scene and is poised to influence the direction of the music industry for the next seven to 10 years.”

Seth Traxler
Partner, Kirkland & Ellis

Specializing in global technology and IP transactions, Traxler says the firm’s focus has been “helping various clients navigate the shifting catalog-sale market, including acquisition work, and the creation and funding of new vehicles to pursue opportunities” with an emphasis on “new technologies to expand their musical reach.” Clients include Hipgnosis, Blackstone, Metallica and Kobalt. For Universal Music Group, Kirkland & Ellis provided counsel in February for the acquisition of a 25.8% interest in Chord Music Partners for $240 million. UMG will now handle distribution and publishing administration for Chord’s catalog, which features more than 60,000 copyrights, such as stakes in songs like “Dreams” and “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, “Girls Like You” and “Sugar” by Maroon 5 and “Halo” by Beyoncé.

Most pressing issue: “Expand the pie aggressively and divide it fairly.”

David Vodicka
Founding partner, Media Arts Lawyers
Rob Glass
Julian Hewitt
Stephen King
Marcus Walkom
Partners, Media Arts Lawyers

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Media Arts Lawyers worked on over $50 million in mergers and acquisitions in the past 18 months, including BMG’s catalog acquisition of chart-topping Australian band Jet. The firm boasts clients including Tame Impala, Dom Dolla, Rüfüs Du Sol, Timmy Trumpet, Kylie Minogue, Ruel, Gotye, OneFour and Tones and I, as well as festival promoters, record labels and entertainment companies such as Onelove, Future Classic, Untitled Group, Select Music and BenchMob. Today, artists have a plethora of options for their music, so “an artist’s team must identify their specific goals,” Vodicka says, “and needs to ensure the resources on offer from prospective suitors will support and strengthen the artist’s trajectory in both the short term and long term.”

Australian firm Media Arts Lawyers represents Billboard’s 2024 Women in Music Icon Award winner Kylie Minogue.

Krista Schlueter

James L. Walker Jr.
President, Walker & Associates

In a 30-year career, Walker has represented an array of iconic artists across pop, R&B, hip-hop, gospel and jazz including Aretha Franklin, Vicki Winans, DMX (and now his estate), Miki Howard, Freddie Jackson, the late Rick James and Shirley Caesar. (Walker’s firm also has advised leaders of the civil rights movement including Andrew Young, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the families of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Dick Gregory.) Walker fielded notable cases this past year involving copyright infringement, settling the high-profile case of Take 6 v. H.E.R. over the latter’s song “Could’ve Been” (featuring Bryson Tiller), and winning a case of trademark infringement levied against Marvin “Slim” Scandrick of R&B group 112.

Previn Warren
Tech and media litigator, Motley Rice

As Motley Rice’s tech and media litigator, Warren is part of a team working for performing rights organization SESAC “in representing its interests, and the interests of its affiliated publishers and songwriters, in an arbitration seeking to increase the license fees owed by commercial radio stations represented by the Radio Music License Committee,” he says. Touching on a perennial point of concern, Warren says, “It is long past time to eliminate terrestrial radio’s unfair and unneeded exemption from paying sound-recording royalties.”

Most pressing issue: “Social media companies and websites that host deepfake content are immune from accountability because of an outdated liability shield, Section 230. Creators and their representatives should make clear to Congress that the time for Section 230 reform is now.”

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

Much of the Wigdor firm’s activity in 2023 stemmed from the passage of the Adult Survivor’s Act. The company represented singer Cassie Ventura in her sex trafficking and assault lawsuit against Sean “Diddy” Combs, alleging years of physical abuse. “We are proud to have represented Ms. Ventura in her lawsuit,” Willemin says. “In speaking out, Ms. Ventura gave other victims the strength to also come forward with their stories.” The parties settled the suit the day after it was filed. The firm’s other clients are Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, actress Julia Ormond, sports journalist Jim Trotter and former New York Knick Charles Oakley.

Most pressing issue: “Continuing the push for diversity and inclusion for all underrepresented persons and musicians,” Willemin says.

Marcus Wiggins
Founder/owner, Wiggins Sports & Entertainment

Wiggins’ clients range from dancehall legend Cutty Ranks and Chopmaster J, the surviving founding member of Digital Underground, to concert promoter WorldOne Presents and record label Bully Park. “I want to do as much as I possibly can for artists and musicians,” says the Sacramento, Calif.-based Wiggins. He fulfills this goal by finding and claiming rightful retroactive royalties for musicians, enforcing and protecting copyrights and trademarks, and reviewing music clearance requests. Wiggins says he’s in the process of retrieving past royalties for several musicians through SoundExchange and negotiating a major-label contract for Kstylis, the Missouri-based rapper known as the “King of Twerk.”

Most pressing issue: “The streaming companies are raking in billions, but the artists, the people responsible for actually making the music, are woefully underpaid and unappreciated. This is why I have participated in the Recording Academy’s advocacy efforts since 2016.”

Richard Wolfe
Founder, Wolfe Law Miami

Based in Miami, Wolfe lists among his firm’s clients “29 defendant artists in the dembow case,” including Carlos Vives, Maluma and Wisin & Yandel. Scores of different artists who use the dembow rhythm — the beat at the core of reggaetón — are defendants in a suit brought by lawyers for Jamaican duo Steely & Clevie, who claim use of the rhythm violates the copyright on the pair’s 1989 song “Fish Market.” Wolfe also works with boy band Why Don’t We and hip-hop label Lil Joe Records. He highlights his company’s work on Lil Joe’s “groundbreaking Section 230 copyright termination case,” which is pending in federal court in Miami.

Most pressing issue: “The inverse relationship between the need for legal documentation and the financial ability to hire competent lawyers.”

Andrea Yankovsky
Founder, Yankovsky Law

Yankovsky has her sights set on battling copyright infringement on streaming platforms: “Fake accounts using artist or indie-label names” filled with a “deluge” of AI-generated content. Some of her clients have faced revenue losses of up to $180,000 due to infringement, she says, but the firm has developed an effective strategy to stave off these attacks with trademark registrations. “It’s like playing Whac-a-Mole, with dozens of [AI] accounts and tracks popping up daily,” she says, adding that trademark registration allows the firm to force platforms to take down infringing accounts and tracks.

Most pressing issue: “The dominance of the major labels and publishers continues to be an issue. We need to keep working to put power and profits in the hands of those who actually make the music — artists and small businesses.”

Helen Yu
Partner, Yu Leseberg

Yu counts Ty Dolla $ign, Black Eyed Peas member and the late Deon “Big D The Impossible” Evans as some of her clients. She is proud of a recent deal she struck for the Evans estate, negotiating a catalog acquisition agreement with Reservoir Media for some of the songwriter-producer’s most beloved tracks with Tupac Shakur, including “Changes,” “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Papa’z Song.” By finding the right creative home for these songs, Yu says Evans’ contributions to Shakur’s legacy have now “taken their rightful place in history.”

Most pressing issue: “It is incumbent upon the leaders in the music industry to ensure that our artists, producers and songwriters receive fair compensation for their creative contributions to keep music as a sustainable ecosystem and safeguard the vibrancy and integrity of the music business for generations to come.”

Donald S. Zakarin
Partner/co-chair of the litigation and music groups and media and entertainment litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
Ilene S. Farkas
Partner/co-chair of the litigation and music groups 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/chair of the AI interdisciplinary group and co-chair of the music group and media and entertainment litigation practice, Pryor Cashman
Brad D. Rose
Partner/co-chair of the intellectual property group, Pryor Cashman

The team of A-list music litigators from Pryor Cashman, which counts Megan Thee Stallion, Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars and all three major labels as clients, successfully represented Ed Sheeran at the blockbuster 2023 trial over allegations that he based his “Thinking Out Loud” on Marvin Gaye’s famed “Let’s Get It On.” Litigator Zakarin was recognized on Billboard’s 2024 Power 100 ranking for his achievements. And 2024 could be even bigger, as the firm is representing Karol G, Daddy Yankee and dozens of others in a copyright case over reggaetón. Pryor Cashman also worked on the Phonorecords proceedings before the Copyright Royalty Board, where significant increases in the royalty rates for the 10-year period of 2018-27 were achieved, which the firm says will result in billions in additional royalties paid to songwriters and music publishers.

Adam Zia
Founding partner, The Zia Firm
Nate Kuo
Partner, The Zia Firm

Zia credits the firm’s work in representing Bandsintown for securing a significant deal with Spotify in February. Now, with the two platforms combined and Bandsintown incorporated into Spotify’s user interface, artists can experience “enhanced engagement [with] fans and stronger sales for live events worldwide,” Zia says. Meanwhile, the firm also negotiated rising artist Dylan Cotrone’s record deal with Columbia Records, while simultaneously representing a growing roster of A-list artists including Machine Gun Kelly, Travis Scott, Tokischa and Tierra Whack.

Most pressing issue: “The battle between the already established DSPs and the other platforms that are developing commercial music models, which obviously includes TikTok,” Zia says. “TikTok has become such a powerful tool for artists, both established and up-and-coming. But artists also need to be compensated fairly, whether they’re on a major label or as an independent artist.”

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

SMGQ Law has served as the legal counsel for Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead on all touring (Wolf Brothers, Dead & Company) and Grateful Dead legacy-related legal matters. The firm is also counsel for Marco Antonio Solís and Los Bukis’ international tour and Las Vegas residency and represented Carlos Vives for his 2023 El Tour de Los 30 trek. Additionally, Zigel and Feito, who represent acts like Wisin, Joaquina and Maffio, represented Pitbull in the release of his 2023 album, Trackhouse, and its publishing. On the film/TV side, the law firm was also lead counsel for the 2023 Billboard Latin Music Awards.

Most pressing issue: “The complexity of the financial models for streaming services,” Zigel says, “and the resulting huge black box of unmatched revenue due to poor inputting of label-copy information.”

SMGQ Law has served as the legal counsel for the Grateful Dead’s Bobby Weir on all touring and Grateful Dead legacy-related legal matters.

Gary Miller/Getty Images

Contributors: Trevor Anderson, Rania Aniftos, Megan K. Armstrong, Chuck Arnold, Nefertiti Austin, Katie Bain, Steve Baltin, Karen Bliss, Lars Brandle, Dave Brooks, Anna Chan, Ed Christman, Leila Cobo, Mariel Concepcion, Janine Coveney, Stephen Daw, Kyle Denis, Bill Donahue, Thom Duffy, Chris Eggertsen, Griselda Flores, Josh Glicksman, Gary Graff, Paul Grein, Raquelle “Rocki” Harris, Lyndsey Havens, Gil Kaufman, Steve Knopper, Katy Kroll, Carl Lamarre, Elias Leight, Jason Lipshutz, Joe Lynch, Heran Mamo, Geoff Mayfield, Taylor Mims, Gail Mitchell, Latifah Muhammad, Melinda Newman, Jessica Nicholson, Glenn Peoples, Sigal Ratner-Arias, Isabela Raygoza, Kristin Robinson, Jessica Roiz, Dan Rys, Damien Scott, Crystal Shepeard, Richard Smirke, Eric Spitznagel, Jaelani Turner-Williams, Andrew Unterberger, Christine Werthman, Jewel Wicker, Deborah Wilker

Methodology: Billboard’s Top Music Lawyers recognizes only outside counsel at law firms with the exception of in-house attorneys at market-leading companies in the sectors shown. Nominations for all of Billboard’s industry-sourced executive lists open no less than 150 days in advance of publication, and a submission link is sent 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 2024 Top Music Lawyers were nominated by their firms and chosen by editors based on factors including the stature of their clients, as measured by year-end Billboard charts; sales and streaming performance; market share; revenue or, where not available, Billboard revenue estimates, which may be aided by company guidance; social media impressions; and radio audiences reached, using data available as of Jan. 15. Career trajectory and momentum were also considered. Where required, U.S. record label market share was consulted using Luminate’s current market share for albums, as well as track-equivalent and streaming-equivalent album consumption and Billboard’s quarterly top 10 publisher rankings. Unless otherwise noted, Billboard Boxscore and Luminate are the sources for tour grosses and sales/streaming data, respectively. Luminate is also the source for radio audience metrics. The source for radio metrics is monitored station airplay from Mediabase provided by Luminate.

Leading Law Schools Of The Top Music Lawyers

The most frequently cited alma maters of the 2024 class of honorees.*

Gary Gershoff/Getty Images


Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University (New York)
Enrollment: 906

Brooklyn Law School (Brooklyn)
Enrollment: 1,070

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

Fordham University School of Law (New York)
Enrollment: 1,145

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

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

Southwestern Law School (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 742

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley, Calif.)
Enrollment: 1,093

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

University of Miami School of Law (Miami)
Enrollment: 1,150

University of Southern California Gould School of Law (Los Angeles)
Enrollment: 631

*Enrollments source: U.S. News & World Report. Schools are presented alphabetically and are not ranked. An alums-count tie results in 11 schools listed this year.

This story originally appeared in the March 30, 2024, issue of Billboard.